Thursday, December 31, 2020

Sean's Ramblings 2020 Year In Review

This is my 16th(!) annual year in review where I take the first few lines of the first entry of each month to create a random and (hopefully) interesting summary of 2020. This is different than my best of and worst of post from a few days ago. Well, let's see how this turns out:

January: Happy New Year everyone! I hope that your 2020 is off to a good start.

February: I hate not writing. I've written Sean's Ramblings for over 15 years now, and I get in the pattern of writing a new post every few days. It bothers me that it's been two weeks since my last post. So today, I'm going to share the primary reason why I've had this break. My kids!

March: I like my neighborhood. It's a community of about 1,800 condos, townhouses, and single-family homes in Northern Virginia built around an 18-hold golf course. The fact that I can say that I live on (or across the street from) a golf course sounds much more fancy than it is.

April: Even before we've been staying at home, but especially since we're here 24/7, I've played a fun game around the house called "Turning Off Lights in Rooms Where There Are No People." I have the high score!

May: I've listened to the Ya Jagoff! podcast since its inception several years ago. For me, it's a fun way to stay connected to my hometown of Pittsburgh and to hear about some of the fun activities and events happening and people of the 'Burgh.

June: On Saturday night, I turned on the TV expecting to watch a movie or show. Instead, I watched coverage of protests occurring throughout the country.

July: In June of 2019 DJ Bonics became possibly the first DJ to perform the national anthem. The former Pittsburgher and Wiz Khalifa DJ (and University of Pittsburgh graduate) lives in Minneapolis now and performed this at a Minnesota Twins game. 

August: Although I'm not the target audience, I checked out a recent online blogging event organized by BlogHer. What stood out for me the most from the various speakers was that your blog should personify yourself, and more importantly, you should create your own niche.

September: Three deaths occurred over the last few days that impacted me and many, many, many others. The first was the passing of actor Chadwick Boseman at only 43 years old from colon cancer.

October: I have read many, many books to my kids over the last decade. There are ones that I enjoy reading like pretty much anything by Dr. Seuss and Eric Carle. 

November: So you may have heard that there are national elections on Tuesday. It's the biggest Presidential election in our lifetime. Well, at least until 2024. While there are numerous polls available for just about every local, state, and national race, I decided to ask an esteemed group of panelists for their thoughts and predictions on a variety of topics.

December: I've thought about writing this post for several months now. I even started a draft in early October, but I never got around to finishing it. I just want to write a blog post about my life, and I guess this is it.

Well, that's my year in review of Sean's Ramblings.You can click here to see my year in review since 2005. Here's to a much better 2021!

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

I Blame Peppa Pig

Over the weekend, Cardi B posted a tweet threatening Peppa Pig. The tweet is not suitable for work, but this Yahoo story cleans it up. Basically, Cardi B blamed Peppa Pig for her daughter jumping in muddy puddles (like they do in every single episode) and ruining her boots. I completely agree with Cardi B here. This was my three year old Luigi a few weeks ago after the snow turned to rain. 

My older two boys had enough of the cold after about 20 minutes and went inside. Luigi could have stayed outside all day, and I actually had to carry him inside after more than an hour since it was getting dark. He had a meltdown since he wanted to stay outside longer. 

Peppa Pig is responsible for this! Damn you, Peppa Pig! And please tell George to stop crying ALL THE TIME!

Monday, December 28, 2020

Sean's Best and Worst of 2020

I should preface this post by mentioning that this is primarily about pop culture items. I mean 2020 has been a pretty lousy year overall, so this is more of a fun look at the last 12 months.

Best Television Show: Better Call Saul

I watched a good amount of TV this year. I finally got caught up on This Is Us, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and Watchman. The Good Place concluded in 2020, and I enjoyed The Queen's Gambit and Fargo as well as The Last Dance documentary. (Schitt's Creek and The Boys are still on my list of shows that I want to see.) Even with all of these great shows that I just mentioned, Better Call Saul tops my list. The writing and the acting are just so good. I mean, two of the storylines from the show's fifth season were about a guy not wanting to sell his land/home and another about a construction project by a German engineer and his team. While I know that I'm understating this, on paper, this doesn't seem very exciting. It really is captivating and thrilling though.

Best Movie: Knives Out

I didn't see many "grown up" movies, but I enjoyed two 2020 movies geared for kids in Onward and Soul. Even though the film came out late in 2019, my favorite movie of the year was Knives Out. What a fun and funny film. It's a murder mystery with a family of dislikable characters but it really is fun watching Daniel Craig try to figure things out as the lead detective. 

Worst Movie: Tully

This is another movie from a few years ago that I just saw in 2020. It's not a bad movie, and there are certainly parts that I liked, but it falls into the worst movie category only because I didn't see very many films in 2020. Like Charlize Theron and her family in the film, we also have three kids so part of this film really hits close to home. What bothered me the most is how useless the father (played by Ron Livingston) is, especially when there's a major reveal that I won't spoil here. 

Best Song: Blinding Lights by The Weeknd

My rule is that the best song must be featured in a blog post at some point during the year. While I really like Midnight Sky by Miley Cyrus (who once had the worst song of the year) and strongly considered it, Blinding Lights by The Weeknd is a banger. It's the jam. It's the cat's meow. Am I using these words correctly? We'll just go with this. It's a really good and catchy song. By the way, congrats to The Weeknd for getting best song of the year twice now even though Starboy doesn't seem quite as good as it was four years ago.

