Wednesday, April 10, 2024

The Moose's Bar Mitzvah

The Moose recently turned 13 and celebrated his Bar MItzvah. This is a very big deal. A Bar Mitzvah (for a boy) or a Bat Mitzvah (for a girl) is a coming of age ceremony in Judaism. He went from being a boy to becoming a man. Let's celebrate with a little Motownphilly!

The Moose read from the Torah and led a significant portion of the Shabbat (Sabbath) services. He worked really hard learning prayers in Hebrew and taking weekly lessons over about a 10-11 month period. He did an amazing job.

While I could (and probably should) write more about the Bar Mitzvah and celebration, this post is about the program we created for the service. Actually, this is about the fake program that I created that was not distributed during the service. Here are a few excerpts:

The Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony takes place when a Jewish child reaches the age of 13. The word Bar Mitzvah means “son of a mitzvah.” Son of a mitzvah sounds much better than a different expression starting with “son of a.” Clearly, this is in reference to the Dusty Springfield song, Son of a Preacher Man. Are you thinking of something else? A mitzvah is an action which connects Jews both to the divine and to all other Jews past, present, and future. In practical terms, this means that this is the age when a Jewish child is considered old enough to assume the rights and responsibilities of Jewish adulthood. The Moose will now be expected to fulfill these moral and ethical commandments throughout his daily life. As an adult, he is also expected to start paying rent and make meals for his brothers. Cleaning the cat’s litter box would also be appreciated.

During the Torah service, the weekly reading is divided into sections, each called an aliyah. At least eight people, including The Moose, will be honored by being called up for an aliyah to the Torah. Before and after each section of the Torah is read, the individual called up for that aliyah recites a blessing or sings songs/reads lyrics of songs by the late singer/actress Aaliyah, most notably from “Try Again” or “Are You That Somebody.” Those with Pittsburgh ties may choose to sing “Ah, Leah” by Donnie Iris.

Two books are used during the service – Lev Shalem, the smaller red prayerbook, and Etz Hayim, the larger red volume, which contains the Torah, selections from the Prophets, and commentary. There used to be a third book, The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, but the rabbis determined that scarlet was not the correct shade of red. The rabbis do approve of the scarlet and gray. O-H!

I also had fun including various celebrities like Adam Sandler, Drake, Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis (A Black Swan reunion!), Benny Blanco, Gal Gadot, Rowdy Tellez, Deni Avdija, and others as receiving honors during the service. Dolly Parton and the late Kenny Rogers (via hologram) are listed as reading the poem "No Religion is an Island" since they like islands (in streams). 

Thursday, March 28, 2024

2024 Pittsburgh Pirates Predictions

I've learned long ago that what's important are the people that show up, not those who don't. So while I sent invitations to many people to participate in this 2024 Pittsburgh Pirates predictions post, I'm very excited by the group who responded. Let me introduce you to these amazing participants:

Brian McElhinny - Former operator of the fantastic blog, Raise The Jolly Roger. Still writes about the Pirates at @rtjr.

Amanda Godsey - Steelers and Pitt writer for The Tribune-Democrat. You can also follow her at Twitter at @amandafgodsey.

Josh - Even though I'm currently his chief rival, I really appreciate that Josh is always willing to participate in any of my silly blog post ideas. Josh writes the outstanding blog Josh's World.

Gary Morgan - One of the most prolific Pirates writers/podcasters around, most notably as the co-editor of Steel City Pirates.

Sean - It's me! I write Sean's Ramblings. Thanks for being here.

The Moose: My now 13 year-old son. I really hope he doesn't have a Twitter account!

Jim Rosati - One of people behind the Pirates' blog/podcast/site North Shore Nine.

1. Even though he's not on the opening day roster, there are high expectations for the overall #1 pick in last year's MLB draft, Paul Skenes. What do you expect from Skenes in 2024?

Brian: I expect him to come out strong in the minor leagues, but with short starts as they work to build him up for a professional season, which is much longer than college and will eventually have him pitching every 5 days rather than every 7. I think their care with his innings and workload is going to be his biggest limiting factor - not his ability or readiness from a talent or preparation standpoint. Once he is up, which I'd guess is the early summer, I expect him to be a good - maybe not great - major league starting pitcher right out of the gate, with enormous potential to get even better quickly and get to ace level. Again, the innings are going to be severely limited and that will frustrate people, but it's understandable. 

Amanda: I expect Skenes will be in Pittsburgh sometime this year, maybe in May or June if all goes well. I’m expecting big things from him; he has great stuff and should turn into the Pirates ace. That may not happen by the end of this season, but it’ll be exciting to see what he can do in the majors.

Josh:  I am going to be totally optimistic here and say he has 10-12 wins after finally being called up. Finishes top 3 in ROY.

