Tuesday, March 31, 2009

rock chalk

I can't believe I'm writing a post called "rock chalk!" And I really can't believe I'm about to write these words:

"I'm proud to be a Jayhawk!"

When I was an undergrad at Colorado, I despised Kansas.

I was a basketball fan. Cu never had very good teams. KU always did. And not only would the Jayhawks crush the Buffs every year, but they'd bring with them throngs of loud fans all dressed in red and blue. They out numbered us.

Years later, when I found myself working in Lawrence, the KU fans were in a state of anxiety. Their beloved Roy Williams was leaving for North Carolina, and they feared the program might suffer.

I openly hoped it would. I told my fellow staffers at the local paper that i hoped they'd hire a string of awful coaches who would collectively destroy the once mighty program.

Well, now I'm a student at KU. I'm still not a fan of their cagers. In fact, when I took a night class last semester I cursed them for drawing spectators who took up all the parking spaces for those of us who were there to learn.

But today, I'm proud to be a Jayhawk.

Last night Kansas won the national championship in debate!

KU has one of the best debate programs in the country. Much better than their basketball program. Over the last 50 years, the Jayhawks have won four national championships ('54, '70, '76, 83), have been to the final four 13 times, and have qualified for the tourney every year since 1968.

What makes them especially cool is that they don't offer scholarships. All their debaters are Kansas kids who weren't particularly competitive in high school. They've got an incredible tradition of making champions.

So, there you go.

Rock chalk!

Or whatever the hell it is that they say.

Monday, March 30, 2009

ship of fools

"Ship of Fools" has been one of my favorite songs lately. Allie's too. Today she asked me about the lyrics today, so I looked them up.

They're quite beautiful. And they really hit home for me.

Went to see the captain
strangest I could find
Layed my proposition down
Layed it on the line;
I won't slave for beggar's pay
likewise gold and jewels
but I would slave to learn the way
to sink your ship of fools

Ship of fools
on a cruel sea
Ship of fools
sail away from me

It was later than I thought
when I first believed you
now I cannot share your laughter
Ship of Fools

Saw your first ship sink and drown
from rocking of the boat
and all that could not sink or swim
was just left there to float
I won't leave you drifting down
but woah it makes me wild
with thirty years upon my head
to have you call me child

Ship of fools
on a cruel sea
Ship of fools
sail away from me

It was later than I thought
when I first believed you
now I cannot share your laughter
Ship of Fools

The bottles stand as empty
as they were filled before
Time there was and plenty
but from that cup no more
Though I could not caution all I yet may warn a few:
Don't lend your hand to raise no flag
atop no ship of fools

Ship of fools
on a cruel sea
Ship of fools
sail away from me

It was later than I thought
when I first believed you
now I cannot share your laughter
Ship of Fools
No I cannot share your laughter
Ship of Fools

Saturday, March 28, 2009

first bite

We had our first harvest of asparagus. Just seven stalks. Allie cooked it in a skillet with some garlic and salt.

She said it's the best asparagus she's ever had.

I have to agree.

It is the best she's ever had.

Friday, March 27, 2009

life begins in my basement

Every year when I plant seeds I do so thinking there is no way in hell they're going to grow. It just doesn't make any sense. Seeds are just these little things, and dirt is dirt, water's water. Doesn't add up in my head to peppers and tomatoes.

But, every year, I'm proven wrong. This thing to the left is a little sprout of pepper proof.

beard: week 3

Monday, March 23, 2009

photos from the puppy mill

There are more on my Facebook.

neighborhood puppy mill

On Saturday, a man built a crude enclosure out of boards and chicken wire in the front yard of a rental house down the street. Then he put four dogs in the enclosure. One was female. She had great big teets full of milk dangling down from her belly.

The house is on a busy corner and the dogs were nervous about all the commotion. They kept barking and barking. Our dogs, in turn, were made nervous by the barking, and they started barking too. Allie and I were unnerved.

We decided to go up the street and ask what was up.

The man who built the fence said he would be keeping the dogs there permanently, 24/7. But, he said, he planned to build a privacy fence as soon as he could, probably in two or three weeks.

