Friday, October 22, 2021

Make A Run For The Border

Politics are exhausting. I live in Northern Virginia where every other ad is for the November 2nd Gubernatorial election between Glenn Youngkin and Terry McAuliffe. Meanwhile, all of the other ads are for various sports betting websites and apps. Anyway, this post isn't about any elections or the debt ceiling or any other Congressional legislation. It's about sore losers. Specifically, those politicians who think all of their problems will go away if they change states.

You may remember in early 2020 when Jerry Falwell Jr. wanted parts of Virginia to secede and become part of West Virginia. By the way, it's so nice that we don't hear from Falwell Jr. anymore. He really is/was the worst. Now, it's Maryland's turn

A handful of Republican lawmakers from western Maryland are plotting a run for the border, and want to drag their counties along with them.

I'd like to congratulate Pamela Wood and Bryn Stole of The Baltimore Sun for not including a Taco Bell reference in this or the next sentence. I definitely would have!

The secessionist cadre -  a group of five state legislators from Garrett, Allegany and Washington counties - sent a pair of letters to top West Virginia officials asking whether they might annex their westernmost piece of the panhandle and make Mountain Maryland a permanent part of the Mountain State.

The article continues by stating that this isn't going to happen, and that the legislators want attention and resources for their side of the state. I mean sure Garrett and Allegany counties have populations of 28,806 and 68,106 respectively, so why shouldn't they have equal representation and funding than Baltimore? (Washington County is bigger with over 147,000 people, but it's a strange county geographically. You have the area that borders Virginia and West Virginia at Harpers Ferry plus Hagerstown, and then it goes all the way up to the Pennsylvania border. I'm now completely fascinated with Washington County and want to learn more about its history. There can't be many counties that border three separate states. I'm getting way off track.)

So my guess is that these legislators feel like they're more simpatico with the politics of West Virginia. We'll ignore the fact that Maryland has had a Republican governor since 2015, but maybe Larry Hogan isn't conservative enough for them. While I'm not trying to denigrate West Virginia which is absolutely beautiful and I'll always have a soft spot for Morgantown, according US News & World Report, West Virginia ranks #47 in health care, #45 in education, #48 in economy, and #50 in infrastructure. (Maryland is #6, #14, #35, and #38 in these categories.) Try telling your constituents that we don't agree with Annapolis, so we're going somewhere with worse health care, infrastructure, education, and economy. Oh, but gun laws are better in West Virginia. That's quite a selling point!

Look, if you're elected to serve your constituents, serve your constituents. Yes, you're the minority in the state legislature, so you might need to negotiate and compromise with the majority to get things done. Actually, shouldn't your own county commissions and boards be doing more here? By the way, if these politicians feel like their communities are being neglected by Maryland, why would West Virginia share their resources with you? Unless of course they are getting some really sweet discounts at the Hagerstown outlets!

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

We Have The Best Neighbors

We got "boo-ed!" Or maybe booed? Anyway, we came home recently to see this:

Several neighbors decorated our home and even left three pumpkins for the kids to carve and decorate. So cool!

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Found In My Brother's Basement: Gretchen Carlson

My brother moved recently and found several autographs addressed to both of us. This is an autographed picture from Gretchen Carlson, Miss America 1989.

I have no idea where this is from. I don't remember meeting her. My dad worked at the Monroeville Mall in Pittsburgh, so it's possible that she was there for an event, and he got this autograph from her. No clue. 

Most people can't name more than a few Miss America winners, so I think it's pretty neat that the autograph is by someone people know. This is now the second time I wrote about a famous Miss America winner. The posts are only 16 years apart!

Thursday, October 07, 2021

TMI Thursday: My Criminal Record

I'm going to share something that only a few people know. It's something that I never discuss and thought went away completely. I was reminded a few weeks ago about this though when I got a letter in the mail. Even though I never saw the movie, I'm pretty sure that this entire scenario is exactly what happened in I Know What You Did Last Summer.

