Meet the Machinists Who Keep the New York Times Running

My friend Todd send this video link to me today.

Two days after I learned four former -- and highly respected colleagues -- from my newspapering days in K-Town accepted buyouts to walk away from gutting of the city's "most interesting newspaper," as our late publisher famously said. This round of news came a few weeks after the newspaper's editor -- a former city reporter with whom I joined the newspaper during what he liked to call "the youth movement of the early 2000s" -- resigned amid the turmoil and clashing with the new publisher. I loved every day I got to work with those five journalists for whom I have tremendous respect and admiration. ... Of course, the newspaper's front page article about the moves was nothing more than a public relations report to notify loyal readers and failed to get into details of their contributions to the newspaper and the community. The articles didn't mention it and I was curious, so I did some research -- the five of them had a combined 151 years with the company, not to mention two of them grew up in K-Town.

I digress. 

Back to the video. This is a relic of the sweat, grinding and beauty that the daily newspaper operation once was. 


Pres. Obama Celebrates Final Presidential Medal of Freedom Ceremony

I watched, with great interest, last night the coverage of President Obama awarding the final Presidential Medals of Freedom of his presidency. To some of the greatest icons of our generation.

This is a bittersweet piece to watch, considering the uncertainty and division our country is confronting these days. And I found it especially heartening to see how touched these individuals were by the honors.

Here's a good read by Mike Lupica: Precedential Mettle: Jordan = The One.
Here's more about Vin Scully receiving the honor


Get Ready for Summerfest's 50th!

Oh, snap. I can.not. wait.

Summerfest turns 50 next year. The countdown to June 28 has begun.



Emotion vs. Reason On Durant

Like most, my initial reaction to the news this week of Kevin Durant's bolt from Oklahoma City to Golden State was a jaw drop and eye roll.

Now, I barely give a hoot about the NBA anymore. But after further reflection, why do any of us care so much about where Kevin Durant plays? No matter the career field, who doesn't want to go to work for a successful, winning team?

Will Leitch's Sports on Earth post here lays out an undeniable case.

 I especially love the parity argument ...
The NBA has never had parity. It has always been a star-driven league. Do you know how many franchises have won championships since 1980? Eleven. And four of those won only one. The Lakers, Celtics, Bulls, Spurs, Rockets, Heat and Pistons have won 33 out of the last 37 last championships. You're worried about all 30 teams having a chance to win now?


Indians beat Blue Jays for 14th straight win

The Indians' 14-game winning streak is alive and well. All it took was 19 innings and more than six hours to get there.
Man, will the Indians ever lose? I turned on yesterday's game in the top of the 19th after noticing the Twitter chatter about it -- just in time to see Carlos Santana tee off of Darwin Barney for what proved to be the winning run.

The Indians' current winning streak is the longest in the American League since Oakland reeled off 20 wins in a row during the 2002 season. And they haven't lost a game since the Cavaliers won their NBA championship. Peg it on the wizardry of Terry Francona.

I think it's time to turn up the Wild Card watch for the Royals, whose road and injury woes are continuing after they dropped a 4-3 game in Philadelphia last night -- without Lorenzo Cain, who went down with a hamstring injury. Because it's going to take a 14-game losing streak by the Indians for the Royals to get back into the hunt to win the division.

And then there's Joe Maddon and the Cubs, who continue to remind how much fun baseball can be

(Update 07.07.2016) Since I posted this Saturday, the Indians' winning streak has been halted, but they appear, at this point, to be a team destined to follow the Cavaliers' championship celebration. .
The Tigers are still a threat, the Kansas City Royals are the reigning World Series champion, and the Chicago White Sox hold a winning record.
But they all are chasing Cleveland, and another major championship does not seem far-fetched anymore.
Baseball's second half is going to be interesting.


And now we have a kitten

It was a dark and stormy night.

And at 12:15 a.m. today, Kit Kat became a momma.

Things started happening yesterday evening after Kates and Leah arrived home from an afternoon at the spa. We had pizza for supper and played outside for a while.

When we returned inside and started getting the girls for ready for bed, we noticed Kit Kat fussing about something. She had enough food and water. She didn’t show much interest in playing. She was pacing around the living room. Something was bothering her.

I did some Internet research and found this article. Kit Kat was showing all the behaviors, and I told Kates I thought we were pretty close to something happening.

At about 9:30, Kit Kat was in the upstairs bedroom pacing outside Phoebe’s bedroom, so I went to bring her back to the living room. As I reached under her belly to pick her up, I felt a drop of blood on my finger.

It was go time.

I led her the rest of the way to her nest in the garage, and Kates and Leah followed to be with her.

Kates was awesome through it all. While I returned to the living room to watch a Crosby, Stills and Nash concert on TV, Kates was committed to staying in the garage and keeping Kit Kat company. Leah stayed with them until turning in for bed around 11:30.

At 11: 55, Kates texted me to come out and relieve her while she took a bathroom break. Kit Kat was burrowed in her nest behind the blanket-towel-sweatshirt bedding we laid out for her. She was breathing heavy and pushing, and it was obvious it wouldn’t be long.

After a few minutes, Kates returned to the garage, and I returned to the living room.

