Thursday, December 02, 2021

Vive La Ziggy

Our cat Ziggy turned 13 several months ago. He was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers as a kitten but has largely stayed out of the spotlight since his retirement. Now, he's going big. He's running for president of France!


Based on the three years of French I took in high school (and using Google Translate), this says:

In 2022, French Cats Vote Ziggy.
Work Less, To Eat More

This seems to be Ziggy's platform:

+ Ziggy wants health, committed and French food for all.
+ A 100% transparent composition, no more political blah-blah!
+ A veterinary formulation for our croquettes and pates
+ Sustainable food and recyclable packaging


As you can probably guess, Ziggy is a French cat food company. Nevertheless, I completely support the name and campaign and with apologies to current French President Emmanuel Macron, Ziggy has my vote!

Thanks to my friend T for letting me know about this campaign!

Monday, November 29, 2021

Happy Hanukkah 2021

Hanukkah started on Sunday night, and I'm excited to share some videos to celebrate the holiday. First up, Dave Grohl and producer Greg Kurstin return for another year of their Hanukkah Sessions. 



It's nice to see A Cappella groups The Maccabeats and Six13 back with new Hanukkah songs.



I know this isn't real, but Lady Latka is a potato pancake making more potato pancakes. She's shredding her own kind! Plus, while I haven't spent much time around dogs lately, why wouldn't Blue eat her? It's food on the ground!


Nissim Black and Kosha Dillz teamed up for a new song. 


I have no idea what this is.


While I've mentioned this several times over the years, if you celebrate Hanukkah, please include pickles as part of your celebration. This is the story of how the pickles at Hanukkah tradition started, and this is the Facebook page dedicated to pickles at Hanukkah!

Finally, this is a now deleted tweet by Leeds United apparently hoping that Hanukkah lasts for 10 days instead of 8.

Thursday, November 11, 2021

My Elevator Ride With Robert Plant

I recently took a trip to Nashville for work, and after the first day of meetings on the mezzanine level* of the hotel, my colleague and I got on the elevator to go back to our rooms. When we entered the elevator, there was a tall (compared to me) gentleman with long, curly hair already there by himself. He instantly looked familiar to me. This was Robert Plant, lead singer of the legendary Led Zeppelin. His stop was on the 4th floor while I was on the 3rd and my colleague was on the 2nd. My colleague apologized saying that he probably didn’t want to stop on every single floor just to get to his room. He said no problem as he scrambled to put his mask back on. After my colleague got off on her floor, it was just me and him. I didn’t say anything in the probably 5-10 seconds when the elevator moved (though it felt like minutes) until the elevator arrived on my floor and I said have a good night as I exited. I think I said you too.

When I got back to my hotel room, I decided to do some internet research. I mean, why would Robert Plant be in Nashville and staying in my hotel? It’s a nice hotel, but I would think that Robert Plant would stay somewhere nicer. And why would he stay on the 4th floor instead of a penthouse suite? I gave it about a 5% chance it was him. 



My online search only came up with a New York Times article published that day about a reunion between Plant and Alison Krauss. The article mentioned that Krauss and producer T Bone Burnett spoke by phone from Nashville. I then texted my colleague asking if the guy in the elevator had a British accent since I wasn’t sure. She said that he did, so I bumped it up to about a 25% chance it was him. Of course, I'm glad that I missed the part of the article where it mentioned that Plant spoke to the author from his home in England. That might have ended my quest completely.


A little later, I went downstairs and ran into some colleagues in the lobby. I asked, “Is there any chance that Robert Plant is staying in the hotel?” One colleague instantly exclaimed yes! She said she saw him checking in and he looked familiar, but she couldn’t place him. Now, it was a 40% chance it was him!


We spent the next 24 hours or so trying to solve the mystery of if we were in the presence of Robert Plant. I asked multiple hotel employees if he was staying at the hotel. They refused to confirm or deny. I tried a different route by asking if it was possible to share if any of the guests were part of a highly successful rock band from the 70s? They refused to budge. There were discussions of maybe hanging out on the 4th floor to see if we could see him again. Finally, I decided to contact Robert Plant directly through his Instagram account. He didn’t reply. I suspect that he’s not the person running his Instagram account. At that point, I gave up.


