Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Sheffield Wednesday Defeats Arsenal!

There was a time when I considered myself a Pittsburgh sports blogger. I wrote about other topics too, but it seemed like I wrote more about Pittsburgh sports than anything else. Now, two months into the 2015 NFL season, and I've barely mentioned the Pittsburgh Steelers. I haven't written any posts about the Penguins this month. The Pirates reached the playoffs for a third consecutive year, and while I typed notes from the Wild Card game, I didn't feel like publishing it. So even with the World Series and NBA season starting on Tuesday, my first sports post in a long time isn't about any Pittsburgh sports teams. It involves Sheffield Wednesday and the Capital One Cup, one of England's soccer competitions.

If you're not familiar with English soccer, there's the Premier League with Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and 17 other teams. This is the biggest soccer league in the world with arguably the biggest names in the sport not named Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo. The Capital One Cup involves all of the Premier League teams and the other 72 professional teams in England. Granted the other teams are professional teams, but they are at a lower level (sometimes MUCH lower level) than the Premier League teams. The best comparison in the United States might be baseball. There's the major leagues and the minor leagues ranging from rookie league to AAA. Yes, players in the rookie league or A league are professionals but they would struggle to compete with the Royals or Mets.

Anyway, this is a very long way of describing what happened Tuesday. Sheffield Wednesday, my favorite British soccer team, stunned Arsenal, 3-0. I started supporting Sheffield Wednesday shortly after they were relegated from the Premier League. They have struggled the past 15 years or so, and while they are doing well this year, getting back to the Premier League remains a challenge. But on a late October Tuesday evening, the Owls advanced to the 5th round (the final 8) of the Capital One Cup by defeating Arsenal, currently the 2nd place team in the Premier League. Sure, Arsenal didn't play all of their normal starters, but this doesn't take anything away from Wednesday's impressive win. This is sort of like the AAA Indianapolis Indians defeating the St. Louis Cardinals. Maybe Michigan State football beating the Green Bay Packers. It's a big deal (at least in my mind).

Here are the highlights:

(And a longer version)

Go Owls!

Full disclosure: I haven't watched a complete Sheffield Wednesday game since my visit to Hillsborough. (It's not like the games are on TV very often.) I can't even name most of the players on the team. With that written, if Sheffield Wednesday wins the Capital One Cup and/or makes it back to the Premier League, I'm definitely getting a jersey.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Trivia Tuesday: 80s Music Edition

Happy Tuesday! The Learned League recently conducted an 80s music mini-league. This was by far the most success I've had in Learned League since I signed up, barely missing the finals. Today, I thought I would share some questions, so let's see how well you know your 80s music.

1. What musical act, whose members met in a Philadelphia elevator in 1967 while escaping a gang fight, went on to become Billboard's best-charting duo of all time (and Billboard's #3 act of the '80s, behind Michael Jackson and Madonna)?

2. What 1981 song, which spent more time atop the Billboard Hot 100 than any other '80s song (10 weeks), was recorded by a granddaughter of Max Born, who won a Nobel Prize "for his fundamental research in quantum mechanics, especially for his statistical interpretation of the wavefunction"?

3. Who sang backup for Chaka Khan, duetted with Teddy Pendergrass, was one of the women that inspired Billy Joel to write "Uptown Girl", and graced the cover of Seventeen magazine—all before releasing her eponymous debut album in 1985?

4. Written by Tim Rice and ᗅᗺᗷᗅ's Benny and Björn, what single (from a concept album that became a 1986 musical) juxtaposes chorus lyrics that speak well of the title capital city ("the world's your oyster") with verse lyrics denigrating it ("crowded, polluted, stinking town")?

5. The names are the same. When written as two words, it's the title of The Whispers' biggest hit—a Hot Black Singles #1 in 1987 and an early product of the prolific production duo of Antonio "L.A." Reid and Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds. When written as one word, it's the music-themed handle of Bebop's rhinerocerine partner, who was created in 1987 for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles television series. What is this shared name?