Several minutes later, a hair-raising yowl came from the garage and I bolted there to see what was happening. Kates was sitting next to Kit Kat, who appeared as calm as could be under the circumstances. Simply, she was working through the process.

Bemused by what was happening and the shattering of my No Pet Doctrine in a matter of weeks, I just laughed and said to Kates, “I can’t believe we’re doing this.”

Eventually, I headed back inside again. There were three or four more yowls over the next several minutes. Then, at 12:15 a.m., came this text from Kates …

When I got into the garage, Kit Kat was busy cleaning the newborn, which appeared to be in good health and softly meowing. Everything progressed the way God intended it, and it was pretty amazing.

Then, after a while I headed back inside while Kates stayed in the garage to keep an eye on the cats and wait for any others to be born. In the meantime, the thunderstorm we’d been anticipating all day had finally kicked up. Bright lightning flashed and the thunder crashed loudly outside.

I figured Faye and Phoebe would be up at any moment. Faye came down first, rubbing her eyes and clutching her stuffed pink bear. After a failed attempt to get her back to bed, she ended up falling asleep in my arms on the living room couch. Phoebe appeared a bit later and resisted going back to sleep, too. … So it provided an opportunity to show them the new kitten, but they were too worried about the storm and sleepy to show much interest. Finally, I convinced them to take care of each other and sleep in Kates’ and my bed together. That worked and they went back to sleep.

Back in the garage, Kates was still waiting for another kitten or two. Our research suggested we could expect two or three kittens, but by 2 a.m., Kit Kat wasn’t showing signs of giving birth to another any time soon. So Kates gave in, and we headed to bed.

This morning, we awoke around 7, and still had just one kitten. The kitten appears to be nursing well and Kit Kat is proving to be an excellent mother, protecting the kitten in her nest and keeping it warm.

It’s a little funny how, all of a sudden, my research and Pinterest scans have turned from cat tips to raising a newborn kitten. It turns out that one kitten, while not common, is not extremely rare for a cat of Kit Kat’s age and a first pregnancy.

After we got the girls to bed tonight, Kates and I finally were able to get a closer look at the kitten, which we now know is a male. He barely covers the palm of my hand and has beautiful orange and black striped hair. Seriously, he looks like a chipmunk.

We haven’t named him yet, and want to run some options by the girls. Some of the frontrunners include Butterfinger – because, Kit Kat – and Daniel Tiger, which would be a tribute to the resemblance with his stripes – not to mention Faye, who idolizes Daniel Tiger and watched a Daniel Tiger videos on my iPhone while I put her to bed tonight. Other options are Tiger or Tigger.

Stay tuned.


Phoebe takes the stage

Well, she did it.

Phoebe made her stage debut this weekend with our children’s community theater company, and Kates and I could not be more proud of her.

Ten years ago, our friends Vanessa and Pat founded this little theater company – “on a wing and a prayer,” they say – as a way to expose local children to the arts and the experience of putting on a full production. That little theater company is not so little anymore and has grown into something of a little summer phenomenon in The ‘Ville. This summer, more than 190 children from four states in grades two through nine are participating.

The kids register to participate in the spring. Those who are interested in lead roles audition for them. All of the kids receive books and CDs and are responsible for learning their lines and music on their own – and they’re expected to know it when rehearsals start during the last week of May.

They rehearse every afternoon Monday through Friday for two and half weeks. The curtain annually goes up the second weekend in June, and the production is a high-quality one that rivals some high school productions I’ve seen.

This year’s feat: “Peter Pan.” It’s the company’s biggest production, yet – complete with flying.

So Phoebe and Kates have attended the shows together every summer at the university’s performing arts center since we moved to The ‘Ville. Last summer, Phoebe became eligible to participate, but she declined despite our gentle encouragement.

This summer, knowing Phoebe would benefit from the experience if she just tried it, Kates and I signed her up without her approval. We signed her up and told her a few days later when it came up in conversation. As we might have suspected, Phoebe burst into tears and stormed to her room to process the whole thing. … Knowing our struggle to convince Phoebe to participate, Vanessa relayed the reaction in her house when they received Phoebe’s registration. Her husband, monitoring the names online as they came in, said, “We got Phoebe!” Vanessa replied that, no, they had Kates and I.

But Phoebe did come around. The next day, in fact, she realized one of her school buddies also was participating and came home from school that afternoon bubbling with excitement. Phoebe was assigned to the pirate chorus. And it’s been all good since.

As the school year wound down, Kates played the CD for the girls while they traveled to and from school each day. I loaded the music on Phoebe’s iPod, too.

Even Faye got into it, begging Kates to stay to watch when they dropped off Phoebe for rehearsals. Faye learned the songs just as well, and Kates would tell me each evening about how Faye literally sat on the edge of her seat, watching the young performers as they rehearsed.

When rehearsals began, Kates took Phoebe each afternoon, and I picked her up on my way home from work, often catching the last 15 minutes or so of the rehearsal. I can’t even describe how joyful it was to see Phoebe on the stage, rehearsing and listening to the director’s instructions. Even the daily communication from the company – which, I should mention, is all volunteer-based – in emails, texts and social media posts was exciting to read and view.

