Free Samples of a Sleep-Deprived Brain

…or what happens when family meets work meets severe weather meets baseball…



By day (and often by night), I'm the news director for a small-market cluster of family-owned radio stations. I'm blessed to have a great wife and four amazing children. I enjoy music, writing, a variety of sports, stormchasing and...believe it or not...naptime.

Ready for spring yet?

IMG_8858Remember the last four winters?

Mild temperatures, hardly any snowfall, freeing drizzle forecasts that fizzled?

Kinda hard to look back, based on what we’ve had so far this winter.

in a way, it has been nice to actually have a winter. Most of my kids never had enough snow to build a snowman or have an extended snowball fight until November — and they thoroughly enjoyed it.

But truth be told, nothing kills the feel-good winter spirit like ice. Freezing drizzle, freezing rain or any sort of nasty wintry mix… doesn’t matter. And we’ve had a lot of icing over the last week or so. As a result, a lot of us — myself included — are mentally ready for winter to go away.

Wintry weather keeps us on our toes at KVOE to a different level than severe spring weather, simply because wintry weather lasts longer and affects more people when it does develop — as you can tell by the length of schedule adjustments that hit whenever snow or ice are imminent. And, unfortunately, at least in the short term, it looks like we could have a few more wintry episodes over the next week or so.

I’m curious to see how our active winter translates to the spring severe weather season. When I was growing up, it always seemed a busy winter led to an active spring. Overall, we haven’t had active springs, based on the numbers, for several years, although folks in Eureka would probably beg to differ after two tornadoes in a couple years.

All I know is that in our house, the kids are waiting for a dry yard and warmer temperatures. And baseball.

So are the parents.



Last of the Lions

FILE PHOTO - U.S. Republican presidential nominee Senator John McCain waves to the crowd at a midnight campaign rally in Prescott
Reuters photo

It’s no secret John McCain’s passing leaves a tremendous hole in American politics, whether it’s in his willingness to “cross the aisle” to fashion deals, vote his conscience rather than party mandates or put country above party.

The contrast between McCain and President Donald Trump’s behavior and decorum has been striking since before Trump was elected. While more politicians have trended towards the Trump model of governance — essentially win at all costs and the opponents are idiots — the body politic has at least paid lip service to the statesmen of yore, including former Kansas Senator Bob Dole and, now, the late John McCain. Those tributes came in hot and heavy after McCain’s death Saturday, and I’m guessing a significant percentage were actually genuine.

The political problem is McCain was literally the last of a dying breed, whether in Washington or in statehouses across the country, and his death only speeds our rocky, murky path towards a scorched-earth, zero-sum incivility that at some point soon will leave nobody standing.

McCain’s death also comes at an increasingly contentious time in the relationship between journalism and politicians. His loss further charges the atmosphere. It also continues to tilt the playing field so journalists are now losing more and more ground with the public.

The respect McCain had for journalism and its place in American society began being undermined by Trump before he took office, and Trump’s Fake News Phenomenon — especially with stories he does not agree with or are uncomfortable to him — has resonated with a lot of people nationwide.

Reasonable people realize we as journalists are not the enemy — of the country, state, city or any political body in this nation. It is our job to narrate and investigate, to show and tell, and in politics to hold all to the same standard regardless of our political views.

However, this cannot be categorized as a reasonable time anymore when it comes to the media and its role in politics. It didn’t have to be that way, but we as journalists didn’t help our own cause.

We in the media can best honor John McCain, and undercut the Trump Fake News train, by simply doing our job as it was intended. No agendas, no double standards. No stones unturned. Just the facts. That’s what we are charged with finding out. And that’s what you want to know.

Eureka, Part 2

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Adrianne Stapleford captured this and several other images of the 2018 Eureka tornado touching down outside her workplace at Orscheln Farm and Home.

When we took the air June 26 for severe weather coverage on KVOE, there really wasn’t much thought we’d be dealing with any tornadic activity.

Boy, did that change.

Scattered storms developed south of Emporia and slid southeast that evening, developing rapidly enough to cause severe thunderstorm warnings for Greenwood and southern Lyon counties around 7 pm. Once we got rolling with our coverage, though, there was one storm rapidly intensifying near Eureka. Sean Thornton, who was running the board and hails from Eureka, and I immediately started thinking back to July 7, 2016, when the Greenwood County seat was hit by another tornado. We weren’t looking at a repeat, were we?

Unfortunately, we were.

In rapid succession, central Greenwood County went from a severe thunderstorm warning to a tornado warning to confirmation of a tornado on the ground to a radar debris signature.  Our hearts just sank.

