Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Change Must Happen

As I’m sure you’re aware, there was another mass shooting on Tuesday. This time it was at a Texas elementary school. Yes, thoughts and prayers are needed for the families and friends of the victims and the entire Uvalde community. I can't imagine what the parents of kids that were killed at school are going through. But thoughts and prayers aren’t enough. We’ve decided as a country (or at least our country’s leadership has decided) that gun violence and mass shootings are acceptable. Just look at your own life. Unless you live in Uvalde, you're probably reading this post from home or work like a normal day. No sporting events or concerts or trivia nights were cancelled last night because of a national tragedy. We just acknowledge that there is another mass shooting and watch the NBA or NHL playoffs or the series finale of This Is Us

There was a shooting in my high school when I was a senior. This was 30 years ago this fall well before Columbine, Sandy Hook, and Parkland. This was a big story in Pittsburgh for a few days, but no one died and only one person was wounded (and returned to school several days later), so I don’t believe it was reported elsewhere and was out of the news rather quickly. Metal detectors were installed pretty quickly but was a logistical nightmare for starting the day on time. There were other problems too, but that's not the point of this post. 

Whenever there is another school shooting, I wonder what would have happened if the shooting at Woodland Hills High School was worse. How would my life have been different? Would there have been any type of changes to national policy? At least for the second question, based on the last 30 years, the answer seems to be no. We have mass shootings at schools, nightclubs, concerts, colleges, places of worship, grocery stores, and workplaces. Basically, everywhere. They happen in red states and blue states and purple states. There were even mass shootings at a Congressional softball practice and at a meet-and-greet event for a member of Congress and nothing changes. Hell, I wrote a similar post after the Tree of Life shootings a few years ago.

So what are the solutions? I'm not a policy-maker and have no idea what could work. Background checks and firearm registration seem like a start. But how about we fucking try SOMETHING. Anything that can help stop gun violence. I know that some people will say that if criminals want to get guns, they will get guns. So does that mean that we don't try to make it more difficult to get guns? If people are going to ignore any law, why even have them, right? How about we try doing something and see how it works?

What other suggestions are out there? Arm teachers? Some of the same people who are scared about critical race theory being taught in schools and established anonymous tip lines to report teachers now want these same teachers to have guns? Seems like a bad idea. I'd be worried about kids getting access to guns not properly stored. Besides, I'd guess that the vast majority of teachers aren't comfortable with weapons in the classroom. Just let them teach. You want more security in schools, fine. Find a way. However, if murderers like the ones in Buffalo and Uvalde have body armor, I'm not sure how that will help. Actually, maybe make body armor illegal. There's nothing in the second amendment about that.  

I guess the bottom line is this: How can we say we live in the best country in the world when kids can get killed at schools? We can't. And things have to change. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

New Trivia Tuesday

I don't think I've done a Trivia Tuesday in years, but today is a special day. It's time for the return of Trivia Tuesday (at least for one week)! Your challenge is to name that band based on the "and the" name. For example, if I wrote The Pips, you would hopefully know the answer is Gladys Knight. If I wrote The E Street Band, you would answer Bruce Springsteen. I think you understand. 

1. The Machine

2. The News

3. The Tantrums

4. The Scene

5. The Night Sweats

6. The Furious Five

7. The Dominos

8. The Funky Bunch

9. The Vandellas

10. The Waves

11. The Range

Please leave your answers in the comments below and don't use the internet to cheat. Phoning/texting a friend is accepted. Good luck!

Friday, May 20, 2022

Life Updates

This is basically a Random Ramblings post, but I wanted to call it something different.

Wednesday was the 25th anniversary of my college graduation. Even though there have been notices about a 25-year college reunion and I know that 2022 is 25 years after 1997, this still came as a bit of a shock and surprise to me.

I might be a little addicted to online games. My 65-day streak on Wordle ended earlier this week when I couldn't solve DELVE. My favorite game might be Quordle where you have 9 guesses to solve 4 puzzles. I just reached a top streak of 24. Worldle, where you try to identify a country, is really difficult. My winning percentage is just over 50%. Finally, Heardle, in which you have 6 guesses to name a song in about 15 seconds, was made just for me. I'm at 83%, though I think that it counts as incorrect if I don't play on a given day.

