Thursday, December 29, 2016

Sean's Best & Worst Of 2016

I always find it odd when magazines, newspapers, websites, etc. share their best and worst of lists in November or early December. There's still an entire month that they can miss. Therefore, I'm proud to present my 2016 best of/worst of list with only 2+ days left of this year.

Best Television Show: O.J. Simpson

This has been a really strong class of new shows on network television. Designated Survivor, This Is Us, Speechless, The Good Place, and Pitch all earned season DVR passes. Game of Thrones, Veep, and Better Call Saul were also amazing this year. However, for me, O.J. Simpson was the best thing on television in 2016. Ezra Edelman created a 5-part documentary titled O.J.: Made in America that did an outstanding job of not only describing O.J.'s life but also the history of race relations in Los Angeles. The murders of Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman weren't even really discussed until part three of the series. Meanwhile, FX aired The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story. Sure, John Travolta and Cuba Gooding Jr. were a bit over the top, but the acting of Courtney B. Vance, Sarah Paulson, and Sterling K. Brown as Johnnie Cochran, Marcia Clark, and Christopher Darden, respectively, was incredible. I highly recommend watching both of these.


Worst Show: The Great Indoors

This was a really tough call between Man With a Plan starring Matt LeBlanc or The Great Indoors with Joel McHale. I guess I'll go with The Great Indoors only because Man With a Plan supposedly takes place in Pittsburgh, so the few stock photos of my hometown gives it a bonus point. The Great Indoors features McHale as an outdoors writer who apparently has never been online. Meanwhile, he now works with millennials who never leave their computers. Hilarity does not ensue.


Best Movie I Saw In the Theater: Arrival

I saw a whopping three movies in the theater this year (in related news, I did not receive media credentials for the Oscars), the most I saw live in probably 5 years. Arrival was definitely the best and should receive a Best Picture nomination. This is a sci-fi film but without the action/adventure component of most films in this genre. It's more of a thinking person's film that kept me engaged. Plus, I'd probably watch a 2-hour movie of Amy Adams reading from a phone book


Worst Movie: Sausage Party

Yes, there are some funny moments but the ending was just a big "wtf did I just see?"


Best Song: Starboy

My rule is that the best song of the year has to be featured in one of my Friday video blog posts. In my mind, this comes down to three songs: DNCE's Cake By The Ocean remains catchy after being all over the place for the past year, but I think I would regret this selection in a few years. I also really like You Don't Get Me High Anymore by Phantogram, but I don't think anyone actually knows this song. Therefore, my winner is The Weeknd's Starboy even though I have no idea what the song is about.



Worst Song: Work by Rihanna featuring Drake

It's not that this song is bad; I just have no idea what Rihanna is singing in the chorus.



Best Blog: Josh's World

I honestly don't know how Josh does it. He produces quality blog posts nearly every day on a variety of topics from book and movie reviews to sports to politics and what's going on in his life. I'm looking forward to his posts next year when he becomes a new dad.

Worst Blog: Everybody Loves You

Alex is one of my favorite writers...but he hasn't published a new blog post since early September! I know life gets in the way of writing and I miss his posts. (Maybe this will encourage him to start writing again. Maybe?)

Best Podcast: Pop Culture Happy Hour

While I enjoy YaJagoff! Podcast and The Jonah Keri Podcast, NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour is my favorite. In this weekly podcast, Linda Holmes, Stephen Thompson, Glen Weldon (my personal favorite), and a special guest discuss one or two topics (generally a movie or TV show). Then, they conclude with a "What's Making Me Happy" segment where they each pick a book, podcast, show, etc. that they recommend. It's always an enjoyable listen. The Live PCHH with Kumail Nanjiani (of Silicon Valley) discussing romantic comedies was hilarious.


Worst Podcast: The Bill Simmons Podcast

I used to be a big Simmons fan devouring everything he wrote. He also put together some excellent podcasts with Chuck Klosterman, Malcolm Gladwell, and others. Now, however, it seems like every single podcast is him predicting NFL lines with Cousin Sal. This bit was old years ago.

Best Sports Moment: The Penguins winning the Stanley Cup!

What a run!


Worst Sports Moment: Pittsburgh Pirates

After seeing the Penguins win the Cup, I really should complain about any Pittsburgh sports teams. However, after three consecutive playoff berths including winning 98 games in 2015, the Pirates were a disappointing 78-83-1 in 2016.

Best Fantasy Sports Person: Me

Sorry Meat Loaf, but in fantasy sports, 2016 was the Year of Sean. I won my fantasy baseball league for the second time in three years after going 20+ years without a title. In fantasy football, I won 2 of the 3 leagues I'm in, and I'm also in the Championship of the Pittsburgh Bloggers Fantasy Football League this weekend. Not too shabby!

Best Book: The Hike by Drew Magary

I've enjoyed Magary's writing in Deadspin and the old Kissing Suzy Kolber for a long time and his books are also great. The Hike may be his best work. I'll let Washington City Paper give a quote:

“The Hike reads like a mix of The Odyssey and The Phantom Tollbooth, with the same humor Magary uses on Deadspin. . . . Along the way, Magary’s hero hunts for an enigmatic mastermind, encounters man-eating giants and monsters, and teams up with a talking crab. What starts out as a saga of suburban ennui quickly turns into gripping tale of survival.”


Worst Book: None

I didn't read enough books to have a worst book this year. I need to do better and read more in 2017.

Best Blog Post: (Tie) My Interview with Vinny Karpuszka & Donald Trump Is Going To Be President

My interview with Vinny, the Pittsburgh Penguins' gamenight DJ, was a lot of fun. The second one isn't particularly great; it's just that I was correct in my early March prediction that Donald Trump would win. This particular line seemed quite prophetic:

"Will Clinton be able to inspire the Democratic base and get enough Independents in Virginia, Florida and North Carolina to win the election? As of today, my guess is no."