This weekend was the real deal. The entire cast and their families were invited to a company picnic to coincide with the final dress rehearsals Friday evening. Then the company performed at 2 and 7 p.m. yesterday, and again at the same times today.
Though Kates and Faye had seen the whole show in rehearsal a couple times, Friday night’s dress rehearsal was my first time to see it in its entirety.

It was amazing. … After watching Friday night’s dress rehearsal, I said to Kates, “I could watch this a couple more times this weekend.”

The joy and pride of watching Phoebe aside, the lead cast was so charming and talented. That includes the actors playing Wendy and Peter Pan, with whom we attend church and have had the pleasure of watching them grow and develop their talents. And the diminutive third grader playing Tinkerbell was an adorable scene-stealer.

When they flew, it took our breaths away. In Friday night’s dress rehearsal, after the big scene when Peter Pan teaches Wendy and the boys to fly, and the music crescendos and the audience breaks into applause, I leaned over to Kates and just said, “Wow.” I get chills thinking about that moment again now. It was so magical. And during Saturday’s and Sunday’s performances, the scene made me well up. … In the run-up to the show, Vanessa had expressed her anxiety about the technical aspects of it all. They had professionals come into work with the kids and totally pulled it off.

After Friday night’s rehearsal, Kates, Faye and I headed for the wings of the performing arts center to meet Phoebe. When she came out from the dressing room and spotted us, she was beaming and fell into my arms for what goes down as the most memorable hug I’ve shared with her to this point. It was a wonderful moment.

To mark Saturday night’s big performance, we met Phoebe’s request for a Subway supper. And we enjoyed a family treat of Sonic limeades and slushis afterward. … On Sunday morning, Kates had to teach Sunday school but I ceased getting ready for church when we decided to let the girls sleep because we exhausted them the night before and they showed no signs of waking up. Phoebe woke around 9:15, and Faye stumbled out of her room at around 9:45. Church started at 9, Sunday School at 10.

At the conclusion of each performance, the house lights came up and Vanessa joined the kids on the stage for some recognition of the company’s volunteers, sponsors and the kids. On Saturday night, each child received a certificate and participatory medal – when Phoebe’s name was called and she accepted her certificate, Vanessa looked at her and exclaimed, “You did it!” Another cool moment in all of this.

After the final performance Sunday, the tears were flowing. Vanessa’s parting words to the cast were this: On your worst days and lowest moments, don’t forget about all those people out there who were cheering for you and clapping for you. Remember that you are loved and you make a difference in other people’s lives.



USA TODAY exclusive: Hundreds allege Donald Trump doesn’t pay his bills

Well, this is interesting ...
"Donald Trump casts himself as a protector of workers and jobs, but a USA TODAY NETWORK investigation found hundreds of people – carpenters, dishwashers, painters, even his own lawyers – who say he didn’t pay them for their work. ... 

(H)e has been involved in more than 3,500 lawsuits over the past three decades — and a large number of those involve ordinary Americans, like the Friels, who say Trump or his companies have refused to pay them.

At least 60 lawsuits, along with hundreds of liens, judgments, and other government filings reviewed by the USA TODAY NETWORK, document people who have accused Trump and his businesses of failing to pay them for their work. Among them: a dishwasher in Florida. A glass company in New Jersey. A carpet company. A plumber. Painters. Forty-eight waiters. Dozens of bartenders and other hourly workers at his resorts and clubs, coast to coast. Real estate brokers who sold his properties. And, ironically, several law firms that once represented him in these suits and others."

Meanwhile, the Democrats are coming together and digging in ...

Kit Kat's back!

Well, Kit Kat returned to us after her little altercation. And she’s part of our family now, in a big way.

To recap the last couple weeks, we saw not a hint of Kit Kat – who, we now know, is between 10-12 months old – for about 24 hours after the epic fight with Blondie. Weirdly, a couple hours after the fight, Blondie returned to our yard and took a position in the middle or our yard – but a much larger, much fluffier version of Kit Kat, almost like a future version of her, showed up, too. This other cat came right up to the screen door to our deck and circled Kit Kat’s food bowl and bed. This other cat’s mannerisms were so similar to Kit Kat that initially we did mistake it for her.

Kates and I went to bed that night mystified about what happened to Kit Kat and where the third cat came from. We haven’t seen Blondie or the third cat since. So I like to think that maybe Kit Kat actually did win the fight and Blondie gave up on trying to take our yard.

Well, the night after that fight, Faye and I were playing outside when we thought we caught a glimpse of Kit Kat peeking into the yard from behind our shed. But it was hard for me to tell from across the yard if it really was Kit Kat or the fatter, fluffier lookalike we saw the night before. And Faye tried to chase her down and scared her away before I could try to get to her myself.

After we put the girls to bed, though, Kit Kat finally appeared back to her spot on our deck. I was washing dishes, while Kates was near the screen door and heard her meow. We were elated and immediately checked her for any injuries. She was fine, and now with a litter box and all of our necessary cat supplies on hand – and another storm brewing that night – we immediately made the decision to move her home into the protection of our garage.

And that brings us up to the news of the day: Kit Kat’s going to be a mother. We’re having kittens.

So my No Pets doctrine has been obliterated. In a matter of weeks, we’ve gone from no pets, to adopting a kitten, to a cat who’s having kittens.

We found a local vet on the recommendation of some of my colleagues and took her in on that Saturday morning after moving her into our garage, determined to get things – a spaying – settled once and for all.