If the Penguins held on to win against the Rangers on Sunday night and went on to make a deep run in the playoffs, this Jake Guentzel goal would be remembered as one of the best in team history. Oh well.

I'm friends on Facebook with someone I was friends with in junior high and high school. While he has always been a Republican to my knowledge, he seems to have turned into a big Qanon and conspiracy theory guy. After the recent hateful and racist mass shooting at a Tops grocery store in Buffalo, he wrote a post with pictures of over 250 people accused of conducting mass shootings in 2021. Many of the people pictured are not white. His point seemed to be that the media doesn't cover all mass shootings equally and that money and political power drives the narrative. At least that's what I think his point was. I replied that maybe he should be more concerned with the unreal number of mass shootings instead of the media coverage and asked if he thought guns could be a problem. He has not replied.

My life is all about kids baseball these days. The Moose and Pedro Tulo have games or practices three days a week often at the same time and in different places. It's a lot of running around. 

Thursday, May 12, 2022

TMI Thursday: Karma

I shared a story over a decade ago about how I moved into a new home, immediately clogged the toilet, and had to go out and buy a plunger. That plunger had an amazingly long run of over 17 years but needed to be replaced. We now are proud owners of a brand new Korky Beehive Max Toilet Plunger. This thing is nice and easier to use...especially for a certain 11 year-old who seems to need a plunger at least once a week. 

We spend way too much time worrying about #2s in my house. Between the oldest masculine child clogging toilets, the middle masculine child having some stomach issues recently, and the youngest masculine child still not mastering the entire process, this is clearly karma from years of my own toilet adventures

This is a short blog post, but I felt the need to share this!

Monday, May 09, 2022

The End of Celebrate Fairfax

The Celebrate Fairfax! Festival is not happening in June, and it doesn't seem like it's coming back. The Celebrate Fairfax, Inc. (CFI) organization posted this message on Facebook last month:

Similar to many other organizations we are embracing change as we evolve. Along those lines, we will not be hosting the traditional Celebrate Fairfax! Festival at the Government Center. Instead, we will be focusing more broadly on Fairfax County as a whole, by bringing a part of the festival into each of the County districts. This approach allows us to focus more intently on our mission and our ability to truly celebrate the 1.2 million citizens of Fairfax County!

With the CFI organization pivoting to other events, I think it's safe to assume that the formerly annual festival is over. 2019 marked the 38th year of the festival and my 18th year being involved with the event. The festival didn't take place in 2020 and 2021 due to COVID, and it's difficult to see how the festival can resume after a 4-year layoff. It would basically be starting over since many attendees, sponsors, and volunteers have moved on. More importantly, Fairfax County transferred a portion of the Government Center parking lot to the Fairfax County Redevelopment and Housing Authority to potentially develop affordable housing. I'm not going to criticize the county for this decision. The Government Center campus has a lot of unused space for 11+ months of the year. Plus, affordable housing is certainly challenging in Northern Virginia. Although there hasn't been any development on the site yet, and I can't seem to find any information about the status of the project, the housing will take up a significant portion of the festival site. 

So what is CFI doing instead of the festival? The organization created "shop local" market events with exhibitors in the Tysons areas and is planning on hosting an event for dogs (and their people). All of these events and a few others on the schedule are on a much smaller scale than the Celebrate Fairfax! festival or even the Fall for Fairfax children's festival. I understand that the organization is doing what it has to do to survive, but I'm going to miss the festival. I really enjoyed seeing the same volunteers, staff, and vendors each year. I looked forward to taking my kids to the event and watching them experience different parts of the festival as they got older. Plus, it was the only place where you could see national musical acts along with entertaining up-and-coming acts for under $15. This is a huge loss to the Northern Virginia community. There just aren't any other events on this scale in the area.

I wrote dozens of posts about Celebrate Fairfax over the years, and if you have nothing to do for the next 1-30 minutes or so, please check them out here. Some "highlights" from reading these posts are remembering when Flavor Flav provided commentary to fireworks, taking Pedro Tulo to the first-aid tent and subsequently in an ambulance ride to the emergency room for a burned hand, and saying hi to Pat Benatar's husband, Neil Giraldo, in a restroom.