Worst Blog Post: Shooting at Burger King

I blamed a Whopper for shooting someone.


Feel free to share your best and worst of 2016 in the comments below, and have a Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Sean's Ramblings 2016 Year In Review (Sort Of)

Welcome to my 12th (yes, 12th!) annual year in review, where I take the first few lines of the first entry of each month in order to produce a random and (hopefully) interesting summary of 2016. Please note that this is not my State of the Ramblings (that comes next month) or my picks for best of/worst of 2016 (that will be later this week). This is simply a summary.

January: Ryan Seacrest, Carson Daly and Pitbull all counted down to start 2016 on national television, but I know that the new year can't truly begin for all us until we know the top visitors to Sean's Ramblings in 2015.

February: Wegmans celebrated its 100th birthday this weekend by giving away lots of samples, grocery bags and birthday cake. (My 1.5 year old - Pedro Tulo - loved the sheet cake.)

March: What a scary headline. The American political system has become extremely partisan with little getting done in Washington, so many voters are looking for a political outsider.

April: Today’s post comes from Jenilee Dunson, a geek, otaku, and lover of all things kawaii (I have no idea what this means) who also writes about video games, anime, tech and toys at Geeky Sweetie.


May: I promise that this post isn't too political. I went out on Monday night to play trivia and to watch game three of the Pens-Caps series.

June: You may or may not remember the singer Mike Posner.

July: Season 69 of the Learned League ended last week, and I dominated questions related to television where I got 9 of 10 correct.

August: Ron Lippock runs the PGH Sports Daily website and also sends out Pittsburgh Sports Daily Bulletin e-mails with links to blogs and articles about, you guessed it, Pittsburgh sports.

September: Tuesday marked the first day of kindergarten for The Moose (my five year old) and first day of preschool for Pedro Tulo (my two year old). Naturally, there was a lot to do in the days and weeks leading up to the start of the school year.


October: With Rosh Hashanah starting later this evening, I wanted to wish everyone a very Happy New Year. To get everyone in the holiday spirit, I thought I would share a quick story.

November: Halloween with young kids can be really fun. It can also be very frustrating.

December: I recently found a $100 US treasury bond that I received in 2001, apparently as a gift for graduating from graduate school.

Some sports, some fatherhood stuff, some politics, and some pop culture. That seems about right.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Happy Hanukkah 2016

Hanukkah begins on Saturday evening, so if you're doing some last minute shopping for latkes (potato pancakes) or donuts, don't forget to buy pickles too. Seriously, I'd love for my legacy to be helping pickles become part of the Hanukkah tradition. You can click here to see how the tradition of eating pickles on Hanukkah started way back in 1998 in San Diego. Please help make this happen!

Let's check out some videos to celebrate the Festival of Lights:

The Maccabeats are back with a Hamilton-themed song.



Meanwhile, Six13's Hanukkah song this year also has a Hamilton theme. The feud between these two groups must be at an all-time high!



Shir Soul Singers want into this a cappella mix and look to differentiate themselves from the others via face painting.



I honestly don't know what this is.



Tex-Mex Latkes? I'm not sold, but I'd be willing to try this if someone wants to make them and bring them over.



This guy wants you to celebrate Hanukkah and Christmas together.



And this woman came up with a name to celebrate the holidays together, Chrismukkah.



Apparently, this family listened to the last two videos and is celebrating the two holidays together. Welcome to the show! (Enjoy the WWE action around the 1:20 mark.)



And finally, a Happy Hanukkah from Technion, Israel Institute of Technology.



One more finally. This is a Happy Hanukkah from Ottawa.



Happy Hanukkah to those who are celebrating!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Champagne Ivan Nova

With the surprising news that the Pittsburgh Pirates re-signed pitcher Ivan Nova for reportedly 3 years/$26* million, let's celebrate! Nova was terrific after being acquired from the Yankees earlier this summer and keeping him at a reasonable price for a starting pitcher is fantastic for the Pirates. It's a Festivus Miracle!

So in honor of this transaction, take it away Oasis!



* There may be incentives that could bring this total to $30 million.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Trivia Tuesday

It's the holiday season, so how about some trivia to celebrate. Your challenge is to answer the ten questions based on the pictures (and questions) below.


Please do not use the internet for assistance, and leave your answers in the comments section below. Good luck!

This quiz is courtesy of the fine folks at Pub Stumpers.

Friday, December 16, 2016

The Dream Is Over

Last month, I applied for press credentials for the 2017 Academy Awards. Unfortunately, I didn't realize the due date to apply was the day I looked on the Oscars website, so I had to quickly complete the application. In hindsight, I wish I would have added more to this question:

19. Provide any additional information necessary to complete your application. This may include special access requests in addition to the above positions and/or specific requests regarding the above positions.

I do not require any special access. While The Academy works with many of the biggest global media organizations, this would be an opportunity for The Academy to get covered by the "little guy." Sure, it might be fun to see Ryan Seacrest interview Meryl Streep, but seeing the guy next door interview Streep (and more importantly talk to the people that don't necessarily get the attention they deserve) would be more interesting.

If I had more than 5 minutes, perhaps I would have phrased this differently. Anyway, on Thursday, I received the following e-mail:


89TH OSCARS®

MEDIA CREDENTIALS APPLICATION

CREDENTIALS REQUEST REPLY


Sean's Ramblings, (Not Dear Sean's Ramblings, Dear Sean, Dear Mr. Ramblings, or even Dear Mr. My Last Name...just Sean's Ramblings)

We regret to inform you that the Academy is not able to accommodate your request(s) for credentials to cover the 89th Oscars on Sunday, February 26, 2017, and the Nominations Announcement on Tuesday, January 24, 2017.

This is a travesty!

Please be aware that information about the Academy and the Oscars is always available on the Academy’s year-round web site at http://www.oscars.org/. Additionally, information will be available on the official website of the 89th Oscars, http://www.oscar.com/, beginning with Nominations information on Tuesday, January 24. Oscar.com will continue to be an excellent source of Oscars information in the weeks leading up to the Academy Awards presentation on Oscar® Sunday, February 26, 2017.

