Saturday, December 23, 2017

Amazon Is Going To Deliver Your Mail

I was working on this when I went to my local Whole Foods and saw that. It's called Amazon Locker and it's the reason that Amazon is going to deliver your mail.
Future mail box

Let me connect the dots for you if that comes as some sort of surprise.

Amazon didn't buy Whole Foods to get into the fresh food business. Oh sure, it kind of seems like they're similar companies who fit together, and they do, sort of, but at least half the reason (and maybe more) was to immediately have a massive delivery system. Instead of Amazon building it up truck by truck and warehouse by warehouse and product manager by product manager, they bought it lock, stock, and barrel. It's ready to go. So now all they have to do is put a kiosk in every store to handle Amazon shipping. They're calling the kiosk "Amazon Locker."

Some companies who share mall space or shopping center space with a Whole Foods already saw this coming, belatedly but at least they anticipated it. They had their leases updated to essentially say that any pre-existing Whole Foods in that particular shopping center or mall can only distribute and sell food and food related items. Mattresses, computers and t-shirts don't count. However, refrigerators and ovens and bbq grills and tables and high chairs and forks and cups do count. (My local Whole Foods, which is on its own corner and shares space with no other business, has already added in a very small clothing section- only scarves and gloves and hats- but it's like watching the tide come in. You know it's going to happen, you see it start to happen and you watch it happening.)

Anyway, these restrictions won't last long and will get torn up because there's no going back now. The mall will have two choices. 1) Keep the exclusivity lease and see ALL customers leave because Amazon put a kiosk in the strip mall or building across the street.

Or.

Allow Whole Foods to have a kiosk that can distribute whatever the hell it wants to distribute. I originally anticipated this as needing a human to run the kiosk, kind of like a pharmacy or a small post office inside a grocery store, but they've decided to use the locker and that means they don't need people. And this means they can put it practically on every corner if they want to.

(On a personal note, the Whole Foods where I saw the Amazon Locker was a fading grocery store called "Jerry's Meats" when I was a kid, and the only reason we ever went there at all was because it had a post office kiosk. I don't know if the kiosk closed before Jerry's closed, but either way the Amazon Locker installation at this particular Whole Foods seems like things coming full circle, at least in this regard.)

But the toughest mile in distribution is always the last mile to the house.

Think about the internet in the early days. Phone companies had the monopoly on the internet because they had already strung cable to every house and apartment building in America. Developing the technology is easy compared to getting it to everybody. My beginning journalism teacher (Tom Volek, for you University of Kansas types) told this to our whole class in 1994, and it stuck with me because I'd never thought of it like that: the toughest part is the last mile.

It's like a bus route. It's reasonably close to get a bus near your house, but unless you live on a main thoroughfare the bus can't directly take you home or pick you up.

This is why Amazon wants to use drones to deliver packages. It's that final mile. If they can do that, then they can bypass the postal service completely.

The post office doesn't deliver on Sunday. Right? That's how it's been forever, really. Nothing on Sunday.

So how stunned were you the first time you saw a mail truck buzzing through your neighborhood on a Sunday afternoon? You were probably really confused and wondered if you weren't accidentally missing work or turned into Rip Van Winkle or something like that.

Nope. It was Amazon.

Amazon has enough money to hire the post office to only deliver packages for them on Sunday, not actual mail.

That is why, eventually, maybe sooner than we all think, Amazon is going to buy the post office and deliver your mail. And get even more of your retail dollar.

A small section of clothes at Whole Foods

 photos by author

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Kansas Jayhawks Football: The Case For David Beaty

After the Kansas Jayhawks football program gained just 21 yards in an entire game against TCU and dropped to 1-7, the grumbling turned to shouting.

Fire David Beaty!

Fire the whole coaching staff!

Get rid of everybody!

We need to rebuild this program!

My response is:

Rebuild to what, exactly?

The football program is broken. On that we can all agree. But to fire David Beaty and the entire staff does absolutely NOTHING to change that. In fact, it makes it worse.

In two-plus years at Kansas, yes, Beaty has won just three total games. What the hell did you expect? If you wanted a bowl game by now, you are crazy. (Fine, Beaty said it. But if you are a head coach and go out and say "we expect to not go to a bowl game," you are crazy and deserved to be fired before the press conference is over.)

Change takes time. Changing something bad into good, especially something as broken as Kansas football, takes longer than three years.

Well, you say, Mark Mangino had KU in a bowl game in his second year!