Her check-up went as well as we had hoped … except for the vet’s hunch about the kittens. Doc left open the slight possibility that it was worms, gave us some medicine and told us to come back today to check her out again.

Yep. She’s having babies. Confirmed. Check. Didn’t get her to the vet fast enough to prevent our worst imaginings. Good ‘ol nature.

Doc says we have about three weeks.

It’s all good, though. Really. We are in a good place now as a family. Financially secure with a good home, and the girls are grown enough. Kit Kat’s disposition is sweet and she is about as perfect as a cat as I’ve ever imagined. The time is right and I’m totally comfortable with this turn of events.


The day I taught Phoebe to fish

I finally took Phoebe fishing this morning.

I had wanted to take her out for weeks, ever since we gave her the pink fishing pole she wanted for her birthday. All of our end-of-school activities made it hard to find a time, though. With nothing on our schedules this morning, I was determined to take her.

So I mentioned it to Phoebe last night while we were getting the girls ready for bed and told her we could go as soon as she could get herself out of bed and ready in the morning. … That happened around 10 o’clock.

This was a monumental event for me as a father that triggered so many fond memories of fishing days with my family in our canoe.

Phoebe and I headed first to the bait shop downtown and bought a $2 container of fresh worms. As we returned to the car, she insisted that she hold them and I obliged.

We drove to one of the small lakes 10 minutes north of town. It was a perfectly gorgeous Saturday with barely a cloud in the sky and a bit of a breeze.

But I was surprised to see the field surrounding the boat landing packed with cars as we pulled up. Surely, fishing on a Saturday morning isn’t THAT popular of an activity in The ‘Ville, I thought. It turned out, the local radio station had sponsored an overnight fishing competition at the lake that was concluding within the hour. As Phoebe and I walked from the car to the lakeshore, we passed a handful of seasoned fishermen and women waiting in line to weigh their catches and holding fish that looked so large they might as well have been sharks.

Not intimidating at all for a guy taking his daughter fishing for the first time.

We walked the grassy shoreline and she picked out a spot to fish from about 100 yards from the boat landing. As we set up, I quickly realized I had made a mistake by not preparing her pole and testing it prior to our adventure. But I proceeded, stringing the new fishing line through the guides and attaching a hook and bobber.

I happily and fairly easily taught Phoebe how to cast a line. She let me demonstrate once and declared she was ready to try on her own. She cast a couple lines and reeled them back. A quick learner, she was doing well.

Then my worst fear came true. On Phoebe’s third cast, the fishing line somehow got knotted inside its housing and the spool stopped working … The longer I sat in an attempt to fix the problem, Phoebe’s disappointment began to boil. Without the proper tools on hand to fix it, I told her, we needed to go home. “We’re never going to be able to go fishing!” she cried as like she stomped away and I gathered our belongings.

All the pride I had as we left the house had been bombed.

And then the couple fishing next to us saved me. The woman came over to me with an extra fishing pole, ready to go with a hook and bait, and offered it for Phoebe to borrow. I breathed a sigh of relief and gladly accepted.

When I called Phoebe back, she didn’t want to fish with the borrowed pole because it wasn’t hers. But we talked through it for a minute and, once it sunk in that there was no other way for us to continue fishing, she took the pole and started casting again.

Then, the male half of the couple next to us came over and asked if he could try fixing Phoebe’s pole. Without hesitation, I said, “Yes, please!” The man – an older gentleman with dark hair and a shaggy beard who was clearly a seasoned fisherman – took a seat next to us and went to work on the pole.

As the man’s female companion came over to lend a hand, I turned my focus back to Phoebe who was continuing to cast …

All of a sudden, her bobber went under the water, and she had a fish on her hook.

She reeled it in and we all shared the joy of seeing that fish on the end of the pole. … For the record, I have no idea what kind of fish it was – my best guess is a crappie. And we didn’t think to measure it, but it wasn’t large enough to keep.

And just like that, the man had Phoebe’s fishing pole fixed.

We exchanged the poles and Phoebe began casting again with her own pole. It worked like a dream and we didn’t have any issues for the remainder of the two hours we spent at the lake. I couldn’t thank the man enough.

Eventually we moved to a new fishing spot on a concrete pier next to the boat landing. The fishing contest had ended and most of the crowd that was there when we arrived was gone.

Phoebe continued to improve with her casting, and it helped that we moved to the pier, where she could cast and reel in her line freely without the tall grass and weeds in her way.

She got a lot of nibbles and her bobber went under several more times, but we couldn’t hook whatever was circling her line. We went through four or five worms.

We were starting to talk about calling it a day when she finally did hook one more. Phoebe reeled it in, and it was another small fish, similar to her earlier catch.

Phoebe could hardly contain herself. She caught two!

I took the obligatory photo of Phoebe with her two fish. Then, I explained to her that the right thing to do was throw them back into the lake, but she wanted Kates to see her haul – and I wasn’t going to fault the girl for being so excited about her first time fishing. Seeing the smile on her face and hearing her thank me for taking her was priceless.

So I put the fish in our bucket, we packed up our belongings and headed home.

Back at the house, Phoebe proudly carried her bucket of fish inside to show Kates.

Tonight I buried them in our back yard.