Worst Song: ily by Surf Mesa featuring Emilee

You know the chorus to Frankie Valli's 1967 hit "Can't Take My Eyes Off Of You." It's a fantastic song with a memorable chorus. Well, how about playing just the chorus over and over and over again with some type of layering? I can listen and like the first 20-30 seconds of the song, but after that, I'm switching the channel. 

Best Book: The first three books of the Harry Potter series

I do pretty much all of my reading during my commute to work. Since I've been working from home since the pandemic started, I've read exactly zero books for myself. While I read some books in January and February, I can't remember what they were. Because of this, the best books I read in 2020 were the first three Harry Potter books to The Moose (my 9 year old son). It's been a nice bonding experience reading them to him.

I'll add that I just bought two books that I'm really excited to read: The Big Door Prize by M.O. Walsh and The Cold Millions by Jess Walter. I wouldn't be surprised if one of these books is on the 2021 best of blog post.

Best Sports Moment of 2020: Manuel Margot Catch

This was a tough call. As a Pittsburgh sports fan, the Penguins exited the hockey playoffs much earlier than expected (more on that below) and the Pirates were lousy. The Steelers started the season 11-0 but lost three consecutive games and looked terrible in the process before rebounding after being down by 17 points on Sunday. So while there were championships with fans and then championships without fans in 2020, this catch by Manuel Margot of the Tampa Bay Rays in game one of the American League Championship Series is the play of the year to me. So cool, and seeing this live, I really thought he might have fallen into an abyss. 

Worst Sports Moment: The Pittsburgh Penguins

While I didn't expect the Penguins to win the Stanley Cup, I did expect them to defeat the 12th-seeded Montreal Canadians in the first round playoff series. The playoffs generally only have 8 teams per conference. Montreal wouldn't have even been close to reaching the playoffs in a typical year. Such a terrible series. 

Best Blog Post: Songs of 2000 & 2020s Predictions

This was an odd year for Sean's Ramblings. As I looked through my posts from this year, I was a lot more "serious" than usual. Lots of "heavy" posts about the pandemic, the state of the country, and my family including a post about my dad passing away. So while I don't know if these were the "best" posts, my posts about the songs of 2000 and predictions for the 20s decade were the most fun and more in line with my "typical" blog posts. Don't mind me as I continue to put words in quotes!

Worst Blog Post: Kangaroos Wanted

I wrote an entire blog post about someone looking for kangaroos for a kids' birthday party.

Best Musical: Hamilton

Have you heard about this show? It's about the guy on the $10 bill and was created by Lin-Manuel Miranda who was in one Brooklyn Nine Nine episode and one How I Met Your Mother episode. I never saw this live and for the most part avoided the music because I first wanted to hear and see it on stage. Well, I still haven't seen the show live, but I watched the film version of the show which was actually three performances of the show from June 2016. It lived up to the hype!

Best Podcast: Ya Jagoff!, Owls Americast, The Tony Kornheiser Show, and The Poscast

I don't listen to podcasts as much as I did when I was commuting to work, but I rarely miss episodes of these podcasts. I like listening to John and Rachael to hear about all the cool things going on in Pittsburgh on Ya Jagoff! Owls Americast is my connection with Sheffield Wednesday. The Tony Kornheiser Show gives me a sense of big sports stories (with some really good guests) along with various rants of Tony's life. And The Poscast is based around baseball but always makes me laugh. All of these podcasts gave me some normalcy in definitely abnormal times.

Best Blog: Josh's World

This might be the third or fourth time Josh's World has won this. I like Josh's take on things. Nothing against Josh, but I also need to expand the number of blogs I read. I tend to read the same sites, and there are fewer and fewer individual blogs each year.  

Please feel free to share some of your own best of and worst of 2020 in the comments section below.

If you're curious, you can see how some of my best of and worst of picks from the past few years hold up, please click here.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Pickles at Chanukah 2020 Wrap Up

Today is Christmas Eve and Chanukah ended a week ago, so naturally now is the perfect time to write about the pickles of Chanukah tradition. While I wrote about how this tradition started last month, I thought I would provide an update about how the tradition grew this year. It made Houston's "Jewish Herald-Voice," "The New Mexico Jewish Link," Ya Jagoff!, and the "Fairfax County Times." Congregation Beth Emeth in Herndon and Parkway Jewish Center just outside Pittsburgh published stories about this in their newsletters, and Ithaca College Hillel included a pickling kit as part of a special Hanukkah box for students. Plus, Congregation Rodef Shalom in Denver let me speak to share pickle facts and how the tradition started. 

Since Festivus was yesterday, I should probably air some grievances here about how I received no response from dozens of other newspapers and websites when a simple no thank you would have been sufficient. However, this is a positive post. I hope that more publications publish stories about this tradition next year. 

I think the key to helping this tradition grow is to tie local pickle companies into this. This entire thing started at a pickle taste test event, so why not include trying different types of pickles during Chanukah? For example, Bridge City Brinery in Pittsburgh, Number 1 Sons and Fresh Crunch Pickles in Northern Virginia, and Matt's Dirty Pickles in Midlothian, VA (but also selling pickles through Virginia) were all supportive of pickles for Chanukah. Please support these and other pickle companies. The Portland Pickles minor league baseball team also did a lot of Chanukah-related activities.