The dogs spent the night out in the elements. They only woke us a couple of times with their barking.

The next day the man was back with a pickup full of particle board. He spent the afternoon nailing it up on the kennel. It looked just as crappy as it sounds.

Then, at about quarter to two this morning, Allie woke up and looked out the window. "Oh my god," she said, "you've got to see this."

I got up and looked. There was a man on the sidewalk talking on a cell phone. All around him ran about ten chubby little puppies.

In our sleepy state we thought it was a stranger out for a midnight stroll with a pack of leashless puppies. But we soon realized it was our neighbor, Roberto. He was out there with his partner, Curtis, trying to figure out what to do with all of these puppies that had escaped from the kennel. When we came outside, he said he had almost run over one of them when he got home from work.

He'd called the cops, of course. But they said they couldn't do anything. Only animal control could deal with it, and they're strictly nine-to-five.

We debated a bunch of solutions. We cursed the guy who'd left the animals out like this. No one was home at the rental. There was no dog house for the dogs, no food, no water, and it was starting to rain.

Finally we decided to put them back in the enclosure and seel off the escape holes with cinder blocks.

This morning we woke up and called the city's action center. While on the phone, Allie asked my to go out and write down the exact address. In the process, I discovered that all the dogs were gone. Someone had come in the middle of the night and taken them all away.

All that remains is the crude enclosure made of boards, chicken wire and particle board.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

staying power

Shoulda put these in the ground three years ago. Oh well, better late than never. We're going to be eating good next week.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

international trade?

Yael's blog says my former boss supported "keeping the International Trade Office open" in his budget recommendation. I was very surprised to read this, because when I was still there we were not big fans of the program.

From our perspective, the expense was hard to justify in hard times. Hell, it was hard to justify in good times.

We wondered, Just what does the program do?

Kendrick Blackwood, the mayor's chief of staff, went on one of the trade office's junkets to Mexico back when he was still assistant director of communications. He came back utterly baffled as to why the city spends money on it. He said he made it his mission on the trip to find out what the city gets out of its involvement.

The best explanation he could come up with was that it's a way to meet people.

He said, with utter incredulity, that the director of the program, Jodi Edgerton, measures her success by how many business cards she gives away.

Not dollars and cents for the city. Business cards.

It seemed to us a classic example of City Hall bureaucratic bloating. What started several years ago as a volunteer gig for one woman became an $800,000 per year department with a full staff. (Oh, and another thing about that one woman. Gloria believed that Jodi was trying to sabotage the mayor because she was supposedly good friends with the previous mayor, Kay Barnes. So we were particularly indifferent to the expense.)

At any rate, the International Trade Office was a point of contention between our office and the City Manager. Last year's budget stipulated a major cut to the program. But it was our understanding that the manager was refusing to make those cuts, as he did with other mandates in the budget, and we were highly annoyed by that. I even wrote a terse memo to the manager, which Mark signed, that demanded an explanation as to why the program was still being fully funded.

So why would Funk support it now?

I suddenly remembered: George Blackwood -- Kendrick's dad and key kitchen cabinet member for the mayor -- is big on this international trade thing. He goes to Mexico every once in a while to promote it. On the city's dime, if I'm not mistaken.

I'm trying to keep my mouth shut about this stuff, and not turn my blog into a bash-the-mayor thing. But when I read this in Yael's column, I just had to say something about it.

Supporting a wasteful, unnecessary program just because an ally benefits from it?

That is definitely not the kind of governing folks like me thought we were getting when we put our lives on hold to get Mark elected.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


When does a hobby become an obsessive compulsive disorder?

I believe there is a clear line between the two, and that I have found it.

Earlier this year, I rediscovered the Grateful Dead. To my sober ears, they sound better than ever. And I was thrilled to discover that there are thousands of high-quality live recordings free for the taking on the Internet. All you need is a little patience, some online hunting skills and a lot of hard drive space.

