Sunday, September 30, 2012

Sean's Week 4 NFL Picks

Happy Sunday everyone. I am much better at picking games during even weeks than odd weeks. Want proof? After a 5-10-1 record in week three (I consider the Packers-Seahawks game a push), I am 10-20-1 in odd weeks and 9-6-1 in even weeks (week #2) for an overall total of 19-26-2. Regardless, that's not very good. Since it's an even week, I'm going to redeem myself. Here are my week four picks:

I was correct in my feature pick last week, so I'll highlight one game today. Houston is a 12 point favorite at home against the Tennessee Titans. While I'm not convinced that the Titans can win this game, I have a feeling that this will be a close game based on the fact that it's a division match up meaning that the teams know each other quite well. Please note that I didn't listen to this reasoning for the Ravens-Browns game on Thursday night. Interesting fact you may not know: The Titans are 14-4 against the spreads in games where every single fantasy column mentions how terrible Chris Johnson has been this season during the preceding week.

Enjoy the games!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Fall For Fairfax

If you live in the Washington DC area, have kids and are looking for something to do this weekend, I recommend attending the Fall for Fairfax KidsFest at the Fairfax County Government Center. Here's all the information you need to know:

When: Saturday, September 29th from 10 a.m. – 7 p.m. & Sunday, September 30th from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Where: On the grounds of the Fairfax County Government Center, 12000 Government Center Parkway, Fairfax, VA 22035. Plenty of free parking is available.

What: 3 stages of FREE entertainment. Activities include scarecrow making*, pumpkin painting*, public safety and recycling-themed exhibits, pony rides*, petting zoo, hay rides, model trains, and the KidWay MidWay* (with more than a dozen rides and attractions).

Plus more than 75 exhibits, activities and great festival food!

*Indicates program fee applies

I hope to see you there!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Truly Sean’s Ramblings

There is a lot I could complain about from the past weekend. For starters, Sears delivered a new dishwasher, but it was damaged, so we still have our old dishwasher. After several phone calls and a trip back to the store, we’re getting another new dishwasher in about two weeks. Although this situation is/was frustrating, it looks like we might save a little money on the purchase, so this could turn out to be okay.

Meanwhile, I could complain about the Pittsburgh Steelers performance in Sunday's 34-31 loss to Oakland. Neither the running game or defense looked good, but the Steelers bye week comes at a perfect time. Hopefully, Troy Polamalu, James Harrison and Rashard Mendenhall get healthy. Meanwhile, the team has two weeks to prepare for the next game. Use that time well!

Now I will complaint about the NFL, CBS and DirecTV’s Sunday Ticket. I purchased Sunday Ticket so that I can watch every Steelers game (and every other NFL game) from the comfort of my home. On Sunday, DirecTV blacked out the Steelers-Raiders game since the local CBS station decided to carry the game. (DirecTV doesn’t air in-market games.) However, instead of showing the Steelers game at the regularly scheduled time of 4:25, CBS showed overtime of the Saints-Chiefs game followed by the end of the Dolphins-Jets game. CBS did not start airing the Steelers game until the second quarter started which was after 5:00. Now, I understand not showing the Steelers-Raiders game on time in the DC market if the 1:00 game featured Washington or even Baltimore. I wouldn’t necessarily be happy, but I would understand.

So I have several questions here. Since the Redskins-Bengals game ended before 4:25, why switch to the Saints-Chiefs game instead of going with the Steelers game you already had scheduled? Since CBS wasn’t showing the Steelers-Raiders game, why can’t DirecTV show the game until it airs on local TV? The most important question though is why am I paying for Sunday Ticket if I can’t watch the Steelers?

Since Yom Kippur starts tonight, I hope the NFL, CBS and DirecTV atone for their sins! (This may be a bit strong, but they can at least treat their customers better.)