So consider this the last post related to pickles and Chanukah for 2020. Will there be more posts about this in 2021? Maybe. Will I continue to update the Pickles at Chanukah Facebook page? Definitely! And please continue to eat pickles all year round!

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Muppet Night Football

Last night's Monday Night Football game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals was branded as "Muppet Night Football" with pre-game appearances by Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear and others. Unfortunately, except for showing Animal playing drums a few times going into commercial breaks and a quick bit with Statler and Waldorf during halftime and another after the game, ESPN didn't utilize the Muppets nearly enough.

Here are just a few ways that ESPN and the NFL could have incorporated members of the Muppets into the game:

* A halftime performance by Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem.

* Sideline interviews by Gonzo.

* Walter could have played QB for the Steelers in the first half. Ben Roethlisberger was 7 for 16 for 19 yards with an interception and a fumble lost. Walter couldn't have been much worse!

* A cooking segment with The Swedish Chef and "Big Snack" Casey Hampton.

Sam the Eagle being a part of the national anthem.

* Multiple shots of Scooter in the control room yelling at Steve Levy.  

* The Steelers using Bobo the Bear as a fullback on every short yardage situation.

* Statler and Waldorf skewering the current state of the Steelers.

Monday, December 14, 2020

Happy Hanukkah 2020

I've written an annual Happy Hanukkah post for many years now with various videos of Hanukkah songs and messages. This year may be the strongest group of videos since I started this nearly a decade ago.

You know how there is regularly a "Song of the Summer?" Well, the first video, "Puppy for Hanukkah" by Daveed Diggs, is the song of Hanukkah 2020. 

The Foo Fighters, or more specifically Dave Grohl and producer Greg Kurstin, are doing the extremely cool Hanukkah Sessions featuring a song by a Jewish artist every night of Hanukkah. This is their version of "Hotline Bling" by Drake.

If I'm doing a post with Hanukkah songs, you know that The Maccabeats will be in it. This year, they take on BTS' "Dynamite."

Meanwhile' The Maccabeats' fierce rival, Six13, did a medley of Ariana Grande songs. 

But Shir Soul looks like they are here to compete with the a cappella groups. 

I've written a lot about the new tradition of eating and tasting pickles during Hanukkah. With the stage name Kosha Dillz, Rami Matan should be the spokesperson for spreading the word about this.

Speaking of pickles, My Jewish Mommy Life made a latkes bar complete with pickles!

And just for fun, let's here from the Israel Philharmonic.

Finally, South Paw, the Chicago White Sox mascot, is here to wish Griffin a Happy Hanukkah!

Thursday, December 10, 2020

My Health Report

I recently went to the doctor for my annual physical. A few days after the appointment, the office posted lab results and the doctor's comments on a patient portal. This is what my doctor wrote:


Several thoughts about this. FIRST, WHY ALL CAPS? THIS ISN'T TWITTER!

There's probably a good lesson here that I should not send any direct messages.

While my sugar is 87, what is my watermelon sugar?

I thought my doctor and I had a good relationship, so it's a little rude that he wrote F/U in the summary.

Overall, this report seems good. My LYM% and LYM# are low and my GRAN% is high whatever all of this means. My LDL cholesterol number is high too. However, the doctor didn't seem at all concerned about this. 

As the weather has gotten colder over the last few weeks, I'm becoming less and less active. Even sloth-like. Therefore, I was a little surprised that my weight stayed pretty much the same. Actually, my weight is up 0.022 pounds from last year. That's right, not 2 pounds or even .2 pounds, but 0.02 pounds. The difference might be that I wore a heavier shirt on the scale this year!

The doctor seemed tired. It's clearly been a tough year for him because of COVID. 

Oh, thinking about Chadwick Boseman's passing, I asked whether I needed a colonoscopy. Traditionally, this isn't done until you are 50, but there have been some reports suggesting that this should be done at 45. I'm 45. He said that as long as the blood labs came back well (which they did), I should wait to do this until around 47.5 (to "split the difference") and definitely after COVID ends.

So that's my health report. Tune in soon for my annual Hanukkah post, and please check out and like the Pickles at Chanukah Facebook page. You'll be surprised to see how this tradition is growing! 

Friday, December 04, 2020

Friday Video: Coffee For Your Head

I remember in the late 90s, Green Day had a song that was everywhere. It was played during graduation ceremonies and at the series finale of more than one TV shows. Most people know the song as "Time of Your Life," but the actual title is "Good Riddance" (with time of your life in parenthesis).

Today's video is "Death Bed (Coffee For Your Head)" by Powfu featuring Beabadoobee. The chorus to this song is so catchy. My kids even sing along to it. And it's just like the Green Day song. It's slow and the chorus sounds like a feel good song. Coffee for your head sounds nice. Just ignore the Death Bed title!

Wednesday, December 02, 2020

My Life At Home

I've thought about writing this post for several months now. I even started a draft in early October, but I never got around to finishing it. I just want to write a blog post about my life, and I guess this is it. Before I really get started, I know that I'm fortunate. My family has been healthy, and my wife and I are both employed. There are millions of others in our country that aren't as fortunate. Even though my office has been closed since March, I'm grateful that I'm able to work from home and that my organization is completely supportive of my crazy schedule.