6. If Cheryl James is "Salt" and Sandra Denton is "Pepa", then who is Deidra Roper?

7. The cover of what album, one of three ever to include seven top-ten singles, features an Annie Leibovitz photo of the singer's butt (because, according to the singer, it looked better than a photo of his face)?

8. Debbie Gibson wrote and co-produced what album, the follow-up to her 1987 debut, which resulted in four Hot 100 singles (including the title track), a 1989 world tour, and a perfume (manufactured by Revlon)?

9. Give both where Tommy used to work (union's been on strike) and where Gina currently works (working for her man) in the lyrics to Bon Jovi's signature hit "Livin' on a Prayer". Two answers required.

10. The names are the same. It's the name of Bobby Brown's 1988 album, as well as its lead single. It's also the Elvis Presley song that Cheap Trick covered that same year. What title do they share?

As always, please leave your answers in the comments section below and don't use the internet for assistance. Good luck!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Proud Father

Recently, my 4 year-old son (The Moose) was taking an unusually long time in the restroom. Naturally, I wanted to see how he was doing.

Me: Are you okay?

Son: Yeah.

Me: Are you done?

Son: Not yet.

Me: What are you doing in there?

Son: Reading the newspaper.

That's my boy!

Friday, October 16, 2015

Interview With Sean Guillory of Sean's Russia Blog (Part II)

Welcome to part two of my interview of Sean Guillory of Sean's Russia Blog. You can check out part one by clicking here.

This could be completely inaccurate, but my perception is that Ukraine isn't in the news much these days. What is the latest there?

Ukraine has been off the news since the Minsk II agreement in February. I’ve felt for a while that the European powers would rather the Ukrainian crisis go away. The only reason they reluctantly responded with sanctions is because of American pressure and the downing of MH 17 by the rebels using Russian supplied Buk missiles. The EU is in no position to inherit a political and economic basket case like Ukraine except to open its markets to free trade. Sure, they would ideally like to see Ukraine adopt European political and legal standards, but I don’t really see any EU invitation coming. Nor do I see a NATO invite coming for a long time, if ever. Putin put the kibosh on that by showing he was willing to support a proxy war in the east. No one in Europe or the US is willing to go to war with Russia over Ukraine, except for neoconservative hawks, Russophobes, and Cold War re-enactors. This is why the US response has mostly been lukewarm. Ukraine might matter in the geopolitical game board of Risk, but Ukraine is not a vital object of US interests, regardless of Russian paranoid induced fantasies. Plus the US can’t even contain the Middle East. We won’t even mention Africa, which will be the next theater in the “war on terror.” Sure Obama had to do something in response to Crimea and certainly to MH 17. Being the global hegemon comes with that kind of obligation. Sanctions and attempts at isolating Russia from the “West” are pretty much all the US can do. The Obama Administration has the power to subordinate Russia but the will isn’t there because the costs are way too high. The US and EU will sell out Ukraine eventually, and it will be done quietly as not to be perceived as not being tough with Putin. We see indications of this already. In the last few months in particular, the French and Germans have been putting more pressure on Kiev to comply with the Minsk II agreement. The US has almost completely disengaged diplomatically though it still engages in backroom machinations in terms of guiding the outer contours of Ukrainian politics (as best it can) and, mainly, influencing the neoliberal institutional and economic reforms (as best it can). Ukraine remains a pet project for a handful of American Russia obsessed imperialists who salivate at the prospect of Russia’s collapse and neoliberals searching for “live experiments” for their defunct doctrines. But the whole of the American foreign policy establishment has moved on, if they were really ever “on” in the first place. The Ukrainian populace is also tired of the war and polls show that the majority want some kind of resolution in the Donbas. Even the Russians are backing off as attention turns to Putin’s Syria adventure.

