Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Angry Hour, Part Two: Tostadas, Zealotry, and Bronchitis

After this, I continued on my path to grab a quick bite to eat. I didn’t know where I was headed. I settled on Taco Bueno, because I had only eaten there once before and couldn’t remember if I liked it.*

*I didn’t.

I ordered my food, sat down with the newspaper, and waited for my number to be called. The young couple sitting on the opposite side of the dining room got up and left, leaving me as the only person sitting in the restaurant. I got my food, sat back down, and started eating.

Then, a woman came in with 4 kids. My best guess on their ages is 8-year-old boy, two 10-year-old girls, and one 12-year-old girl. As the woman ordered the food, the boy ran to the table right in front of me. The girls followed. The boy talked really loud and kept stomping on the floor. I was just trying to read the paper.


The woman sat down with the kids to wait for the order, and she at least quieted the boy’s voice down, but his Adderall had worn off and he was still stomping and kicking everything.

Next, an elderly couple came in. They sat right behind me, and the guy promptly started hacking up a lung.

Did I mention I was the ONLY PERSON in this place? There were 32 other tables/booths (yep, I counted) and they chose to sit directly in front of and behind me?

As I heard esophageal fragments gargled behind me, the family in front of me held hands and prayed over their beef muchacas and tostadas. In the only moment of levity I would enjoy here, the boy asked his mom, “Did you pray for no tomatoes?” The innocence of that remark almost made me laugh out loud; it definitely made me smile.

I quickly forgot about that because the hacking and stomping in near-Dolby-quality surround sound continued. I would have moved, but I was almost done. I had already given up on reading the paper when the woman continued a conversation she must have been having earlier with the girls.

About purity.

As in, virginity.

At Taco f$%&ing Bueno.

So in one ear I’m hearing, literally, “No guy is ever going to marry you if you haven’t stayed pure”, and in the other I’m hearing “BLEEECCCCCCHHHHHHarrrrKACKACKBlaarrrrrrrrAHEMAHEM”.

Now the fantasy in my head is to stand up and say, “You. Girls. May I offer a counterpoint? I would never marry a girl who WAS pure. I know; I know…I’m scum, but if you haven’t at least done some fooling around by the time you’re out of college a guy’s liable to think you also possess a very backward, sex-is-dirty mindset. I get the feeling it would take years to get you over the notion that your genitalia is filthy and cursed, and I just don’t have that kind of time. Frankly, sex is fun and natural. I like it. Have it every chance I get. But when it comes down to it, I guess what I’m saying doesn’t matter to you because I would also never marry a girl who believes she is weaker than me, inferior to me, and should submit to me just because some rich noblemen got a power boner centuries ago and decided to include some woman-control measures in their holy writs. Yeah, forget I said anything.”

*180º turn*

“And you. Old man. Use the BLEEECCCCCCHHHHHHarrrrKACKACKBlaarrrrrrrrAHEMAHEM Drive-Thru next time.”

Instead, I just let my jaw drop, opened my eyes wide, and stared at the woman.

She made eye contact, averted her gaze, and started talking about soccer.

Monday, March 30, 2009

The Angry Hour, Part One: Instant Catharsis

What follows is part one of my account of what happened between 5:05pm (when I left work) and 6:05pm (when I arrived at the softball complex).

I was heading down Quivira, which is like most other thru streets in southern JoCo—4 wide lanes, boulevard-style, with a median and a 45 mph speed limit. I was in the left lane going 45, and there was a 10-year-old well-worn white Cavalier in the right lane going about 35.

As my front bumper nearly pulled even with her rear bumper, she changed lanes right in front of me. No blinker, of course. I hit my brakes hard and laid on the horn, as I was no more than 3 feet from rear-ending her*.