Due to safety and capacity regulations, the Academy will no longer offer Oscars Setup credentials (also previously known as Exterior Access and Oscar Week credentials) for the upcoming show. We will provide other coverage opportunity and event information in January on our Oscars Coverage Planning Calendar at www.oscars.org/press.


So there's still a chance I could cover some random, not as important event in January?

PHOTOS

Images of all Oscars pre-events and the 89th Oscars will be posted as they are available at http://photos.oscars.org/.


Why do I have a feeling that I won't be allowed to post these pictures on my blog.

Thank you for your interest in the Oscars.

It would have been nice to have this signed. Sincerely, Oscar or Sincerely, Anna Kendrick. (I just figure that Anna Kendrick is involved in all facets of the Oscars.


I don't think I can appeal this decision, so I'll have to try again next year. Actually, maybe I'll apply for media coverage for the Emmy Awards instead!

Monday, December 12, 2016

Hockey Road Trip: St. Louis

For nearly the past decade now, my friend and I have attended NHL games across North America each year. Although I haven't written about our experiences much the past few years, I wanted to write about this year's trip to St. Louis, Nashville, and, um, Metropolis.

Let's start with a little history. The St. Louis Blues formed in 1967 when the NHL expanded from 6 teams to 12 teams along with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Philadelphia Flyers, and others. Although the Blues reached the playoffs for 25 consecutive years from 1980-2004 and lost in the Western Conference Finals during the 2015-2016 season, the Blues are the oldest NHL team to never have won the Stanley Cup. However, the team's 50th year logo is pretty cool and they are hosting the Winter Classic next months, so that's worth something.


Throughout these hockey trips, I've seen amazing crowds in places such as Montreal and Chicago where the arenas were packed and fans were totally into the game. There have also been arenas with less enthusiastic crowds (I'm looking at you, Toronto!). St. Louis leaned toward the latter. Lots of empty seats and not nearly as loud as you'd expect when the home team scores three goals in the first period. Maybe the acoustics of Scottrade Center keep make it seem more quiet though the pre-game music blasted through the speakers.

I'm switching this from my typical glorious prose to more notes about the game/St. Louis.

- It was cold and dark when we arrived outside Scottrade Center, but I didn't notice much of an atmosphere around the arena. We actually parked in a parking garage attached to arena and walked right in. Meanwhile, about a mile away, there is an entire outdoor area with restaurants about a mile away adjacent to Busch Stadium, St. Louis' baseball stadium. This seems like a vibrant and fun area to visit before, during, and after baseball games. There was no such vibe around the hockey arena.

- If you're a St. Louis Blues fan, can you please explain this guy?



Does he do this at every game? If so, is he a Blues employee or a season ticket-holder? Is he allowed to leave his seat during the game? I mean, what happens if he's in the bathroom or stuck in line getting food when the Blues score? Will no one know how many goals the Blues have? In addition, what does he throw?

- In the 21 games during our hockey road trip, we saw a hat trick twice, during game #1 (Ryan Malone of the Pens) and game #6 (Dustin Byfuglien of the Blackhawks). Thanks to Vladimir Tarasenko, we've now seen three hat tricks live. Definitely a highlight of the trip seeing star players at their best.

- Are Dippin' Dots really the ice cream of the future? If so, you'd think the ice cream of the future stand would accept more forms of payment other than cash.


- Did you know that the World Chess Hall of Fame is in St. Louis? If you did, um, checkmate!

- Recommendation if visiting St. Louis: check out the free zoo. However, don't go at 3:00 on a cold Thursday, December afternoon during their holiday of lights season. The gift shop was closed and none of the animals were out. I mean, I saw a sleeping Andean bear and a few squirrels and birds, but this may have been the highlight.


- I did see Louie the Bear though. Sadly, I didn't get a picture with him.


- I ate lunch at Schlafly Bottleworks and had a $2 beer. Not a $2 sample but a $2 pint. And it (and the food) was good! By the way, according to its website, Schlafly is "Missouri’s largest locally owned independent brewery" and the Schlafly Tap Room, which opened in 1991, was first new brewpub to open in Missouri since Prohibition. So, um, why did it take so long to open a brewpub? It's not like Prohibition ended in 1989.

- I'm not a casino owner and I don't play one on the internet. But if I was a casino owner at say, The Lumiere Casino in St. Louis, I'd change the minimum bets to $5 at blackjack tables on a Thursday afternoon instead of having dealers stand at completely empty tables with higher minimum bids.

- I also won $16 at said casino, so maybe I am the owner now! (This reads better if you say this in an "I'm the captain now" voice.)


So that's it from St. Louis. For more about the Blues-Lightning game, check out NHL.com, ESPN, and/or the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

You can also click here for the hockey road trip archives.

Friday, December 09, 2016

Friday Video: Starboy

Reason #1324 why I'm not cool: I have no idea what The Weeknd's song Starboy (featuring Daft Punk) is about. What is a starboy? When did the Star Trek movie Wrath of Khan become "Wraith" of Khan? When we talk about The Weeknd are we supposed to bring shade? (Do I have the proper shade in this blog post?) Actually, I think the only thing I think I understand is a drug reference about cleaning pieces of ivory with her face. Of course, I'm probably wrong about this too.

Anyway, I like the song, so here's a video of The Weeknd performing Starboy on Saturday Night Live. While the official video has some bad words, this video does not.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Battle For Metropolis

Metropolis: Home of Superman, the greatest of all of the superheroes. (I'm sure there is plenty of disagreement about this statement, and I'm not qualified to enter any superhero debate. Well, except that I can't believe that there was a Batman v Superman movie when Superman would clearly win this fight. In other news, I did not see this movie.)