Gary: I expect Paul to get on schedule, stretch out and be a regular contributor by mid season to the big club. Caveat is I think they'll limit his innings to 160 or so.

Sean: 11-5 with a 2.67 ERA, 0.99 WHIP and 202 strikeouts in 131.2 innings. He's going to have the exact same numbers as Spencer Strider in 2022 (and also finish 2nd in the rookie of the year).

The Moose: I think Skenes will have an amazing season. He will have a 3.25 ERA and a lot of strikeouts.

Jim: I think he will spend at least a month in the minors, but I think there is a very real chance he is up before mid-June. Like any rookie, he will probably go through some bumps, but the stuff is so good that even with those bumps, he should very much be an above average starting pitcher in his first taste of the big leagues. I'm going to guess he makes about 15 starts and has an ERA hovering around 4.00 and that we will see a whole lot of heat and positive signs for the future. 

2. After missing nearly all of 2023 with a fractured ankle, Oneil Cruz is back! What do you think his stat line (home runs, RBIs, stolen bases, anything else) will be for this year?

Brian: Man. I want to go high on all these, I absolutely love watching this dude and think the sky is the limit - there's just that Pirate fan part of the brain that tells you to pump the brakes and is always fearing the worst, which we basically experienced with his injury. I will go 35 HR, 25 SB, 90 RBI. 

The biggest thing I am watching is how often he can get on base (.300-ish career so far, want to see that up 20+ points) and how often he can avoid striking out (get below 1 per game). You know he will hit the ball hard.

Amanda: 30 HRs, 90-100 RBIs, 25 stolen bases.

Josh: 24 HR/66 RBIs/20 SBs/.252 AVG

Gary: He's got the capability to have a 40/40 type season. Offensively I think he'll produce, what I'm interested in is can he hang at SS?

Sean: Oneil is going to be a 25/25 hitter. I'm really hoping for at least a .333 on-base percentage.

The Moose: Cruz will have an amazing year. Cruz will hit 30 home runs, 98 RBIs, 35 stolen bases, and he will win comeback player of the year.

Jim: I am so happy he's back. Stat line, 28 homers, 85 RBI, 24 SB, and inconsistent but decent enough SS play. 

3. Who will lead the Pirates in home runs this season?

Brian: Cruz

Amanda: I’m expecting it to be Cruz, though Jack Suwinski also has a shot. If Suwinski can have shorter slumps this season compared to last, he should easily hit 30 homers.

Josh: Bryan Reynolds with 27

Gary: Cruz

Sean: Suwinski is going to hit 30+ home runs this season.

The Moose: I think there is going to be a tie. I think Jack Suwinski and Oneil Cruz will both hit 30 home runs.

Jim: Jack Suwinski

4. Skenes' girlfriend is social media star and LSU gymnast Livvy Dunne. When do you think Dunne will make her first visit to PNC Park for a Pirates game?

Brian: His first start at home - it will have a big time event feel. 

Amanda: I’m betting she’ll be there when he makes his MLB debut.

Josh: May 24th for Skenes debut against the Braves.

Gary: Don't care, didn't care, won't care.

Sean: I'm way too excited for the Livvy Dunne-Paul Skenes media coverage. It will be a step below Taylor-Travis but with more food (see the couple at Primantis or eating Smiley Cookies). Livvy will be at the May 21st Pirates game against San Francisco for Skenes major league debut.

The Moose: This is going to be a surprise to some people but I think that Livvy Dunne will come to the Pirates first home game of the season.

Jim: Livvy will be in attendance for Paul's first start at PNC Park. Let's call it May 24th vs Atlanta for Fireworks night. Let's show her what Zambelli's is all about.

5. Will former Milwaukee Brewer Rowdy Tellez be more successful on the Pirates than former Milwaukee Brewer Daniel Vogelbach?

Brian: He might stick around longer, but I have sort of a bad feeling about Tellez. Yes, there is some upside with the bat and there's a world where he regains past form and hits 30+ HRs, but there's also a world where he is the face of an underwhelming offseason. I am concerned about his defense at first as well and the impact that could have. 

Amanda: I’m hopeful he will. His stats from last year don’t look great, but Tellez had a couple injuries midseason last year that almost certainly affected his production and power at the plate. If he can stay healthy and hit around 20 homers, the signing will be a win for the Pirates. 

Josh: Tellez because I want to be optimistic.

Gary: If he's healthy he'll run into 20, so yeah probably. Plus he plays the field (albeit not well) it's more than just a DH does.

Sean: Yes! Vogelbach had a 0.6 WAR (wins above replacement) with the Pirates. Have to think Rowdy will do better (like 0.8) and maybe even get a stolen base.

The Moose: Rowdy tellez will be more successful because he was a big part of the Brewers last year to help the team make the playoffs. Rowdy Tellez was a ok hitter last year and he was better defensively then Vogelbach. Rowdy Tellez had a better batting average than Vogelbach.