*Sidebar-I think a pretty fair percentage of our population sucks at driving, but by FAR the most near-miss/life-flashing-before-my-eyes moments have come at the hands of girls under the age of, say, 21, specifically those driving older compact cars. Whereas most people who suck at driving err on the side of being tentative (which can be dangerous to others but is mostly just annoying), this subset makes horribly aggressive decisions, as if they just close their eyes and pray they don’t hit anything. Atrocious judgment.

Right hand glued to the phone on her right ear, she stuck her left hand out the window to flip ME off…and lost the cigarette she was smoking in the process. Strangely, she did this right before we both came to a stop at a red light, which means she flipped me off without understanding I would be right behind her in a stopped car.

So I was sitting there, just FUMING. You messed up, you nearly caused an accident, you weren’t paying attention, and you flipped ME off? Fantasies of decorating her shitty little car with a few impressions of my size 15s fluttered through my head. I swear I’m going to lose it some day. I can forgive bad driving, but I can’t forgive the lack of remorse. You need to learn a lesson, B.

Never has karma responded so quickly.

About ¼ mile later, while I was still right behind her, she moved into the left turn lane. In trying to look like hot shit, she swerved aggressively. She overcompensated and ran into the median HARD, losing a hubcap and definitely her alignment.

This, as you may imagine, received a very enthusiastic horn-blaring from me. I also let her know she’s number one.

Haha, you suck.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Left Hand Oak Aged Imperial Stout @ Foundry

Beer dork update - yesterday the Foundry tapped a keg of Left Hand Oak Aged Imperial Stout. It's friggin' fabulous, especially in weather like this. I recommend you get there before it's gone.

Ethan was also kind enough to let us sample a treat. The Stout replaced Anchor's Old Foghorn Barleywine on tap, and when they changed out the kegs Ethan was conscientious enough to save the beer remaining in the lines instead of letting it go down the drain.

What resulted was a pitcher which was mostly barleywine chased with a little bit of Imperial Stout, and it tasted wonderful. Enough so that we experimented a little with it at home (I had bottles of Great Divide Old Ruffian Barleywine and Sam Smith Imperial Stout), and it is a great combo. I know, blasphemy, but don't worry--we drank most of the beer pure and as the brewers intended. We're not total heathens here.

Goes great with a homemade blue cheese Juicy Lucy with balsamic ketchup and chipotle fries (courtesy of my fiancee, who obviously rocks).

Friday, March 27, 2009

LeBron Rittmaster

This video reminds me of the show we did in the Windsor, Missouri high school gym years ago.

Two notable things happened at that show:
1. During our last game, when soliticing a suggestion, a high school kid sitting in the bleachers yelled, "SUCK A DICK!" When everyone turned and glared at him, he said, "I'm outta here!", and ran across the gym floor and out the door. "Suck a dick, I'm outta here" has since become a catch phrase that has persevered among our circle of friends.

2. As the crowd started heading home, some of the kids stayed and shot some baskets. Corey took the ball and heaved it from beyond half-court. As soon as he released it, he turned, walked away, and announced, "It's good."


The kids thought he was God. We kinda did too.

Blessings = Counted.

Since we booked our trip in January, it seems like a veritable assload of things are now happening the week we’re gone.

Here’s what we’d enjoy if we were here:

-My group, Tantrum, has a show at the Westport Coffeehouse Theater (okay; so I knew about that one)
-Her group, Massive Tassel Bellydance, is doing Artopia
-Corey and Mo will be in town to do a benefit show (and drink)
-Our friend Amy will be in town from Massachusetts
-Pete’s friend will be in town from AZ, which means we don’t get to vet her
-The Royals’ Opening Day/Weekend
-The Final Four
-Aterciopelados @ Beaumont Club

There was something else too that I can’t remember. Not that Ireland doesn’t trump, but there was purt near jack shit happening the week before and after.