Metropolis, Illinois: A place I visited last week between St. Louis and Nashville during my annual hockey. This Metropolis, located next to the Ohio River across from Paducah, Kentucky off Interstate 24, is home to about 6,500 residents. This city has embraced its name (and a Harrah's casino) by erecting this giant Superman statue and opening the Super Museum and Gift Shop.


In case you're wondering the 2017 Superman Celebration is June 8-11. If only they didn't schedule this for the same weekend as Celebrate Fairfax.

Anyway, Superman's best-known rivals are Lex Luthor and probably General Zod. There are other villains in the Superman world including one not mentioned in movies or comic books. Enter Big John.


Located approximately one mile away from the Metropolis Superman statue, Big John is a formidable foe for the Man of Steel. I'm curious if the two figures reached some type of agreement to stay on his side or if there are epic battles that occur between the two when everyone is sleeping. We'll go with the first one.

Look for more posts soon about the St. Louis-Nashville trip.

Friday, December 02, 2016

Random Ramblings

I recently found a $100 US treasury bond that I received in 2001, apparently as a gift for graduating from graduate school. It appears that the gift-giver paid $50 for this bond which will be worth $100 when it matures in 2031. It looks like I have two choices here:

1. Cash the bond now and receive approximately $75.
2. Hold on to the bond for another 15 years when it will be worth $100 and hope that I don't lose it.

The US must make millions just on people losing their bonds. It seems really easy to lose something or accidentally throw something away after 30 years!


In March 2012, my car hit 100,000 miles on a drive to North Carolina as part of my annual hockey road trip. On Wednesday, my car reached 125,000 miles. That's not a lot of miles driven in the past 4.5 years.

On Saturday, I recorded the Ohio State-Michigan game since I knew that I wouldn't be able to watch the entire game live. ABC set the broadcast time from 12:00-3:00, which was not realistic, so I added an hour of recording time. At exactly 4:00 on DVR time (though later in real time) with Ohio State driving in double overtime, the recording stopped. While I was happy when I checked online to see that the Buckeyes won, why are college football broadcasts so long? Games should not be 4+ hours! I know the clock is stopped on first downs (please get rid of this, NCAA), but every commercial break was at least 4 minutes. No other sport has commercial breaks.

Have a great weekend!

Monday, November 28, 2016

The Red Shirt

For the past few months, my two year old (Pedro Tulo) prefers to only wear red shirts. And when I write "prefers," what I mean is that he freaks out when we try to put on any shirt that is not red. Even a red and gray stripped shirt can cause some unhappiness since apparently this is not red enough. A happy two year is a preferable way to start the day, especially when trying to get to work during the week, so we usually acquiesce and let him wear red shirts. However, with the weather getting colder, we found that we don't have many long-sleeve red shirts. Therefore, my wife took a trip to Old Navy and bought several shirts including this one for $5.


As a fan of the Pittsburgh Penguins, I was initially horrified that this shirt was in our house and that Pedro Tulo would wear this regularly. Then, I thought about the freak outs and found this shirt as a much better option than fighting with Pedro Tulo at 6:20 on a Wednesday morning.

Besides, like the hockey team, this shirt will be one of his best shirts through the winter and into April, but by May, this shirt will be relegated to the closet only to be useful again during the following fall and winter.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thanksgiving Message 2016

On this Thanksgiving, I wanted to share this message for you and your family:

White meat, dark meat
You just can't lose
I fell off my moped
And I got a bruise


Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Tila Tequila And White Supremacists

In today's edition of what the heck is happening in this country, I'd like to present to you Tila Tequila. Ms. Tequila gained fame by becoming one of the most popular people on MySpace primarily by posting provocative pictures of herself. Tequila was also featured in Playboy and Maxim and got a reality show on MTV titled A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila. I actually watched some of the first season which featured both men and women vying for love from the bisexual Tequila and remember it being not terrible.

Anyway, except for a relationship with Shawne Merriman of the San Diego Chargers, I hadn't heard about Tequila for years until Monday. According to The Washington Post, Tequila attended a dinner at Maggiano's sponsored by the National Policy Institute, a group with an innocent and boring sounding name, but is actually a white supremacist organization. Before I discuss this group and Tequila, I will give them credit for choosing Maggiano's. I haven't been there in a few years, but I remember them having delicious food and big portions to encourage you to share. We all know that white supremacists like to share.

Although there was some coverage of this National Policy Institute being in DC, the dinner became a big story when Tequila posted this picture on her Twitter account.


Nice, huh? Where to begin here? On her Twitter page (which has been removed), Tequila mentioned Hitler in her bio and had a photo-shopped picture on her page of Donald Trump sitting at The Oval Office desk with her in a bikini standing next to him while a swastika armband. Clearly, the Sieg Heil salute is not some type of inappropriate joke as she truly believes in this. Which brings me to this question: Can you be a bisexual woman of Asian decent (born in Singapore) and a member of a white nationalist party? Apparently the answer is yes here but I'm not sure how this works. This actually reminds me of the sketch on Chappelle's Show where Chapelle plays a blind African-American who thinks he is white and is a racist. (This video is not suitable for work due to language. I also included a link to the Comedy Central video in case the video below doesn't work.)


Anyway, this is some scary stuff. The video on the Atlantic link is terrifying. With Trump getting elected, these people believe that they are now back in power and that Trump will get rid of all the evils of this country. Evils meaning anyone that is not of white, European decent. And why shouldn't they feel empowered? Steve Benen of MSNBC captures this perfectly:

Put it this way: Trump seems entirely comfortable blasting “Saturday Night Live” for telling jokes at his expense, and the president-elect could hardly contain his outrage at the cast of “Hamilton” for urging Mike Pence to honor American principles of inclusion.

But when alt-right activists spew racist garbage and make Nazi salutes at a gathering in the nation’s capital, Trump prefers to keep his concerns vague and generalized.


So this is where we are in November 2016. Tila Tequila is a white supremacist and the National Policy Institute is chanting Hail Trump and giving Sieg Heil signs. So, um, Happy Thanksgiving.