Fast-forward to Saturday night. I returned from the Grand Ole Opry and saw some colleagues at the hotel bar. One of my colleagues was sitting right next to Robert Plant (or at least someone who looked exactly like him). 



Apparently, they talked for about 30 minutes, but it was a very general conversation. As he was leaving, someone in our group asked to take a picture with him, so there’s now a photo of about 10 of us with Robert Plant. He doesn't particularly look thrilled in the picture, but there's now proof. Well, or at least a 98% chance it was him. I guess someone could be an amazing Robert Plant impersonator!


So it turns out, the surprise guest from the Grand Ole Opry show was Robert Plant!



*There is a song from the mid-90s called "Super Bon Bon" by Soul Coughing that includes the line, “You have to take the elevator to the mezzanine.” I think of this line every time I see a sign for mezzanine. I can’t be the only one!



Photo of Plant and Krauss by Eric Ryan Anderson for The New York Times.

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Sean Visits The Grand Ole Opry

I recently visited Nashville and had the opportunity to go to the Grand Ole Opry. I'll admit that I'm not a big country music fan, but this seemed like something I should do. If you're not familiar with the Opry, the website describes its history. It's basically the most famous country music venue and has been in operation since 1925. The current location opened in 1974 and is a bit outside downtown Nashville. It's now part of a huge complex that includes the Opry Mills mall with a Rainforest Cafe (I thought they all went out of business) and the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center. 


While I knew the Grand Ole Opry name and learned a little bit about the history before visiting, I didn't know exactly how it worked. On the night I attended, there were 8 different acts who all performed for a limited period of time each. I also had no idea that this was a radio show. While we saw the performances live in person, the show was being broadcast on radio and SiriusXM across the country. That helped explain why the announcer does commercial reads between acts. 

There was an introductory video before the show narrated by Carrie Underwood. At the end, she mentioned that there are special guests, so you never know who might appear. This video, which showed Steve Martin and Pharrell Williams, got me very excited. Who might be the special guest tonight? Part way through the second act, the announcer mentioned that there are regularly a lot of visitors from outside Tennessee and welcomed us to the Volunteer State. He talked about the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee being the most-visited national park and that there's a highway in the park named after Dolly Parton. I started thinking, HOLY CRAP! THE SPECIAL GUEST IS DOLLY PARTON! His next line was that there are 815 Dollar General locations in Tennessee. No Dolly Parton.

Regarding the performances, my favorites were the two "young" acts. Priscilla Block made her 2nd appearance at The Opry while this was Frank Ray's debut. They clearly shared their joy and appreciation of being at the Opry and had infectious energy. Unfortunately, both artists only performed two songs each. I would have preferred to hear more from them. I'm also curious to see where both of their careers go from here. Priscialla Block's song "Just About Over You" reached the Billboard top 20 airplay chart.


She also has a new song that is about to debut called "Peaked in High School" which is going to be a hit. Meanwhile, Frank Ray has had two #1s on the Texas Country Regional radio chart. Apparently, this is a real chart because of course Texas would have its own chart.


The highlight coming into the show for me was seeing Charles Esten on the bill. He was born in Pittsburgh and played the character Deacon on the TV show Nashville, a show I watched for nearly its entire run until right after they killed off Connie Britton. Oh spoiler. Sorry. I watched the series finale after skipping the last season, and the bad guy who harassed (and probably sexually harassed) multiple women was going to be forced to sell his music company for millions of dollars. Sure, he should have got fired and maybe gone to jail, but I guess there was justice in that he was no longer involved in the music industry and had to use his money to buy multiple homes and travel the world. Oh spoiler again. Sorry. Actually, I'm not sorry. This isn't The Sixth Sense! You're not going to go back and watch Nashville. And if you do, you're definitely not getting to the last season!


Anyway, this was Esten's 145th appearance at the Opry. That seems like a lot. His songs were perfectly fine, and I definitely appreciate his dedication to being a musician and actor. I write this because I think he was given some really good songs on Nashville and the ones he performed just didn't reach that level. Still really cool to see him and hear more about his story and life.