But now, with up to 8” of snow (and associated travel delays) coming tomorrow, I’m suddenly quite pleased with our schedule, thank you very much.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Adam's Rib: OPEN for bidness

Adam's Rib
9148 Santa Fe Trail Drive (west of 87th and Antioch, east of the JoCo library)
O.P., KS

JoCo's newest barbecue restaurant opened this morning for business, and by chance I ended up becoming one of their first customers.

Any time I come across a new place that does BBQ, I am compelled to try it. Every place does their thing a little differently, which is always intriguing. (Ditto for pizza joints.)

Once I saw the main sign go up a while back, I've been drive-by stalking it about once a week to see if it was open. I hadn't planned on driving that direction today, but after seeing Owen anoint spare ribs as the bracket-busting champion of meats, my Pavlovian salivation dictated that I ditch my previous plan of getting a salad at Hy-Vee. I figured I'd check to see...

The little garage-sale-sized "Now Open!" sign brought a smile to my face. Game on.

Upon walking in the door, I was greeted warmly by an enthusiastic cashier. It took me a few minutes to figure out what I wanted, because the menu was interesting: all the normal brisket/burnt end/rib offerings, plus things like BBQ Nachos and Pacific Island Ribs. They also have a huge list of sides.

I settled on a Rib & Brisket platter with beans. Yeah, I knew it was way more food than I needed for lunch, but these three things (along with sauce) are what make or break a BBQ place for me.

I ordered at one register, then paid at another. I think the logistics will probably necessitate a change once they get busy, since people will be lined up out the door really quickly.

The second register is where I found out the place had been open all of an hour. As in, it was their first day.

They offer one size of fountain drink: 32oz. Bravo, I say. They have Strawberry and Fruit Punch at their fountain station; I know a lot of people dig those with BBQ.

They called my name, and there was my food. A huge hunk of pork ribs (three of them, I think) and big, thick slices of brisket, alongside a pickle spear, 3 slices of white bread, and a styrofoam container of beans.

I dug into my side first. The beans were THICK--about the consistency of a hearty chili. There were big hunks of brisket in there. They had a nice, sweet finish. I really enjoyed them, and I normally prefer spicy/smoky to sweet.

The ribs were huge, but I ended up having to sacrifice a portion of them...they were just too fatty. Not the intramuscular "marbling"-type fat, but big hunks of nothing but fat. Don't get me wrong; the sheer size of the portion kept me feeling far from shortchanged, and I know ribs are a long way from chicken breast on the leanness scale anyway.

My issue with the ribs was that they were somewhat "undersmoked". I had a few bites that didn't have much flavor and needed sauce. But they were cooked perfectly--just the right texture.

The brisket was cut into big, thick sheets, which is how I prefer it. It always seems juicier and smokier that way. Good stuff.

The sauce definitely hits the sweet notes harder than the spicy ones, but I liked it even given my aforementioned preferences.

Overall, the food was solidly above-average, even on this first day of operation.

But what will make the restaurant succeed, in my opinion, is the quality of people running the show. I had two different employees check on me, including the owner Hope. She wanted to know what I honestly thought of the food, and she was very receptive. More than that, she's passionate about what she's doing, and she's got friendly people staffing the place. I smiled a lot when I was there, and how often can you say that about lunch?

Random Notes

1. With KU and Mizzou both in the Sweet 16, at least one of them has to lose in the next two weeks. For any sports fan with emotional connections to his/her team, Bill Simmons' Levels of Losing is required reading, if only for commiseratory reasons. It's a long article, it's been around for a while, but it's worth the time.

2. I went to Barley's Brewhaus last night and discovered what I thought was a misprint. Great Divide Yeti Imperial Stout was listed on the menu at $4.25 a pour. Turns out, it was correct! This is their regular price for a full goblet of this fantastic beer! Even more surprising, this was the least expensive craft beer on the menu--even cheaper than the beer brewed at their sister company (75th Street Brewery). For that price, you're getting one of the better beers you'll ever quaff (99/100 at RateBeer.com), and it's even served at the right temperature.