(I promise I'll get back to lighter stuff later this week.)

Friday, November 18, 2016

Santa's Flight Academy at Fair Oaks Mall

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend a blogger event for the unveiling of Fair Oaks Mall's Santa's Flight Academy.


The invitation was also open to bloggers' families so that they could take pictures with Santa. Although my kids were in school/preschool, I was available and thought it would be fun to check the holiday experience and meet some other bloggers. Plus, free breakfast courtesy of BRIO Tuscan Grill!


However, it turns out that I was the only person there that did not bring their family. It was a little difficult meeting other bloggers when they are trying to make sure that their kids aren't spilling food on their clothes before pictures with Santa. As a father of a two-year old, I totally get this. Still, it was a little awkward for me though Andrea of Northern Virginia Housewives and Teresa of Fair Oaks Mall were both incredibly friendly and gracious in hosting the event.

Before I share some pictures and provide more information about the very cool Santa's Flight Academy, make sure you scroll down to the end for a coupon if you decide to get family pictures with Santa.

From the press release:

To rediscover the magic and tradition of the holiday season, Fair Oaks Mall debuts “Santa’s Flight Academy,” a one-of-a-kind, immersive holiday experience that combines a giant reimagination of the North Pole with state-of-the-art technology to enable children to become a member of Santa’s flight crew. Partnering with an elf – either Sleigh Mechanic George, Flight Director Sparkle or Reindeer Caretaker Flash – each child will help ready Santa’s sleigh so he can deliver presents to children around the world.

You can also take pictures with Santa with your pet (as long as the pets are up-to-date on their vaccinations and are on a leash or carried in a lightweight, portable pet carrier with harness. Here are the dates of the pet photos with Santa

- Saturday, November 26, 8:00 AM - 9:30 AM
- Sunday, November 27, 6:30 PM - 8:00 PM
- Sunday, December 4, 6:30 PM - 8:00 PM
- Saturday, December 10, 7:30 AM - 8:30 AM
- Sunday, December 11, 6:30 PM - 8:00 PM



Please note that I was not paid for this blog post. I mean, I got a free breakfast, but that's not a payment. Actually, getting paid with food should be a new mission for this blog! For more information about Santa's Flight Academy please visit the Fair Oaks Mall website.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

What Was Antonio Brown Doing?

Steelers fans are unhappy. That tends to happen when the team loses four games in a row. There's been a lot of criticism of the team's defense and coaching staff. Much of it warranted. While wide receiver Antonio Brown continues to perform at an all-Pro level, his decision on the final play of Sunday's Steelers-Cowboys game is questionable and not something I've seen discussed much. (In full disclosure, I didn't watch the game live, so perhaps there was a major uproar on social media when this play happened).


So on the last play of the game with no time remaining and needing a touchdown to win, Antonio Brown basically ran out of bounds. The only explanation that makes any kind of sense is that perhaps he didn't want to take a hit. That's justifiable at many other moments of a football game, but on the last play of the game, you try to stay off the ground and lateral the ball to your teammates, even though getting a touchdown in the situation is unlikely. If anyone would know this, you would think it would be Antonio Brown after this almost miracle finish in 2013 against the Miami Dolphins.



(You may need to try this video instead.)



The only other reasonable explanation I have for Brown running out of bounds is that perhaps he wanted the game so that he could see his Skittles custom vending machine quickly.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Post-Election Thoughts

Everyone else has already shared their thoughts on the 2016 Presidential election, so I thought I would write my own blog post. First, I hate the fact that I was right way back in March. Being correct so often is both a blessing and a curse.

As for Donald Trump becoming America's 45th President, I've already gone through the five stages of grief fairly quickly. I'm not happy with the results, and I have some serious concerns about the direction of our country, but I've accepted that Trump was elected based on our political process (meaning via the electoral college and not the popular vote).

- Arguably the worst outcome from Tuesday night/Wednesday morning is that Kellyanne Conway, Newt Gingrich, and Rudy Giuliani are not only not going away, but they will probably all have major roles in the Trump administration.

- I was extremely surprised that Donna Brazile went with the Nana from Candy Land look on Tuesday.


- Congratulations to the Republican Senators for "letting the American people pick" the next Supreme Court justice. The gamble of only having 8 justices over the past 9 months paid off as a conservative justice will now likely fill Antonin Scalia's seat. However, this sets a bad precedent. If Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Anthony Kennedy, or any other justice retires in 2020 or even mid to late-2019, the Democrats in Senate (assuming they earn a majority during the 2018 mid-term elections) could and probably should wait to approve a justice on the same grounds the Republican Senators used in 2016.

- Trump has campaigned for abolishing Obamacare. Now that he's President, can he just let 20+ million go without health insurance?

- Similarly, can he really just get rid of the entire Department of Education?

- I guess the biggest point is that Trump is used to getting his way as a CEO. While he may try to take some executive actions, it will be interesting to see how/if he can govern. He's going to have to work with Congress (though it will likely be an extremely friendly Congress at the start). He doesn't strike most people as an "in the weeds" policy guy.

- I'm an ABC guy. We watched that station growing up (I think my parents liked the local WTAE newscast and just kept the station on for Peter Jennings and company), and it's helped that fellow Ithaca College grad David Muir is now the #1 nightly news anchor. However, there were too many commercials on Tuesday night, so I ended up watching a lot of CNN. I couldn't stop watching John King and his map.


- I predict multiple occasions over the next 4 years of Congress over-riding vetoes. I believe that this happened only once during the Obama administration and that was over the right to sue foreign governments. (I could be wrong on this though.)

- Random question: When was the last time two candidates represented the same state? Both Clinton and Trump are registered New York voters, and I honestly don't know the last time both major candidates were from the same state.

- It appears that Chris Christie is leading Donald Trump's transition team. Is he even pretending to be governor of New Jersey anymore?