And let's get to that schedule. My kids are in 4th grade, 1st grade, and preschool. They are all home 24/7. The older two boys have school Monday through Friday, and I need to make sure they are doing what they're supposed to be doing. They each click on multiple links during the day for various teachers and classes. I spend much of my day ensuring that they are focused on their learning, listening to their teachers, and completing their assignments. In the case of The Moose (the 4th grader), I find this to be particularly challenging. He's old enough where if he were in school, he would do his work in the classroom and submit it directly to his teacher. I would never see it. While I want him to make mistakes and learn from them without me reviewing his assignments, I also want to make sure his work is complete and that he didn't rush through it. It's a balance that we haven't adequately achieved. On top of all this I've become the IT support for the kids. And in charge of recess. And occasionally the cafeteria staff member.

Meanwhile I joked back in September just after the school year started that Luigi (the preschooler) would just fend for himself. He has all kinds of toys and games that he plays with, and I put him on the screen if I have a meeting or really need to get something done uninterrupted. I try to avoid giving him too much screen time during the day. There are plenty of times when I'm doing work, and he'll come up to me and say "Play me Daddy." While he's missing the word with, the point is clear. He wants me to play with him, and it's hard to say no to that. We probably should start him with potty training more than we do. The problem is that I just don't have time to take him to the bathroom every 15-20 minutes or so. I don't push it especially since he's not interested in potty training yet.

Based on what you just read, you can probably tell that I'm not getting nearly the amount of work done than I would if I was at my office without kids. Of course, I'm not commuting two hours a day either, so that helps. Still, I always feel like I'm behind. Because of this, I find that I do work most nights after the kids go to sleep. I often fall asleep on the couch doing work and wake up to do a little more work. I send emails out after midnight, though I've discovered the delay delivery option, so it looks like I send them out at a reasonable time. I also find that I try to get work done on weekends. I definitely don't get enough sleep.

I probably need a break, but what does that really look like? It's not like I'm going to go to the movie theater or take a road trip to see a Steelers game. A day off is just me with the family like every other day. That's probably why I have taken exactly one day off of work since March. And that day was for Yom Kippur. Actually, I would likely spend a day off taking Luigi to and from the bathroom all day.

So what do I do for down time? My friends and I still try to do trivia every few weeks. A group of friends from college have started having Zoom calls every month which has been a really nice way to reconnect. I also continue to do a minyan every day in memory of my dad. While it's nice to have some normalcy in this routine, there are definitely days where this seems like an obligation.

I'm not trying to be negative in this post. This is simply my life. I know that I'll look back once this pandemic ends and appreciate all of the time I'm spending with my kids. In the middle of this though, there are times when I could use a  break particularly since they are not at all independent right now. Maybe it would be worthwhile to talk to someone professionally about all of this, but I don't know if it's necessary. I also don't want to spend money for myself on a therapist. Instead, I try to blog while I can, and I've watched some really good TV shows lately. In addition, I'm enjoying trying to spread the tradition of eating and tasting pickles during Chanukah. (Please like my Pickles at Chanukah Facebook page!) I guess that's my release.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Thanksgiving 2020

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Instead of sharing lyrics from Adam Sandler's "Thanksgiving Song" or a video of my brother marching in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade from 25+ years ago, this Thanksgiving, get off the couch for a few minute and do the Gobble Gobble Turkey Wobble dance. All the cool first graders are doing it!

Have a good day, and thanks to everyone reading this post or any other of my other blog posts!

Monday, November 23, 2020

Cole Tucker and Vanessa Hudgens

My blog has had many different features over the years with some of them focused on Pittsburgh athletes and sports teams. For example, who can forget the Celebrities in Pittsburgh Gear series including posts about Chris Rock, Madonna, Drake, and 50 Cent? And the Pittsburgh Athletes with World-Renowned Athletes (or PAWRA) series gained international acclaim. (I write "international acclaim" since I'm pretty sure my friend in Australia read one of the posts. That counts!) I've certainly shared posts about Pittsburgh athletes with other celebrities like the Jerome Bettis golfing with the Jonas Brothers and Taylor Swift taking a picture with former Penguins Max Tablot, Jordan Staal, Alex Goligoski, and Tyler Kennedy, so writing about a Pittsburgh athlete dating a celebrity seems like a perfect fit for my blog.

Therefore, I'm happy to announce that Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop and outfielder Cole Tucker is apparently dating Vanessa Hudgens of High School Musical fame.

My favorite part of the MSN article is the author sharing Tucker's stats for the 2020 season. I mean sure he only batted .220 with 1 home run and 8 RBIs, but Vanessa Hudgens sees more in Tucker than offensive numbers. She really digs his defensive range factor!

Friday, November 20, 2020

Pickles At Chanukah

While I've written about the relatively new tradition of eating and tasting pickles during the holiday of Chanukah (or Hanukkah) plenty of times over the years, I decided to write the ultimate pickles at Chanukah blog post. Like many people, I'm pretty much stuck at home and my neighborhood during the pandemic and spend nearly all of my time with my kids or working. For something different to do, I want to spread some positivity over the holiday season. And to me, pickles are positive and are also fun and tasty. Therefore, besides telling as many friends and family about the pickles at Chanukah tradition as I can, I actually wrote this press release and sent it to dozens of websites, newspapers, pickle companies, synagogues/temples, and more. 