The other performers were country music hall of famer Connie Smith who is releasing her 54th album. 54?!?! I don't think I've listened to 54 different albums in the 21st century! Comedian John Crist was funny, which is what you'd expect from a comedian. I didn't know John Conlee and Daily & Vincent before the show and had to look them up again while writing this blog post since I forgot their names. Bobby Osborne and the Rocky Top X-Press started the second act, and the X-Press clearly carried the soon to be 90 year-old Osborne. I just learned that his brother and bluegrass great Sonny Osborne passed away only a few weeks ago, so it must have been difficult for him to perform. Oh, if you're a college football fan you might know the Osborne Brothers' "Rocky Top" played regularly at University of Tennessee football games.


I was probably one of about 25 people in attendance wearing a mask. I'm not making a judgement here. For me, I'm just not comfortable yet being inside a crowded venue without a mask and especially when that place has hundreds of people in one big room (or in one smaller gift shop). 

So that's my Opry experience. While this wasn't a bucket list item for me, I'm definitely glad to say that I went. I can also say that I saw the 5001st Saturday night broadcast. I'll just ignore the fact that the 5000th broadcast the week before featured Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood, Darius Rucker, and Vince Gill. One of them couldn't have stopped back for the 5001st?

Friday, November 05, 2021

Ice Cream Scandal

A few years ago, the PTA at my kids' elementary school needed someone to be the Grocery Rewards Coordinator. I thought I was the perfect person since I shop at grocery stores. It's an easy job in that all I have to do is connect with local grocery stores for their programs and then encourage parents to link their shopping card. Apparently, I've done pretty well since I was asked this year to be the Box Tops for Education Coordinator and the Dining for Dollars Chair. The latter actually takes some real time and work. I contact restaurants (or they contact us), and we pick a day where a portion of the proceeds of sales go back to the school. 

We had our first event (that was already arranged before I started) at a local Chick-fil-a. They give 20% of their proceeds when you mention our school, and we earned $300. Not bad. A few weeks later, I got an email from the PTA President who copied me on a message from someone else who booked a Dining for Dollars event on her own. Um, I thought I was the Dining for Dollars Chair. RESPECT MY AUTHORITY!


Anyway, this person booked an event at an ice cream place for a Tuesday in late-October. This seems like a great idea earlier or later in the year when the weather is better. As it turns out, it was about 50 degrees and very windy. Not quite ideal for eating ice cream outside. The main issue for me, though, is that this place only gives 10% of sales to the school. That's lower than every other restaurant that does this. 

So this person convinced some teachers to be "guest scoopers." If you dressed in costume, an additional 10% went to the school. When I brought my kids, there were about 10 people from the school and no one was in costume. Fast-forward to a few days ago when I'm working with some people for the next event. I asked how we did with the ice cream night, I learned that we made $870. $870!?!?!  So that means that the ice cream place did a minimum of $4,350 in sales. To paraphrase my kids, I'm sus. Or maybe, that's sus. I'm probably not using this phrase correctly. Basically, this is very suspicious or suspect. I spent about $13 on ice cream for my kids. I'm sure other people spent more, so let's say that the average person spent $20. That would mean that 217.5 people/families purchased ice cream on a cold and windy Tuesday night. Again, I'm sus.

Tuesday, November 02, 2021

Random Ramblings: Elections & More Edition

Today is election day in Virginia, and I think that I speak for Virginians and those in the DC area in that we’re looking forward to not seeing anymore political advertisements. I understand that there have probably been multiple studies about the effectiveness of ads on TV and at the beginning of YouTube videos, but how many millions of dollars are spent on these ads? Let’s say that there were 1,000 commercials that aired yesterday throughout Virginia (and between the various markets and numerous network and cable stations, this is probably a very low number). Half of this would certainly be sufficient. At this point, I feel like nearly everyone knows who they are voting for today. This money could be better spent on education, infrastructure, healthcare, and so much more. There are definitely political and media groups getting rich from elections.

On a related election topic, I pass several yard signs for Bob Frizzelle who is running for the Virginia House of Delegates. Every time I see them, I wonder how he's related to the teacher with her magic school bus.