Wednesday, May 04, 2022

2022 Steelers Draft Recap: The Missed Picks

The 2022 National Football League draft took place last week, and the Steelers used their first two selections on QB Kenny Pickett from the University of Pittsburgh and WR George Pickens from the University of Georgia. With no disrespect to the remaining draft picks of Demarvin Leal, Calvin Austin III, Connor Heyward, Mark Robinson, and Chris Oladokun, the Steelers missed an opportunity for a truly historic draft. Here are just some of the people the Steelers could have "picked" instead.

Wilson Pickett - Rock and Roll Hall of Famer best known for his songs Land of 1,000 Dances, Mustang Sally, and In the Midnight Hour. No one will get the Steelers energized like Wilson Pickett! Seriously, go to 1:50 of this video and try not to nod your head or tap your feet. It's impossible.

By the way, Pickett's WikiPedia page might feature the best thing I've seen in a long time. Are there a lot of people who confuse Wilson Pickett and Wilson Phillips? I'll "Hold On" while you get back to me.

T. Boone Pickens - Billionaire oil magnate and hedge fund manager. While I'm sure the Rooney family is doing just fine financially, this selection would infuse some money into the organization. 

Jean-Luc Picard - Captain of the USS Enterprise. There was no better leader available in the 2022 draft!

Kellie Pickler - She's more than an American Idol contestant. Sure, she can sing, but Pickler can also write, act, host, and dance as evidenced by her Dancing With the Stars win. She's a 5-tool player!

Tobias Picker - Grammy-award winning composer and current Artistic Director of the Tulsa Opera. He's versatile and looks to have a long career!  

Andrew Pickens - American Revolution militia leader and member of the US House of Representative. If you want a fighter and someone in the trenches, Pickens is your guy. Unfortunately, he's undraftable because he was a slave owner 

Joe Picker - He's an Australian rugby player. Those guys are tough. He would have fit right into the Steelers culture and locker room.

Tommy Pickles - Rugrats character. He's very young (and a cartoon), but Tommy has a good motor and a high upside.

Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz - While the guys from "American Pickers" aren't ready to play in the NFL, they'll be huge additions to the scouting team. They will be such an asset to film study and finding things others might miss.

Ben Johns - He's the #1 pickleball player in the world and just won the US Open Pickleball championship. Proven winner!

Overall, the Steelers draft seems fine and could become great, but there were definitely some missed opportunities here.

T. Boone Pickens photo by Sue Ogrocki/AP. Joe Picker photo by Anthony Johnson in the "Sydney Morning Herald."

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Sheffield Wednesday's Keys To Victory Over Fleetwood Town

When I previewed Sheffield Wednesday's schedule last June, I had some fun with the teams in League One. This is the third division of English soccer/football, so while die-hard fans may know of teams like Wigan and Sunderland from their time in the Premier League, casual fans outside the UK probably never heard of Gillingham, Accrington Stanley, or other clubs. I mention this because the regular season ends on Saturday. The top two teams gain automatic promotion to the EFL Championship Division while teams 3-6 enter a 4-team playoff with the winner joining the top two. This is the current table/standings:

Sheffield Wednesday is just outside of the playoffs though the team has two matches to play compared to just one for Plymouth Argyle and Wycombe who both sit one point ahead in the standings. That makes Tuesday's match against Fleetwood Town crucial. Here are my keys for Sheffield Wednesday:

1. The Landslide Will Bring Fleetwood Down

Score multiple goals early. I'm looking at you Lee Gregory and Saido Berahino. Fleetwood won't be able to come back from being down 2 or 3 goals in the first half.

2. You Would Never Break The Chain

In this case, the chain is the goal. Wednesday's defense and goalie Bailey Peacock-Farrell can't and won't allow any Fleetwood goals.

3. It's Only Right That You Should Play The Way You Feel

Feel good. Play good!

(How does this reporter not know that Mick Fleetwood is the band's drummer? Do 10 seconds of research!)

4. Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow

After hopefully getting a win against Fleetwood, start thinking and preparing for Portsmouth. Two wins in these last two games guarantees a spot in the playoffs.

5. You Can Go Your Own Way

All I think about when I see this line is Pedro Tulo playing soccer last year with other 1st and 2nd graders. Despite trying to teach positioning, they just bunched up together. So, um, Sheffield Wednesday needs to play with good positional awareness.

6. Tusk

This is of no help.