Their Windy City Pies are also the best take on Chicago-style pizza I've found in Kansas City.

3. Pete at Feel Me Don't You posted about Succotash in the River Market. Every single person I know says the same things about that place, right down to the creepy painting. I want to like it, but...well, see the first comment (mine).

Monday, March 23, 2009

Revisiting Some Favorites

Like many who are geeky about their suds, my tendency is to look for brews I've never tried. A lot of the exhilaration I get about a beer is seeking it out and tasting it for the first time. (Okay, so any subsequent buzz is nice side effect too.)

There comes a point, however, when one simply must reacquaint himself with old friends. Everyone has those friends. You haven't talked in months, but you know as soon as you see each other you'll pick right up where you left off. You never wonder if the other person is secretly holding a grudge or talks crap about you to their spouse. It's just that they're not in your life on a daily basis.

Here are a few beers I "caught up with" last week:

Retro Red from Fort Collins Brewery is not what you would typically identify with a red ale. It pours a dark ruby red with a big, full body and more malt sweetness than you'd expect. It's hopped, but not aggressively so. (If that's your preference, look for Odell's Extra Special Red.) For someone who lingers more on the dark end of the beer spectrum, it's a great beer for when the weather warms up and the grill gets put into service.

I've always been a big fan of Rogue (enough so that I made the drive to their brewery in depressing Newport, OR) and the Mocha Porter is my favorite of their standard line of beers. I almost always like a porter, and I especially like one with a hint of coffee and chocolate. Neither note is overwhelming; they are simply there to complement the brew--and they do so very nicely.

I remember my first purchase of this one. I was trying to decide between this and another beer, and I picked this one because it had a picture of a pointer on the label. My parents had a pointer for 16 years (RIP Sam). Ellie's Brown Ale from Avery is really tasty stuff. If you like browns, this should be in your rotation. It's on the hoppy side for the style, but this batch actually seemed to have less of a bite than in previous years. Regardless, a thoroughly enjoyable beer.

I forget about Bridgeport Brewing Company sometimes, which is a mistake because their Black Strap Stout is wonderful. I have had several people ask me where they could find this beer after bringing it to a couple events. It is a full-flavored stout with a lightly sweet start (it's brewed with Black Strap molasses) and faintly bitter finish from a good dose of hops. Yummy stuff, and it usually runs about $7.99 per six pack.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Troubles

Great. Just in time for our trip to Ireland, this shit starts happening again.

I guess it made our decisions on where to go/what to see that much easier, because there's no way in hell I'm going north of Dublin. We decided we'd pick one half of the island to visit, and the decision has been made for us.

Sure, we'll miss out on this:

But we'll be avoiding this:

Nice work, guys. Just when people actually started to visit Northern Ireland, you've removed any possibility that they'll do so. At least the economy is...oh, wait.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


There it is.
For Christmas, my fiancee gave me a grill cover and a note telling me I could purchase any grill I wanted at Lowe's.
After some shopping/deliberating, I decided on this beast. After some crappy weather/scheduling conflicts, I finally got to fire it up last night.
The main cooking surface, which could more aptly be measured in acreage than square inches, has five burners beneath it. There is also a heavy-duty side burner with a griddle so all your cooking can be done outside during those hot summer months. There is ample storage as well, both to the right of the grill and below.
I turned everything on high for about 20 minutes to burn off any dust/oil residue. In the meantime, I used a normal non-stick skillet on the side burner to get the rest of the meal started. I threw a couple chopped slices of bacon in to start, which revealed the first advantage of the side burner: I don't have to care about tiny splatters all over the range or flooring in the kitchen.
Once that got going, I added some potato wedges to give them a nice crisp skin. After they were crisp, I removed the potatoes, left the bacon, and added garlic and spinach. Once it wilted I added a splash of balsamic and salt and pepper.
Now for the fun part. I had a couple small top sirloin steaks ready to go. I threw them on the grill, which was reading over 600º.
They seared beautifully, and the grill turned even a fairly cheap cut of meat into a real treat. It was super juicy and tender even though my steak got cooked a notch past medium. I can't wait to start experimenting with wood chips and indirect grilling.
We were giddy eating all three dishes. The bacon fat provided a great taste to the potatoes that you just don't get from the olive oil I normally use in the kitchen. The spinach was delicious as well with a bunch of really great flavors.
I shudder to think how many propane tanks I'm going to go through this summer.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Sprint Center: Tha Conspiracy Theory