Indeed, Ukraine has mostly fallen victim to Syria, which I’m sure is a secret big relief for many in Brussels, Paris, Berlin, and Washington. This is not to say that they would rather deal with the refugee crisis and the Syrian civil war. But Russia’s involvement in Syria allows for a potential diplomatic deal with Moscow. There have been hints of this in the press. Putin may be willing to trade Assad for a neutral Ukraine and some kind of de facto recognition of Crimea. Putin’s main condition will probably be that Moscow has some say so over a post-Assad Syria, in whatever political or geographical form it takes. If a deal is able to be struck (the Americans would have to get the Turks and Saudis to go along), the West can quietly let Ukraine go. That is a big if, though, and a lot of it depends on how far the Russians are willing to go to prop up Assad. Russia faces the danger of getting sucked in to Syria as the Americans, Turks and Saudis double down and prolong the conflict. Ironically, what might happen in Syria is exactly what some were saying would happen if the US supplied weapons to the Ukrainians. Now the situation is reversed.

In all, I think we’re seeing the twilight of the Ukrainian crisis unless something brash and unforeseen occurs. It will likely continue on a low simmer for a while which will benefit Putin. In fact, I’m sure there are Russian elites eagerly waiting for the Russian state to aid in the rebuilding of the Donbas so they can pillage the kitty. This is what happened in Sochi and I’m sure is happening in Crimea. War presents all sorts of economic opportunities and I’m sure there is a tacit agreement between Putin and his elite that they will get access to the spoils in the Donbas in exchange for their loyalty. The only problem with all this is that Russia doesn’t have the money since oil and gas prices are so low. Nevertheless, the opportunity is there.

In regard to Syria, the propaganda response in the US has been incredible. The ramping up of the Russian propaganda machine is expected, because as I said above, this is one of the few mechanisms the Russian state has at creating consensus. But in America, it has been clumsy and transparent—the transformation of jihadists into “moderate rebels” or just “rebels” and the constant harping on the fact that the Russians aren’t hitting ISIS like they said they would. I mean it has been really pathetic. I think this desperate response by the entire US ideological state apparatuses is in part due to Russia interfering on US turf, and by doing so revealing the utter failure of US power projection in the Middle East. You can see this in all the rhetoric about Putin outfoxing Obama, winning, “not letting him get away with it,” etc. It’s like the US’ collective masculinity was insulted by the bare-chested Slav on horseback.

You've spent the past few years in Pittsburgh and I understand that you speak Russia fluently. So have you met and talked with Evgeni Malkin?

I’ve been in Pittsburgh for four years. It’s a great place and we decided to stay. The one (of many) things about Pittsburgh that disturbs me is how racially segregated it is. This is not to say that LA isn’t segregated. It is. But LA is a multiracial and multiethnic, albeit balkanized city. Here it’s just black and white. And frankly I’m not so comfortable with all these—what my mother would call—white-white people.

I don’t speak Russian fluently. I wish! I have a constant battle with the language even after all these years. I read a lot better than I speak. I’ve been in Russia for a year at two different intervals—2004-2005 and 2009-2010, in addition to several shorter trips. My Russian got quite good in that period. I think the only solution is for me to spend some extended time in country, and by extended time, I mean 3-5 years. That’s not going to happen under my current situation. I sometimes wonder if I’ll ever get a chance to go back. Maybe when my daughter is older and she can appreciate it. This is too bad because I really enjoy being there. It’s a fabulous country despite all its flaws. In all, I’m just not good with languages. I’m always amazed by those people who have picking up languages as their superpower. Unfortunately, I think languages are my kryptonite.

I’ve never met Evgeni Malkin.

The Original Hot Dog: Great place to get a hot dog and fries or greatest place for a hot dog and fries?

It’s okay. (Sean's note: It's better than okay!) I’ve been there a few times. Honestly, no fast food anywhere beats In-N-Out Burger in Los Angeles. N-o-w-h-e-r-e. Five Guys is a decent substitute. But still . . . I don’t miss a lot of things about LA except three things: In-N-Out, the Lakers, and the weather. Oh, perhaps medical marijuana as well.

(Sean's Note: In-N-Out is very, very good though I'll take the O Fries over In-N-Out fries.)

It seems like your blog has been pretty quiet lately. Are you currently working on anything for the site?

I’ve been real busy this summer. I was in Tanzania for ten days. It was absolutely amazing. I’ve always wanted to go to the African continent so this trip was very special for me. Then my wife and I bought a new house in East Liberty. Moving and setting up the house has taken a lot of time and has been my singular focus for the last two months.