Friday, April 22, 2022

We Need New State Birds

One of Luigi’s favorite “books” right now is the Beginner’s United States Atlas from National Geographic Kids. He’s four. The book goes through each state with a map, pictures of places, events, and/or wildlife, and fun facts. While I can look at maps for hours, Luigi loves seeing the names and pictures of each state bird. After going through the book several dozen times, I’ve come to the conclusion that our nation’s states have done a terrible job in identifying and naming state birds. While some states like Minnesota (common loon), Alaska (willow ptarmigan), Oklahoma (scissor-tailed flycatcher), South Dakota (ring necked pheasant), and New Mexico (roadrunner) deserve credit for originality, many other states missed the assignment here. 

The cardinal is the state bird for 7 states. 6 states have the western meadowlark for their bird. (I'm counting Wyoming in this group with the non-directional meadowlark.) Then there are 5 with mockingbirds and 3 robins. When you throw in the chickadee, bluebird, and a few other duplicates, this means that more than half the states share their state bird with another state. 

It's time to make some changes. Sorry Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia. Kentucky was the first to have the cardinal as its state bird, so you need to choose a new bird. Actually, Indiana should celebrate this by naming "Larry" as its state bird! 

Florida gets to keep mockingbird, though maybe the Sunshine State should consider the ibis or manatee instead. I know that you're thinking that a manatee isn't a bird, but the Florida legislature is doing some wild things right now. You're also thinking that this might be a waste of time. Who cares about state birds? I don't have a good reply to this other than originality and civic pride and engagement. I'm sure that states can find birdwatchers in each state or contact the National Audubon Society for suggestions. From there, have some fun. Open it up to a vote from everyday citizens! Of course, I have a feeling that we'll have 38 states with the new state bird of Birdy McBirdface. 

Monday, April 18, 2022

Referee Stories

I became a certified soccer referee in 1990. It was a fantastic way to make money in high school since I worked a lot of games on weekends, but it didn't interrupt school activities or homework during the week. I continued to work games in college during breaks, but I stopped after college and for most of my 20s. While I don't remember if it was because I was looking for something to do, seeking some extra income, needing to get more exercise, or some combination of all of these, I started working as a referee again around when I turned 30. I still continue to work games when I can, but it's significantly less now than at any other time over the last 30 years. It's just too hard with all of the kids' activities and just spending time with them on the weekends. 

I mention all this because during all of my kids' soccer, basketball, and baseball games, I make sure to thank the officials and never criticize any call. I also tell my kids not to argue with the referees or umpires. I'm at the point where I get upset when coaches, parents, and players yell at the officials (see what happened in February). If a coach disagrees with a call in a calm manner, that's fine. However, these are youth sports, so I expect coaches to set good examples and parents to do the same.

I mention all this because as a soccer ref, I've certainly noticed worse behavior from everyone involved compared to when I worked games when I was younger. I've never felt physically threatened, but I don't like this trend. Over just the last two weeks, a baseball umpire was attacked in Texas, a basketball referee was attacked in Georgia, and a softball umpire was attacked in Mississippi. What is wrong with these people?

It's people like those in the articles which make it unappealing for more people to become officials or continue officiating. 

I'll give one positive though. I worked as a soccer referee for an under-16 boys game a few weeks ago. This was the first season for one of the assistant referees. He's 71! He played soccer for decades, and now that he's retired, he decided to become a certified ref. While I talked to him at halftime and after the game about positioning (where to stand on a corner kick and penalty kick) and some mechanics (keeping the flag raised on an offsides call) like I would do with other first-year refs, he did a nice job and was excited to be there. So maybe there is some hope.

Friday, April 15, 2022

A Debbie Gibson AARP Concert

Debbie Gibson was one of my first celebrity crushes, and I wrote all about her in a TMI Thursday post several years ago. I follow her on Facebook and Twitter too. It was from this that I learned about her upcoming virtual concert...for AARP. Apparently, I'm now in AARP's target demographic. I don't think a new version of "Electric Youth" titled "Electric Middle Age" will work as well. Bottom line: I'm old!

And yes, I registered for the concert. I haven't seen a Debbie Gibson concert in 35 years, so why not?

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

You Make the Call: Birthday Party Edition

Let's say that you organize a small birthday party for your child since he hasn't had one since 2019. You invite several kids from the class and send an Evite to the parents about 3 weeks before the event. Through Evite, you can see not only who responds but also who has viewed the invitation. After several days, you email the parents who have not viewed the invitation to let them know about the party. You get no response from one of the parents. Then, about 36 hours before the party, the parent responds with a simple yes on the Evite that the child will attend.