Let's go back to 2000. I was a graduate student in Columbus, Ohio going to a conference in Indianapolis, Indiana. The 2.5 to 3-hour drive was a straight shot on I-70 from my apartment to the hotel. I was probably running late and wanted to make sure I got to the conference in time. I'm going on a major tangent here because that's what I do. The first session I attended was about gambling on college campuses. Basically, there were plenty of research, resources, and programs regarding drinking and specifically binge drinking. Meanwhile, there was little study of gambling among college students. Actually, one of my professors talked with me about doing some research about this, but I was non-committal (and I'm not sure if he was serious about doing it himself), and he never brought it up again. With the proliferation of legal sports betting in many states, I hope that there is more research and educational programs now about gambling and potential addiction for college students. 

Back to the mysterious letter which started like this:

Dear Sean (there was no colon or comma after Sean. Who does this?!?!)

An inquiry was made in connection with an employment background investigation being processed by our office. The file we found, based on the identification they provided, contains public record information. A public record file may contain criminal, real estate or driving information, and is maintained by public agencies.

That text was all in bold. The pages following revealed my dark past. The case was filed on March 28, 2000 in the municipal court of Madison County, Ohio. No word about whether this place has bridges.

The charge degree: Minor Misdemeanor
The charge description: 80/65 speed

Charge disposition: Guilty (Long description: Case was waived by defendant.)
Charge plea description: Guilty

While I don't remember waiving a case, it's true. I got pulled over and received a ticket. I was guilty of speeding in Madison County, Ohio. I believe that the fine was around $70 which was a huge amount of money back then for student with a limited income.

Now the bigger mystery. Who made the inquiry? My current employer where I've been for many years? Was this done because I needed a background check to be a soccer coach for my 7 year old? I tried calling the company listed on the letter twice, but I haven't received a reply. For some reason, I think Jennifer Love Hewitt is behind this!

Please click here to see more TMI Thursday posts. Turns out this is my first one of these in many years!

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

My Life in Pictures: September 2021 Edition

Fall is here, and I wanted to share a few pictures of what's happened in my life over the last few months. I'm always home with my kids the week before school starts. It's my annual Dad Camp week. With the kids still too young to get vaccinated and wanting to avoid big crowds or tight indoor spaces, this year was a little more challenging. Still, we found fun things to do. We went to the Lincoln Memorial and walked on the National Mall.

We also visited one of my favorite spots in Northern Virginia, Meadowlark Botanical Gardens. I've only gone a few times, but I need to make this a regular destination. It's so peaceful and calming (even with my kids!) with so much to see and acres to walk around. 

A neighbor has one child who just started college and another in high school. They were cleaning their garage, and since they see us outside playing regularly, offered to give us much of their sports equipment. They gave us a sled, a baseball glove, and numerous soccer balls. I still haven't even gone through the entire box yet. While we'll probably end up donating some of it, I'm fascinated by this baseball they gave us. Thanks to asking on Twitter, I found out that this was signed by former Doosan Bears and Lotte Giants catcher/DH Hong Sung-heon. (홍성흔)

I'm always on the go these days, but every once in a while, right before sunset, I walk on my golf course. Nearly every time, I see deer and/or foxes.

I went to Wegmans last month when it was probably around 90 degrees. I planned on buying ice cream or some type of dessert when I came across this item. 

I didn't know that there was an option of buying an 18-pack of Klondike bars, but it was on sale!

Luigi (now 4) took a picture of me looking very focused. 

When I worked in an office full-time, I shaved every day. Working from home part of the time, I find that I shave only every few days now. I definitely prefer this option.

Finally, this couldn't be a life in pictures post without Ziggy!