Yes, and Mangino also got KU in the Orange Bowl. AND Mangino violating NCAA rules throughout his KU career also got sanctions, and him fired, and the Hawks in the mess we have been in since then.

Mangino broke KU. Because Mangino didn't prepare the program for long-term success. Mangino built fast without caring for the rules. The consequences are still being felt RIGHT NOW.

KU tried to hold on to some of that Mangino success by hiring Turner Gill. What Gill did at Buffalo- getting them to a winning record in his second year and a bowl game in his third- KU officials hoped to replicate. You know what happened there. KU immediately- IMMEDIATELY- dropped to 3-9, and then 2-10, and then Gill was fired, with KU boosters basically passing the plate to pay off his contract.

What happened next? Do you need me to remind you what happened next? Fine. Charlie Weis happened next. Clearly the same thought process was in play- winning quickly. Charlie was a popular pick because people knew who he was. The hope was that recruits would flock to him.

They didn't. Charlie was reduced to begging fans to come to games. He was fired that weekend, four games into his third year.

So, when you want to rebuild KU football, what do you want to rebuild it to? The Charlie Weis era? The Turner Gill era? Terry Allen? (Terry was a nice guy but completely overwhelmed by D-I football, left under cloudy circumstances, and finished over .500 once in 9 years at Missouri State. No, Terry Allen is not an era to remember fondly.)

Let me tell you who KU needs to emulate, and who I think they are trying to emulate, and this is going to sting: Kansas State.

The Wildcats are one of the worst football programs in FBS history. (Your other candidates are Indiana, Northwestern, Wake Forest, Iowa State and Rutgers.) While KU is only ahead of K-State in the loss column by about 15, the Wildcats would have to win 10 games a year for an entire decade- and KU would have to not win a single game that same decade- for K-State to catch KU in the win column.

 KU was still above .500 as a program until Charlie Weis, while I feel it is safe to say K-State will never be over .500 as a program. But 200 of K-State's 500+ wins have come in the last 30 years and under one coach- Bill Snyder.

The Bill Snyder model is the one KU simply has to follow. One coach, for a long time. For a loooonnng time. Like until they don't coach anymore. Remember when Bill Snyder retired and they hired Ron Prince? He lasted three years and the exit was tumultuous (not Mark Mangino tumultuous, but pretty good for K-State).

This is the model KU HAS to follow.

So what did K-State do? They begged Bill Snyder to come out of retirement. That's because they know- and you know, and I know- when Snyder retires for good, K-State is done. DONE. They have NOBODY to follow Bill Snyder. It is not a destination program for any coach except Bill Snyder.

And David Beaty is KU's Bill Snyder. Beaty believes KU can compete, and win bowl games, and challenge for conference championships. KU already had that guy 25 years ago. His name was Glen Mason. HE got KU to a bowl game in his 5th year. (And then he left, because Glen Mason had more aspirations than being at Kansas. It's not for everybody.) That's about right. Nobody is going to quick-build KU football in three years.

KU football is broken. If your car was totaled, would you rebuild it or get another car? Beaty has no choice. He HAS to rebuild his totaled car. It's not going to be done this season.

"Rebuilding" is not what this program needs. It needs to be changed completely. It needs to be done piece by piece.

Firing Beaty now sets KU back ANOTHER ten years. Anybody who doesn't see that is crazy. If Beaty gets fired, K-State might really pass KU's all-time win total in a decade.



photos: herosports.com, cjonline.com, si.com

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Kansas Jayhawks Football Week 2: Not North Michigan or South Michigan


Sims on the run
The Kansas Jayhawks football team last won consecutive games in.... what year? Can you guess?

Unless you really, really, follow these things you have blocked it out of your memory because it was so long ago and KU football has been bad for so long.

Don't look it up because I'll tell you: it was the first two games of the 2011 season.

In other words, the final season the Big 12 actually had 12 teams.

It's been a while.

Is it coincidental that David Beaty was on the staff as co-offensive coordinator that year? Probably.
 
KU beat McNeese State (FCS) and then Northern Illinois. And since then, nothing that can even be interpreted as a winning streak. In 2013 they opened by winning two of their first three. Same with 2014. But not two in a row. Now they have a chance, if they beat Central Michigan this week at Memorial Stadium.

I couldn't figure out how Central Michigan did in their first game last week, and there's a reason for that, because they didn't play.

This, as I mentioned last week, was a big problem for the Kansas Jayhawks for a few years, especially during the Charlie Weis era, and I'm sure that's purely coincidental. There are an even number of FBS football teams, but several of them play FCS or lower teams in week one just to guarantee themselves a win. Somebody's going to be left out. Central Michigan got left out.