A Tangy Tasty (and New) Chanukah Tradition

While most Jewish traditions go back centuries and started in places like Israel or Egypt, you may not be familiar with a Chanukah tradition that began in 1998 in the mythical and historic city of San Diego. And it started by a misunderstanding. The students and staff of Hillel at San Diego State University ("SDSU") organized a Kosher Pickle Taste Test on a cool (for San Diego) December day. Hundreds of members of the SDSU community tasted a variety of pickles and rated their favorites. SDSU's student newspaper, The Daily Aztec, featured a medley of pictures of the event on its front page the next day with the caption, 'Students, faculty, alumni, and pickle men took part in the Chanukah tradition of pickle tasting yesterday on the north steps of the Free Speech Area." Naturally, when you think of free speech, you think of pickles! Based on the proximity of the event to Chanukah, at least one person at the Daily Aztec thought that pickles were an essential part of the holiday, ranking up there with lighting the menorah and spinning the dreidel.


Now, 22 years later, this humorous error actually has become a tradition for some of the people involved in the taste test. And those people spread the tradition to their family and friends. So this Chanukah, please keep this new tradition alive by eating pickles along with latkes and donuts (though probably not all at the exact same time). Dill, sweet, bread and butter, sour, half sour, or even gherkins. Any pickle will do. You can even try multiple types of pickles for your own pickle taste test this Chanukah!

Several places have shown interest in publishing some portion of this from various parts of the country, so I'm really excited. I also decided that instead of Sean's Ramblings becoming an all-pickle all the time blog, I would create a dedicated place for this. I'm happy to announce the brand new Pickles for Chanukah Facebook group. Even if you are in the delete Facebook crowd, it's perfectly okay to get all your pickles and pickles for Chanukah news on the page. For example, on Thursday, I posted a link to What Jew Wanna Eat's amazing Fried Pickle Latkes with Everything Bagel Ranch recipe. I could never make this, but it sounds delicious and goes perfect with trying pickles at Chanukah. 

With all of this written, if Good Morning America or The Today Show features a story about pickles at Chanukah, I'm definitely posting about it here!  

So if you celebrate Chanukah, have some pickles with your latkes/potato pancakes. Even if you don't celebrate Chanukah, sometime in December, buy two different types of pickles, taste them, and decide which is your favorite.

Please like the Facebook page/group and spread the word!

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

9-0 Steelers

Every once in a while, I like to get back to my Pittsburgh sports blogging roots. So I said to myself, if the Steelers go 9-0, I'm definitely going to write a blog post about the team. Amazingly, I said this to myself immediately after the Steelers defeated the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday to go 9-0 for the first time in franchise history. Let's get the negative out of the way first. The Steelers running game is struggling. They are ranked 25th in rushing offense (out of 32 NFL teams), and the entire offense is only 24th in total yards per game. The Steelers seem to start slow as they trailed Baltimore 17-7 at halftime two weeks ago and 13-9 to the Cowboys at the half last week. Starting linebacker and emerging star Devin Bush is out for the year, a major loss to the team's defense. Plus, they "haven't played anyone." The Steelers are 15th of 16 AFC teams in strength of schedule. (Meanwhile, Kansas City is 16th of 16, yet I haven't heard anyone say that the Chiefs haven't played anyone.)

So everything that I wrote is true. You know what else is true? The Steelers are tied for 4th in points per game averaging 30.1 points in its 9 games. That's more than the Tampa Bay Bucs, Arizona Cardinals, and Buffalo Bills who all seem to get lauded for their dynamic offenses. The team's defense is 6th in yards per game, and more importantly, 3rd in points allowed per game. The Steelers are +9 in turnover differential, good for 2nd in the league, and they lead the lead for sacks. The team is even 3rd in punt returns. All of this is why the team has the second best odds to win the Super Bowl according to this site.

The Steelers are so much fun to watch this year. With JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, and Chase Claypool, the Steelers may have the best group of wide receivers in the league. At a minimum, they have the best and most exciting group of young wide receivers with the three aforementioned players along with James Washington and Ray-Ray McCloud all being under 25. Meanwhile, if you like seeing defense pressure, T.J. Watt, Bud Dupree, Stephon Tuitt, and company regularly hit and sack opposing quarterbacks. Then, you get playmakers like Minkah Fitzpatrick, Cameron Sutton, and Steven Nelson making "splash" plays on the back end. The Bengals went 0-for-13 on 3rd down conversions on Sunday. When have you ever seen a professional team not convert one third down in a game?

While the Steelers have exceeded all expectations so far (I doubt even the players thought they would be 9-0 before the season started), they aren't going to finish undefeated. There are still difficult games against Baltimore, Indianapolis and at Buffalo and Cleveland. Still, I'm excited that the team is 9-0 and already close to clinching a playoff spot before Thanksgiving. Plus, Derek Lutz from the movie "Back to School" is fired up!

Photos by Charles LeClaire/USA Today Sports and Keith Srakocic/AP.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Election Wrap-Up

First, on this Veterans Day, thank you to all of the veterans who served our country and active military members who continue to serve today. 

Remember the election prediction blog post from last week? Well, I thought it would be fun to see how everyone did. (Please note that I'll address the allegations of election fraud or that the results were rigged later in this post.) 

1. Who will win the Presidential election and by how much based on Electoral College numbers?

5 of 7 of us picked Biden. Assuming that Georgia goes to Biden, he'll get 306 electoral votes. Deb said over 300 votes, and I predicted 307, so we each get a bonus point.

2. By day and time, when will the American public first learn who won the Presidential election?

Even though Professor Sean Foreman gave several scenarios, one of them was Saturday, November 7th at noon. Since most major networks called it at 11:30, Dr. Sean gets a point.