So yesterday, The Pitch's Justin Kendall posted a report that the NBA's New Orleans Hornets had met their attendance thresholds, thus guaranteeing they cannot breach their lease. This is news because every year, at least a couple NBA or NHL franchises let their local governments (read: landlords) know that Kansas City has a spiffy new arena, and it's ready for a team, and by golly, attendance hasn't been so good lately and oh I could use some new suites and other "revenue streams", and Kansas City has those things, hint hint.

It really got me thinking:

What if the Sprint Center is the focal point of massive sports ownership collusion?

Think about it.

The arena is run by AEG, which owns the NHL's LA Kings and has an interest in the NBA's LA Lakers. They obviously have the ears of the other owners.

What if AEG said, "All right, people. Check this out--we put an arena construction issue to a vote in Kansas City."

It'll never pass; there's no trust in city government to actually use taxpayer money responsibly.

"But here's the great part--the citizens of KC will barely be taxed at all! We'll fund it with a hotel and rental car tax so TOURISTS can pay for the arena! In fact, that's how we'll sell it."

Hmm...that might work. But why Kansas City?

"Think about it--it has neither a hockey nor a basketball team, but an arena could house either one. It's also a big enough city that an outsider could believe that, conceivably, a franchise could draw well enough to be supported there. For crissakes, we have a basketball team in Salt Lake City!"

Where are you going with this?

"We get the arena built. For a good ten years, those of us who need a few more skyboxes, or concession stands, or hell, a whole damn new arena can hold our fanbase hostage. Fix our shit or we leave."

Brilliant! And none of us really ever have to leave! Sweet, sweet leverage!

"Yep--everyone wins. You get your new amenities, your fans keep their teams, and Kansas City gets Elton John, Garth Brooks, and Nickelback."

After ten years when the arena is not so state-of-the-art...?

"We do it again. Vegas, baby."
UPDATE: Apparently the latest team to make us their patsy is the Indiana Pacers. (/nod Justin Kendall @ the Pitch)
UPDATE: Now it's the Columbus Blue Jackets. (/nod David Martin @ Pitch). It never ends.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


I did some stuff last night that I haven’t done in quite some time.

1. I drank mass-produced beer at a bar. I honestly can’t remember the last time I ordered a Bud Light. Why would someone who vigilantly tries to convert the macro-drinking masses do such a thing? Well, I looked at the taps and the best thing there was a Boulevard Wheat. I hate to say it, but I think I’ve bombarded my palate with enough imperial stouts and quadrupels that a Wheat may as well be a Bud Light. Factor in a price that was almost double (the Bud Light was on special), and I went with the macro.

What struck me was the weakness of the Bud Light. Not just the flavor—I had three 25oz. mugs and felt only the vaguest of buzzes. I mean, that’s a hair over a six-pack! I guess I’ve spent too much time at the Foundry getting used to those crafty Belgians and their ABVs, or having sadistic bartenders pick something out for me (yeah, I’m looking at you Rachel, what with your Samichlaus malt liquor biscuit-scented-battering-ram-in-a-bottle).