Further confirmation was rather quick in coming. The 2016 twister hit the town from the northwest, causing some damage near the golf course and then rooting in northwest Eureka as it churned to the southeast near Greenwood County Hospital and Eureka Junior-Senior High School. Based on the storm’s motion, which was almost identical on radar, it appeared likely the tornado damage path would be parallel to the 2016 storm — if not almost directly on top of it.  Instead, we came to learn later the tornado formed in southwest Eureka and apparently cut across the path of the parent storm. That’s a rarity to say the least. Now there’s at least some evidence of a second, smaller, satellite tornado touching down around the same time of the original funnel.

Unlike the 2016 storm, this twister impacted downtown Eureka and also slammed into the southern half of the junior-senior high school campus. Unfortunately, there is now a big X on Eureka from the two damage paths, and it’s very close to the school grounds.

I was four when Omaha had its “big one,” so until I covered the Reading tornado I really didn’t have a personal sense of exactly what a tornado can do to a smaller community — even though I’ve seen the damage through our TV screen. It’s a lot different in person. Eureka already had a good jump on the cleanup by the time media was able to tour some of the worst damage areas the following afternoon, but the scope of the disaster — shifted homes, smashed homes, chewed-up tractor trailers, chairs in streets, mangled fencing, buckled bleachers and all those broken tree limbs — well, it gets to you as a reporter…who lives 45 miles away.

The thing (well, one of several things) I can’t imagine is living through a tornado — and in Eureka’s case, getting hit twice in a handful of years. Having talked with several city and county officials, the area had just finished its official 2016 tornado-related efforts about a month before the 2018 storm. Lives that were finally stitched back together were suddenly ripped apart again.

Because of that and because of the unlikelihood of federal reimbursement dollars, the emphasis on — and impact of — the recovery effort has been remarkable. As was the case with the ’16 tornado, volunteers were trying to mobilize before the 2018 tornado had even dissipated. Help from neighboring counties and the state came roaring in as well, so much so that the cleanup effort is well ahead of the 2016 pace and, if nothing else, the foundation for getting back to normal will be in place soon. And having the annual Party in the Park to look forward to probably helped as well through the sense of the familiar and routine that we come to underestimate until it’s blown away.

In the days following the storm, we learned last month’s tornado was at least the fourth to hit the community since National Weather Service records began in 1950. The ones in 2016 and 2018 were, by far, the worst to hit the town.

Thoughts and prayers have gone out to Eureka since the tornado. More importantly, so has action. So often these days, a response stops at thoughts and prayers. Community disasters are an exception, and it’s gratifying to see so many people linking arms to help. I’m also looking forward to returning in a few months and seeing the progress Eureka will make after its second tornado this decade.


Five Criminally Unheard Alex Lifeson Solos/Outros

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It has been six years since Rush released their final studio album, Clockwork Angels. It’s also been three years since the Canadian power-trio powerhouse wrapped up its storied career with its R40 tour.

Since ending their touring days together, the individuals have been busy with their respective hobbies and music projects (supporting other musicians with their work). While I wait for word on potential solo projects, especially from Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson, I figured I’d look back at five songs where the underrated Lifeson’s work may have been buried because those songs either never were released as singles or because those songs don’t get played anymore.

Before and After (Rush, 1974)

For those who preferred Rush in their raw, Led Zeppelin-esque embryonic state, I offer you this song. As part of an album full of nods to Zeppelin and other straight-ahead rock groups of the time, this is the song that stood out to me. Lifeson actually starts this in rather gentle form, but the song picks up steam near the 1:10 mark. After a quiet moment, it’s Rush/Zep for the rest of the song. Lifeson’s call-and-response solo section flat burns.

The Trees (Hemispheres, 1978)

While “Before and After” symbolizes early Rush, “The Trees” represents Rush 2.0 to a T. The solo section starts with Lee’s synthesizer taking the lead as Lifeson works through an arpeggio. Before Lifeson’s guitar takes over in full force, his jangly arpeggio actually becomes the lead. The solo doesn’t throw a ton of rapid-fire notes at you, as Lifeson did during “Before and After,” but it doesn’t need to. The call-and-response between Lifeson and Lee on one side and drummer Neil Peart’s mallets near the end is a tactic that rock groups should use more often.

The Analog Kid (Signals, 1982)

There are three songs where Lifeson’s guitar solos get a roaring ovation on the live CDs: “La Villa Strangiato,” which I seriously considered for this list, “Working Man” and “The Analog Kid.” With good reason. “Kid” combines muscle, passion and a mournfulness that’s almost unparalleled in Rush’s early work. The solo starts around 3:26.