Friday, September 17, 2021

Friday Video: Lords of the Underground

There was a recent trend on Twitter where many people shared the first song that came to mind from their first year of college. For me, I could pick a song by Rusted Root, Dave Matthews Band, Stone Temple Pilots, or even Ace of Base. Instead, I'm going with "Chief Rocka" by Lords of the Underground. My roommate must have had this tape and played it regularly. I write tape (even though it could have been a CD) because I clearly remember our other roommate buying a Discman when he got bored at an airport. This was not an inexpensive purchase and one that I definitely could not afford at that time. 

This video is NSFW because of one word, but that word is in a line that I still use to pump myself up sometimes even now.

Thursday, September 09, 2021

Interview With Jake Rosenberg

When I wrote about the most famous Ithaca College graduates, I didn't include many athletes. There are many notable IC alumni that are broadcasters and in sports media, but there aren't many successful athletes from Ithaca College or other Division III schools. The number of Ithaca College and/or D3 graduates that play on a national baseball team might just be one: Jake Rosenberg, IC class of 2018. Jake moved to Israel after graduation and played on Israeli's national baseball team, helping the team qualify for the recent Tokyo Olympics. Jake answered questions about his journey, his teammates, and much more.

I'll start with the obvious question. How does someone from the Philadelphia area who played baseball at Ithaca College (with apologies to Tim Locastro, not exactly known as a place for future professional baseball players) wind up on the Israeli baseball team?

It was the ultimate case of being in the right spot at the right time.  I knew I wasn’t ready to start your typical 9-5 job upon graduating from Ithaca in 2018, and wanted to go on an adventure before starting my work career.  I never had a chance to go abroad during college, so I knew that it was something I always wanted to try.  I picked Israel for many reasons.  Being Jewish and coming from a Jewish background, I thought it would make the most sense to go there.  I got in touch with the President of Israel baseball before going, to see if it would be worth my while.  I knew I was going there to help grow baseball in Israel.  I was going to coach the youth national teams and play in a men’s league out there. I had no idea there was a senior national team when I first got there.  After a few months of being there (that’s all I thought I would last) I was approached and told about a team they are putting together to try and qualify for the Olympics. I knew I would be an idiot to turn down that opportunity, So I ended up getting my Israeli citizenship and started the journey that would eventually get us into the Olympics.

Israel was one of the six baseball teams to qualify for the Olympics. I believe that I saw that the other 5 teams (Japan, USA, Dominican Republic, Mexico, and South Korea) were ranked in the top 7 of the world while Israel was somewhere in 20s. That's incredible! I'm not sure that I have a question here other than how did you do it?

Israel baseball has to be one of the greatest underdog stories in team sports history. It took a lot of mental toughness and believing in one another.  Before our first game in Bulgaria in July of 2019, no one really knew anyone.  We had all met here and there leading up to the start of the tournament, but Bulgaria was the first time we were all together, practicing and playing as a team.  We had to trust that the next guy up could get the job done, and that is just what we did….believed in one another’s abilities.

What was it like playing and practicing with former major leaguers like Ian Kinsler, Danny Valencia, Ryan Lavarnway, and more?

A dream come true.  I have played with some great players throughout my years, but none can compare to the pros that were on Team Israel.  Growing up, everyone always knew of Kinsler as really being the only Jewish player in the MLB at the time, and the fact that I got to share the same field as him is truly awesome.  The pros really showed us what it was like to carry yourself as a professional and how to represent Israel in the best way possible.  They also had a couple cool stories to tell along the way.

Was it at all disappointing that you were selected as an alternate but not able to travel to Japan for the Olympics?

Yeah of course.  It was a little bit of a bittersweet ending.  You had a bunch of guys that were on the original team that qualified as alternates, and they add guys to the team who had nothing to do with us qualifying. They just benefited on our behalf. It is what it is though, still the best baseball experience I have ever had.

Although you're an outfielder, I saw that you pitched in the 2019 European Championship against Spain. Can you share your experience pitching for likely the first time in years? In addition, did you know that the final batter you retired (Fernando Martinez) in that scoreless inning played 99 games in the majors with the Mets and Astros?