Jim: No.

6. Will the Pirates be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline?

Brian: Soft buyers, or maybe neither. I think they'll be at least close to contention and there will be some pressure to make more of a push with more young talent arriving. Can't see a big splashy move though, just filling holes type stuff.

Amanda: I’m going to be optimistic and say they’ll be buyers.

Josh: Both. They will be borderline playoff contenders, trade away someone like Tellez, but also go out and bring in someone to fill a need. 

Gary: Hopefully both. I can see them both needing to move vets and needing to bring in others at different positions.

Sean: Buyers. They're going to acquire some extra starting and relief pitchers. Maybe Jose Quintana if the Mets do poorly again?

The Moose: The Pirates will be buyers because last year the Pirates started off 20-9 and the best team in the MLB if they keep consistently winning like that without key players getting hurt they would like to buy more players to push for the playoffs and have a good season. (Sean's note: I may need to talk to his English teacher about grammar and punctuation.)

Jim: Can I say both? I could see them doing sorta what they did in the early 2010's where they maybe sell off a reliever (Chapman), but add some pieces elsewhere.  

7. The answer to this probably has a lot to do with your answer to the previous question. What is your prediction of the Pirates overall record and what place will they finish in the NL central?

Brian: The spring optimism is starting to get to me, I am really tempted to go into .500+ territory, which would be right in the wild card mix, and I do think that is possible but the major league pitching they are entering the season with just isn't good enough for me to quite get there. 80-82, 3rd place. 

Amanda: 84-78 and second in the NL Central.

Josh: 79-83. I think they finish in 3rd place in the central

Gary: 84 wins, 2nd place in the NL Central.

Sean: I'm optimistic. Since I already saw Amanda and Gary go with 84, I'll predict 83-79. 3rd place in the central

The Moose: This will be a shocker to some people but the Pirates will go 90-72 and the Pirates will finish second in the division behind the amazing Cubs.

Jim: 85-77, Pirates win the NL Central

Thanks to everyone for participating! We'll have to see how we did in October. Please feel free to share your predictions in the comment section below.

Photos by Charles LeClaire-USA Today (Skenes), Pittsburgh Pirates (Cruz), Livvy Dunne's Instagram account (Dunne), Pittsburgh Pirates Instagram account (Tellez)

Friday, March 22, 2024

Just A Girl

I had a small television in my residence hall room during college, but the only way to access any stations was to get cable through Time Warner. I think I paid about $10-$15 a month for the privilege of having ABC, CBS, NBC FOX, PBS, CNN, and ESPN. I don't remember having any other stations, and I know for a fact that I did not have ESPN2, though my neighbor (who now has an Oscar, Emmy, and Pulitzer) did and let me watch the Penguins-Capitals 4 overtime Petr Nedved playoff game. 

This is a long way of writing that I did not have MTV in college, and this is way before YouTube. Therefore, at some point during my time in college, I saw the video Just a Girl by No Doubt on a break from school. The song sounded different than anything else out there. Between the music (I'd never heard of ska), Gwen Stefani's voice, and an appealing video, I loved the song instantly. 

Which brings me to 2024. Listening to SiriusXM's Hits1 station with the kids, I heard a new version of Just a Girl by Hayes Warner, Billy B, and Kevin Rudolf. These are three people who have never been in my kitchen. While I hope this attracts more people to the original No Doubt song, let's just say I'm not a fan.

Monday, March 18, 2024

Random Ramblings: March 2024

* Six-year-old Luigi is playing baseball for the first time this spring. While he is using his brothers' old helmet and bat, he got a brand new glove as well as a cup. He is completely fascinated by wearing a cup and keeps calling it his "penis cup." Fortunately, he is only using this name in the house.

* Based on the Pittsburgh Steelers off-season acquisitions, I planned a blog post about the team's 2024 soundtrack. The post was going to start with two Wilson Pickett songs in honor of the Steelers quarterback combination of Russell Wilson and Kenny Pickett. Of course, the Steelers traded Pickett to the Philadelphia Eagles making the entire post moot. I guess I need the Steelers to hire retired quarterback Philip Rivers as a member of the coaching staff or organization and sign wide receiver Phillip Dorsett from the Denver Broncos so that I can created a new playlist featuring this song:

* I haven't mentioned Lucy very much since we got her in September. She constantly wakes us up around 5:00 AM but waited until around 6:00 the first few days after we moved the clocks forward. That ended. We're back to her waking us up at 5:00 again.

* I'm really happy for the Duquesne men's basketball team winning the Atlantic-10 tournament and reaching the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1977. The team hasn't been very good for most of my lifetime, so the Duquesne fans and graduates deserve to celebrate.