Ghost of a Chance (Roll the Bones, 1991)

To me, Lifeson’s solo here is among his best work because it truly fits the nature of the song. It’s hard to explain, but to me it’s an extension of Peart’s hopeful yet cynical lyrics about the chances of finding a life partner. The live version contains a couple elements in the outro that augment the studio original at least a notch or two.

The Garden (Clockwork Angels, 2012)

I wish this had been released as a single because, in my mind, it’s a collective masterpiece and the perfect final note to 40-plus years of musical brilliance — especially from Peart’s poignant lyrics about the fragility of true friendship to Lifeson’s soaring solo in the middle. Lee actually takes a back seat, both with the bass and keyboards, and the end result is something to behold.

The future disappears into memory
With only a moment between
Forever dwells in that moment
Hope is what remains to be seen

Forever dwells in that moment
Hope is what remains to be seen

— Neil Peart (The Garden)

A Farewell is (Likely) Coming

moose mlb

Such is baseball.

Three years after parading the Commissioner’s Trophy through downtown Kansas City, three years after steamrolling everybody on the way to their second World Series title, the Royals have been hinting a rebuilding effort is at hand…at some point. The latest signs of that were the packaging of Jon Jay to the Diamondbacks for a pair of prospects and the pitcher-heavy draft completed earlier this week.

As was the case last year, any move towards a rebuild has been countered by the use of players like Paulo Orlando, Abraham Almonte, Ryan Goins and others who shouldn’t be any factors in the team’s long-term turnaround plan.

The Royals should be looking to blow up the team and start fresh — something that honestly should have happened already, as in before the 2017 trade deadline. I say “should” because, well, I’ll believe it when I see it.

As a Royals fan, I’ve already mentally moved from the glory days of 2014 and 2015 to visions of the 1990s and early 2000s, which could rank as some of the worst on-field baseball and team mismanagement any major league team has seen in history — especially for its duration. I’m OK with players like Whit Merrifield, Alcides Escobar, Salvador Perez, Danny Duffy, Kelvin Herrera and even Alex Gordon getting dangled for prospects (yes, Alex Gordon, although his return would probably be dampened a ton based off last year’s horrible stats).

But I’m not ready to see Mike Moustakas get traded.

In my brain, I know it should happen. He probably won’t get the return we’d like (thank you, Manny Machado), even though he had a career year last year, could surpass those stats this year, plays strong defense at third and is a great clubhouse guy. Dealing Moustakas, along with the aforementioned players, would essentially formalize the rebuild and signal the championship days are officially at an end.

I just don’t want to see Moose go. But such is baseball.

I remember seeing Moustakas in Omaha shortly after he was demoted in 2014. It was hard to tell exactly how he felt about his demotion — kind of hard to gauge that from the outfield berm seats — but he handled himself professionally and was recalled to the majors within 10 days. The stories about how he got to Omaha and how he performed once back in KC are pretty well known, so I won’t rehash them — but Moose became a player who was able to channel his intensity (to use the Force for good, if you will) and improve through the rest of the season, even if his batting average stayed below .220. His postseason batting average wasn’t stunning, but he certainly had a flair for the big moment against the Angels and Orioles.

Over the past several years, I’ve come to be impressed with Moose’s attitude, the intensity and his willingness to get better (witnessed by his defensive improvements well before last year’s power surge, which came after a serious injury that cut his 2016 season down to 27 games). One of the causes for which he became an on-air spokesman, foster care, has been a significant part of our family as well.

Look: the rebuild should be coming.

It should have already happened. You can’t try to reach the MLB playoffs while playing a lot of prospects. You’re fooling yourself if you believe that — and Royals management was either fooling themselves or trying to fool us when they continually rolled out that line last year.

The “championship window” should have lasted longer than two years. At least based on the hype from early this decade.

Such is baseball. And at least we Royals fans were able to enjoy a title and back-to-back World Series appearances.

It will be very interesting to see how this rebuild goes. Hopefully the Royals are blessed with good fortune by the baseball gods — especially because they haven’t in a lot of prior drafts. Hopefully upcoming trades and the next couple drafts fully restock one of the worst farm systems in the game. And hopefully a championship window begins reopening at the start of the next decade, although that’s a really rapid turnaround from where the Royals currently stand.

It will also be strange — and sad — to see more of the championship core in other uniforms representing contending teams.  For me, it will be extremely bittersweet to see Moustakas in another uniform. But when he returns to Kauffman Stadium, I’ll have my Moose call ready.

Such is baseball.