That was the first time I had pitched since senior year of high school.  I was joking with the coaches all week about how they should let me pitch if the situation arose.  We were down big and the game didn’t mean anything, so instead of wasting one of our pitchers arms they threw me in there. It was a lot of fun and brought back some good memories from when I would pitch growing up.  I actually did not know that, but when we played Netherlands, I got Roger Bernadina to line out into a double play.  He was a big prospect with the Phillies and Nationals.

(Sean's note: I remember Roger Bernadina and even took a picture of a guy wearing his jersey at my kids' 2019 elementary school fall festival event. Bernandina last played in Washington in 2013, so I was impressed by random jersey appearance.)

I'm from Pittsburgh and am a lifelong Pirates fan. Do you have any stories about your teammate Jeremy Bleich who is a staff assistant for the Pirates and does research and documentation for games for the team? Could he get you free tickets if you see a game at PNC Park?

My dad's side of the family is actually from Squirrel Hill, so Pittsburgh has a special place in my heart.  Bleich is a great guy and easily the funniest one on the team. He was a great teammate and is now an even better friend.  

So what's next for you both personally and professionally whether it's about the Israeli baseball team or something else?

I can happily say that I am officially retired from baseball.  My golf career has now started.  I would like to get into real estate.  I am currently leasing apartments in the Philly area

Finally, my 10 year-old son is playing baseball for the first time this season. (I'm not counting the coach-pitch league he was in a few years ago.) Do you have any general baseball advice for him?

Have fun.  Regardless of how hard baseball is, it's still just a game.  Enjoy every second of it because in a blink of an eye it’ll all be over……..  

Thanks to Jake for taking the time to answer my questions. Please follow him on Twitter at @j_rosenberg34 and on Instagram at @jakerosenberg_1

Photos from Jake Rosenberg

Monday, September 06, 2021

My 9/11 Story

The 20th anniversary of 9/11 is this Saturday, and there will probably be many TV shows, videos, and articles to commemorate this tragedy. I realized that I never really shared where I was on 9/11, so I thought I would do that now.

I moved to Alexandria, Virginia on August 1st, 2001 after earning my Masters degree in higher education a few months earlier. My girlfriend (who is now my wife) got a job in Fairfax County and although I didn't have a job yet, I figured that the Washington DC area was a great place for me with so many colleges and universities here. While I applied for many positions, nothing panned out, so I went to a temp agency. My first job was a 3-day gig demonstrating a Harry Potter board game at the Springfield Mall. No, not this Springfield Mall.

My next temp job was doing data entry at an educational organization in Old Town Alexandria. The job and organization had nothing to do with my Masters degree, but while I continued looking for a full-time job in my field, I had to pay the rent. On Tuesday, September 11th, 2001, I was driving from my apartment to that job listening to Howard Stern when I heard about the first plane crashing into the World Trade Center. It was unclear what was happening, and I parked and arrived at the office when the second plane hit. That was when everyone started to realize the gravity of the situation. The organization didn't have a television, so we gathered around a radio to get news. There were much fewer websites in 2001, and sites where you could look for information like ABC or CNN couldn't handle the traffic. Any news websites were painfully slow if you could even get on. Cell phone service was also non-existent with everyone calling each other. In 2001, you couldn't use your cell phone to browse the internet, and I don't think that texting was even an option. (I didn't even have a cell phone yet.) So we just sat there, mostly in silence, listening to the radio.* 

There was a lot of confusion and information being thrown around. Besides the World Trade Center, I remember there being reports about something happening in Pittsburgh and Cleveland and a bombing at the State Department in DC. Those turned out to be false. A plane hitting the Pentagon in Arlington and another plane crashing in Shanksville, PA were sadly true. 

After a few hours, the company's director told us to go home. Everyone was in shock and no one could do any work. It was a surreal drive home. I was only 6 miles away from the Pentagon and could smell burnt metal. There was lots of traffic, but it was extremely quiet. 