2. I sat in a smoky bar. It’s true—some areas of the metro haven’t yet passed the purity law. I would guess 75% of the people in the bar area were smoking (including some d-bags with cigars), and we were the only table who didn’t have at least one person lighting up. My thoughts on the issue? I personally like to go home and not take a shower before bed. I can tell my sinuses are a little irritated this morning. You know what? It was my decision. No one put a gun to my head and made me sit in a smoky room. The libertarian in me also thinks it’s the business owner’s right to decide whether to allow smoking, and it’s the employees’ right to decide whether they want to work there, and it’s the patrons’ right to decide whether they want to spend their money there. Next time I’ll probably suggest a non-smoking venue, and that’s my right too.

3. I got to hang out with three good friends, two of whom I don’t see nearly enough, and I had a great time. I have added reminders in my calendar to make sure the gap between catching-up sessions doesn’t grow so large.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Braggin' Rights: I'm (Going To Be) On TV!

Yesterday I took a couple hours off work to film Braggin' Rights, a local sports trivia competition on Metro Sports. I didn't know what to expect.

It was a blast!

On television it looks like this. If you don't feel like clicking, there are two teams--a guest team (us) and "The Posse" (sports guys/ringers). The other team isn't present; we are taped at different times and locations.

After both teams are introduced, a question appears on the TV. They show us giving our answer, then the Posse gives it a try, then the correct answer is revealed. Each episode is ten questions long, and we taped four total episodes that will run on consecutive days (probably next month).

The actual taping simply consisted of us being asked all 40 questions in succession. The rest is editing.

We talked a lot of the questions out and came up with the right answer more often than not. In fact, we scored a more-than-respectable 34 out of 40. That may not be enough to unseat the Posse, but we definitely didn't embarass ourselves.

I'm really eager to see how this turns out.

Monday, March 9, 2009

2009 Royals Prognosis

There are two methods for predicting a baseball team’s record.

1. Go with your gut. As in, the Royals have added a few pieces, everyone’s a year older (and hopefully better), ergo the Royals’ record will be a little better.

80-82, creeping into the world of respectability.

2. Think your way through everything. This takes much longer.

Starting Pitching
Zach Greinke, by some accounts, is ready to bust out and become a truly elite pitcher. I would temper that a little—I think the Royals’ offense will be improved, so he’ll win a couple more games (16) while keeping his ERA in the mid-threes. Solid stuff.

Gil Meche’s career has a large enough sample size to know what he is: a legit #2 starter. He will bring about 15 wins with an ERA in the high threes. Again, solid.

Now it’s dicey. Which Brian Bannister do we get? By statistical measures, he was incredibly lucky in 2007…and incredibly unlucky in 2008. Logic dictates that he’ll land somewhere in the middle. Call it 11 wins and an ERA around 4.50.

Kyle Davies—the optimist in me wants to believe what he showed in September is something he’ll build upon. The rational human being in me says it’s not. I don’t see it with Davies. He will regress to being an innings-eater at best; I’ll go with 10 wins and a high-four ERA.

Luke Hochevar is a mystery as well. At times, his stuff looks really good, but he never seems to dominate. I’ll predict 9 wins with one trip to Omaha. I base this upon gut, not numbers. He will never live up to fan expectations for someone selected as the first overall pick. Otherwise, this is Horacio Ramirez's spot...and I'd predict the same win total for him.

Conclusion: Starting pitching will be marginally better than 2008.

Relief Pitching
Joakim Soria was the second-most unexpected treat of 2008. The numbers dictate that he will slip a little from last year…but that’s okay considering how great he was. Still the unquestioned closer and one of the 5 best in the AL.

Beyond that, the bullpen is going to be shaky. Kyle Farnsworth is a big scary guy who throws hard. He’s never been all that effective. Ron Mahay is...Ron Mahay. We'll miss Leo Nunez more than you'd think.

Conclusion: Relief pitching will be marginally worse than 2008.

Catcher – Miguel Olivo is purportedly the starter, and John Buck the backup. They’re the same player, so I don’t care either way. Production outlook: same as last year.