Paul Ryan, what are you thinking?

I’ve always had a lot of respect for Paul Ryan as a person and politician. I had the privilege of hearing him speak and interviewing him a few times during my newspaper days in southeastern Wisconsin and was always struck by how genuine he could be and how well he connected with constituents.

So I was disappointed by Thursday’s news that he was endorsing Donald Trump.

I get it. It’s all politics and it’s an attempt to unite the Republican Party.

But seriously. Paul Ryan, what are you thinking?
“So Ryan’s singular act of appeasement in the face of the Trump juggernaut sends a loud and clear message about the kind of rhetoric that Republicans are willing to accept in trade for hanging onto the House of Representatives and securing their thin margin in the United States Senate.

Instead of breaking with other establishment Republicans, Ryan, threw in with a man who has pushed what used to be racist, dog-whistle language from the darkness where it belongs, to the center of our civil debate.

Ryan has thrown in with a man who, with his support for a travel ban on the members of one of world’s largest religions, has cast aside the very religious freedoms that Republicans claim to staunchly defend.”
There’s this, too. A Donald Trump presidency would threaten the U.S. rule of law.

(Updated 06.09.16)

Here's more: Donald Trump does not have a campaign

And more: Poor Paul Ryan

"So in his efforts to placate the right wing of his right-wing party, Ryan just sold out the principles of the Republican Party to a reality TV show host and ethically challenged businessman.

Now Ryan can no longer separate himself from Donald Trump and his dubious positions and policies. Ryan can step back from or criticize some of Trump’s positions, but he won’t be able to do that every day or his endorsement becomes a total joke. We had many months and many debates to watch and learn who Mr. Trump is, so we can assume that Paul Ryan knew what he was doing personally and what he was doing to the Republican Party when he made his endorsement. Now, for the next five months Paul Ryan has to live with the consequences."


Carpool Karaoke with Gwen Stefani

Surfing around YouTube this morning and came across this video.

James Corden, whose Carpool Karaoke sessions have become somewhat of a sensation since his ride with Adele, has done it again -- and this time he picked up a couple special guests.



Break Out the Chewbacca Mask and You Won’t Laugh Alone

So I awoke last Saturday, opened Facebook while I was still lying in bed and saw this video my friend Gina had shared …

The longer I watched, the more engrossed I became in Candace Payne’s glee and the harder it got to control my own laughter. I was nearly laughing so hard that the side of my body was hurting.

Well, in the ensuing days the video continued to light up the internet. And pretty soon Candace and her family were basking in the glow of gifts from Kohl’s to appearances on the morning talk shows. She appeared on the The Late Late Show with James Corden, took him to work with J.J. Abrams and will meet Chewbacca himself, Peter Mayew.

The phenomenon of it all reminds me of the wedding dance video that went viral several years ago.

Here’s a good read I caught from The New York Times last night. 

Another day, another Royals comeback

Just when I start thinking this Royals’ season is going down the tubes and I should be investing more time in watching or listening to the Cubs, they do something remarkable and remind me why I fell in love with this current cast of Kansas City baseball players.

I had returned to my office this afternoon after coming a commencement ceremony at the college and checked the Royals score. They were down 7-1 in the seventh inning.

I groaned. Not a chance, I thought and proceeded with my work.

Then I saw this tweet during the top of the ninth.

Now what, I thought, and scrolled a little further down my TweetDeck to see Salvador Perez was involved in a collision and had to be carried off the field.

But then …

What!? … That was enough to get me to turn it on. We watched their miraculous comeback last night, and now they were doing it again.

I’ll just let Rustin’s Twitter feed take it from here.

By this time, I had finished my work for the day and had packed up my belongings, ready to go home. But Brett Eibner, whose Major League debut we watched last night along with his first Major League hit, was at the plate with two outs and the winning run on third base. And I wasn’t going anywhere until he made the third out and drove in the winning run.

After an epic at-bat that seemed more destined to result in a walk-off walk, he lined a base-hit for the walk-off win.
I pumped my fist and walked out of my office with the radio feed still playing on my phone, my head high as listened to the roar of the Kauffman Stadium crowd.

Tonight it appears as though Salvy’s injury is a relatively minor one, considering how severe the collision appeared. Thank goodness.

Here's Rustin's full recap. ... And here's MLB's recap.

I love that Eric Hosmer said "It was one of the craziest regular-season games I've played in." Because we all know which game was THE craziest.


Stormy Night at the K

Well, last night was interesting.

Our university was set to join the Royals for a special “Northwest Night at the K, a gathering of our alumni, families, students and friends. The planning began months ago and we had really looked forward to it.

But severe storms have threatened our region for days, and the forecast heading into yesterday was not promising.

Figures. We haven't had much luck with Mother Nature and Royals games, considering it's rained at some point during all but one of the games we've attend during the last two seasons, the exception being this year's School Day at the K.

We drove briefly through pelting rain and hail on our way to Kansas City yesterday afternoon. When we arrived in the Kauffman Stadium parking lot, the skies were menacing and bright strikes of lightning flashed around us – but no rain.