* Fun fact: Duquesne coach Keith Dambrot's son Robbie Dambrot plays for the Loudoun United soccer team.

* There is now a hawk living on our street. Oh, it's not Dominique Wilkins. I don't know when the hawk moved in, but our neighbor noticed him/her on Saturday. I'm now completely fascinated by this and really want to get some pictures and videos. This is my second attempt which isn't terrible. 

* The best view of the hawk would probably be from my kids' bedroom per the picture above of Lucy looking out the window. With the nice weather recently, the cherry blossoms have started to bloom almost earlier than ever blocking any possible view of the nest. This is clearly a first-world problem since the cherry blossoms on my street are beautiful and don't last more than two weeks. 

Monday, March 04, 2024

Sean Contacts Presidential Candidates

Virginia's Presidential primary takes place on Tuesday, March 5th. Virginia has open primaries, meaning that you show up to your polling place and simply ask for a Democratic or Republican ballot. While this generally doesn't impact the overall results, it does make things interesting. For example, in 2008, I remember some Republicans saying they would vote for Barack Obama in the primary believing he would be easier to defeat in the general election than Hillary Clinton. (I'm not sure if this is true or not since John McCain only defeated Mike Huckabee by about 45,000 votes in the 2008 Republican primary and Obama defeated Clinton by almost 300,000 votes in the Democratic primary).

So that brings us to 2024. Here are your ballots for Tuesday's primary: 

I contacted the campaigns of everyone on both the Republican and Democratic primary ballots and asked one simple question: Why should Virginians vote for you? (Or if the candidate has withdrawn, who do you support and why?)

Here are the responses:

Nothing. No one replied. Actually, I take that back. I received a "Failure Notice" that the email account I tried to reach does not exist message from Vivek Ramaswamy. I appreciate the fact that his campaign completely ended and decided to stop paying for things like email addresses.

While Sean's Ramblings isn't CNN, The Washington Post, Fox News, or any of the local news stations in the Washington, Richmond, or Virginia Beach markets, this seems like a missed opportunity for candidates to communicate directly with voters on a smaller scale. 

So where does this leave Virginia voters? My guess is that most Republicans will vote for Trump, most Democrats will vote for Biden, and others will vote for a candidate of the opposite party as a "protest" vote. And maybe candidates will want their voices heard on Sean's Ramblings in future elections! 

Friday, February 23, 2024

A Taylor Swift Post That's Not About Taylor Swift

You may have heard of a singer named Taylor Swift. She is currently taking her talents to Australia as part of her Eras Tour. Singer Rita Ora, her husband filmmaker Taika Waititi, and singer (and Sean's Ramblings favorite) Katy Perry attended Swift's Sydney concert which took place yesterday/today/tomorrow (I don't know the time difference between Sydney and the Eastern time zone of the US). So why I am writing about this? Check out Rita Ora's hat for the show.

Clearly, Rita Ora is excited about the Pirates signing Mitch Keller to an extension!

For more Celebrities in Pittsburgh Gear posts (this is my second this week!), please click here.

Photos from The Era Tour Twitter page (here and here), the Taylor Swift Updates Twitter page, and a screenshot of a brief video of Ora and Perry by Cooper.

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Drake And J. Cole Support The Panthers

Not a great time to be a Pittsburgh sports fan. The Penguins lost on Jaromir Jagr's number retirement night and are looking to miss the playoffs for the second straight season. The Steelers appear to be an above average team. Good enough to make the playoffs but not good enough to compete for a Super Bowl. That would be a dream for many teams, but this is unacceptable for many Steelers fans. While the Pirates have some potentially excellent young players, even the most optimistic fans acknowledge that reaching the playoffs for the first time since 2015 is doubtful. Any hope right now is with the University of Pittsburgh's men's basketball team. Under head coach Jeff Capel, the team reached the round of 32 in the 2023 NCAA Tournament. After a slow start this season including losing 5 of its first 6 ACC games, Pitt is now 8-6 in conference play with wins at Duke and at Virginia. The team is definitely in the mix for a NCAA tournament spot. This has not gone unnoticed by some major players in the hip-hop world. 

In Pittsburgh last week, J Cole visited Pitt's basketball facilities. 

In addition, after rocking a Penguins jersey at a 2016 concert (resulting in me getting a cease-and-desist email), Drake sported a Panthers football jersey.

Steelers' Cam Heyward also got to meet J. Cole

Hail to Pitt!

J. Cole's picture at Pitt is from Pitt's men's basketball team's Twitter account.

The photo of Drake with Fridayy is from DJ Akademiks on Instagram.

The Cam-J. Cole picture is from Heyward's Instagram page.

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

A Message For Anti-Taylor Swift Pittsburgh Sports Fans

Taylor Swift is arguably the biggest current musician in the world. Travis Kelce is a future Hall-of Famer football player who just won his third Super Bowl in the last five years. Naturally, the relationship between these talented individuals has garnered some attention. Too much attention? Maybe. Is that the fault of Swift and Kelce? Again, maybe. 