I don't remember much from the rest of the day. I was pretty much glued to the TV watching videos of the plane hitting the second tower and then the two towers both going down. I talked to my parents at some point. Some friends knew that I moved to the DC area but didn't know exactly where, so they wanted to make sure I was okay. I tried to contact several friends in New York to make sure they were okay.

Things were eerie in the DC area for weeks and months after 9/11. Washington National Airport was closed for some time. For any flights out of Washington Dulles, the flight crew would announce that you could not stand up for the first 30 minutes. You couldn't stand up during the last 30 minutes descending into DC either. There were definitely dirty looks from passengers and angry announcements by airplane staff if someone did. The Pentagon Metro station was also closed for months. I remember taking the Blue Line from the Franconia/Springfield station into DC, and you would pass right through an empty Pentagon station. 

As for me, I returned to the temp job either on Wednesday or Thursday and stayed for a few more weeks. Then, I got a job with a company that did emergency management. Only a few weeks into this, I traveled to Florida to do a training scenario with a local community's lead public employees in government, police, fire, etc. Since this wasn't exactly a "high profile" target location, the scenario was that a terrorist was driving a dirty bomb from one place to another and crashed in this area. Everyone had to describe what to do and how they would communicate. Most of what I did was change the slides of a presentation. 

This was also around the time of Anthrax attacks where this poisonous powder was mailed to Senators and media members. The company received a contract to figure out contingency plans if a big government agency could no longer use their space. How many offices would be needed and how many people could fit in the office? What supplies and equipment would be needed? I learned a lot about OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) regulations. I also learned that I shouldn't have worn a Steelers short-sleeve polo shirt to an important meeting where everyone else wore suits and ties and dresses. I stayed at this job for a few months before they didn't have enough work to keep me. I also got a security clearance that has now lapsed many years ago.  

After 9/11, people definitely seemed nicer to each other (though this wasn't the case for many Muslims and Sikhs in America). People were scared but also came together. As we know, that didn't last. 20 years is a really long time. Current college students and anyone younger than that have no direct recollection of 9/11. For example, Katie Ledecky was 4. Najee Harris was 3. Billie Eilish and Olivia Rodrigo weren't born yet. For my kids who are in elementary school with little sense of time and history, 9/11 and World War II could have happened around the same time.

I'm writing this just before Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year. This is a time of teshuvah, tefillah, and tzedakah meaning repentance, prayer, and charity. It's also a time of reflection. Given that I'm writing just before the Rosh Hashanah, I'll probably think about 9/11 and the aftermath at some point, possibly if my mind wanders during services. I'll also watch some of the 9/11 programming for this 20th anniversary and be transported back to 2001. Please be good to one another.

* I don't want to share the name of the radio personality here, but I remember one specifically saying that this (meaning 9/11) would still be remembered in 1,000 years. Even during the shock of the moment, I found this to be a ridiculous statement. I mean, what do you know that occurred 1,000 years ago? Maybe the Battle of Hastings? The Magna Carta (which was actually 800 years ago but I had to look that up)? 

UPDATE: After I published this post, I remembered something from just after 9/11. Not long after I started working for the emergency management company, my supervisor and I drove over the American Legion bridge connecting Virginia and Washington DC. He noticed the wind direction and said it was important on the direction to leave DC in case there was a dirty bomb. Good times!

Photos by Robert Clark, the US Department of Defense website, and Jin S. Lee from the 9/11 Memorial & Museum website.

Monday, August 30, 2021

Two Drummers

I don't know what makes someone a great drummer. I mean, I know you have to keep a beat, but what distinguishes the best drummers in the world from just your standard drummers playing in bands at bars and venues in your neighborhood? I mention this because Charlie Watts, the Rolling Stones drummer, passed away last week at the age of 80. I saw the Rolling Stones perform twice, once in Syracuse in 1994 and the other in 1998 in San Diego. Sure, Mick Jagger commanded the stage and Keith Richards played familiar guitar riffs, but Charlie Watts seemed like the coolest member of the band to me. He was impeccably dressed and just seemed so composed and unflappable. I've seen multiple articles and obituaries refer to Watts as the heartbeat of the Stones, and he probably was. RIP.