After working at the same place for over 16 years, I finally got a parking spot in the building. For the first 15 years, I took the bus and Metro to work. I worked from home for the last year and a half. Now, I'm working from the office a few days a week, but I'm not really comfortable being on potentially crowded Metro trains twice a day. With a recent train derailment and Metro taking many of its cars out of service, I feel like I made the right call for now since waiting 30 minutes between trains doesn't quite work with my schedule. 

Last Friday, The Moose's 5th grade class had a costume day where they could dress like a book character. Since he was going to wear his baseball uniform for Halloween, The Moose found a book about Sandy Koufax. Instead of wearing his team's hat and jersey, we got him a Koufax T-shirt and LA Dodgers hat. You may have your opinion about the team, but the Dodger blue color is fantastic!


Finally, I met someone last weekend named Arlo Guthrie. While he was not THAT Arlo Guthrie, I'm so proud of myself for not asking about his music career or making any reference to his name and the musician. 

Friday, October 29, 2021

Friday Video: Good for Misery Business

One of my favorite songs of 2021 (which I wrote about in June) is "good 4 u" by Olivia Rodrigo. I recently learned that there are a lot of similarities between this song and "Misery Business" by Paramore, so much so that Paramore is getting writing credits for Olivia Rodrigo's song.


They really do sound alike. A nice and very detailed breakdown of the two songs is available here:


To me, yes, they are similar, but they are both great songs that I will continue to enjoy.

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

New Fall Network Television Shows

There are so many television shows on so many networks and streaming services that it’s impossible to watch everything that you want to see. I decided to try something different to start the fall television season and give several new shows on network television a chance. Here are my thoughts on three shows:

La Brea

The premise of this show is that a massive sinkhole opens up in Los Angeles, and the people that fall in wind up in LA millions of years ago. These survivors have little food and must deal with different types of animals like saber-tooth tigers and prehistoric wolves. Meanwhile, the father/ex-husband of two of the people in the sinkhole has visions, and he can see what’s happening to his family in real time even though it’s actually millions of years ago. Kind of creepy that he's basically stalking them. Oh, and of course there’s some type of government conspiracy going on in that they know that there have been multiple sinkholes. 

Basically, this show really, really wants to be Lost but with a much less appealing cast and not nearly as good writing. Even though Josh wrote that the second episode was terrible (and the plot point of finding a necklace in the same place millions of years later is ridiculous), I'm sticking with it. I'm curious as to where this show goes. 

Queens

I only watched the first episode, and they certainly packed a lot into the pilot. Queens is about a late 90s music group that broke up and are now reuniting 20 years later. The foursome all seem to be having major challenges in their lives and didn't leave the group on the best terms. I guess the season will show why they broke up and how the individuals are dealing with their personal life challenges. They are also going on tour with someone who seems to be like Cardi B. 

I didn't realize how much I missed Eve in my life. While the show seems to be a drama rather than a comedy, Eve had two funny scenes in the pilot where she breaks up a fight as a parent (by threatening to take away screen time which I appreciated) and being recognized by teens at a grocery store parking lot. Much of the show looks like it will be fairly predictable, but maybe I'm wrong. I'll keep on watching.

Ordinary Joe

What if someone made a "Choose Your Own Adventure" show? Well, this. Immediately following his college graduation, Joe has to decide whether to go away with his friend with benefits, go somewhere with this new girl he just met, or go to lunch with his family. Apparently, this decision leads to three completely separate ways how his life turns out. Joe is played by James Wolk, who I like a lot. Wolk got his big break in a TV movie playing Brad Cohen, a teacher with Tourette syndrome and someone I met while in high school. He then starred in the extremely short-lived FOX series Lone Star that deserved much more than 5 episodes. Among his other credits, Wolk had supporting roles in The Crazy Ones with Robin Williams, Mad Men, and Watchmen. He's just a likable actor that makes a show better.
Anyway, it's confusing at times to remember what storyline Joe is in at any particular moment. There are also times where you want there to be more choose your own adventure scenarios since those seem more pivotal than where he's going to lunch after graduation. 

This is going to sound like a back-handed compliment, but I need shows in my life that I can watch while folding laundry or sending emails. Shows where it will be okay if I miss a line here or there. For now, all three of these shows fit perfectly. I find them entertaining and want to stick with them, but they don't require my full attention yet. Maybe at least one of them does in the future.