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Sean's Week 3 NFL Picks

I did significantly better in week two than week one with a 9-6-1 record including going 2-0-1 in my "feature" games. I'm now 14-16-1 overall. Sadly, my winning percentage is now around the same as the Pirates. Anyway, here are my picks for week 3:

In full disclosure, I changed my pick (and announced it on Twitter) for the Thursday night game and selected Carolina. I guess the Giants really didn't miss Bradshaw, Nicks, etc.

For no apparent reason, I feel like Jacksonville will win, or at least cover, today. I can see Maurice Jones-Drew (AKA "The Advertising Agency") having a big game and the Jaguars D forcing several turnovers. I can also see Russia from my house. Interesting stat: The Jaguars are 3-0 against the spread in games after I mention the team and seeing Russia from my house in the same blog post!

Enjoy the games!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Shooting at Woodland Hills High School: 20 Years Later

20 years ago tomorrow and over 6 years before Columbine, there was a shooting at Woodland Hills High School just outside of Pittsburgh. Fortunately, what could have been a life-changing event for thousands of people turned out to be a minor footnote at least for me. On Monday, September 21, 1992, I was in first period chemistry class extremely overwhelmed by the material. Although the bell rang to switch classes, my chemistry teacher, Mr. Nelson, didn't dismiss us immediately either to finish the lesson or to assign us homework. With only a few minutes to get to the next class and no flexibility from most teachers if you're late, you always wanted to leave immediately after the bell rang, particularly when you heard other students in the hall.

On this day though, the sounds of people walking and talking in the hall were interrupted by five loud popping sounds directly outside my classroom. To me, it sounded like balloons popping. It was not balloons. Either Mr. Nelson saw what was happening or was familiar with the sound of gunfire and immediately closed the door and put a rolling cart with a TV in front of the door. Although I remember the pops, I don't recall hearing any screams.

While we had no idea what was happening or happened outside the classroom, Mr. Nelson made sure that we didn’t go near the door. Although my memory about this event 20 years ago is a little fuzzy, I believe that he called the front office to let them know that he heard what could have been gunfire. My guess is that he knew what was going on but didn’t want to alarm us too much.

What did happen was that a sophomore (I think I remember the name, but I don’t want to write it here in case I’m incorrect) brought a gun into school and tried to shoot a specific person. Amazingly, in a crowded hallway he only hit one person and it wasn't the person he was attempting to shoot. He did shoot my classmate Rich who was coming from the physics classroom next door. The gunman then ran down the stairwell and exited the school.

At some point, maybe a few minutes later, maybe 30 minutes later, someone from the office announced what happened. The only thing I vividly remember from that day was that the office said this was a dispute that occurred outside school. For some reason, I thought this meant literally outside the school which was just down the street from my home. It was at this point that I started freaking out a bit until a classmate told me to shut up. That worked.

The gunman was caught later that day, and obviously, never returned to Woodland Hills High School. Meanwhile, I don’t remember what happened to us the rest of the day. I don’t think we got excused early, but no one was focused on learning and lessons that day. No one had cell phones and there certainly wasn’t internet at school in 1992, so most of what we discussed was rumors and theories. All of the local TV stations arrived at the school, so I got most of my information from watching the news that evening. Within a couple of days, the school installed metal detectors. Actually, I think that there was just one metal detector on the first day, and the school administration wanted 1000+ students to go through it. That plan didn’t work well since it was impossible for everyone to go through and start class on time.

Twenty years later, there’s not really much to discuss. Rich was shot in the shoulder, but returned to school on Wednesday, only two days later. A friend believes that the shooter died several years ago. Meanwhile, besides this minor synopsis (subscription required), I can’t find anything online about the incident since Pittsburgh’s two major newspapers at the time, the Pittsburgh Press and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, were both on strike.

If any fellow Woodland Hills classmates are reading this, please feel free to share your thoughts about the shooting in the comments section below. Is there anything that I’m missing? What were your experiences that day?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Happy New Year Videos

Happy Rosh Hashanah to those who recently celebrated the Jewish New Year! In honor of the New Year (besides eating apples and honey), here are two Rosh Hashanah videos to start your year.