But I’m now starting to reemerge from my hole. I’ve started up the podcast again and I will be writing more.

The big project ahead of me, however, has nothing to do with Russia. I’m embarking on a research project into American non-profit funding of Israeli settlements for the organization my wife works for, Partners for Progressive Israel. The idea is to track, collect, and make publically available information about the non-profit organizations that provide funds to organizations that send money to settlements. Our goal is to make this information available in a searchable database. We’re only getting started and it probably won’t be until sometime next year before it’s done.

Thanks again to Sean for taking the time to participate in this interview. These two posts are probably the most thoughtful entries on my blog ever. I'll get back to my usual posts about kids and other stuff in my life next week.

Please make sure to check out Sean's Russia Blog, follow the other Sean on Twitter, and check him out on iTunes.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Interview With Sean Guillory of Sean's Russia Blog (Part I)

About 100 years ago (give or take 93 years), I wrote a post highlighting other blogs with Sean in the title. Recently, I found another Sean blog, Sean's Russia Blog. The topic itself was intriguing but I also found a connection with the site's author, Sean Guillory, since he was a post-doc at the University of Pittsburgh's Center for Russian & East European Studies. I sent Sean few questions about himself, Russia and Pittsburgh and he was extremely generous in providing excellent and thorough answers. So thorough that I'm dividing this up into two separate posts. This is a little different than my usual posts and topics, and I hope you enjoy this interview.

Plus, this is the first time that "plutocrats" has ever been used on Sean's Ramblings.

Tell me about your background. How did you become interested in Russia and Russian history and decide to get a doctorate in this subject?

I’m originally from California. I was born in the San Francisco Bay Area and moved to Los Angeles when I was ten. I consider myself a Los Angeleno first and foremost. A Laker fan for life. My entire family is from Louisiana, though. Theirs is an interesting story in and of itself. I learned a few years ago that my family was legally categorized as “black” until they moved to California in 1960s. It was a big secret, and some relatives refuse to talk about it. It’s as if they are living in the closet, so to speak. If you look at the census records of both my mother’s and father’s family going back to the 19th century they are all categorized as “negro” in the race column. My mother likes to say that at some point a “black” person entered our genealogy. I’ve come to wonder when a “white” person did.

The reason why I say they were “categorized” as black is because as far as I know none of them self-identified as black. Rather since Louisiana had the “one drop rule” my family was legally designated as black and had to live according to Jim Crow laws. However, I’ve been told that they didn’t identify as either black or white, though given a preference they identified as white and do so today. Instead, the more culturally conscious of them see themselves as Creole.

Like I said, it’s an interesting story, but by no means an uncommon one. It does show the malleability of race in America, and to some extent even its artificiality. In fact, I recently finished a book by Barbara and Karen Fields, Racecraft: the Soul of Inequality in American Life that makes a very strong argument that when we talk about race we are really talking about racism. Race is a fiction, but the category of race, how we understand it, how it functions institutionally and discursively is based in racist ideology, and specifically on the debunked science of biological racism. When we speak about race in America, we do so by unconsciously invoking assumptions based on the fictitious biology of race. This however is not without its problems. I don’t think we can properly call race a “fiction” when we recognize and people identify themselves as members of say African American culture that is rooted in the historical experience of being black in America. Sure, Fields might say that A-A culture is to variegated to reduce it to one “race,” and that suggesting that there are commonalities in the experience of African Americas is based in racist assumptions. We don’t, after all, speak of a “White American” culture. Instead we tend to associate white Americans with the culture of their ethnicity: Irish, Italian, Jewish (a difficult category considering American Sephardic Jews), etc. I don’t know what Fields would say about the intersection between culture and race/racism. It is certainly one of the questions, if not criticisms, I have.

In regard to Russia, I got interested in Russia in college after taking a class on the history of the Soviet Union. The professor, J. Arch Getty, would become my dissertation advisor. My interest initially was for political reasons—interest in communism and Marxism. That has evolved over the years to include a wide variety of issues and topics like Russian state formation and state craft, social history, and politics and culture of Russian society. Currently, I’ve been spending a lot of time reading about the history of neoliberalism as a way to form a theory and picture of capitalism in Putin’s Russia.