3. Who wins the South Carolina Senate race?

Jon, Barry, and Sean all correctly chose Lindsey Graham

4. Who wins the Kentucky Senate race?

Everyone picked McConnell.

5. Will the Democrats flip the Senate?

All seven of us said yes. Even though it's still possible that the Democrats win the two Georgia seats in January, for now, we are all incorrect.

6. Will CA approve Prop 18 to allow 17 year-olds who will be 18 at the time of the next general election to vote in primaries and special elections?

Jon and Rich were right in predicting no.

7. Will CO approve Proposition 114 to reintroduce gray wolves on public land?

In a super close 50%-49% vote, this measure passed. I assume this means we'll see gray wolves in center field at Rockies games in a few years. Or maybe former baseball pitcher Randy Wolf will come out of retirement. Josh, Jon, Barry, and Rich got this right.

8. Will South Dakota approve Constitutional Amendment B to legalize sports betting in Deadwood?

Jon said no and Sean didn't really answer this, but the rest of us were correct that sports gambling is coming to Deadwood. Fun fact. In the summer of 1999, my dad and I drove from San Diego to Pittsburgh, and we stopped in Deadwood. I really liked it there. We did a walking tour which included visiting the cemetery where Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane are buried, and there was a bar/restaurant/casino owned by Kevin Costner which featured memorabilia from his time filming Dancing With Wolves. Soon, I can visit again and put money on the Steelers-Cowboys game.

9. Will the Steelers defeat the Cowboys by more than 10 points?

And I was permitted to put money on the Cowboys, I would have won since they were 13.5-point underdogs. The Steelers won in an uninspiring 24-19 game. I was the only one to get this right. 

Barry, Rich, and I all finished with 5 correct. Jon, Josh, and Deb got 4 right. Dr. Sean only got 3 right, but he didn't really answer everything. 

Overall, this was a lot of fun. I may have to do this again in 2022 or 2024!

Let's get to the presidential election. So you're telling me that the Democrats successfully rigged the election in favor of Joe Biden? They did this in such a brilliant way that the party lost seats in the House and failed to take the Senate (pending the Georgia run-offs). If they rigged the election, why did Lindsey Graham, Steve Daines, and Thom Tillis keep their seats against strong opponents in South Carolina, Montana, and North Carolina respectively? In addition, wouldn't the Democrats have rigged the election so that Mitch McConnell lost in Kentucky? 

So all of a sudden, the party that couldn't get a Senate vote for Merrick Garland after President Obama nominated him for a Supreme Court seat and couldn't stop Amy Coney Barrett from becoming a Supreme Court justice are amazing strategists? Weren't some Republicans calling Joe Biden senile and saying that he's declining mentally? Last week, there were heated arguments between centrists and more liberal Democrats in the House. Was this just part of Nancy Pelosi's plan to distract the country from thinking about voter fraud?  Or maybe Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is behind this, but I thought she was just a bartender.

I guess there is some incredible 4D chess happening here by the Democratic party leadership

Monday, November 09, 2020

Biden-Harris Win

On Saturday, November 7th around 11:30AM Eastern time, multiple media outlets declared that Joe Biden won Pennsylvania giving him the electoral college numbers to become president-elect. I'm happy about this. I'll get to policy and government momentarily, but Biden really seems like someone who got into politics because he wanted to make a difference and to help people. By all accounts, Joe Biden is a good person. There's the story of Joe Biden attending a shiva minyan to remember a constituent who donated $18 to his Senate campaign each election. You've probably heard about the affection Amtrak staff had of Biden since he regularly took the train from Delaware to DC. Even over the last few weeks, you've seen plenty of Republican leaders like former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge, former Ohio Governor John Kasich, and Retired Admiral William McRaven all endorse Biden. It seemed like their messages were similar. Like George W. Bush stated on Sunday, "Though we have political differences, I know Joe Biden to be a good man, who has won his opportunity to lead and unify our country."

And that's what this really comes down to, right? Again, forget about policy for a minute. Here's someone who wants to unify this country. He's not going to go on angry rants on Twitter. He's not going to come up with insults for any political opponent and use them constantly. He's going to be an actual adult and try to be a leader that we expect from the presidency.

Now Biden, Kamala Harris (who probably deserves her own blog post), and the new executive team do not have an easy task ahead of them. We're still in a pandemic with no signs of the virus slowing down, particularly as we enter winter and cold and flu season. While the Democrats have control of the House, the Senate may still be under Republican control depending on the two Georgia races. Even if Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock win the runoff races, it seems like Mitch McConnell will have plenty to say on what legislation passes and who gets to fill judicial vacancies. After four years of massive spending and increased national debt under the Trump presidency via the tax cut, border wall, space force, and more, I have a feeling that Republicans will rediscover their concerns about fiscal responsibility. 

In the meantime though, let the celebration begin! 

Oh, can we also just hope that Trump spends the next two months on the golf course and popping up every once in a while to issue pardons to his supporters and nothing else?

Photo by Getty Images.

Thursday, November 05, 2020

Suspect Minnesota Vikings Fans

There are so many topics that I could write about. The 2020 Presidential election would be at the top of this list. The Pittsburgh Steelers are 7-0. Kennywood announced on Tuesday that the amusement park was retiring the Kangaroo, Paratrooper, Bayern Kurve, and Volcano (formerly Enterprise) rides, a quite convenient time for this since everyone was voting or following election coverage. Instead, I'm writing about this NFL Shop commercial.