This is what One Direction would look like if they were Orthodox and lived in Israel:

This is not what Psy would look like if he was born and raised in New York:

(Sean's note in 2020: Unfortunately, I don't know what this video was, but it's not on YouTube anymore.)

Don't forget to write 5773 on all of your checks. I'm sure it will take me months to stop writing 5772 on them!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Sean's Week 2 NFL Picks

In my first week of picking NFL games against the spread, I went a terrible 5-10. At least I have fantasy football where I went, um, 1-5. At least the Steelers, Pitt and the Pirates won, right? Let's just forget last week and focus on week 2.

My marquee, seven-star picks:

Cleveland at Cincinnati (-7)

The nickname of BenJarvus Green-Ellis is The Law Firm presumably because he has a long, hyphenated name instead of being a pre-law major or an actual lawyer. If you think about it though anyone with a hyphenated name could have the nickname of the law firm. Maurice Jones-Drew could be The Law Firm. I guess we'll just call Jones-Drew, The Advertising Agency. Meanwhile Cleveland lost last week despite the Philadelphia Eagles not using one of the game's best running backs enough because they would rather have Michael Vick throw 60 times resulting in 4 interceptions. Cincinnati is not that dumb and will win at home.

Random fact: Cleveland is 0-7 against the spread in games the week after the week after (I guess "2 weeks after" would have worked too) the team's former owner that moved the team to Baltimore died.

Dallas at Seattle (+3)

Dallas looked good last week winning at the defending Super Bowl Champions. Something called Kevin Ogletree had a monster game and was then picked up in 90% of all fantasy leagues. Meanwhile, Seattle has a rookie quarterback and lost at Arizona, a team that will not be compared to the New York Giants. Therefore, how can Dallas lose against Seattle? I have a feeling people have said that all week. Playing in Seattle can be difficult, and I think Marshawn Lynch will have a big game.

Random fact: Dallas is 0-5 against the spread in games following the debut of an eyeglass cleaner product by the team's owner's son-in-law.

New York Jets at Pittsburgh (-5.5)

Is there any pre-game show that won't show replays of the Tim Tebow-Demaryius Thomas touchdown from last year's Wild Card game this weekend? If a show does NOT replay this play, please let me know and I will start endorsing that show. Anyway, I don't have much analysis on this one. The Jets aren't as good as they played last week at home against Buffalo. The Steelers aren't as bad as they played at Denver last week. Pittsburgh wins.

Random fact: The Steelers are 11-2 against the spread in games against New York/New Jersey teams that feature non-starting University of Florida Heisman-winning quarterback.

Other games (my pick is in bold):

Chicago at Green Bay (-5) (Woo Hoo! I got one right!)
Kansas City at Buffalo (-3)
Minnesota (-1.5) at Indianapolis
Oakland (-2.5) at Miami
Arizona at New England (-13.5)
Tampa Bay at New York Giants (-7.5)
Baltimore at Philadelphia (-2.5)
New Orleans at Carolina (+2.5)
Houston (-7) at Jacksonville
Washington at St. Louis (+3)
Tennessee at San Diego (-6)
Detroit (+6.5) at San Francisco
Denver at Atlanta (-3)

Enjoy your fooball weekend!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Cholesterol Update

In the months before I started this blog, my weight was at its highest, and my doctor was concerned about my cholesterol levels. I guess regularly eating bagels and cream cheese, Little Debbie Swiss Cake Rolls, cheese sandwiches and always having Chewy Chips Ahoy cookies around the house were contributing factors. As I’ve shared before, my doctor suggested that I start taking fish pills, and I significantly reduced the amount of the aforementioned foods that I ate. At my annual physical this summer, I got my cholesterol results and feel the need to share them here in a fun and exciting chart. Please note that the totals were significantly worse in 2005, but I only seem to have the records easily accessible for the following dates:

With the exception of picking NFL games (more on this tomorrow), I’m awesome (though you know that already)! To celebrate Swiss Cake Rolls for everyone!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Ryan Reynolds & Unpaid Taxes (Express Fail)

In Tuesday's edition of everyone’s favorite free daily newspaper handed out at Metro stations,* Express shared information about the Ryan Reynolds-Blake Lively wedding.