Why did I decide to get a doctorate in Russian history? That’s a good question, especially considering I’m no longer in academia. It seemed like a good idea at the time. I don’t regret it though I wish things would have turned out differently.

Vladimir Putin is a fascinating person. Despite there being a legislative body in Russia, he seems to run essentially a dictatorship. How was he able to assume total power in Russia and is there any possibility of this changing?

I don’t like the word dictatorship and I wouldn’t call Russia one, though it is fashionable in some quarters—in the West and in Russia—to use this terminology. While I agree it is certainly authoritarian, but the concentration of power in the hands of the presidency is granted by the constitution. The legislature is weak because the Yeltsin constitution of 1993 made it such. That said, Russia has always had a top heavy, authoritarian structure. The legal strictures of the Constitution allow for an easy convergence with traditional Russian statecraft. I call it authoritarian because the legal system and state structure are mechanisms of the Russian elite, upon which Putin sits as the head. Moreover, the structures that would allow a politics independent from the state—political parties and civil society (structures which were always nascent in Russia)—have been neutered over the last 15 years under Putin. More tolerate assessments would call this “managed democracy” in which the space of acceptable political participation (which may expand and contact depending on the domestic and international situations) are defined by the state. This is a contrast with liberal systems where the law theoretically sits above the state, and it is the law that defines the rules of the political game. In liberal societies, the law is constructed to serve a class—the political and financial elite who may wage political battles against each other, but do not wage politics as a zero sum game. There is a more or less shared consensus among liberal elites in terms of class interests. However, we can see in the United States at least that the “rule of law” has increasingly become concentrated in the service of plutocrats and the neoliberal state. This best example of this convergence between law and neoliberalism is the Supreme Court’s ruling on Citizens United.

Russia has some elements of this, but there are important divergences. The law is merely reduced to an instrument of elite power and is exercised selectively to not only subordinate the masses, but more importantly as a disciplinary mechanism against the elite. Therefore I would argue that in Russia the elite lacks class consciousness as such. Rather, a small faction of the elite rules for its own benefit and demands that other elites fall in line if they want to maintain the wealth and privileges. The leader, in this case, Putin, maneuvers between these various factions, playing one against the other, ensuring divisions between them, and making sure his indispensability. Here, how Russia is ruled has more in common with feudal relations than modern class relations. Putin sets the rules for the elite: steal but only within certain parameters, understand that your wealth and privileges are in exchange for loyalty, and be ready to mobilize your wealth in service of the state when called upon. Corruption has been both the means for the elite and other bureaucrats to gain wealth at the same time it is a mechanism of discipline.

Now looking at both of these, the United States and Russia, you might see some convergence occurring as wealth and power are concentrated in few hands. There is something to this. I think the main difference is in the relationship between force and consent.

In many ways, this power dynamic within today’s Russian elite reproduces centuries old relations between Tsar and the nobility. In fact, some historians have argued that there is a strong continuum in Russian elite relations along these lines. I think it is too presumptuous to suggest that 17th century Russian elite relations continue virtually unaltered to this day. However, the analysis certainly gives deserves reflection.

Putin was able to become the dominant force in Russian politics through his adept manipulation of this system. He did this in several ways: 1) he broke independent oligarchic power and subordinated Russia’s elite to the state; 2) Utilized the flood of petrodollars in the 2000s to raise Russians’ standard of living; 3) Consolidated the political system by delegitimizing the non-systemic opposition on the one hand and taming the loyal opposition on the other; 4) Returned Russia into a global player capable of defending and prosecuting its geopolitical interests, a process in which we are seeing at the moment in Syria.