That's really all that I want to write today. I guess we'll see if Trump really wants to be the people's President (meaning all people). I'm trying to be optimistic.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

2016 Election Night Live Blog

After nearly two years of campaigns, debates, and non-stop news coverage, we've finally made it election day. Join me and others at 8:30ish Eastern time as we discuss the Presidential election results. I'm sure we'll also cover Congressional races, the media coverage, and probably the Pittsburgh Steelers. Please note that this group of panelists leans left politically, but I also think we're a pretty rational and realistic group.

Live Blog Election Night Live Blog 2016: It's Finally Over...Right?
 

Monday, November 07, 2016

Out Of Ideas

I've had this blog way too long. I wrote an entire blog post ranting against Verizon only to realize that I already wrote an extremely similar post exactly 4 years ago. The only difference between the November 2012 post and what I wrote and deleted today is that I actually talked with a customer service representative this time who told me that I need to upgrade my plan to get text updates about data usage. Otherwise, I will only get text messages when I'm out of data. A friend recommended a free app to track data usage, so problem may be solved with no help from Verizon.

I've spent the past few days in Portland, Oregon, and I have a few thoughts. Actually, many of them are similar to my notes from a 2009 blog post about my first trip to Portland. I give up. Apparently, I can't come up with any new ideas.

Fine, instead I'll share some pictures from Portland.


Can anyone that lives in Oregon or has even visited this state explain how elections work here? Instead of going to the polls, do Oregon citizens just drop their ballots in these boxes? That doesn't seem efficient.


There are way too many crows in downtown Portland. Shouldn't they be out in the country somewhere?


Finally, this is a picture of Providence Park, home of the Portland Timbers and Portland Thorns, from the bleachers connected to Multnomah Athletic Club. I want to live at Multnomah Athletic Club. It's 600,000 square feet of pools, tennis courts, squash courts, handball/racquetball courts, a rock climbing gym, restaurants, and so much more.

Friday, November 04, 2016

Friday Video: You Don't Get Me High Anymore

I admit that I know absolutely nothing about the band Phantogram. I mean, I could search Google to try to learn something about the group, but I kind of like the mystery of not knowing. What I do know is that I heard Phantogram's You Don't Get Me High Anymore song on the radio and wanted to hear it again. I hope you do too.



Maybe it's because they both have female lead singers, but this song has a similar vibe to Garbage's Only Happy When It Rains, one of my favorite songs from the 90s.

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Halloween 2016

Halloween with young kids can be really fun. It can also be very frustrating. Monday night definitely started on the frustrating side. (I've included pictures of pumpkins carved by folks in my office throughout this post just for fun.)

My five year old (The Moose) decided that he wanted to wear his soccer uniform as his Halloween costume. Well, that's easy for us, so what could possibly go wrong? How about temperatures around 50 and his insistence on wearing just his short-sleeve soccer jersey and shorts. After way too long, he finally agreed to wear sweatpants under his shorts and a long-sleeve shirt under his jersey.


However, let's go to earlier in the day. The Moose's school doesn't celebrate Halloween, but they get around this by hosting a Mother Goose day. Kids can dress up as a nursery rhyme character and are not permitted to wear super-hero costumes, masks, or bring any type of weapon. (Though I think someone dressed as Jack should be able to bring a miniature fake ax to chop down the beanstalk.) A friend let us borrow their monkey costume since I don't think Jack and Jill were soccer players. (Yes, monkey is a stretch for it chasing the weasel in Pop Goes the Weasel, but it counted). Anyway at the end of the day, we learned that somehow he lost the monkey costume after the parade ended. He already lost a library book and a pair of shoes* so far this year, so this is not a good trend.


Now, let's shift our attention to my two year old, Pedro Tulo. We got him a Marshall costume, the Dalmatian firefighter pup from Paw Patrol. He refused to wear it. We tried a Thomas the Train costume that his brother wore three years ago. Nope. We tried a train conductor costume that went under the Thomas costume. That also went poorly. Just the train conductor's hat? Uh, no. So Pedro Tulo went trick-or-treating as a two year that didn't want to wear a Halloween costume.

When we finally went trick-or-treating, things went fine. However, I'm starting to question why our neighborhood of townhouses decided to have so many stairs. It's not easy carrying a two year old and up down stairs for about an hour.


Despite all of this, Halloween was a success for the kids as they had fun and got lots of candy. This morning, The Moose told me, "I want to do Halloween again today."

I do have one suggestion. Can we create a Halloween in April event? Halloween seems to be the only time where our entire neighborhood comes together. A neighbor organizes a potluck and all of the kids and adults spend time eating, drinking, and socializing together. Seems like this should happen more than once a year.


Update: The monkey costume was found. Another kid "accidentally" took in home.

* The Moose's class went on a field trip to a local farm/pumpkin patch and were told to bring two pairs of shoes since they were going to get dirty/muddy. Fortunately, his newer pair of shoes were randomly found in a bag in a janitor's closet the next day.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Friday Video: Toxic

Let me preface this post by stating that this video (which is actually just an audio recording) is juvenile and pretty dumb. However, I listened to it several times and laughed each time.

Enjoy this cover version of Britney Spears' Toxic being played by mediocre flautists.*




* If nothing else, please appreciate that I used the word "flautists" for the first time since I started this blog more than a decade ago!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Trivia Tuesday: 21st Century Pop Music Edition

I'm going to vent here, so if you want to go straight to the questions, please feel free to skip this paragraph. I've been part of LearnedLeague, the trivia league of all trivia leagues, for just over a year now. As I've probably mentioned before, I learned that there's a lot that I don't know, particularly in the science, world history, and literature. Therefore, I'm likely to stay in the E rundle (the lowest tier) for as long as I continue in LearnedLeague. However, I've done quite well in current events, sports, and pop music, so I was extremely excited to play in 21st Century pop music mini-league. For mini-leagues, everyone is placed in 12-person groups where you play an 11-match "regular season" with the top two advancing to the finals. Based on my pop music knowledge, I thought I had a decent chance of advancing. I thought wrong. Despite getting 45 correct answers out of the 54 questions in the first 9 matches, I'm in 8th place out of 12 in my group. The 45 correct answers are third best in my group and would be good for first or second in most groups. However, I'm in an extremely difficult group, I've done a poor job playing defense, and my "correct answers against" is the worst in the group. Basically, I'm Duke basketball with everyone playing their "A" game against me, but my record is more like NC State in the ACC. So frustrating.