Clearly Reynolds looks much older than his actual age. Otherwise, how can you explain why an 11 year old Reynolds looked to be in his early 20s when he started on Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place in 1998? He must have been the Doogie Howser of pizza place employees!

Meanwhile, every month Express publishes a section titled “Ahead” which is a continuing education and career advancement guide. This month’s eight-page edition included this article that was previously published in The Washington Post, Express’ parent company. If you don’t want to click on the link, the story is about two Washington-based restaurants that owe more than $100,000 in unpaid taxes and wants its customers to pay the taxes through website donations. How exactly is this career advancement or continuing education? I don’t pay my taxes and we might close, but you can help us stay open by paying our bill. Um, no.

Please click here for all of your Express Fail needs.

* Unless you like the Washington Examiner more than Express.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

9/11: 11 Years Later

While today is and should be a solemn day, today doesn’t seem particularly different than any other. I took my child to daycare this morning and didn’t even realize that it was 9/11 until I heard it on the radio. I planned on publishing a post today about another "Express Fail" but that seemed disrespectful. Of course, then I picked up today’s Express and the cover featured a picture of a MARC train with an introduction about how MARC train regulars treat rush hour like happy hour. The front page also included information about Robert Griffin III, the Chicago teachers’ strike and the question “Can you keep up with the world’s oldest yoga instructor?” Except for three events in the “Entertainment Lookout” section and a four-paragraph story about cancer types added to World Trade Center-related illnesses covered by health programs, the newspaper gave no indication that today is 9/11. There were a couple of police officers at a police dog at the Metro station, but that’s not abnormal.

With the exception of Ground Zero, the Pentagon, Shanksville and the family and friends who lost loved ones 11 years ago, has today really become just another day? I hope not.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Steelers-Broncos LiveBlog

New season, new liveblog! Let's go (even if we're starting in the second quarter)

Friday, September 07, 2012

Sean's Week One NFL Picks

For the 2012 NFL season, I want to see how smart I really am.

While I spend significant time each fall watching football and following my fantasy football teams, I wonder how I would pick football games against the spread. This could be a running set of posts throughout the NFL season or it could turn into my irregularly scheduled Found In My Basement series. Anyway, let’s start by focusing on three games although you can click here for all of this week's odds.

Miami Dolphins (+12.5) at Houston Texans

Houston is coming off a season featuring an AFC South division title and has a healthy Matt Schaub and the consensus #1 fantasy draft pick, Arian Foster. Meanwhile, the Miami Dolphins are coming off a successful training camp thanks to HBO’s Hard Knocks and with new coach Joe Philbin, who may or may not one day reclaim his family seat on Live with Regis and Kelly and Michael Strahan. Here’s an inside statistic that you may not know: The Texans are 0-0 against the spread in week one home games versus a starting rookie QB that appeared on Hard Knocks with a very attractive wife and does not know the NFL divisions.

The Dolphins had the 15th ranked defense last season, so they’re not terrible. Plus, I’m likely watching this game with a Dolphins fan meaning that I’m choosing Miami to make things more fun.

Washington Redskins at New Orleans Saints (-7)

ABC’s Washington affiliate aired a special on Tuesday evening about the Redskins. The show started with a several-minute video featuring still pictures of new QB Robert Griffin III set to inspiring music. You can see a similar video at many Bar Mitzvahs or retirement ceremonies. Anyway, I worried that something tragic happened to RG3 and that the station aired some type of tribute. Fortunately, RG3 is fine. Unfortunately, he doesn’t play cornerback or safety because the Redskins secondary without Brandon Meriweather is not a good match-up against New Orleans.