At first, I was pretty picky. I'd only keep the parts of the shows that were really unique, the long jams and such. But I found that it was kind of nice to listen to entire shows as I did chores or read in my favorite chair in the living room. So I started downloading and saving entire shows.

Then I noticed the subtle difference between the shows on successive nights. It was kind of neat to imagine that I had tickets to entire runs of shows at, say, the Fillmore East in New York, and to compare the setlists from night to night. So I started collecting runs of shows.

Then I saw that each tour had its own unique vibe and story line, so now I'm starting to piece together entire tours. Last week, for instance, I completed an entire collection of the band's concerts in 1974. It was an especially good year -- and one with a lot fewer concerts than other years.

Now I'm trying to complete the Dead's tour of Europe in 1972, which a lot of fans say is the best they ever had. And it's here where I might the crossroads between hobbyist and obsessive. I've found and down loaded all but one of the concerts. And all but one are high quality recordings straight from the sound board. The last one was recorded by some bloke in the audience. And while some audience recordings can be quite good. This one... well, give it a listen yourself.

So now you see my dilemma. Do I download this godawful piece of crap, and complete the tour? I want to say I've got a full set. But I want to maintain my dignity as well.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Friday, March 13, 2009


For those of you who are eagerly awaiting my tell-all book about city hall, quit holding your breath. I talked with Agent Lydia on Thursday, and she said my latest proposal was heading in the wrong direction. She said that right now all the publishers are looking for BIG BOOKS. And the Funkhouser story is too small.

More significantly, she could tell my heart wasn't in it. Though it was well written, it betrayed ambivalence. "You have no poker face," she said.

It's true. I was throwing it out there in hopes of a payday. Much the way I'd send a resume around.

Didn't get me too down, though. It helped that on that very evening I gave a reading at Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site. What an honor! There was a good crowd there, and we had a lively conversation about education, race and power.

And Agent Lydia doesn't want to dump me. She told me to "keep noodling." For now, that means turning the two Funkytown proposals into an essay for my class. Maybe I can get a magazine article out of it. She wasn't worried. I'll find a book. And she'll sell it.

But for those of you in KC, I guess you'll have to wait for Gloria's book to come out. Before I left, Funk was telling everyone it'll be called C'Mon Funk! Move Yer Ass! - Gloria Squitiro and the New Politics.

I guess it's good thing I won't be writing a book about this whole weird experience. How could I compete with that?

Monday, March 09, 2009

Friday, March 06, 2009

do i have to report it to unemployment?

I got a call today from Arbitron. I told them I don't listen to the radio. But they still want me to participate in their sweep of the KC market.

So I decided to do it. After all, there's compensation involved. The lady on the phone told me I'd get a small cash stipend.

"It's not a lot," she said. "But it's enough to go out and have a cup of coffee or a donut."

Not and. Or.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

howard hughes

I've grown a beard. I'd been trimming it, but I decided this week to let it grow for a while, just to see what it's like.

This morning I stood in the kitchen negotiating with Allie a time limit for my experiment. We hadn't had coffee yet and I looked like shit. I was in my Crocs slippers and a pair of sweats with paint stains on them. My hair was going every which way.

Allie burst out laughing. She imagined me with a big bushy beard going to City Hall dressed just exactly the same and asking to look through my old desk for a piece of paper or something. Or better yet, telling them I have a brilliant idea to save the city.

Sounds like a plan to me.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

neko's new one

I think I'm partial to live music. I'm not as crazy about Neko Case's new album, Middle Cyclone, as I am about her live recordings.

That's not a knock on the new release. It's good. It just doesn't fill me with waves of ecstasy the way the concert discs do.

I picked it up yesterday at an independent shop in downtown Lawrence, after I got out of class. I felt all college kid, buying a record on the first day of release. Listened to it on the drive home and had to force myself not to push the forward button on some of the songs.

But then, I put it on the home player while we ate dinner and I loved every note of it. It was perfect -- even the 30 minutes of nighttime country sounds that close it out.

Neko is one of the best artists going these days, and I think a lot of you dear readers would like her. She even draws the cool pictures on her album cover. Hope she plays KC this summer.