Specifically, these Minnesota Vikings fans.

I feel like there's a backstory here. Who are these people? They look kind of tough and hard. They have definitely seen some things in their lives, things that most people don't want to know about or think about. They might be running the crime family featured in season 2 of the FX show, Fargo. Sure, they hide in plain sight with their Vikings glasses and cheese board, but they have done some things. Some bad things.

Monday, November 02, 2020

2020 Election Predictions

So you may have heard that there are national elections on Tuesday. It’s the biggest Presidential election in our lifetime. Well, at least until 2024. While there are numerous polls available for just about every local, state, and national race, I decided to ask an esteemed group of panelists for their thoughts and predictions on a variety of topics. The questions and answers are below, but before that, let me introduce you to the panelists.
Me - I’m the guy writing this blog. You’ll see why I’m referring to myself as me in the post momentarily.

JoshThe author of the terrific blog Josh’s World. I’ll even call him a frequent collaborator since he always participates in any of my blog ideas.

Deb - My friend and trivia teammate.

Jon - A fellow Pittsburgher who I find that I have regular disagreements with on Twitter. We do agree on plenty of things though.

Barry - My friend and former colleague.

Rich - Besides being a must follow on Twitter, Rich also hosts the podcast Why,Bloody Valentine? where he tries to share his love of horror with his “decidedly not a horror fan” wife.

Dr. Sean Foreman - Professor, Political Science and Chair, Department of History of Political Science in the College of Arts & Sciences at Barry University in Miami. He has also co-edited a book series titled “The Roads to Congress” every two years since 2010. The Roads to Congress 2018 is available here.

1. Who will win the Presidential election and by how much based on Electoral College numbers (or by number of votes if you prefer)?

Me: Biden wins 307 to 231. I think he wins Pennsylvania in a very close race as well as Michigan, Wisconsin, Arizona, and Georgia.

Josh: Joe Biden 285 to 252. I think he ends up with about five million more votes.

Deb: Biden will win with over 300 electoral college votes (please dear God if there's any justice in the universe).

Jon: I have Trump winning by a very small margin, 20 electoral votes, but once again losing the popular vote by quite a bit.

Barry: Joe Biden will be the next President of the United States of America, winning the Electoral College vote 357-181.  The final margin will include some very close outcomes at the state level.  The red side will eke out victories in Texas and Ohio, but will drop the 2016 Trump states of North Carolina, Florida, Iowa, Arizona, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin.  The real surprise is that the Democrats will win Georgia by greater margins than Florida and North Carolina.  Biden will also take the 2nd District of Nebraska’s one electoral vote.

Rich: This is insanely difficult to pick. The map is starting to turn more purple than just red and blue. I think Biden might pull off a win in Georgia, but I think the mythical Texas victory is still one or two cycles away. I am also concerned states will invalidate election results, specifically in Pennsylvania and attempt to send their own electors. In the end I have Biden winning 297 to 241. But I wouldn’t be shocked if it was more.

Sean: If the polls are to be believed:

If the polls are incorrect and there is a greater, silent Trump vote:

I love that the political science professor included maps! 

2. By day and time, when will the American public first learn who won the Presidential election? (For example, Tuesday, November 3rd at 11:30PM Eastern time.)

Me: Wednesday, November 4th at 7:58PM. Just in time to interrupt The Masked Singer.

Josh: November 4th at 6 p.m.

Deb: Wednesday, November 4th at 2:30AM EST.

Jon: Man, good question. Pennsylvania is going to have a lot of votes to count after Tuesday, and my prediction comes down to PA’s 20 votes - so I will say we won’t know for sure until Friday at 6pm. 

Barry: Because it is likely that the Trump campaign will contest several states in court, nothing will be official for a while.  However, I believe that the news outlets will call it for the Biden campaign on Friday, November 6th at 10:15 a.m.  The Trump campaign, however, will not concede for some time after that.

Rich: I’m not even sure how to answer this. I think Trump will claim victory on election night and Biden will neither claim victory or concede. Trump is already laying the groundwork to have legitimate votes thrown out and that likely means we are headed to courts. News outlets will declare victory for candidates within two or three days, but that hardly matters. My best guess is we know around 2 PM on December 14th, when electors vote in their states.

Sean: Best case, Wednesday, Nov. 4 at 3:00 am; more likely a day or two later and maybe Saturday, Nov 7 at 12:00 pm, if we have to wait to count all of Pennsylvania’s mail in ballots which can be received by Friday at 5 pm, as you know, and learn PA’s result before we have a definite winner.  Biden will likely win the popular vote, either way.

3. Who wins the South Carolina Senate race: Lindsey Graham or Jamie Harrison?

Me: Harrison in a very close race.

Josh: Jamie Harrison

Deb: Jamie Harrison because Graham must rot in obscurity hell.

Jon: Graham. 

Barry: Lindsay Graham will survive the well-fought battle by a 51.5% to 48.5% margin. 

Rich: Jamie Harrison

Sean: Graham.  Harrison made a great run of it but I think the confirmation of Justice Amy Coney Barrett saved Lindsey Graham.  Harrison will have raised the most money ever for a Senate campaign only to lose like Beto O’Rouke of Texas whose record he broke.  South Carolina is still South Carolina despite the MSNBC spin.

4. Who wins the Kentucky Senate race: Mitch McConnell or Amy McGrath?

Me: McConnell.

Josh: Mitch McConnell

Deb: Unfortunately for humanity, Mitch.  Who also deserves to rot in obscurity hell.