So we know nothing about them. Which is fine, because we really know nothing about Kansas after week one. They rolled Southeast Missouri. They were supposed to. In truth, we will still know nothing about KU football after this week, either, unless of course they lose to Central Michigan, in which case we will know they are still really, really bad.

It's all well and good that Peyton Bender- there are so many ways the jokes about his name can go. Peyote? Peyton Place? Bender from Futurama? Going on a bender with peyote? I can't decide. Anyway, it's all well and good that Peyton Bender had the best first game of any KU quarterback ever, throwing for 364 yards and 4 TD's. But he might as well have done that against the Lawrence High Lions for all it means in the grand scheme of things. It doesn't tell us anything except he could do that against SEMO  

I also said last week that KU needed to put up big plays against SEMO early and often. The 77-yard TD pass from Bender to Steven Sims Jr. on the first possession qualified. That's a start.

Which is all last week was. A start. Can KU win two games in a row for the first time since the Turner Gill era? Grab a beer and find out, just like Bender would.


photos courtesy: kusports.com, wikipedia.org

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Not the Best Start for Kansas Jayhawks Football

This is from 2017 fall camp, but would you know if it wasn't?
Is it good when a player gets kicked off your college football team before fall practice starts? Is it good when another gets kicked off the team before the first game? I think we already know the answers to these questions.

The college football team in question is the Kansas Jayhawks, and the players involved are, uh, two guys I’ve never heard of, and I apologize to their friends and families for that, but it is true. Even if one of those guys was the second-leading receiver on the team last year, and that is also true.

This tells you the state of KU football before the opening game of the season. I must tell you at this point that I am a KU alum. Since you have gotten to this point I am going to assume that you are as well, because why on earth would you also be interested in a football team that is this bad? (It is also quite possible that we know each other, so in that case, hi Ann and Charlie!) The only reason to follow KU football at all is you are an alum, a student journalist for the university, or are being paid to do so.

Since you’ve gotten this far- and it doesn't matter which of the three ways you qualify- we shall continue. The head coach, David Beaty, currently has three wins as Jayhawks head coach. Not three wins last season. Three wins total. For comparison’s sake, Alabama usually has three wins after the first three games of the season. Since Kansas won the Insight Bowl on December 31st, 2008, they have- and I wish I was kidding here- they have 19 total wins, 5 conference wins, and are on their fifth head coach.

In their eight most recent seasons, they have as many conference wins as head coaches.

It’s tough to figure out what rock bottom was. (You may have noted that moment of alumni positivity, assuming rock bottom has already been reached.) It would be easy to say it was the 0-12 season of 2015, but that was Beaty’s first year and that was a positive step. I’m going to save you the trouble of remembering everything horrible that has happened between 2009 and now and tell you it was the Charlie Weis press conference in September, 2014 where he essentially begged people to come to their next game, saying “just come give us from 3 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., that’s all. Three and a half hours.”   

Attendance, you might expect, was not noticeably different that Saturday when the Hawks got hammered by Texas, 23-0. Charlie Weis was fired the next day. Clint Bowen was named interim head coach, and David Beaty was hired after that season.

So yes, Charlie Weis telling people that they could be doing a lot worse than voluntarily watching KU football was rock bottom.

And here we are, nearly three full years later, and David Beaty has won three games as KU head coach, with one Big 12 win. Although that one conference victory was over Texas last season, and put the nail in Charlie Strong’s coffin as Longhorns head coach. So we’ve got that going for us, which is nice (as an alum, I get to use the “Royal We”). It feels good to be a coach-killer for somebody else besides ourselves. (Although Charlie immediately got hired at South Florida, who had just lost Willie Taggart to Oregon, and Texas hired Tom Herman from Houston, and Houston hired Major Applewhite- who was a much better QB than Chris Simms- so I think everybody wins here somehow.)

Recently, it has seemed that KU football is so bad they couldn’t even get an opponent for week one. This year they do play week one, and will host FCS Southeast Missouri State. Yes, they should beat SEMO. But will that really tell us anything, aside from that they shouldn’t be relegated to SEMO’s conference? No. No it won’t. It would be nice if KU won easily, and it would be nice to break a few long scores as opposed to grinding it out. Because if you need 15-play, 10-minute drives to score against SEMO, you are going to go backwards against Oklahoma.