Friday, October 22, 2021

Make A Run For The Border

Politics are exhausting. I live in Northern Virginia where every other ad is for the November 2nd Gubernatorial election between Glenn Youngkin and Terry McAuliffe. Meanwhile, all of the other ads are for various sports betting websites and apps. Anyway, this post isn't about any elections or the debt ceiling or any other Congressional legislation. It's about sore losers. Specifically, those politicians who think all of their problems will go away if they change states.

You may remember in early 2020 when Jerry Falwell Jr. wanted parts of Virginia to secede and become part of West Virginia. By the way, it's so nice that we don't hear from Falwell Jr. anymore. He really is/was the worst. Now, it's Maryland's turn

A handful of Republican lawmakers from western Maryland are plotting a run for the border, and want to drag their counties along with them.

I'd like to congratulate Pamela Wood and Bryn Stole of The Baltimore Sun for not including a Taco Bell reference in this or the next sentence. I definitely would have!


The secessionist cadre -  a group of five state legislators from Garrett, Allegany and Washington counties - sent a pair of letters to top West Virginia officials asking whether they might annex their westernmost piece of the panhandle and make Mountain Maryland a permanent part of the Mountain State.

The article continues by stating that this isn't going to happen, and that the legislators want attention and resources for their side of the state. I mean sure Garrett and Allegany counties have populations of 28,806 and 68,106 respectively, so why shouldn't they have equal representation and funding than Baltimore? (Washington County is bigger with over 147,000 people, but it's a strange county geographically. You have the area that borders Virginia and West Virginia at Harpers Ferry plus Hagerstown, and then it goes all the way up to the Pennsylvania border. I'm now completely fascinated with Washington County and want to learn more about its history. There can't be many counties that border three separate states. I'm getting way off track.)


So my guess is that these legislators feel like they're more simpatico with the politics of West Virginia. We'll ignore the fact that Maryland has had a Republican governor since 2015, but maybe Larry Hogan isn't conservative enough for them. While I'm not trying to denigrate West Virginia which is absolutely beautiful and I'll always have a soft spot for Morgantown, according US News & World Report, West Virginia ranks #47 in health care, #45 in education, #48 in economy, and #50 in infrastructure. (Maryland is #6, #14, #35, and #38 in these categories.) Try telling your constituents that we don't agree with Annapolis, so we're going somewhere with worse health care, infrastructure, education, and economy. Oh, but gun laws are better in West Virginia. That's quite a selling point!

Look, if you're elected to serve your constituents, serve your constituents. Yes, you're the minority in the state legislature, so you might need to negotiate and compromise with the majority to get things done. Actually, shouldn't your own county commissions and boards be doing more here? By the way, if these politicians feel like their communities are being neglected by Maryland, why would West Virginia share their resources with you? Unless of course they are getting some really sweet discounts at the Hagerstown outlets!

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

We Have The Best Neighbors

We got "boo-ed!" Or maybe booed? Anyway, we came home recently to see this:




Several neighbors decorated our home and even left three pumpkins for the kids to carve and decorate. So cool!

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Found In My Brother's Basement: Gretchen Carlson

My brother moved recently and found several autographs addressed to both of us. This is an autographed picture from Gretchen Carlson, Miss America 1989.


I have no idea where this is from. I don't remember meeting her. My dad worked at the Monroeville Mall in Pittsburgh, so it's possible that she was there for an event, and he got this autograph from her. No clue. 

Most people can't name more than a few Miss America winners, so I think it's pretty neat that the autograph is by someone people know. This is now the second time I wrote about a famous Miss America winner. The posts are only 16 years apart!

Thursday, October 07, 2021

TMI Thursday: My Criminal Record

I'm going to share something that only a few people know. It's something that I never discuss and thought went away completely. I was reminded a few weeks ago about this though when I got a letter in the mail. Even though I never saw the movie, I'm pretty sure that this entire scenario is exactly what happened in I Know What You Did Last Summer.