At the same time, Russia is a terribly under governed country. The concentration of power into few hands, if not solely into Putin’s, has resulted in micromanagement (in Russian ruchnoi kontrol or manual control) at the top and, as a result, subterfuge below. The centralization of power has resulted in the permanent atrophy of local state structures. The whole system is top heavy and as you burrow down the rung is actually quite fragile. This is why I say, to borrow a slogan from the preeminent Indian historian Ranagit Guha, Putin and his circle have dominance without hegemony. Dominance remains because the consensual apparatus of Russia is so weak. This is why I think the system relies so heavily on state controlled propaganda.

In many respects Putin rules over a country with chronic historical problems: the weakness of law—not in a liberal sense—but in a state sense. There is an absent of a rechtsstaat where the system operates on automatic control. While the bureaucracy is massive and the state bloated, governance is rather weak. The elite, to put it in Marxist terms, is a class in itself, but not for itself. That is too say, that the Russian elite sees itself as a distinct class vis-à-vis the masses, and at times, will even consolidate when faced with threats from within and without. But it doesn’t possess the consciousness to press for its collective class interests, and do so without cannibalizing itself. This is why it still requires a Putin to maintain the balance.

Finally, there exists very little political flow between the elite and citizens. While Putin and his circle are obsessed with the mass opinion of the population—Russians are some of the most polled people on the planet and the government is very mindful of maintaining Putin’s astronomical approval ratings. At the same time there are very few mechanisms for the masses to have any influence on governance. Hence there is a tendency toward the political stagnation we’ve been witnessing since Putin returned for a third term. There is just little dynamism in the system to perpetuate it or, more importantly, renew it.

As for the possibility of Russia changing, the question is in what direction. The hollowing out of popular politics in Russia has left a space where only Putin dominates. Once he’s gone there will be a vacuum, and who will occupy it is anyone’s guess. The problem is, and this is another one of Russia’s chronic historical problems, is that there is no mechanism for transition. Every succession produces crisis and every one of them has, except for a brief period in the 19th century from Alexander II to Nicholas II. Every other instance has led to conflict, palace intrigue, palace coups, state disintegration, civil war, and revolution.

Substantive political change in Russia has historically occurred in two ways: the rise of a modernizing or reformist leadership that is from above, or through revolution, that is from below. I, as well as others, thought that the Medvedev experiment of 2008-2012 was going to be the beginning of evolutionary process, particularly in terms of leadership transition, but, for whatever reasons, and people have various theories, that didn’t happen. Just the opposite actually.

This may be an odd question, but does Putin care about what the world thinks of him and Russia? He invaded Crimea and the Ukraine with little repercussions and recently delivered weapons to Assad, not at the top of the most popular world leader list, helping him maintain power in Syria. Conversely, he has spent billions of dollars on the Sochi Olympics and 2018 World Cup, two major events to showcase Russia.

Why should he care? He is not a president subject to an election by the world nor is he or should he be in a global popularity contest. He leads according to what he perceives are the interests of the Russian state. Now whether those perceptions are actually in the interests of the state, let alone the Russian people, is another question.

Meanwhile, we're not going to see a Putin-Elton John summit on gay rights anytime soon, are we?

No, and the one that supposedly happened was a prank.

Tomorrow, we'll cover Ukraine, Pittsburgh, The Original Hot Dog and more. (Part II is now available here.)

In the meantime, check out Sean's Russia Blog, follow the other Sean on Twitter, and check him out on iTunes.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Trivia Tuesday: Billion View Club

Last week, See You Again by Wiz Khaifa and Charlie Puth became the 10th video on YouTube to join the Billion View Club. Do you know the other nine? Listed below are the most viewed videos with the gender of the artist and the YouTube publish date. Your challenge is to name the primary artist and song title.

1. Male - July 15, 2012

2. Male (featuring male) - February 19, 2010

3. Female - November 10, 2014

4. Female (featuring male) - February 20, 2014

5. Female - September 5, 2013

6. Female - August 18, 2014

7. Male (featuring a bunch of people; I think all male) - April 11, 2014 (Espanol version)

8. Female - June 11, 2014

9. Male (featuring male) - November 19, 2014

As always, please leave your answers in the comments section below and don't use the internet for assistance. Good luck!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Sunday Video: Renegades

I didn't do a Friday video this week, so I thought I would post a video for Sunday instead. Today's video is Renegades by X Ambassadors.