Since it’s the 10-year anniversary of the 2007 Orange Bowl champion team, Mark Mangino will be back in the house, as will cornerback Aquib Talib. I know that Beaty and assistant head coach Clint Bowen both coached under Mangino, and both credit him as a fine human…. But he didn’t exactly leave KU on the best of terms. Would you invite back a head coach who was found guilty of academic fraud and got the program put on probation, even if he was really, really successful?

To put it another way: Larry Brown didn’t come back for 25 years. 

Let's Kick It!

  

Monday, July 31, 2017

100 Years of the #MLBTradeDeadline


John McGraw, Buck Herzog, and Christy Mathewson, summer 1916
This year marks 100 years of the #MLBTradeDeadline, and it happened because of one team. The team is the 1916 New Giants, and I literally wrote the book on them, from which this is adapted.


The 1915 New York Giants finished in last place, the only time that happened for a full season while John McGraw managed the team. The 1916 team started okay, winning 17 straight on the road (while on a 21-game road trip), a record that was tied by the 1984 Detroit Tigers but of course the Tigers had their streak over the course of a month, not in 20 days.

Well, the Giants floundered after that first streak, and McGraw basically said "screw it" and blew up the team mid-season.

In mid-July he traded his favorite player, all-timer Christy Mathewson, to the Reds (so Matty could manage) for infielder Buck Herzog, the Reds' current manager. This was Herzog's third go-round with the Giants, as he had been traded away twice before because the two hotheads couldn't get along. But they realized that together they were practically unstoppable, so they agreed to disagree, and Herzog was back.

Days later, McGraw also bought Harry "Slim" Sallee from the St. Louis Cardinals. Sallee is still considered one of the best pitchers in Cardinals franchise history despite playing for them when they were at their worst. In June Sallee had announced his retirement, left the team and went home. It was widely considered as a ruse to get traded, but in those days that was about the only thing he could have done.


Harry "Slim" Sallee, 1913

Several teams tried to trade for him, but the Cardinals rebuffed all offers. Finally, McGraw and the Giants offered to buy Sallee, and that offer the then-notoriously frugal Cardinals accepted. It was widely reported and believed that McGraw illegally encouraged Sallee to retire, and National League President John Tener said that "No other deal like that will be sanctioned while I am in office,” because heaven forbid a player would be allowed to choose where he could play. The league quickly passed a rule saying that a player could not threaten retirement in order to force a trade. (Imagine the field day Marvin Miller would have had with that one.)

The Giants did okay for a bit but then sucked again. In late August, McGraw traded first baseman Fred Merkle (yes, that one) to the Dodgers for catcher Lew McCarty.

And on August 28th, McGraw made the trade that made every other team really, really mad.

Heinie Zimmerman was the best third baseman in the league, now that Honus Wagner was old. But the Cubs' struggles this season had “The Great Zim” frustrated, like Slim Sallee had been in St. Louis. McGraw traded second baseman "Laughing" Larry Doyle (a key mman on the 1911, '12 and '13 pennant winners) for Zim, who at the time of the trade he was in the midst of a 10-day suspension by the Cubs.

Zimmerman been suspected of laying down on the job for much of the season, and even throwing a few games during his career to support his lifestyle. He cared so little about his finances he reportedly never collected a paycheck, instead asking the club treasurer for ten or twenty bucks until he was told he could have no more until the next time the rest of the team actually got paid.

"The Great Zim," 1917

The National League saw what McGraw was doing- stockpiling players right now for a pennant run the next season. All three of the pennant contenders- the Phillies, Dodgers and Braves were within four games of each other- thought their chances to take the flag could be in danger because of this new Giants team.

The Zim trade put Herzog back at his natural position, second base, and the Giants now had a tremendously defensive infield with Herzog, Zim, and Art Fletcher (best shortstop in the league by WAR that year).

That plus a few other moves (including an amazing month by a pitcher you've never heard of, the ultimately unfairly wronged Benny Kauff, plus much more) jump-started the Giants, and they won a major-league record 26 straight games, something that has never even come close to being equaled (no one has won at least 21 straight since the 1935 Cubs, and the 2002 A's were the last team to get to 20).

In the off-season Philadelphia Phillies president William Baker proposed the first-ever trade deadline of July 31st. This was in direct response to McGraw making trades through August that ultimately resulted in the 26-game win streak- and Philly missing out on their second straight pennant when the Giants beat them four straight during the rampage. 

The resolution passed unanimously. The trade deadline has been the last day of July ever since. It is the lasting legacy of the 1916 New York Giants. 

Want more on that team? You could read this. But really, you should just buy the book

McGraw, aka "Little Napoleon"