Moving Fatigue

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Moving sucks. Let’s just get that out of the way right now.

The only time I can think of an exciting, exhilirating move is when you leave your parents’ house (for the first time, in my case, but that’s for a blog post never to be written…). Any other move at any other life stage elicits nothing but groans and cuss words.

We just moved. And it was as stressful as you can imagine.

One thing that stood out for me with this particular move, as opposed to our past changes, was there are at least three kinds of what I’m now calling moving fatigue — and only one deals with an excess of actually repositioning stuff:

Type 1. Repositioning fatigue. Whether it’s box after box down and up stairs, whether it’s squeezing a 27-inch washer into a 28-inch hole called a doorway or whether it’s hefting a piano, if you’re moving a house full of stuff, eventually your body is just going to ask why. Especially if you’re about 250 pounds and the only other thing you have been packing the last 20 years has been fat.

Type 2. Planning fatigue. During the last several moves, Ginny has handled basically all the planning of what goes where as well as a lot of the actual packing. I was able to do more of the packing this time as opposed to past moves, but still a lot fell on her shoulders. That wears on somebody.

Type 3. Residual fatigue. This is the catch-all for the emotional stress, deadline stress, figuring out the extra-money-going-out-when-no-extra-money-is-coming-in stress, kids-are-screaming-because-they-want-to-stay-put stress, kids-are-trying-to-help-but-really-aren’t stress and any other stress that comes up — before, during and after you’re finally out of your old residence and starting to unpack at the new house.

We had all that over the past week-plus. But we’re in and settling down. Thanks to everybody who helped over the past month. Your help is greatly appreciated.

Five Unfortunately Unheard Guitar Solos/Outros by Mark Knopfler

dire straits 2

It was really weird tracking the 2018 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame festivities this year. Really weird because, as a lot of you know, I’ve been a huge Dire Straits fan since the 1980s — and things really went strangely during the night.

Straits had the unfortunate circumstance of not having two of its founding members show up. One, drummer Pick Withers, really hasn’t been in the limelight much since he left the band following Making Movies, so his lack of appearance was no surprise.

The other is kind of the reason why any of us ever heard of Dire Straits in the first place.

Trust me, it was thoroughly disappointing to see Mark Knopfler not in attendance — or to act as if the Hall of Fame honor was really no big deal. However, Knopfler’s decision to avoid the ceremonies wasn’t any surprise, either.

And it was even stranger that bassist John Illsley had the uncomfortable task of inducting him and his bandmates. To my knowledge, no other inductee has essentially been told, “Here’s your trophy, now go induct yourself.”

It was truly uncomfortable all the way around.

Be that as it may, however, I got to thinking about Dire Straits’ induction disaster in another light: radio airplay. Over time, there has been a definite amount of shrinkage in classic rock playlists. A handful of artists will get significant airplay for their more recent or lower-charting hits, but that list is extremely short. U2 comes to mind…and that may be about it. And Dire Straits is a classic example. Essentially, the on-air playlist consists of Sultans of Swing, Money for Nothing and Walk of Life. When was the last time you heard Skateaway, Down to the Waterline or Calling Elvis? Those songs at least gained airplay after they were released.

So my thoughts then drifted to some of Knopfler’s best work, at least in my mind, with Dire Straits. I decided to omit his solo career because, aside from his first two solo albums, Knopfler’s career has largely been on retread and — to me — is not really worth celebrating.

Dire-Straits (1)

For argument’s sake, I chose these five songs for Knopfler’s solos or outros (or both). A couple may have had airplay consistently in the past, but all five have two things in common: they are damn good and you likely won’t hear them on radio airwaves any time soon.

Where Do You Think You’re Going (Communique, 1979)

Communique was largely a dud to a lot of people in part because it didn’t show a lot of growth from Straits’ eponymous debut. However, there were some bright spots — and the outro for Where Do You Think You’re Going is at or near the top of the list. In true early Knopfler fashion, it’s understated — but it fits and augments the song as it closes.

Tunnel of Love (Making Movies, 1980)

From the variation of Rogers and Hammerstein’s “Carousel” to the lengthy outro, this is just lush. In trademark Knopfler fashion, the gentle breezes at the start of his outro aren’t what you hear at the fading end. In fact, the song kind of reminds you of a fun roller-coaster ride: slow going at the start and a rush for the rest of it.

One of the things you hear in Tunnel of Love that you don’t hear in Straits’ first two records is Knopfler’s willingness to trade the lead with his keyboard partner near the end of the outro. That was also evident in this particular countdown later.