The rain began, however, as we started our walk across the parking lot. And it got harder the closer we came to the large tent where our group was gathered for a tailgate party. Kates had an umbrella to carry over her and protect Phoebe, but I was stupidly unprepared for the weather and had Faye riding on my shoulders with her hoodie pulled over her head. Faye and I were drenched by the time we arrived safely under the tailgate tent.

There was some joy as we got settled and greeted friends. The highlight of the night was seeing the championship trophies. We had our football national championship trophies on hand, and the Royals graciously allowed the World Series trophy to join our party. Phoebe and I had our pictures taken with them, and it was good.

But the wind was picking up and the situation had begun to get a little dicey under the tent with food getting wet and the winds tossing some of our equipment. Phoebe – still affected by our mini hurricane several years ago – was reduced to sobbing as Kates tried to comfort her.

We were just getting in the food line with the girls when an announcement was made for all of us to take shelter. We moved inside the stadium concourse and took cover for a short time in the restrooms. Then, stadium staff instructed us to head for the basement of the Royals Hall of Fame. Not a bad place to be to wait out a storm, I suppose. …

We waited there for about a half hour, though it seemed much longer as we scrolled through our social media feeds and monitored our weather apps. Shortly after 6, we learned the game was being canceled and the stadium staff gave us the all clear to move back outdoors.

Kates and I pondered staying for what was left of the tailgate, but the girls were done and wanted to go home. So we made the long trek across the parking lot back to our car and headed for home. … Starving, Kates and I stopped for food at an Arby’s. I tried the new Bourbon Steak and Bacon sandwich, which makes my mouth water every time I see the commercialand oh, it was awesome.

We drove through a hard rain and lightning all the way back to The ‘Ville. Faye fell asleep, while Phoebe listened to her iPod – and asked every 10 minutes “how many more minutes until we get home?” … Obsessed with counting minutes and steps, Phoebe knows the GPS shows our ETA and counts down the minutes. As we drove through last night’s storm, the answer was especially important to her.

By 8:30 we were back home and unloading the car. It felt like we just returned from a vacation. … The girls “got cozy” and turned on the TV.

This morning comes the news that Mike Moustakas tore his ACL last weekend and is likely done for the season … which is rapidly growing into a bummer of a championship defense.
The Moustakas news offered a second, unexpected, gut punch. In seconds, on an inconsequential foul ball in a 3-2 loss, the Royals lost an All-Star left fielder for a month and an All-Star third baseman until 2017.

“To lose two All-Stars on one play,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “it’s kind of tough.”

The news cast a pall over the clubhouse as the Royals, 24-22, prepared for a weekend series against the Chicago White Sox. (Thursday night’s game was rained out, with a makeup date coming later this season.)

The reality cut deep into a close-knit room. In March, the Royals spoke confidently about their motivations this season: Another American League pennant, another championship, an improbable mini-dynasty in one of baseball’s smallest markets.

Seven weeks into the franchise’s first World Series championship defense in three decades, the Royals must trudge on with the left side of the diamond gutted by injuries.

But, hey, we also got a trip to IKEA out of the ordeal. We visited One of the Greatest Stores Ever before our trip to the stadium and purchased a new desk and shelving unit for Phoebe’s room. It’s long overdue and will be a welcome addition to her room and tween life.


So long, Kit Kat?

Our hearts our heavy tonight as – after two oh so fun weeks – we may have lost Kit Kat.

I’m taking it particularly hard, feeling guilty that I didn’t do more to help her.

The episode began this afternoon when a roofer showed up at our house to install a long-awaited pair of downspouts. This – like the sounds of a lawn mower nearby, or Phoebe and I playing one of our nightly games of basketball – startled Kit Kat from her spot on our deck. … After this happens, we’ve come to expect her to show up again around meal time. But tonight there was no sign of her.

We went to the free Tuesday night movie on the university campus – the movie was “The Good Dinosaur,” which I found slightly ironic, considering its themes in light of tonight’s events – and found still no sign of her when we returned home around 8:30.

With some daylight left, we opted to play outside for a while. Though I think all of us were really hoping Kit Kat would come out of hiding if she knew we were there.

With no sign of her, Faye and Kates eventually went inside. Phoebe and I began shooting hoops. Phoebe said, “I really wish Kit Kat would come back. She’s a really sweet kitty.”

That’s when the fat, menace-looking, calico cat that we’ve dubbed Blondie showed up. She made her first appearance a couple nights after we began our conscious effort to care for Kit Kat and has returned consistently around nightfall. On some of the first few nights, Blondie tried some intimidation with Kit Kat by scaling our deck and perching herself on the railings. Kit Kat would sit in her tub, eyes fixed on Blondie.

But on more recent nights, Kit Kat took command of our deck. She sat perched on our deck table, the deck railing or even at the top of the stairs. A couple nights I caught her standing her ground on the deck and howling at Blondie. I tried to shoo away Blondie on several occasions, but she kept coming back and all I could do was trust she wouldn’t try to hurt Kit Kat.

After all, Kates and I made an observation last night that Kit Kat had become bolder in the last 24 hours. “She’s becoming a teenager,” Kates said. In addition to her more aggressively protecting her kitty territory and climbing on the deck, we arrived home Sunday afternoon to find her prancing across the yard with a robin in her mouth. When the robin got away briefly, Kit Kat chased it across the yard and swatted it down again, proceeding to bat it around for a few moments and stand over it. “Girls, this is nature,” Kates said as Phoebe and Faye stood in a sort of stunned confusion.