Surrounding the Super Bowl, I have seen numerous mentions of Taylor Swift from Pittsburgh sports fans critical of the attention she has received, and the amount of screen time she gets during football games. Swift ended up appearing on screen for 55 seconds during the Super Bowl. That's less than the amount of time that Tom Brady appeared on screen during commercials. While that number increased during the post-game celebration, 55 seconds of a 3+ hour telecast is insiginificant. So to those Pittsburgh sports fans mad about Swift, why are you upset? Do you think she takes attention from the game, or do you just want to admit that you don't like her?

Now if a Pittsburgh sports fan says that they hate how the attention on Swift takes away from the game, they clearly forgot about the Cole Tucker-Vanessa Hudgens relationship. Maybe Hudgens didn't get much (or any) screen time during Pirates games, but that had more to do with Tucker only playing 43 games with the team after the relationship started.

Maybe Hudgens-Tucker is a bad example. So what about all of the media coverage and camera shots of Evgeni Malkin's parents during the Penguins' Stanley Cup runs? Did you find that distracted you from the games? How dare the cameras cut to Geno's parents celebrating after he scored a big playoff goal! The focus needs to be on the game, right?

Let's not act like Pittsburghers are immune from being starstruck. Joshua Axelrod of the Post-Gazette, who I like and enjoy his work, regularly writes about television and movies being filmed in Pittsburgh. My guess is these are some of his most-read pieces. There are countless stories about where Tom Hanks had dinner or what gym Emma Watson visited or Ed Sheeran making pizzas during their time in Pittsburgh.

The same people critical of the screen time Taylor Swift receives during football games didn't complain about Jay-Z attending a Pitt-Duke game at The Pete. They don't scream about in-game interviews of Steelers players attending Pirates or Penguins games. How many times did Ben Roethlisberger get on TV during Pens games? Where was the outrage then? What about the many celebrities (such as Wiz Khalifa and Michael Keaton) who throw out the first pitch of a Pirates game and then are shown during the telecast? The Pirates even had a K-Pop superstar throw out the first pitch of a 2015 game. Never seen any complaints about in-game interviews with or television shots of Joe Manganiello or Billy Gardell. I remember people celebrating Sofia Vergara becoming a Steelers fan after she started dating

Admit it. You're mad about Taylor Swift. Maybe it's her politics or her music or the attention, but it’s about you not liking Swift. Now if you're consistent in your belief that players' significant others, parents, or kids or any other celebrity should never appear on screen during sporting events, feel free to share. Show me receipts as the kids say. (Do kids say this?) And if you don't have any, start now with the Pittsburgh Pirates. 

Pitcher Paul Skenes was baseball's #1 draft pick in 2023. If he lives up to his potential, Skenes will be an all-star and one of the best pitchers in the National League. Assuming (and I know it's a big assumption) that the Pirates make the playoffs thanks to great performances by Skenes, Oneil Cruz, Bryan Reynolds, etc., Skenes' girlfriend Olivia "Livvy" Dunne might appear at playoff games. Although she doesn't sell out stadiums like Swift, Dunne is a big deal. She is a gymnast at LSU, appears in TV commercials and magazine covers, and has nearly 5 million followers on Instagram and more on other social media sites. 


If it’s not about Taylor Swift, start posting on social media everyday how you hope that Dunne is never shown during Pirates games. Start telling all your friends that any Pirates loss or Skenes bad start is because Dunne is a distraction. Let’s see the videos about how Dunne was hired by Pirates owner Bob Nutting to help Joe Biden get re-elected (or something). If the Pirates make the playoffs, please complain about how Dunne is attracting more people including young women to become Pirates fans. I’ll be here to read all about it!

* Photo of Taylor and Travis from AFP via Getty Images. Not 100% certain, but I think it was taken by Patrick T. Fallon.
Photo of Vanessa and Cole from Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty.
* Photo of Olivia and Paul from her Instagram page.

Wednesday, February 07, 2024

Random Ramblings

* The Moose just started his second semester of 7th grade and is taking Family & Consumer Science. Part of this class is a cooking unit, and after watching the first two seasons of The Bear, I fully expect him to swear a lot and start yelling "Yes Chef" at all times. 

* I started wearing contact lenses in 9th grade and while I don't wear them everyday like I used to in my teens and 20s, I still wear them more than my glasses. That ended recently. I started getting headaches if I wore them too long, so I haven't worn my contacts since January 1st. That needs to change. 

* While The Moose doesn't do this, there is a high percentage of middle schoolers (both boys and girls) that wear pajama pants to school. I don't get it.

