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