Thursday, June 27, 2019

Pittsburgh Vacation

We took a family trip to Pittsburgh recently, and I thought I would share some pictures of the trip which included stops at the Children’s Museum, Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, and PNC Park for a Pirates game. Enjoy!

I have family that live on Mount Washington, and I went into their home for the first time during this trip. If I lived here, I don’t think I’d ever leave. The view is just spectacular.

I know that I’ve shared memories of this place before, but I love going to The O. This is a medium order of fries!

We took the kids to the Phipps, and this was the first time I’d been there in over a decade. It’s so beautiful. There was a Vincent van Gogh exhibit, and the Phipps staff deserve major credit for creating a scavenger hunt booklet where kids need to find replicas of van Gogh paintings. The Moose (8) and Pedro Tulo (5) were all about completing the hunt. They also had a special project where kids could dig and make and take a plant. The picture above is Pedro Tulo before he got dirt all over the place (including on his cast). Not pictured is Luigi (1 & 1/2) falling causing a bump on his forehead and a cut above his lip.

These are from the Children's Museum. On Thursday, he ate through four strawberries, but he was still hungry.

I was really hoping to have llama AND iguana during this trip, but sadly this place in The Strip District was out of iguana.

One of my favorite things to do in life is attend a Pirates game. As an added bonus, it was fireworks night!

Until next time, Pittsburgh!

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Batman Field Trip

For most of my teenage years, I spent summers attending or working as a counselor at an overnight camp just outside Morgantown, West Virginia. As a camper, you never left the campgrounds except for a once-a-session field trip to Coopers Rock where you climbed on or rappelled down, you guessed it, rocks.

Thirty years ago this summer, we were supposed to go to Coopers Rock but took an unauthorized trip to Mountaineer Mall instead to see the recently release film, Batman starring Michael Keaton, Jack Nicholson, and Kim Basinger. It was awesome!

In hindsight, I have no idea if the counselors really pulled this off on their own or if they got approval from the camp director. We were actually a well-behaved group of about 15 boys (as extreme as we got was one of my cabin-mates playing an Eazy-E cassette every morning), particularly compared to the other group of teenage boys. I also don't remember how we paid for movie tickets or snacks. Did the counselors use the money that was supposed to go towards Coopers Rock entrance fees for this?

While we were sworn to secrecy at the time, I now think that someone above must have given the okay on this trip. If not, sorry if you're only finding out about this now. I hope there’s a statute of limitations on this!

Photo via Warner Brothers.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

2019 Pittsburgh Pirates Draft Recap

The 2019 Major League Baseball draft took place a few weeks ago, and I’m happy to present my annual(-ish) recap of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ selections. Please note that if you’re looking for serious, in-depth assessments of the players selected, you’ve come to the wrong place. This post is for entertainment purposes only. Actually, even places with serious, in-depth analysis of the Pirates’ picks should be for entertainment only, so maybe you have come to the right place. Welcome!

In the over 130-year history of the Pittsburgh Pirates, no player has ever had a first name beginning with the letter Q. There have been several players with the last name starting with Q including pitcher Chad Qualls, shortstop Rey Quinones, and who can forget second baseman Joe Quest from the team's 1884 season. In addition, every other letter has been accounted for in Pirates history including one player with the first name starting with U (U.L. Washington). This is why I applaud the team for taking Quinn Priester, a pitcher from Cary-Grove High School in Illinois with the #18 overall pick in the first round. Sure the Pirates could have taken University of Kentucky pitcher Zack Thompson, who was ranked #14 and taken with the next pick by the St. Louis Cardinals, but I understand that the team couldn’t pass up this opportunity to make history, especially with Quinn being ranked #19.

After taking outfielder Matt Gorski (OF from Indiana University) in the 2nd round and Matt Fraizer (OF from Arizona University) in the 3rd round, I feel like there was a directive not to select any more "Matt"s in the draft. An entire draft of Matts would have been very confusing.

Although I’m about 15 years late, I started watching the HBO series Deadwood. Sixth round pick pitcher Will Matthiessen from Stanford sounds like the perfect name for a Deadwood character. (By the way, I used a similar observation when the team selected Wyatt Mathisen in the 2nd round of the 2012 draft. Hopefully this Matthiessen with more letters in the last name works out better.) Meanwhile, sneaky pick by the Pirates here. Even though they were told not to draft anyone else named Matt, they picked someone with Matt in his last name. Very clever!

With their 5th round pick, the Pirates chose pitcher Grant Ford from the University of Nevada. Since his first name is the last name of the 18th President and he shares the last name with the 38th President, I feel like it’s only appropriate that his middle name should be Harding. (I don’t actually know his middle name, but we can dream right?) By the way, KevinInABQ deserves credit for the Harding reference.