* We won at trivia a few weeks ago, and one of the prizes was the socks pictured below. Most of my socks are black or brown or your standard Nike or Adidas socks. I want to become a fun sock guy. These socks will start it all!

When I look at myself in the mirror, I see only brown hair. I mean, I'm mostly bald at this point, but the hair that I have is brown. However, at a recent haircut, there seemed to be a lot of gray on the cape.I think (or at least hope) that all the gray is from my sideburns.

* I didn't shave for several days, and I only shaved my neck so I didn't look like former quarterback Kyle Orton. When I picked up Pedro Tulo and Luigi, the after-school teacher complimented me on my beard. While I already shaved and aren't planning on growing a beard soon, it's nice to know I can grow a good-looking beard almost instantly.

* Over the last few months, I've binge-watched Yellowstone. While I'm almost done with season 4 and overall enjoyed the show, I'm getting a little tired of the messaging that cities, government, environmentalism, and in some cases education (for Jamie but not Beth) are bad and just living as a cowboy and vigilante justice solves everything.

* The other show I'm watching is Only Murders In The Building. I'm in the middle of season two and love it. So much fun!

* Finally, Pedro Tulo and Luigi wanted to watch the NFL Pro Bowl on Sunday, so I watched it with them. Anyone complaining about the amount of airtime Taylor Swift gets during Kansas City football games must also be going crazy about how much Peyton and Eli Manning appeared on the ESPN telecast. Yes, they were the coaches in the game, but ESPN showed one or both of them after EVERY SINGLE PLAY and sometimes even during the play on a split-screen. When they weren't on the screen, ESPN showed Ray Lewis instead. Would have been nice to spend more time with current players.

Friday, February 02, 2024

Unlikely Song Duets

Some of the biggest songs in pop chart history feature collaborations between artists. You probably know songs by Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men, Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson, and Beyonce and Jay-Z. All of these artists are superstars.* But what about songs where one artist is a star (or becomes one) and the other isn't quite on that level? That is the point of this post.

Before I share videos, there are a few rules. Both artists need to be listed in the credits. One of the obvious songs for this post would be “Somebody’s Watching Me” by Rockwell. Although Michael Jackson sings the chorus, the song is credited only to Rockwell. Same with "Opposites Attract" by Paula Abdul. MC Skat Cat is wrongfully not listed.

I'm also only including songs that made an impact on the charts. Deep album cuts like a song by Taylor Swift featuring a random family member don't make a list. (I'm not aware of any song, but if there's a Taylor Swift-D'Andre Swift collaboration, it didn't make the cut.

Rihanna featuring Mikky Ekko - Stay

Rihanna performed at last year’s Super Bowl, has sold about 250 million albums worldwide, and has over 30 top 10 hits. Mega star! While Mikky Ekko is a very successful music writer, his singing career is probably best (and maybe only) known for Stay.

Coolio featuring L.V. - Gangsta's Paradise

The late Coolio won a Grammy for this song and sold nearly 5 million albums in the US. Plus, he performed the opening sequence to Kenan & Kel and has multiple television and film credits. Meanwhile, L.V. released five albums with one peaking at #59 on the R&B album chart, another reaching #100, and the remaining three not charting at all. 

Elton John, Kiki Dee - Don't Go Breaking My Heart

I learned that Kiki Dee released 22 albums. 22!! While she's had plenty of success in the U.K. and reached #12 in the American chart with the 1974 song I've Got the Music in Me, it's not fair to compare her success with the resume of Sir Elton John.

Lady Gaga featuring Colby O'Donis - Just Dance

Just Dance is Lady Gaga's first song and with Colby O'Donis having some success with his own first single with Akon just prior to this song, perhaps she or someone at the studio thought a different voice would give the song a little extra attention. Two relatively new artists coming together. Of course, Lady Gaga followed this up with Poker Face and never looked back on her way to mega-stardom with Grammys, an Oscar, and a Super Bowl halftime show. Meanwhile, Colby O'Donis may or may not have hooked up with Hulk Hogan's daughter on the Hogan family reality show. I should also mention that Just Dance gave me the idea for this post. 

Shaggy featuring RikRok - It Wasn't Me

This was a smash hit. Shaggy has two Billboard Music Awards and two Grammys, one for It Wasn't Me and another for his collaboration with Sting. He appeared on The Masked Singer in 2022 and toured with TLC, En Vogue, and Sean Kingston last year. Ricardo "RikRok" Ducent doesn't appear to have a Wikipedia page.

Sting featuring Cheb Mami - Desert Rose

Since I mentioned Sting, you may be familiar with his musical career. He also has an acting career including appearing in several episodes of Only Murders in the Building which I just started watching. When not being accused of murder on the show, he's done pretty well for himself. Born in Algeria, Cheb Mami released over a dozen albums between 1985 and 2006, though none appear to have significant sales in the United States. Is it fair to include someone with international success but not success in the US on this list? Maybe. For example, No Doubt won Grammys with Jamaican DJ/singers Bounty Killer on Hey Baby and Lady Saw on Underneath It All respectively. I should also mention that Cheb's music career seems to have ended after the 2006 album. He went to jail for doing some bad things in 2011 and later had to pay an artist for plagiarism.