* * *

Tonight, nature showed its ugly side again. I’m afraid Kit Kat was on the losing end this time and I’m beating up myself for not doing more to keep Blondie away. When I spotted Blondie tonight, I never should have let her in our yard.

Phoebe and I finished playing basketball, and I took a seat on the deck, waiting to see if Kit Kat might still show. A few moments in, I noticed Blondie take a prowling stance and begin slowly across the middle of our yard. I thought maybe she was about to give chase to a bird or critter.

But then Kit Kat appeared walking along our fence from the bush beside our shed, where we spotted her for the first time. I had barely exclaimed “Kit Kat’s back!” to the girls inside when Blondie sped toward her. They came eye to eye at the gate to our yard. A flash later they were in a hissing and snarling cat fight. Kit Kat took refuge in a sea of ferns along the side of our house, but all I could see was Blondie looking to pounce further.

Kates suggested we go inside and let them work it out. But I was desperate to try anything to scare Blondie away and save Kit Kat. So I grabbed a small umbrella we mounted on the deck last night to protect Kit Kat from the rain and banged it against the fence. But it did more harm than good because it not only startled Blondie, but Kit Kat, too. And when Kit Kat ran, Blondie chased again. They ran into the neighbor’s yard and out of sight, but we could hear the fight continuing on the other side.
The sun set and we haven’t seen any sign of them since.

No doubt, we’ve come to adore Kit Kat these last couple weeks. Feeding her every morning and night. Having her keep us company and run around with us in the backyard. Admiring her as she curled up in her bed and slept. Laughing as she swatted and pounced on the beetles that buzzed around the deck at night. And loving the way she galloped across the back yard when we called for her and practically talked to us with her meows.

We were set to adopt her and officially make her a part of our family. On a nightly basis for the last several days, we allowed her inside for a few minutes to explore our kitchen and living room. On Sunday afternoon – when we came home to find her hunting robins – we had returned from buying a litter box, cat toys and other accessories. The only thing holding up the adoption process was arranging for a visit to the vet; Kates left a message for one of the local vets, but we hadn’t yet received a response.

My prayer tonight is that Kit Kat is ok and we wake up tomorrow morning to find her sitting at our back door, meowing for her breakfast – something I’ve come to look forward to every morning since she came to us. We want her to remain a part of our family.


Can't stop the feeling!

So I finally took some time to take in Justin Timberlake's new single today.

Hello, Song of the Summer.

I can't get it out of my head. I could hardly to wait to get home tonight to show it to the girls. And they loved it, too.


(Update 06.09.16)

While I don't think this song sucks, here's a good read about our inclination to define songs of the summer.


So we have a cat

So we’ve adopted a kitten. Sort of.

More like she adopted us. As least we’re pretty sure it’s a she.

We’ve named her Kit Kat.

It began Saturday evening while Phoebe and I were outside and playing a game of Frisbee – one of her new favorite pastimes. 

I heard what sounded like crying coming from a bush alongside our shed. I turned toward the bush to try to figure out what was making the sound.

Then, after a couple minutes, a small gray kitten peered out from under the bush. She came out a few feet and then retreated to the bush. She was meowing non-stop, seemingly desperate for some attention and care. She had no collar and we have no idea where she came from.

This went on for several minutes as Phoebe and I stood at our fence watching her. She wouldn’t come too close to us, and after a while we headed inside and went on with our night.

Last night, we headed outside to play again and she appeared almost immediately, coming from the opposite side of our yard. Quickly, she was walking alongside us, brushing up against our legs and prancing from one side of the yard to the other while we threw the Frisbee.

She was extremely skinny and obviously hungry. So Kates and I broke down and gave her a couple slices of ham and cheese, which she wasted little time eating.

The girls had taken to her, and she seemed to be relishing our company.

Finally, though, it was time for us to go inside. But the bond had been formed, and the kitten sat perched on our deck while Kates and I prepared for the start of our work week.

Oh, and Kates made a run to the grocery store and returned with cat food. Stuff was getting real.

This morning, Kates opened a bathroom window and noticed she was still on our deck. We all got ready for school, left the house and went on with our days – though I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think about her throughout the day.

So tonight, I came home from work and arrived in the house to find the inside quiet but the door to the deck open, and I knew. I found Kates and the girls in the yard with Kit Kat, who was dining on a bowl of the food Kates bought last night.

For the second night in a row, she walked alongside us, around and in between the legs of the girls like an old friend while they played in the yard. … And when we brought our supper to the deck for an outdoor dinner – despite our attempts to block entry points with baby gates – she found her way to our table and paced around the deck while we ate.

After we had the girls in bed, Kates and I met in the living room – and there was Kit Kat outside our deck door, meowing to beat the band. Begging for attention, or to come inside the house …

We’re holding strong on keeping her outside. But with a storm brewing tonight we retrieved a plastic tub from our basement and outfitted it with a blanket and an old sweatshirt for her. As the storm came in, she took to it and curled up inside.

We’ll see what tomorrow brings. But it looks like she’s here to stay … for at least a little while.