As someone with young children, it’s hard not to see the team draft outfielder Chase Murray from Georgia Tech in the 13th round and think that he’s on the case.

In the 11th round, the Pirates picked Jase Bowen, an outfielder from Toledo Central Catholic HS. Jase can also be on the case.

I applaud the Pirates for selecting players with Pittsburgh ties. For example, Blake Sabol, an outfielder from USC and the team's 7th round pick, is Troy Polamalu’s cousin. The team also picked Pittsburgh sportscaster Guy Junker's son, Cameron Junker in the 10th round, former Pitt basketball player Chevy Troutman's nephew, Ryan Troutman in the 26th round, former Pirate Pedro Alvarez's cousin's roommate Andres Alvarez in the 22nd round, and Deion Walker from Hillgrove High School (named for Pitt and Steelers broadcaster Bill Hillgrove) in the 35th round.

In honor of this Saturday's Faith Night, the team also went with a biblical theme by selecting Eli (Wilson), Samson (Abernathy), Elijah (Dunham), Jasiah (Dixon; we’ll just say that this is close enough to Josiah), and of course, the famous prophet highlighted numerous times in the Bible, Dawson (McCarville).

The Pirates’ scouting department clearly watched a lot of late night television and were inspired by this State Farm commercial. How else can you explain the team drafting three players named Jake? 20th round pick Jake Snider, 32nd round pick Jake Wright, and 36th round pick Jake Sweeney?

In the 28th round, the team picked pitcher Bear Bellomy of Wright State University. What a cool name! Unfortunately, Tiger Thompson was taken earlier by the (you guessed it), Marlins.

Another cool name. catcher Ethan Goforth from Carson-Newman College. I can just see his manager telling him, “Ethan, goforth and call for a slider on this pitch.”

As always, I highly recommend checking out Pirates Prospects for actual in-depth information about the players mentioned above.

To see more of my draft recaps of the Pirates, Steelers, and Penguins over the years, please click here.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Father's Day 2019

Even though Father's Day already occurred a few days ago, I thought I would share these gifts from my 8 year old (The Moose) and 5 year old (Pedro Tulo). I have to admit that I'm a little disappointed that Luigi (21 months) didn't make one too!

Clean up the dishes? Yes, he puts dishes in the sink, but he's never loaded or unloaded the dishwasher. That may need to change immediately! (By the way, The Moose's picture of me is spot on!)

Pedro Tulo is exactly correct with a few items here. Clearly, I'm a really good writer person. I also don't like it when he hits me. As far as baseball games, I've taken him to exactly 2 in his life and the last one was last September, and we spent about 4 innings walking around the stadium because he couldn't keep still.

I have no idea where my favorite foods being tacos and sandwiches came from, though I do eat both quite a bit.

A belated Happy Father's Day to those of you who celebrate! HULK SMASH!

Friday, June 14, 2019

Friday Video: Death Metal Grandma

This Friday video is different than usual where I generally post videos of current song. Ithaca College graduate Leah Galant's "Death Metal Grandma" won the best documentary at the American Pavilion Emerging Filmmaker Showcase at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival. Here's a description of the documentary from Ithaca College:

There are sweet, kind grandmas, and there are cool grandmas. Then there’s Inge Ginsberg, the subject of 2015 Ithaca College graduate Leah Galant’s new documentary, “Death Metal Grandma.” The short film, which debuted at the SXSW Film Festival and can be seen on the New York Times website, follows the 96-year-old Holocaust survivor as she turns her poetry into heavy metal music and auditions for “America’s Got Talent.”

“I wanted to show that beyond the spectacle of ‘Death Metal Grandma’ lies an incredible, resilient and fierce woman named Inge Ginsberg,” said Galant, who studied documentary studies and production at the college’s Roy H. Park School of Communications. “Throughout the filming process, I was privileged to be the recipient of so much of her wisdom — much of which ended up in the film. I also wanted to highlight the importance of intergenerational relationships, which Inge and I both benefited from enormously.”

This less than 13-minute documentary is fascinating and definitely worth watching.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

I'm Going To Die

Maybe not the best headline here. I mean, not to be depressing or morbid, but everyone is going to die. Except for Betty White. We can't let her die.

Anyway, two articles that I saw over the last few days really concerned me. Here's the first from CNN.

Several popular breakfast foods, including Cheerios and Nature Valley products, continue to test positive for trace amounts of a controversial herbicide that may increase the risk of cancer, according to a report released Wednesday by an environmental advocacy group.