Telegraph Road (Love Over Gold, 1982)

Simply awesome. From the guitar solo, following a poignant piano interlude, to a musically heartwrenching close, in my opinion this was Knopfler’s best song. You get a what-was-and-what-could-have-been sense about Telegraph Road from the lyrics, and the music is a perfect match.

Interestingly, the live version throws a sense of hope in at the very end with just a simple switch from the D minor chord prevalent throughout the song to a D major to wrap things up.

Love Over Gold (Love Over Gold, 1982)

Knopfler shifts from rock to jazz here, and the result is again spot-on. The outro, complete with a marimba solo at the end, is worth a listen.

Why Worry (Brothers in Arms, 1985)

Whenever the storms of life hit, I instinctively come back to this song. The volume never gets above a 3, but you don’t need that to have a great song. There is a joy and a peace about Knopfler’s song structure, even at the end when the drums begin to fill, and as usual the guitar work is understated but right on the mark.



The Better Team

winnipeg Ddq_c76VAAAd-Vh“Well, they were the better team.”

Sometimes that phrase is a dodge when a player or team believes they were the equal of their opponent. Most times, though, it’s accurate.

The latest case in point: The Winnipeg Jets, who ended their memorable NHL playoff run with a 2-1 loss on home ice to the Vegas Golden Knights. The Jets had a head of steam coming into the series, thanks to their near-flawless play in the opening round against Minnesota and a gritty seven-game series win against President’s Trophy winner Nashville.

Against Vegas, though, the Jets just didn’t have it.

Oversimplifying things (largely because I listened to most of the games instead of watched them), goalie Connor Hellebuyck was more tentative than he had been in the first two rounds and stars like Mark Scheifele, Dustin Byfuglien and Patrik Laine never got on track the way they did in the first two series. Honestly, though, what appeared to do the Jets in more than anything else were turnovers.

If you needed any proof, Justin Marchessault’s two goals in Game 2 should serve as your lab example.

Marchessault’s goals looked like they punctured the Jets’ collective psyche, but again those were only representative. Winnipeg turned the puck over. A lot. That creates a lot of pressure on your netminder. And eventually, your goaltender will crack under all that pressure.

Besides the simple pressure placed on the defense, the Golden Knights took advantage where Winnipeg couldn’t.

And another thing that wore on the Jets was constantly playing from behind, or as one NHL broadcaster said this weekend, chasing the lead. Those of you familiar with basketball realize teams expend a significant amount of energy trying to erase double-digit leads, and often trailing teams come close or take brief leads but can’t sustain them in the end.

And so it ends, three wins short of an historic run to the Stanley Cup. Disappointing in that Vegas played the Jets’ game better than Winnipeg did. Hopeful, however, because this deep run in the playoffs could make the Jets the better team come Stanley Cup finals time in June 2019.


Stormchaser Fail

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Tim Marshall

Fifteen years ago, I had my first stormchasing experience as part of the KVOE News Team.

It did not go well.

Storms developed the afternoon of May 8, 2003, near Emporia and pushed rapidly — I mean 60-70 mph rapidly — to the northeast. The supercells had organized well enough to drop a tornado in western Osage County within a few minutes of passing Emporia. And eager to prove myself to my relatively new bosses, I said I’d go chase.

OK, get this straight. The storms already have a roughly 20-mile head start. They were moving at cross angles to the regional road network at up to 70 mph. They were moving away from Emporia.

And I said I’d go after them.

Yeah, right. Not a smart move on my part.

And it didn’t take long for a Hail Mary stormchaser moment to go thoroughly wrong, although my safety was never a concern. I had been on the road for less than 20 minutes and losing ground with every mile. I made a fateful turn from a gravel road to a paved road in a last-ditch effort to make up some ground. Shortly after making the turn, I began hearing a grumbling sound underneath my car. For gravel, it would have been no big deal. On pavement, that sound only meant one thing: a flat tire.

I cussed — a lot — and got to work changing the flat.

My simmering blood pressure climbed closer to boiling when I learned the supercell that dropped a twister near Reading had also birthed a second, stronger, much-longer-lived tornado as I was straining against the lug nut wrench. I admit I ignored a few phone calls from the station (and flat missed some others) as I finally got the tire changed.

Thankfully, the tornado missed Lyndon, although it gave town residents quite the show as it passed the town. All I could think at the time, however, was this was my chance to contribute to our storm coverage…and instead I was stuck on the side of an unfamiliar road, bringing back with me nothing more than a sad stormchaser fail story.

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Free Samples of a Sleep-Deprived Brain

...or what happens when family meets work meets severe weather meets baseball...