A Toddler, a Loose Gun in a Car, and a Mother Dies

I saw this story reported by Milwaukee media Tuesday. This from The New York Times today.
The weapon, which investigators found on the floor of the back seat, was a .40-caliber pistol used by Ms. Price’s boyfriend, a security guard. His gun belt and tactical vest were also in the car ... 

The 2-year-old, who was not in a car seat, “retrieved a firearm that slid out from under the driver’s seat and shot through the seat, striking the driver.” ...
In tales of gun violence, accidents involving curious children and weapons seem especially tragic, but they are not especially unusual. Most often, they involve guns left unsecured by the child’s parents. In the seven days that ended Tuesday, in addition to the death of Ms. Price, a 3-year-old in Georgia, a 3-year-old in Louisiana, a 2-year-old in Missouri and a 2-year-old in Indiana fatally shot themselves; a 4-year-old in Texas shot and wounded a family member; a 16-year-old in California killed a 14-year-old friend in a shooting that officials called accidental; a 15-year-old in Texas accidentally shot and wounded a 16-year-old friend; and a 13-year-old in Indiana accidentally shot and wounded herself. ... 

Everytown for Gun Safety, the gun control group, says that since the start of 2015, at least 342 people in the United States have been accidentally shot by people under age 18. 

Make it stop.


Cookie Monster waiting and other March Madness ads

For the last few years, I've said March Madness commercials are more entertaining than the Super Bowl ads.

Here's one of my favorites from this year's batch. From good ol' Apple showing off its latest iPhone.

Poor Cookie Monster.

Update 4.24.2016: Here's some outtakes from the commercial.

And while I'm at it, I really enjoy this year's Buffalo Wild Wings spots, especially the one with the Wisconsin cheese curds shoutout.


Summerfest 2016 Headliners!

Aw yeah! I wait all winter for this announcement to come each spring.

I probably won't get to see all of them, but I'll be eyeing dates for, at the least, Death Cab for Cutie, Ray LaMontagne, Ben Folds, Indigo Girls, Bruce Hornsby & the Noisemakers, O.A.R., and even Richard Marx.

The countdown begins.


Reasons we won't get a dog

So I came dangerously close to adopting a dog for our family last week.

A colleague brought this puppy in our office for the afternoon, and it was torture for me. I’ll just leave this here for the memory.

I’ve come to my senses since, and some friends of ours have stepped in to provide him the home he deserves. It’s meant to be for them, not us.

This happens every few months. Through conversations with family and friends, or visits to homes with pets, or something the girls see on TV.

But I'm standing firm. We will not get a dog. Period.

Once and for all, here’s why …

I’ve tried it. In college. Didn’t work.

I let a couple great friends convince me to visit the local Humane Society and was swept up by the adorable face of a German Shepherd puppy. My roommate and I agreed to adopt him, though the responsibility really fell on me. I named him McGwire, after then home run king Mark McGwire… I ended up spending hundreds of dollars, at least $1,000 – which was major money for me as a college student that could have been better put toward my savings account or other more meaningful purchases – on vet visits and supplies. … Within seven months of me adopting him, he was no longer that adorable puppy. My roommate and I were at odds over who was pulling the weight to care for him. I couldn’t give him the care he needed or desired. Ultimately, I dropped him off at a humane society with barely a goodbye rub.

You can argue I was too young to care for him. Didn’t have the right breed for my lifestyle. Sure.

I learned to love dogs in college after I started dating Kates and got comfortable with her family’s old Westie, Eli. And I probably enjoy being around a good dog more now than ever.

But we will not have one of our own.

I don’t want to have to spend the hundreds of dollars on vet bills, supplies and other needs.

I don’t want to have to alter vacation or travel plans because of a dog’s needs.

I don’t want to have to wake up in the middle of the night, go home in the middle of a busy work day, or cut an evening out, to let a dog outside.

I don’t want to have to clean up the yard after it does its business.

I don’t want to have to be pulled away from a project at home, or plan my day around a dog that needs a walk or playtime.

I don’t want its hair all over our carpets and furniture.

I don’t want to worry about it chewing on things it shouldn’t.

I don’t want to worry about it biting one of the girls, or anyone else.

In addition to my own experience, I’ve stood back and observed family members and friends deal with all of these things through the years. And I want no part of it. Probably to a fault, I’m very protective of my lifestyle, how I invest my time and my goals and dreams.

A dog does not fit into the equation.


SNL: Tina Fey Sarah Palin impression kicks off latest episode

I think it would have fun to be with Tina Fey last week when she learned Sarah Palin was endorsing Donald Trump for president.

I imagine Tina said, 'Oh no she didn't!' Stopped what she was doing and headed directly for the SNL studio to prepare her latest Palin impression ... on an otherwise OK episode.

And last night, we were treated to this latest gem.


Are you for real, Wisconsin? No spirit.

I read recently about the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletics Association's move to try limiting the chants aired at almost every high school and college basketball game in America ...

As a Wisconsin native -- and later a Kansas kid who lived for Friday nights employing many of these chants while cheering on my state champion high school basketball team -- I could only shake my head.

ESPN's Scott Van Pelt argued my thoughts wonderfully on this segment ...


The president's speechwriter

My work involves writing for a president, too. On a smaller scale.

Nonetheless, it's an important role. I take it seriously. And this video pretty well sums up how it works.