First base/Designated Hitter – Warning! Logjam ahead. Mike Jacobs and Billy Butler will likely be the DH/1B combo most of the year. That’s the best combination we’ve had in a while. Both players are incredibly one-dimensional, but that one dimension is offense. Jacobs will basically be a sane, left-handed Jose Guillen (bad OBP, good power numbers, absolutely zero mentions of how much the fans suck). I’m not sold on Butler, but he’ll be a little better than last year. If one guy goes down, Kila Ka’aihue awaits. Who knows what we’ll do with Shealy and Gload. Outlook: Significantly better numbers than last year.

Second base – Alberto Callaspo is average defensively, can’t run, and has no power. He’s the type who can hit .300…and slug .350. Yet the biggest question about Callaspo doesn’t touch on his baseball limitations—it’s whether he’s enough of an adult to stay in shape and not get a DUI during the season. Unfortunately, he’s the best they’ve got. He’ll be a marked decline from Grudzielanek last year. If only they could have gotten Orlando Hudson… Outlook: Worse than last year.

Shortstop – It’s Mike Aviles or bust. He came from nowhere to hit .325 and play a decent shortstop. I don’t see him getting any better, but that’s okay--he’s miles ahead of Tony Pena Jr. Outlook: Slightly better than last year, if only because Aviles will play all year.

Third Base – Alex Gordon’s numbers will improve slightly over last year. Sorry, but I can’t see him ever being the superstar we hoped he’d be. His swing has too many holes. I hope I’m wrong.

Outfield – David DeJesus is in his prime and will put up solid numbers again. Like many Royals fans, I absolutely despise Jose Guillen. He’s harder to root for than Neifi Perez. That said, with Jacobs in the lineup he’ll get a few more pitches to hit. Coco Crisp will be great in centerfield. I’m afraid he won’t hit…a leadoff man with an OBP around .300 is dreadful. Outlook: About the same overall outfield numbers as last year.

Add it all up, and you figure they’ll be marginally better than last year. So…

80-82. Just like I said before I wasted all this time thinking.

What’ve you got?

Friday, March 6, 2009

Crap Detective

Alan Scherstuhl, Pitch theater critic extraordinaire and author of the always-entertaining Studies in Crap, presented his readers with a challenge.

His subject this week was a school autograph book from 1946 that he found in a thrift store at 63rd and Troost. The book itself did not provide enough information to indicate its school of origin.

The devoted Crap Archivist enlisted us readers to track it down using only a 60+-year-old-photo, the cryptic caption “PS 30 Richmond”, and the assorted names of classmates.

I can’t resist stuff like this.

After a couple dead ends, I managed to eliminate a few possibilities. A few clicks here and there led me to some viable addresses. Then, thanks to Google Maps Street View, I was able to find a photo taken at almost the same angle as the archive photo:

Mystery solved. I wish I could make a living doing stuff like that full time, especially when I get a write up calling me both “intrepid” and “celebrated”.

Big ups to Alan for such a fun project. Check out his articles in both the print and online versions of Pitch.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Time of the Season

It’s going to be about 78º today.

Nearly every year at about this time, Kansas City weather gives us a glimpse of spring. Sure, we have the occasional nice day in early February, but we’re not so naïve as to think winter won’t roar back and remind us it hasn’t gone away just yet.

It’s a different story when the weather breaks in March. The golf courses flood with people, the lone criterion for a lunch spot is the existence of a patio, and excuses are made to get out of the office early.

It’s as if we’re saying maybe--just maybe--winter is behind us.

As a college student, I always looked forward to days like these. The walk to class just brought a smile to my face. The weather and the fact that half the women on campus so thoughtfully decided to wear shorts for the first time all year can share credit for that.

With last weekend’s frigid temperatures (and snow that just finished melting yesterday), I know our grip on spring is tenuous at best.

Nevertheless, softball starts next Thursday. Even if the first few weeks are a little painful, they are a tangible step toward putting winter in the rear view mirror.