Jon: McConnell.

Barry: Mitch McConnell will be re-elected by a 54% to 46% margin.

Rich: Mitch McConnell and it won’t be particularly close.

Sean: McConnell

5. Will the Democrats flip the Senate?

Me: Yes. I’m not giving a prediction on the number of seats, but at a minimum, it will be 50-50 with the Democrats getting the tie-breaker with Kamala Harris as Vice President.

Josh: Yes

Deb: Yes.

Jon: Yes.

Barry: Yes, but it will take until January’s anticipated run-off(s) in Georgia to get a final margin.  It should end -up 54-46, but I have a bad feeling about Steve Bullock holding off the incumbent Republican Steve Daines.  The Greenfield/Ernst race in Iowa has been polling at even, give or take, but I think Ernst’s debate blunder will result in a 2 point loss

Rich: Yes. Slightly.

Sean: Yes. They will do this by flipping seats in Colorado, Iowa (I probably should put Iowa as blue in that case), Kansas (I think they will split and vote for Trump and the Dem for Senate), Arizona (same as Kansas, though Biden could win AZ), and Ossoff in Georgia.  They will lose Doug Jones in Alabama. I keep going back and forth, but think the incumbents will win in Maine and North Carolina.   All of this is me hedging my picks based on the 2016 sting.

6. Will California approve Prop 18 to allow 17-year-olds who will be 18 at the time of the next general election to vote in primaries and special elections?

Me: I’ll say yes since the California Democratic party seems to be in favor of this. However, this seems like even if voters approve this, it’s going to be in court for years and may end up before the Supreme Court.

Josh: Yes, but I think it will be a very close vote

Deb: Yes

Jon: No.

Barry: Yes.

Rich: No. Older voters seem to think 17 year olds are significantly less informed than they are, despite no evidence existing this is the case. When it comes to kids people tend to want them to sit down and shut up.

Sean: Yes. This could get interesting if it evolves to other states.

7. Will Colorado approve Proposition 114 to reintroduces gray wolves on public lands?

Me: No since the Colorado Wildlife Commission voted against this in 2016 (though there seems to be some controversy about who is on this commission). Now, if Colorado tries to introduce Direwolves from Game of Thrones, I think that would pass.

Josh: Yes, I do not think it will be that close. 

Deb: No.

Jon: Yes? I have never even heard of this.

Barry: If this were a non-Presidential year and voting levels were going to be lower, I would say no.  However, this issue has turned into a rural vs. urban battle for the most part.  So this is a yes, Proposition 114 will pass.

Rich: Yes. People love wolves! Especially people that don’t have to deal with them. In an election that will have a high liberal/urban turnout I think this one will pass.

Sean: This one was completely off of my radar.  I will have to look into it and read what others have to say.

(My note: I love that this question was a complete curveball.)

8. Will South Dakota approve Constitutional Amendment B to legalize sports betting in Deadwood and require that net local revenue from such activity be dedicated to the Historic Restoration and Preservation of Deadwood?

Me: Yes. Sports betting is about to become national. Plus, this question was just an excuse to include a picture from the TV show Deadwood.

Josh: Yes. This is an odd one that the support and opposition are both Republicans. Granted, probably not too many Democrats in South Dakota (or people for that matter). I think it passes because these types of votes seem to generally go in that direction.

Deb: Yes

Jon: No.

Barry: Sure.  Everybody’s doing it, so why not South Dakota?  Sports betting is going to be everywhere soon enough.

Rich: Yes. Legalized gambling is moving across the country and voters see it as a decent way to raise money.

Sean: Same as #7. I’m generally interested in initiatives and gaming policy, but have not been following these issues recently. So many state and local elections in Florida and especially the Miami-Dade and Broward Counties areas have keep me occupied. I’ve been commenting in media on, and moderating forums and panels, and informally advising on some of the local campaigns.

9. Will the Pittsburgh Steelers defeat the Dallas Cowboys by more than 10 points on Sunday, 11/8?

Me: Dallas is bad, but I feel like it will be a bit of a letdown game for the Steelers after defeating the Titans and Ravens. Steelers win by 7-9 points, and some Steelers fans will go insane and demand that Tomlin or a coordinator gets fired even though the team will be 8-0.

Josh: Absolutely, especially if Ben DiNucci is the QB


Jon: Absolutely.

Barry: Hell yeah.  I think it’s likely that the margin is even greater…Let’s go with a 31-13 final score.

Rich: Yes, the Cowboys are very, very bad and as of now they’re getting outscored by quite a bit.

Sean: Yes. 31-17 Steelers.

Barry added this bonus prediction: Trump News will be announced by the President via a tweet at the same time he concedes, offering that any cable or streaming platform that doesn’t immediately add the new network is clearly supporting the fake news that illegally brought Trump into his new career.  The network will seek to further bring into the mainstream the far right racist, fascist, and anti-establishment agenda, and will push Ivanka Trump for president in 2024.

Now, I guess we'll see who is correct in their predictions. I think the main winner on Tuesday night and beyond will be television networks thanks to high ratings and any company that makes alcoholic products!

Thanks to everyone who participated in this post. Please feel free to share your own predictions in the comments section below. I also want to share this live webinar today (Monday, November 2nd) at noon Eastern time that features Dr. Sean Foreman. Please check it out!

McConnell photo by Yuri Gripas/Abaca Press/TNS