Anyway, your challenge today is to answer the 9 21st Century pop music questions that I missed. As always, please don't use the internet for assistance.

1. In August 2001, shortly after completing filming on her "Rock the Boat" video, Aaliyah was killed in a plane crash in what country's Abaco Islands?

2. In March 2016, what band released their 4th self-titled album, known colloquially as "The White Album", riffing off a previously set precedent to identify these same-named albums by colors?

3. What 19th century artist painted the work used as the cover art on this Coldplay album?


4. The name of what Brian Kelley and Tyler Hubbard duo is equivalent to a border of demarcation approximately equal to 31 degrees north latitude?

5. n 2007, wht bnd drppd th vwls frm tp 20 ht frm thr albm "nfnty n Hgh" s jk whn thr rcrd cmpny rqstd shrtr sng ttls?

6. What 2010 song's title question is asked of Drake by Rihanna a total of 24 times over the track's 4:24 duration?

7. What American singer's studio album Mr. A–Z was a commercial success, peaking at number five on the Billboard 200 and spawning the singles "Did You Get My Message?," "Geek in the Pink," and the (quite fitting) Billboard Hot 100 hit "Wordplay"?

8. What singer has twice hit the Billboard Top 40 with songs titled along the template "I'm" followed by a four-letter descriptive word (with 2001's "I'm Real" and 2003's "I'm Glad")?

9. What is the first name of the harpist/songwriter whose discography includes the albums Ys (2006) and Divers (2015)? She is the second cousin once-removed of California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom.

Please leave your answers in the comments section below. Good luck!

These questions are courtesy of LearnedLeague.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Mandy Moore Likes Me

Monday, October 24th. It was a sunny, typical fall day in Northern Virginia. I went to work and the kids went to school. Just your ordinary day seven days before Halloween. And then, on my way home on the Metro, I saw this tweet by actress and singer Mandy Moore.



I have enjoyed the first two episodes of This Is Us, and I'm also a Pittsburgh Steelers fans. So I casually quoted Ms. Moore's tweet with a comment of my own.


I really wanted to include Mean Joe Greene in the tweet, but I figured he was already retired at the time This Is Us is taking place. And then, this happened:


Holy crap! Mandy Moore liked my Tweet. I think this could be a start of a beautiful relationship. Sure, she used to be married to Ryan Adams, but maybe she wants to interact with a regular, non-Hollywood or musical guy. Maybe she just wants to learn more about the Steelers. Well, I'm here to help. Just let me know Mandy. You know how to reach me on Twitter.


(Based on the look on Mandy's face, I'm guessing I'm not going to hear from her.)

Friday, October 21, 2016

Random Ramblings

1. It's never good when you get call from my son's elementary school. Earlier this week, I received this message regarding my five year old, The Moose.

This is [school nurse] at the [elementary school] health room and I just wanted to let you know that [The Moose] was here in the health room. He was accidentally hit on his right eye by another student's bottom at recess. He could see without difficulty. There was no redness and he did stay here with me for 20 minutes with ice next to his eye just for comfort. He wasn't upset or anything like that, and I did not see any adverse symptoms, so he did go back to class and just wanted to let you.

I'm not sure why the nurse needed to include that he was hit "by another student's bottom." I think accidentally by another student is sufficient. Adding the bottom part, while funny after hearing that he was fine, seems a bit humiliating.

2. I had big plans for this weekend between coaching my son's soccer game, attending a neighborhood Halloween party, and of course, going to Wegmans. All of these plans are cancelled. Instead I'm going to wait at home for Miley Cyrus to visit and encourage me to vote. When she comes to my door, I plan on playing a Britney or Jay-Z song so that she put her hands up, nods her head like yeah, and moves her hips like yeah.


3. On Thursday, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump appeared at the Al Smith charity dinner hosted by the Catholic Archdiocese of New York. Just out of curiosity, when do you think the two of them will be at the same place at the same time again? My guess is that it will be at least two years if ever.

4. With apologies to fans of the Los Angeles Dodgers, the entire country should be rooting for the Chicago Cubs to make the World Series. Instead of non-stop election coverage, every news outlet will cover the Cubs making their fist World Series appearance since 1945 and trying to win for the first time since 1908. Now, I'm completely fine with them losing, especially since Cleveland hasn't won a World Series since 1948, but a long series will be a fantastic distraction from the election.

5. Please like Sean's Ramblings on Facebook. I'm going to apply for media credentials for the Oscars (more on this later), and I probably need more Facebook likes for them to consider my application seriously. I think 50,000 likes should do it!

6. Finally, let's end this week with a video. This is Heathens by Twenty One Pilots from the movie Suicide Squad which I think was a big deal for about a week before leaving theaters pretty quickly. In my opinion, this song has a legitimate chance of getting an Oscar nomination. If that happens, maybe I can ask them questions from the red carpet!

Monday, October 17, 2016

Helping US-Russian Relations

This is an interesting time in US-Russia relations. Things are tense between the two countries in relation to Syria, and it appears that Russia attacked the Democratic National Committee's files (unless it was a 400-pound hacker). However, I'm here to help bridge a gap between our two nations. In the past week, I received two messages from Russian citizens. Here's the first message from Elena:

Good morning,

I am Elena from Petropavlovsk, Russia; an IT specialist by profession and belong to an upper middle class family.