I have cereal for breakfast nearly every single morning. While I've mixed in some Wegmans brand cereals lately, I generally eat Honey Nut Cheerios. Is it really too much to ask to not have herbicides in my cereal?

Although this second study funded by the National Institutes of Health relates to women, I feel like this must impact men too.

Sleeping with a television or light on in the room may be a risk factor for gaining weight or developing obesity, according to scientists at the National Institutes of Health. The research, which was published online June 10 in JAMA Internal Medicine, is the first to find an association between any exposure to artificial light at night while sleeping and weight gain in women. The results suggest that cutting off lights at bedtime could reduce women’s chances of becoming obese.

So they're saying that falling asleep the majority of nights while sitting on the couch with the lights, television, and computer or phone on (usually with Ziggy curled up next to me and then waking up a few hours later and spending a few minutes checking email or seeing sports results before going back to bed) is a bad thing?

I'm going to become obese because of my terrible sleep pattern (which leads to other health problems) and get cancer thanks to herbicides in my Honey Nut Cheerios. Lovely.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

2019 Celebrate Fairfax Recap

The 38th annual Celebrate Fairfax took place over the weekend and this was my 18th festival. Based on the time I’ve spent at the festival, I can now vote (which I’m actually going to do today). Here are my notes and thoughts about this year’s event:

* Let’s start with the headliners. Better Than Ezra sounded good in the 2 minutes I saw them perform during sound check. I saw Smash Mouth on Saturday night and was a little surprised by the size of the crowd. I probably shouldn’t have been though. It was a beautiful day, so why wouldn’t people come out to the festival and see the headliner, particularly one that had three monster hits in the late 1990s and early 2000s? Unlike Sugar Ray last year (where Mark McGrath continuously talked with the crowd), there was almost no banter with the audience for Smash Mouth and its lead singer Steve Harwell. They just played one song after another. Here’s my one complaint about their set. Go to around the 8:45 mark of these videos to see All-Star.

Now you can say that it was really cool to let the audience sing the song. Or you could say that if someone wanted to sing All Star, they could do that at home or at karaoke without having the actual band playing the music on the stage. At least sing a line or two to start the second verse, Steve!

* The days of me volunteering for the entire three days of the festival are over. With three kids and their activities, it’s just not possible. I still enjoy helping with set up, and there’s definitely a bit of a rush seeing everything that happens before the gates open. I highly recommend helping out with Celebrate Fairfax or another event like this if you can. There's definitely a camaraderie too with all of the volunteers. With that written, I seem to know fewer and fewer people each year. There are only a handful of people who still volunteer at the festival from when I started in 2002 and probably only a few more than that from even 7 or 8 years ago. I guess that’s natural. It truly is a young person’s thing to be able to volunteer throughout the weekend.

* I think part of the reason for the big crowd on Saturday was the call for rain on Sunday. Even though it rained Sunday morning and definitely scared people away, when I arrived on site with The Moose and Pedro Tulo in the afternoon, it was just cloudy with some sprinkles. Basically, we had the run of the place. We had front-row seats (under a tent!) to see the animals brought by Wildlife Ambassadors. We stood almost directly in front of the stage to see the final song by Herr Metal, and one of the guitar players threw Pedro Tulo a pick. (Amazingly, he hasn't lost this yet.)

We also had perfect views of the US Army Band Downrange which the boys loved watching while eating big ice cream cones. For possibly the first time ever, there was no line to spin the wheel for the Great American Restaurants booth. As a comparison, there were easily 25 people in this line at 11:30 on Friday morning before the “Sneak Peak” for county employees. The booth didn’t even open until noon!

Exhibitors were more than happy to interact with us and give us stuff. We probably received about 6 plastic cups from Glory Days and about the same number of DC United temporary tattoos. We won 6 tickets to see the George Mason men’s basketball team’s first home game in November. The kids barely had to wait to play Cox’s virtual reality baseball game, and we spent some time with on-air personalities from the local ABC affiliate (WJLA). Kidd O’Shea actually took pictures of us. Basically, if it’s not raining very much, definitely go to a festival!

*Comedy hypnotist Brad Matchett is amazing. I have no idea how he does it, but if you have a chance to see him, go (though I don't see any upcoming events currently listed on his Facebook page). You won’t be disappointed.

* I only got 4 Fairfax Water cups this year. If we still had all of the cups from them since 2002, we’d have well over 100 by now!

That's really all that I have for this year. I ate a gyro from Bethel Park's John the Greek since his gyros are great. I walked 24,618 steps on Friday with about 23,000 of those steps being at the festival site. And yes, I'll be back again next year.