P.S. Is the song "Time of the Season" by the Zombies the first documented use of the phrase "Who's Your Daddy"?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Premium Pricing

Owen @ Fat City put up a great list the other day about the 10 liquors you should have in your house bar—check it out if you’ve ever wanted to get your own little watering hole started.

The list mentions Most Wanted Vodka, a premium vodka at a not-so-premium price. It is distilled in Atchison County, KS (seriously) and it is probably the best value in vodka you can get in the KC area. I am by no means an expert on spirits, but I have tasted several premium brands (Belvedere and Grey Goose among them) and they’ve got nothing on Most Wanted.

Oh--and Most Wanted’s price is more in line with, say, Smirnoff’s regular-quality vodka.

Here’s where economics, marketing, and psychology step in: if you knew very little about Belvedere and Most Wanted, and one was in a prettier bottle and came from Poland, and the other was in a plain bottle and came from Kansas, which would you buy?

Now ask yourself the same question, except the Belvedere costs twice as much.

This is the concept of premium pricing at work. The fact that Belvedere costs more gives the impression that it is SUPERIOR, even though it probably isn't.

Okay; that’s a comparison of two different vodkas, which makes preferences subjective. For objectivity's sake, a study recently showed two groups that purchased the same bottle of wine. One group paid something like $7 per bottle, the other paid $30. The group paying $30 was much more satisfied with their wine and much less critical of its quality.

On one hand it sounds crazy, but on the other it makes total sense. We want to feel justified in our decision to fork over more money, even when it's not justified at all.

This is not to say that qualitative aspects don’t come into play on some products…but which products are they?

When does paying twice as much for a DVD player make sense?

Or a polo shirt?

Or a set of golf clubs?

How do you know?

What do you readers pay extra for, and why?

Monday, March 2, 2009

Sakura: The Sushi Train

After a visit to the gym, my fiancee and I needed to get some food. But what to eat? Just about anything sounds good after a workout, but there's something about spending an hour sweating that tends to guide you away from the world of deep-fried temptation.

We ended up at Sakura at 75th and Nieman in Shawnee. This is a typical Japanese restaurant in the sense that there are booths and tables on one side (the "steakhouse") and a sushi bar on the other.

This is an atypical Japanese restaurant in the sense that the sushi is served by train.

We actually had to wait about 10 minutes for a seat at the bar because it was packed. Even on a weeknight, Sakura is a popular place--and rightly so: the food is tasty, the atmosphere is lively, and the train provides a whole different dining experience.

It works like this: a model train runs a loop around the sizable free-standing bar. The many flatbed "cars" are loaded with plates holding nigiri, rolls, and tempura vegetables as the chefs finish making them. Most plates contained two pieces of sushi. As the train goes by, diners are welcome to grab whatever they like.

The train is a novelty at first, but it really does add fun to the experience. How so?

1. The sheer variety will let you try lots of things in small quantities. There will be some stuff that comes around...and you will have no idea what it is. Do you grab it? DO YOU? You've only got a couple seconds to make your decision. Oh, the humanity!

2. My fiancee especially liked the fact that the train and its cargo lent itself to discussion and conversation with the people surrounding us. We got to talking to a guy who remarked how many laps a lonely plate of shrimp and vegetables had made, and we almost cheered when some newcomer, oblivious to their travels, scooped them right up.

3. Say you're craving salmon. As the train approaches, you see a plate of salmon coming around the corner oh-so-deliberately. Will it make it, or will that bastard take it first? The suspense is palpable!

4. You can be that bastard.

Apparently there are lots of restaurants in other cities who serve sushi this way, but this is the only one I know of in Kansas City and we had a great time.

Our tab was $36 including soft drinks and tax (before tip). I felt the value here was good--I usually spend more and leave less full when I go out for sushi.

You are billed by the plate; when you decide you're done the server simply counts your plates (some are $1.95, some are $2.50).

Go check it out!