Sorry to interrupt Elena's email, but I had never heard of Petropavlovsk. Based on the picture below, what a beautiful city. It seems so scenic. Plus, if you live in Nome, it appears that Petropavlovsk is closer than Seattle. Okay, back to Elena.


My life is a bit lonely on the personal side and it is largely due to my profession which requires me to spend large amount of my time in the computer labs with techno geeks like myself. Even though I like my job and field much, I don’t have any interest in men from my job profile. Saddest part is that I am able to be only in their company.

Sorry to be stereotypical here, but aren't the majority of IT professionals men? A woman in the IT field could do well at a convention of IT professionals.

So after many trials and errors I came to the conclusion that I will find my love on the internet through online dating and came across this premium dating and friendship website which had its primary aim to make suitable people meet each other with the ultimate outcome of making a family for themselves. I haven’t met my love here yet, but I am fully satisfied with this website as it has given me a chance to meet a lot of people who match my taste and to break my dry spell in match making. Through this website I have made many new friends both girls and men and this has given a lot of relief to my stressful life.

So if you are also in search of a life partner or just a girlfriend or some true friend to confide your feelings with, then join this website by clicking here!!!
(I'm not including a link.) I can assure that you won’t be disappointed. Maybe you will find me here and something might work out between us also!!!

I thought Elena and I had a decent chance of becoming friends, but I don't like sentences ending with also. I should give her the benefit of the doubt though. I mean, I doubt English is her first language.

Here's the second message from Veronica:

Hi Sweetheart,

Well, that's a little forward.

Don’t get confused about why some stranger is calling you like that.

Oh, thanks for clearing this up.

The reason is only the fact that I am desperate to find my sweetheart and love of my life, my future husband with whom I want spend the rest of my life.

Are you the “someone special” that I am looking for? Are you also in search of your love, your future wife?


I'm good thanks, but please continue.

Well many may think that getting acquainted through internet is somewhat risky and not real. But in our fast and busy modern life not many are left with enough time and luck to meet their love spontaneously in their day to day life which has forced most of us are forced to use online dating.

I am Veronica, a sweet and uncomplicated girl from Vladivostok.


My guess is that Veronica is one of a few. I think many girls from Vladivostok are complicated.

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, MS. AVRIL LAVIGNE!



Sorry. Back to Veronica.

I am from an upper middle class family, which treasures family values and cultural traditions even while leading our modern sophisticated life.

I think I see a trend among upper middle class Russian women.

I am an Engineer by profession and I bored of solitude and lack of personal happiness. I want to find the perfect man with whom I want to settle in life.

So please click here (removing website again) and join this premium online dating website if you want to find me and thousands of other beautiful ladies and talk with start communicating with us straightaway.


I honestly don't know what to do. If Putin and Clinton or Trump can't get along, it might be up to me to bring us together. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Donald Trump Must Repent

Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement and the holiest day of the Jewish year, begins on Tuesday at sundown. This is a day of prayer, repentance, and self-reflection. There's also no eating or drinking for approximately 25 hours.

Although Republican nominee Donald Trump is not Jewish, he may learn from his daughter and son-in-law to ask for forgiveness on this holy day. Sure, he already apologized for his behavior on the video with Billy Bush before changing the subject and criticizing former President Bill Clinton (who is not running for President) for doing worse, but that's not what this post is about. On Monday, Trump did the unthinkable. Something so outrageous and unbelievable that he will probably lose the Pennsylvania vote because of it. Viewer discretion is advised from Trump's Facebook post.


The horror! The horror! Smiley cookies are delicious treats. You can purchase Smiley cookies from a restaurant called Eat 'N Park. There is no such restaurant called Smiley Cookie. Well, maybe there is but the restaurant pictured is an Eat 'N Park.

My children have been to Eat 'N Park. I'm not sure how I can explain to my kids that someone running for President called Eat 'N Park, Smiley Cookie. I'm sorry but I can't continue with this post. I just hope that Trump does the right thing here. I'm not even sure an apology is enough.

h/t @emilyzikoski

Friday, October 07, 2016

Sean's Fantasy Baseball Championship

I know that you don't care about my fantasy baseball team; however, since this is my blog, I feel the need to document my recent title. Enjoy! (Or skip this post and scroll down to read others.)

After being in the same fantasy/rotisserie baseball league since 1992, I finally won in 2014. I wrote about my historic victory from two years ago and noted that I traded my future to win the championship. It was entirely worth it. (The Pittsburgh Pirates might also want to try this sometime.) In 2015, I went in an entirely different direction. Knowing my team wasn't going to win part way through the season, I traded many assets for cheap keepers. I finished in 11th place out of 12 teams but felt optimistic about the 2016 season.

In the auction league draft this season, I spent big money on Jake Arrieta, Ben Zobrist, Stephen Strasburg, Yasmani Grandal, and Andrew McCutchen. With my team challenging for 1st place, I acquired Ryan Braun and Carlos Gonzalez. Free agent pick-ups of Keon Broxton of the Brewers and Alex Dickerson of the Padres were pleasant surprises. I also got amazing production from holdovers Freddie Freeman, Justin Turner, DJ LeMahieu, Freddy Galvis, Ichiro, Tanner Roark, and Tony Watson. In addition, I really enjoyed watching Jameson Taillon came up from my and the Pirates the farm systems to pitch well.


So now, I've won 2 championships in 3 years and along with 2nd place finishes in 2011 and 2012, that's 4 top-2 finishes in 6 years. Olli Maatta of the Pittsburgh Penguins is also Finnish. In my mind, this is a fantastic run. Considering the amount of time I've spent reviewing baseball box scores, trying to select free agents, and contemplating trades (I probably need to spend more time on draft preparation), I'm quite proud of this accomplishment. This ranks up there with other life accomplishments.

Anyway, thanks for making it all the way through this blog post. Stay tuned for future posts about my new role as soccer coach for my son's U6 team, my long-awaited thoughts on Paw Patrol, and my hope to get media credentials for the 2017 Academy Awards. Yes, really.