Inside statistic: New Orleans is 17-1 against the spread in week one home games with an Interim Interim head coach. (This stat may not be accurate.) My pick: New Orleans

Pittsburgh Steelers (+1) at Denver Broncos

There’s a lot of talk about this being a rematch of last year’s Wild Card game. Although true, both teams are completely different from last season. Peyton Manning, Tim Tebow, Todd Haley, Bruce get the idea. I haven’t heard much discussion this week about the fact that nearly the entire Steelers defensive line was injured during the Wild Card game. At one point, the Steelers played Joe Greene and L.C. Greenwood who are both in their 60s.

Inside statistic: The Broncos are 0-0 in games started by Peyton Manning.

I’m a homer, so I’m going with the Steelers.

Here are my other picks (in bold) for this week:
Indianapolis at Chicago (-9.5)
Philadelphia (-9.5) at Cleveland
Buffalo at N.Y. Jets (-2.5)
New England (-5) vs. Tennessee
Jacksonville at Minnesota (-3.5)
St. Louis at Detroit (-7.5)
Atlanta (-2.5) at Kansas City
San Francisco vs. Green Bay (-4.5)
Carolina (-1) at Tampa Bay
Seattle at Arizona (+3)
Cincinnati (+6) at Baltimore
San Diego at Oakland (-1)

Feel free to make your own picks in the comments section below and check out all of this week's odds here. Enjoy the first week of the NFL season!

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Interview With Laurie Koozer: Author of What Happens On Sunday

Laurie Koozer is the founder of YinzR Readin and recently published her first book, What Happens on Sunday available on Kindle and at Smashwords. She is also a fellow Steelers fan and competition in one of my fantasy football leagues. Laurie was kind enough to answer some questions about her new book. Enjoy!

Sean: Let's start with the standard question. Tell us about What Happens on Sunday. (Yes, I realize that this technically is not a question.)

Laurie: What Happens on Sunday chronicles the lives and relationships of six women - Patty is a divorced mother of two who sends panties to a player each week, Angela is a high school senior who hates the Steelers and wants to get away from Pittsburgh, Megan is partying too hard and upset that her closest friend is ditching her for a boy, Shannon is in love with her sister’s boyfriend, Jen is pregnant and feeling unsure about her marriage and Desiree is a stepmom whose worried that it might be too late to have kids of her own. The book follows each of their journeys through the season and how some of them intersect.

Sean: Without reading the book yet, What Happens On Sunday seems to feature six women during the Super Bowl XL season. Why did you pick that season rather than any other season such as the most-recent Steelers' Super Bowl season?

Laurie: The A answer is that I started writing this book in 2006 so that was the obvious choice! As a Steelers fan, you probably remember the infamous guy who suffered a heart attack during Bettis’s fumble during the Colts play-off game, right? Well, that guy was my friend’s uncle and after that happened it really got me thinking about the different experiences that fans have during the season. I was in the MFA program at Pitt then so I used some of those ideas for a short story, Any Given Monday, based on three of the book’s characters (Patty, Angela and Desiree). Around the same time one of my writing professors, Cathy Day, was writing a memoir built around the 2006 Indianapolis Colts season and she gave me the idea of using the entire season instead of just writing character-based short stories which was what I was doing.

As luck would have it, the 2005 season was really interesting from a narrative perspective – coming off a 15-1 season and that heartbreaking loss to the Patriots in the AFC Championship game the year before, there was a definite expectation that the Steelers were going to do really well. And although they started out doing just that, the team was plagued with injuries and key players like Roethlisberger and Bettis were out for weeks at a time. Then, they suffered a late season slump, losing to 3 other AFC teams in a row and literally had to win the next four games to even get a shot at the wild card. And as you well know, they went from sixth seed to winning the Super Bowl. Now if that isn’t an exciting season then I don’t know what it is!

Sean: Do you see yourself or some of your personality/traits in any of the six woman featured in the book?

Laurie: I feel like this isn’t the professional writer answer to give, but for me part of the reason that I write is to try to make some sense of the world around me and maybe to give a voice to those things that I’ve felt that maybe I don’t like to talk about – so yeah, have I ever felt lonely and alienated like Patty, Shannon or Angela? Yes. Have I ever felt like I’m being left behind by friends like Megan does? Definitely. But would I handle any of those emotions by sending my panties to football players (Patty) or falling for my sister’s boyfriend (Shannon) or partying so hard my safety was in jeopardy (Megan)? No, but it’s very therapeutic to experience those things through the safety of my characters.