Glenn Medeiros featuring Bobby Brown - She Ain't Worth It

The Hawaiian singer had a #12 song with 1987's Nothing's Gonna Change My Love For You and his collaboration with Bobby Brown went to #1. Medeiros had five other singles reach the lower ranks of the charts between 1987-1990, the highest charting song being All I'm Missing Is You featuring Ray Parker Jr. (hold that thought) at #32 and released several albums. Then, he turned to education becoming a teacher, principal, and professor and earning a doctorate. I'm sure at least one student told him that she ain't worth it during a meeting in the principal's office! After New Edition, Brown embarked on a successful solo career with 8 top 10 hits including On Our Own from Ghostbusters II in case you were waiting for that Ray Parker Jr. connection. Of course, Brown also received enormous attention with his sometimes turbulent marriage to Whitney Houston. And this gives me the perfect opportunity to share this video of Brown meeting The Dalai Lama and getting introduced as Whitney's husband.

Olly Murs featuring Flo Rida - Troublemaker

This is another case of someone being successful internationally but not domestically. Olly Murs was on the UK version of The X Factor and has a string of hits there as well as numerous television appearances including as a judge on The Voice UK. His success hasn't transltaed to the United States where Troublemaker is his only top 40 song. Meanwhile, Flo Rida has so many songs over the last 15 years featured in films and commercials. You probably know a lot more of his songs than you think. 

A few others for your consideration:

Santana featuring Alex Band (from the band The Calling) - Why Don't You & I

Drake featuring Majid Jordan - Hold On, We're Going Home

I'm sure that I've missed others. Please feel free to add your suggestions in the comments section.

* While you probably wouldn't include Boyz II Men in this group, they won 4 Grammys and have 9 top 3 hits. Not too shabby!

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

State of the Ramblings: 19

I feel like nearly every State of the Union address by a United States president includes the declaration that the state of the nation is strong. Well, I'm not going to write that here. Sean's Ramblings has certainly slowed down over the years. After writing 85-100 posts annually each year between 2017-2021 (well down from the number of posts I wrote for the first decade of this blog), I wrote 71 posts in 2022 and only 64 posts in 2023. I write when I feel like I have something to share and have the time to write, both of which seem to occur less frequently.

Now that this blog is 19, I understand why I’m probably one of the oldest blogs still around. Maybe 10-12 years ago, there was an explosion of “mommy” blogs/bloggers. I remember getting frustrated that much of their content was sponsored. The ones that focused on their kids and kid-related products aren’t around anymore. Maybe it's because the money went elsewhere (hello Instagram and TikTok). More likely, it’s easy to share stories and pictures about new foods for toddlers, diaper explosions (well, not pictures for this one), cool strollers, or activities for 5 year olds. It’s not as easy to write when your kids get to middle school or become teenagers. Your kids don’t want you to share their stories, or you don’t want to share their stories. I’m not going to write about Individual Educational Plans or how my kids are doing in school. Sure, I might write about my 7th grader's recent break-up but that was because of the absurdity of the whole situation. If he was older and really in a significant relationship, that’s not something I would want to share or would be comfortable sharing. It’s not my story.

So what’s next for Sean’s Ramblings? Nothing. I think my quest for a writing award is over after the 2023 Pittsburgh City Paper's Best of PGH and Washington DC chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists contest debacles. I’d still love to get media credentials for a sporting event or awards show, but even if I get selected to be on the red carpet for the Grammys, I don’t have time to travel to LA for it. So I’ll just continue to write what I want to write about and when I have time to write. No big goals or resolutions. Just keep going and becoming the only blog around to turn 20. And then maybe a big celebration for 20…or 21!

(Any post about the number 19 must include a picture of the 19th US President, Rutherford B. Hayes. Did anyone ever call him Rutherford Hayes without the B? Or just Ruth? Photo from the White House website.)

Thursday, January 18, 2024

Seventh Grade Math

Up until geometry in 8th or 9th grade, math was probably my favorite subject as it came easy to me. That's why working with The Moose on his math homework can be somewhat challenging and frustrating. I generally know the answer but have trouble explaining it. Let's take a look at this recent homework.

Laurel charges $85 to groom a dog. Tuesday is her slowest day, so she offers a 15% discount if you bring your dog in on a Tuesday. How much will you pay if you bring your dog in on Tuesday to get groomed?