I first heard this song over the summer, and I feel like it's been in a commercial or two recently. However, it was only in the last week or so that I saw this inspirational video and learned that X Ambassadors are from Ithaca, New York. Anything connected with Ithaca is a plus in my book.

Have a good day!

Monday, October 05, 2015

The Jake Arrieta Tweet

On Sunday, Chicago Cubs pitcher and possible 2015 National League Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta replied to a Tweet by a parody account.

Naturally, Cubs and Pirates fans went crazy. Cubs fans supported their ace as Pirates fans treated Arrieta as a villain. As a Pirates fan, time to pile on!

Jake - You've had an amazing season. You may even win on Wednesday night. However, do you really need to trash talk? Let's look a little closer.

If you're so good, why are you only making $3,630,000? That may seem like a lot of money (because it is), but that's significantly less than these other Cubs pitchers: Trevor Cahill, Jason Hammel, Dan Haren, Tommy Hunger, Jon Lester, Fernando Rodney, Tsuyoshi Wada and Travis Wood.

Before joining the Cubs in July 2013, you were 20-25 with a 5.46 ERA. That's not good. Any chance you might revert back to your Baltimore Orioles form on Wednesday? (Probably not.)

Let's take a look at your post-season record. Oh, you've never been in the postseason. So all of a sudden you're going to become Madison Bumgarner? First playoff game in your career, and it will be at a rocking PNC Park. You might be a little nervous or over-excited.

Most importantly, look at your jersey. You are on the Chicago Cubs. Are you aware of the team's history? The team's last World Series Championship was in 1908. 1908! Maybe hold off on the trash talk a bit until you do something.

Again, maybe you'll win on Wednesday. The Cubs are favored due to Arrieta's dominance this year. However, act like you've been there before. Act is the key word though since you haven't actually been there before.

Let's Go Bucs!

Friday, October 02, 2015

Friday Video

I've been meaning to post Elle King's Ex's and Oh's for weeks now since it's a really good song. Well, today is that day.

One of the ways to look at this song is that Elle King thinks of herself as all that and a bag of chips. By the way, why don't we use this expression anymore? Is it because chips aren't that exciting? If we're talking pretzels, I'm in. Cool Ranch Doritos, definitely. BBQ Fritos, oh yes. Plain old potato chips, nope.

Enjoy the song and your Friday!

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Fall For Fairfax KidsFest 2015

One of my favorite events of the year, the Fall for Fairfax KidsFest, takes place this weekend (Saturday, 10/3 & Sunday, 10/4) at the Fairfax County Government Center. This free event is a huge hit for my kids. Well, one kid. My younger son (Pedro Tulo) was only six months old last year, so I'm not sure of his opinion of this festival. Anyway, this truly is the perfect event for elementary and pre-K kids. You can read much more about Fall for Fairfax on its website.

Of course, the giant elephant in the room on the internet is the heavy rain expected on Friday and Hurricane Joaquin (Phoenix) which could cause major problems in the DC area (and beyond) this weekend. I know how hard the staff and volunteers of Fall for Fairfax work, so for the event to get impacted by weather would truly be a shame. With that written, wear some clothes and shoes that you don't mind getting wet and dirty and take advantage of possible shorter lines and smaller crowds because of people who may be scared of the rain. I mean, it's not like it never rains in Northern Virginia!

Here are the basic details about the festival:

WHERE - On the grounds of the Fairfax County Government Center, 12000 Government Center Parkway, Fairfax, VA 22035. Plenty of FREE parking is available. Follow signs to visitor parking upon arrival.

WHEN - Saturday, October 3rd from 10 a.m. – 7 p.m. & Sunday, October 4th from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

WHAT - 2 stages of FREE entertainment including the Innovation Health Kids Stage, and the Cox Community Stage. FREE to attend! Discount ride tickets for the KidWay MidWay are available by clicking here. Activities include scarecrow making*, pumpkin painting*, public safety and recycling-themed exhibits, pony rides*, petting zoo, model trains, instrument petting zoo, 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