Sean: As someone who dreams about writing a book someday, how long did it take you to write What Happens on Sunday?

Laurie: It took about six years total. The first two years I was writing short stories based on the characters and once I got the structure and really started the novel in earnest it took me about a year to get my first draft and then about three years of editing and revising. That being said, I was working full-time and going through a lot of life transitions at that point so there were a lot of periods when I wasn’t working on it at all just because life was so crazy. Having already published the short stories on the characters really helped me though because a lot of people who had read those would occasionally contact me to find out what had happened to the characters and that was pretty motivating for me to actually finish the book. If you’re thinking about writing a book, all I can say is never give up!

(Sean's note: 6 years! I don't think I'm ever going to write a book.)

Sean: You're a Pittsburgher (woo hoo!) and the book seems geared to a Pittsburgh audience. Do you think the book could appeal to a wider audience or will non-Pittsburghers get lost trying to figure out what Yinz means?

Laurie: I definitely wrote this book with Pittsburghers in mind and obviously that’s kind of a risky thing to do as far as book sales go but it was also really liberating to feel like I really knew my audience. Pittsburgh’s such a special place and many of my initial readers have said that I really captured its essence and to me that feels like one of the highest compliments I could ever hope to get. That being said, even though the setting the narrative frame of the Steelers season is extremely specific, the themes of this book—love and family and friendship—are pretty universal so I feel like at the end of the day if I’ve really done my job at creating an authentic Pittsburgh experience, then other people would be able to read it and enjoy it too. They just might not get all of the Easter eggs I left for the Pittsburgh reader.

Sean: Any predictions for the 2012 Steelers season?

Laurie: Well, I’m pretty sure they’re going to win some and lose some. How’s that for a non-answer? I’m really not one for predictions, especially in a year like this when we’ve had so many changes during the off-season. But what I will say is that I definitely don’t agree with this analysis that the Steelers are going to experience to a huge drop-off this year.

Sean: Since we may be in a fantasy football league this season, do you want to share any potential sleepers?

Laurie: No, but only because I’ve been so busy this month I haven’t really had much time to even think about it but when I did an automated mock draft 5 out 6 analysts said my team would be number 1 overall. So as long as the rest of the league thinks like computers, I’m set!

Please make sure to check out What Happens on Sunday as well as Laurie's blog!

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Message To The US Open

Dear US Open,

First, let me congratulate you on another exciting US Open. Now that I got the obligatory nice sentence out of the way, let’s get down to business. I wrote you several years ago about your silly final set tie-breaker system. With Andy Roddick retiring after this year’s tournament, do you know the match I’ll remember him most? That would be the 2009 Wimbledon final where Roddick lost to Roger Federer 16-14 in the fifth set. What an amazing match that could never occur at your tournament. You have your reasons as to why you keep the final set tie-breaker unlike the other three Grand Slam tournaments which is why I want you to consider changing the bracket for next year’s tournament. Let’s take a look at this year’s men's bracket, shall we?

If the higher seeds advance, the semi-finals will feature #1 Roger Federer vs. #3 Andy Murray and #2 Novak Djokovic vs. #4 David Ferrer. Now Ferrer is a very good player, but I’m sure that Djokovic would much rather face Ferrer than Murray. I don’t necessarily want Federer to win, but it seems unfair to me that he, as the #1 seed, should face the #3 seed in the semi-final. That is a huge disadvantage!

Now, US Open, I’m pretty sure that the other Grand Slam tournaments have similar brackets. Therefore, be different and seed arrange the bracket so that the semi-finals feature #1 vs. #4 and #2 vs. #3 like any other non-tennis tournament.


P.S. For this suggestion, I'd be happy to accept tickets, airfare (or a train ticket from DC) and a hotel for next year's tournament.