Let's go back to 2000. I was a graduate student in Columbus, Ohio going to a conference in Indianapolis, Indiana. The 2.5 to 3-hour drive was a straight shot on I-70 from my apartment to the hotel. I was probably running late and wanted to make sure I got to the conference in time. I'm going on a major tangent here because that's what I do. The first session I attended was about gambling on college campuses. Basically, there were plenty of research, resources, and programs regarding drinking and specifically binge drinking. Meanwhile, there was little study of gambling among college students. Actually, one of my professors talked with me about doing some research about this, but I was non-committal (and I'm not sure if he was serious about doing it himself), and he never brought it up again. With the proliferation of legal sports betting in many states, I hope that there is more research and educational programs now about gambling and potential addiction for college students. 

Back to the mysterious letter which started like this:

Dear Sean (there was no colon or comma after Sean. Who does this?!?!)

An inquiry was made in connection with an employment background investigation being processed by our office. The file we found, based on the identification they provided, contains public record information. A public record file may contain criminal, real estate or driving information, and is maintained by public agencies.

That text was all in bold. The pages following revealed my dark past. The case was filed on March 28, 2000 in the municipal court of Madison County, Ohio. No word about whether this place has bridges.


The charge degree: Minor Misdemeanor
The charge description: 80/65 speed

Charge disposition: Guilty (Long description: Case was waived by defendant.)
Charge plea description: Guilty

While I don't remember waiving a case, it's true. I got pulled over and received a ticket. I was guilty of speeding in Madison County, Ohio. I believe that the fine was around $70 which was a huge amount of money back then for student with a limited income.

Now the bigger mystery. Who made the inquiry? My current employer where I've been for many years? Was this done because I needed a background check to be a soccer coach for my 7 year old? I tried calling the company listed on the letter twice, but I haven't received a reply. For some reason, I think Jennifer Love Hewitt is behind this!

Please click here to see more TMI Thursday posts. Turns out this is my first one of these in many years!

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

My Life in Pictures: September 2021 Edition

Fall is here, and I wanted to share a few pictures of what's happened in my life over the last few months. I'm always home with my kids the week before school starts. It's my annual Dad Camp week. With the kids still too young to get vaccinated and wanting to avoid big crowds or tight indoor spaces, this year was a little more challenging. Still, we found fun things to do. We went to the Lincoln Memorial and walked on the National Mall.


We also visited one of my favorite spots in Northern Virginia, Meadowlark Botanical Gardens. I've only gone a few times, but I need to make this a regular destination. It's so peaceful and calming (even with my kids!) with so much to see and acres to walk around. 



A neighbor has one child who just started college and another in high school. They were cleaning their garage, and since they see us outside playing regularly, offered to give us much of their sports equipment. They gave us a sled, a baseball glove, and numerous soccer balls. I still haven't even gone through the entire box yet. While we'll probably end up donating some of it, I'm fascinated by this baseball they gave us. Thanks to asking on Twitter, I found out that this was signed by former Doosan Bears and Lotte Giants catcher/DH Hong Sung-heon. (홍성흔)



I'm always on the go these days, but every once in a while, right before sunset, I walk on my golf course. Nearly every time, I see deer and/or foxes.


I went to Wegmans last month when it was probably around 90 degrees. I planned on buying ice cream or some type of dessert when I came across this item. 


I didn't know that there was an option of buying an 18-pack of Klondike bars, but it was on sale!

Luigi (now 4) took a picture of me looking very focused. 


When I worked in an office full-time, I shaved every day. Working from home part of the time, I find that I shave only every few days now. I definitely prefer this option.

Finally, this couldn't be a life in pictures post without Ziggy!

Friday, September 17, 2021

Friday Video: Lords of the Underground

There was a recent trend on Twitter where many people shared the first song that came to mind from their first year of college. For me, I could pick a song by Rusted Root, Dave Matthews Band, Stone Temple Pilots, or even Ace of Base. Instead, I'm going with "Chief Rocka" by Lords of the Underground. My roommate must have had this tape and played it regularly. I write tape (even though it could have been a CD) because I clearly remember our other roommate buying a Discman when he got bored at an airport. This was not an inexpensive purchase and one that I definitely could not afford at that time. 

This video is NSFW because of one word, but that word is in a line that I still use to pump myself up sometimes even now.