I need a ruling here. Is this cool or not cool? Does the fact that there was no specific RSVP date on the Evite impact your decision? You make the call!

Thursday, April 07, 2022

Random Ramblings

I have a lot of things on my mind, so it's time for a brand new random ramblings. 

* At Sunday's Grammys, the Philadelphia Orchestra won the Best Orchestral Performance award defeating the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh & Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra among others. Mark your calendars for Sunday, April 24th when the Pittsburgh Penguins travel to Philadelphia to take on the Flyers. This is clearly a revenge game and bigger than hockey! If things aren't settled on the ice, look out for July 28-31 when the Pirates host the Phillies. I expect the entire city of Pittsburgh to rally around and support the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra against their foe across the state!

* My fantasy/rotisserie baseball league had its 32nd draft over the weekend. I wasn't in the league during the first year, but this is my 31st year in the league. It's amazing how much this league and the other people in the league have been a part of my life. And yes, I wrote about my two championships here and here and hope to write about another one in October.
* We're looking to go to Canada this summer, so I needed to renew my passport, and we had to get passports for the kids. Passports are really expensive! It's like the US government doesn't want you to leave! Since the kids' passports expire in 5 years, we are definitely going to go somewhere else internationally before then. I don't care where or when, but we need to get use out of these passports. Just for fun, here's a passport photo of me, probably around the time of when I started in the baseball league. What a shirt!

* Luigi had kindergarten orientation recently, and I have mixed reactions to this. While I can't believe that he's going to start kindergarten this fall, I am really looking forward to not paying for preschool anymore. The next day, I took The Moose and Pedro Tulo to the elementary school where they spent the day with the before and after-school staff during a teacher workday. Luigi was with me since I dropped off his brothers before taking him to preschool. He thought he was going to stay and continued to ask me where Pedro Tulo's former kindergarten teacher, who he met the day before, was. Unfortunately, he wasn't close to saying her name correctly, and I had no idea what he was talking about. A bit of a meltdown occurred as I got him back into the car and during the drive to preschool. He absolutely loves his preschool, but he's ready to go to school. And of course, he was completely fine when I dropped him off.

* If you couldn't get "Fancy Like" or the Cheers theme songs out of your head after hearing Applebee's commercials, I give you Robert Palmer's "Simply Irresistible" or "Simply Irresist-A-Bowls" 

Have a nice Opening Day!

Friday, April 01, 2022

Friday Video: Numb Little Bug

Today's video is "Numb Little Bug" by Em Beihold. I get a strong Sara Bareillis vibe here. I like it.

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Good Job, FCPS

I'm Jewish. This isn't exactly breaking news since I've been Jewish my entire life and have written about various aspects of Judaism several (or many) times on this blog. Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, and Yom Kippur, the day of atonement, are kind of a big deal.  Except for the few years in elementary school when I attended a Jewish school, I would miss school on these holidays. I know some of my non-Jewish friends were jealous that I had excused absences, but it wasn't like I was going to the movies or Kennywood. I was at synagogue and maybe we would have lunch with family or family friends after services on Rosh Hashanah. Even though most (but not all) teachers were understanding about the reason for taking off school, I always felt behind after missing classes. This was especially the case in high school, college, and graduate school. Although I had the "day off," the homework and assignments didn't go away.

After finishing graduate school, I worked a variety of jobs including the one where I'm at now. Every year, I have to take vacation days for these holidays. I always feel like I'm wasting my vacation time. Again, I'm not traveling anywhere or even having a staycation day. Just like when I was in school, my work doesn't go away on these days. The projects are still there when I return, and my inbox is filled with unread messages. There was even one year where an organization I worked organized an entire community-wide event on Rosh Hashanah. That was fun spending months helping to plan an event and then not being able to attend or participate.

I write all this because Fairfax County Public Schools announced a new calendar for 2022-2023 which includes days off for Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and other religious holidays such as the Hindu festival Diwali and the Muslim holiday Eid al-Fitr. I'm happy that my kids won't have to miss school for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur like I did. Well done, FCPS!

Now, for the 2023-2024 school year, can we talk about winter break? With some of these new days off for holidays, there doesn't need to be 2+ weeks off in December!