The instructions direct students to solve this program using the four-step proportion method. I have no idea what this means. My seventh grader insisted that the answer is $44.75. I tried to explain that this amount is nearly a 50% discount and that if you gave Laurel this amount, she would wait until you gave her more. While I knew the answer, I couldn't explain how to solve this using the four-step method. That's where the frustration comes in for both of us.

Let's take a look at one more question.

Kaden needs to buy a new screen for his iPhone. The screen sells for $164, and he has a coupon for 30% off. If Kaden received $100 for his birthday, how much more money does he need in order to buy the new screen for his iPhone?

Several thoughts on this one. First, why not just have "phone" in the question? Did Apple give the person who wrote this question an iPhone so that their product would appear? That's some unique marketing. Next, what did Kaden do with the $100? Does he have all of the $100 or did he spend some of it on apps or lunch? That seems relevant to this question. 

Just for fun, feel free to solve these questions and put the answers in the comments section below. If you get them correct, you can get a gold star!

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

If You Can Dodge A Beer Can, You Can Dodge A Ball

Watching football recently, I saw this Bud Light commercial several times featuring NFL Hall-of Famers Peyton Manning and Emmitt Smith.

At first glance, it’s nice that Peyton Manning bought a round of Bud Light cans for everyone.  Seems rather convenient that the bar has cases of beer rather than kegs, but maybe cans work better for this particular establishment.

Here’s my issue with the commercial. Smith and Manning are retired professional athletes and both (particularly Peyton) appear to have great arms. At the end of the commercial, they give each other a look. They aren’t going to gently distribute beers to the bar patrons. They are going to fire the cans like it’s a dodgeball game.

Look, I understand this is a commercial, but let's try a little experiment. Go to a bar with a friend and buy a round of Bud Light cans. Then, as hard as the two of you can, start throwing them at people or just anywhere around the place. Let's see how long it takes before someone fights you or the police get called!

Thursday, January 04, 2024

The Light Bulbs Journey

My second blog post in 2024 is about ordering light bulbs online and the adventures in getting them delivered. This is the type of hard-hitting, investigative post you expect from Sean's Ramblings! A few weeks ago, two light bulbs in our dining room chandelier burned out. Yes, please feel free to sing along to the chorus of the Sia song. (Seriously, I want to try singing this at karaoke someday.)


With it being the holiday season, it seemed much easier to purchase the light bulbs online instead of going to a store. I ordered the bulbs from Target on December 16th and figured they would arrive several days later. Since you’re reading a blog post about this, you know that they didn’t arrive several days later. Here’s the journey:


Tucson, Arizona: December 17 at 3:38pm - Package is in transit to a UPS facility.


Tucson, Arizona: December 18 at 2:00pm – Your package was not received at the UPS facility as originally scheduled. There may be a delivery delay.


Goodyear, Arizona: December 18 at 2:27pm – Origin scan.


Goodyear, Arizona: December 18 at 9:57pm - Departed from facility.


Hodgkins, Illinois: December 21 at 5:10am – Arrived at facility.


Hodgkins, Illinois: December 21 at 12:32pm & 12:58pm – Unload scan. Location represents a scan within a UPS facility.


Chantilly, Virginia: December 22 at 2:29am – Arrived at facility.


Chantilly, Virginia: December 22 at 8:15am – Processing at UPS facility


I live in Northern Virginia, so this seemed like a good sign.


Springfield, Missouri: December 26 at 9:44am – Location represents a scan within a UPS facility. We’re sorry this package has experienced a sortation delay. The package has been rerouted to the correct destination.


I live in Northern Virginia, so this did not seem like a good sign. I also learned the word sortation. I knew flotation but not sortation.


Springfield, Missouri: December 26 at 9:02pm – Location represents a scan within a UPS facility. Revised delivery date.


Springfield, Missouri: December 26 at 9:50pm – Departed from facility.


Lenexa, Kansas: December 27 at 1:47am – Arrived at facility.


Lenexa, Kansas: December 27 at 4:23am – Departed from facility.


Earth City, Missouri: December 27 at 8:40am – Arrived at facility.


Earth City, Missouri: December 27 at 12:49pm – Departed from facility


Louisville, Kentucky: December 27 at 5:36pm & 6:07pm – Arrived at facility.


Louisville, Kentucky: December 28 at 2:54am & 3:24am – Departed from facility


Roanoke, Virginia: December 28 at 12:19pm – Arrived at facility.


Roanoke, Virginia: December 28 at 4:34pm – Departed from facility.


Chantilly, Virginia: December 28 at 8:23pm – Arrived at facility.


Chantilly, Virginia: December 29 at 6:34am – Destination scan.


Chantilly, Virginia: December 29 at 7:41am – Loaded on delivery vehicle.


After all of this, I received the light bulbs on December 29th and this was the result:

With the light bulbs traveling thousands of miles over nearly two weeks, I'm amazed that only one lightblub was broken!