Meanwhile, if you're ever down and want something to cheer you up, please check out this video of 11 year-old Nandi Bushell playing with the Foo Fighters. Again, I don't know what makes someone a great drummer, but watching her perform and the smile on her face while she's playing is just incredible. 

Photo by Paul Natkin/Getty Images

Friday, August 27, 2021

Fishing In 50 States

One of my goals is to visit all 50 states. I’ve been stuck at 41 for about a decade now, but I have ideas for trips that will allow me to visit some of the states I'm missing and get closer to my goal. I mention this because The Washington Post recently had a story about two teenagers, Luke Konson and Daniel Balserak, who wanted to fish in all 50 states. Even though I find fishing to be very boring (though to be fair, I only did it once when I was a kid and I had no idea what I was doing), I’m jealous that Luke and Daniel accomplished this goal. I guess their next adventure should be fishing in different countries. Maybe after they complete their first-year at Clemson!

While it's only mentioned in passing in the article, I really want to know more about this part of the story.

On they went, raising money for fishing licenses, tackle, food and gas through a GoFundMe. They blogged at They returned to Virginia every now and then, switching to Daniel’s family’s Toyota minivan and then back to the Honda after totaling the Toyota in a wreck.

Totaling a car is a big deal. I'd love to hear more about this and other random moments from their adventures. It turns out that Luke and Daniel created a blog, but it looks like they stopped updating it at state #19. Oh well.

Here's my vow to you. Whenever we pick up on our hockey road trip again, I will definitely write blog posts about the trip!

Photo from Luke and Dan's Fish All Fifty website.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Interstate 95 Road Trip

I mentioned recently that we passed a funeral procession while driving on Interstate 95 near Cape Canaveral National Cemetery in Mims, Florida. I also wrote that this was part of our first family vacation in two years. (The passing of a funeral procession was an unexpected part of the trip.) What I didn't include is that we spent a lot of time driving on I-95. And by a lot, I mean A LOT.

I think it's really easy to forget sometimes just how big the United States is. I mean, sure, if you look at a map, California is far away from New York, but it's one thing to fly from the East Coast to the West Coast and quite another to drive hundreds of miles...especially with three kids. Here are some observations from driving from Northern Virginia to Hilton Head, South Carolina to South Florida and back to Virginia.

* Until this trip, I was unfamiliar with Law Tigers, America's Motorcycle Lawyers. I passed plenty of their billboards on the drive, and all I thought of every time I saw one was Tony the Tiger being a lawyer. 

Tony The Tiger in a courtroom: Your honor, if you rule in favor of my client, that would be grrrrrreat!

* We passed a billboard in Richmond for The Joel Bieber Law Firm. I wonder how many clients ask if he's related to Justin Bieber.  

* If they could, my kids would eat chicken tenders/nuggets at every meal. No matter where we stopped, they had chicken tenders. While I'm on the topic of chicken, I don't think Zaxby's gets enough credit for being a terrific restaurant. It's probably because most locations are in the southeastern US and you only tend to see commercials while watching the ACC Network. I just learned that there is a Zaxby's about 20 minutes from me, and I don't know why I'm not a regular customer.

* Speaking of fast food restaurants, we passed hundreds during the trip, but there were no Long John Silver's. That is the reason why this country is falling apart!

Well, that or maybe the guy driving this van, who I'm sure is a kind and reasonable person.

* There are a group of truck stops in North Carolina called Big Boy's. Based on the location of the apostrophe, I guess there is one big boy and not a group of big boys.  

* Much of the drive is the same. Miles and miles of tree-lined highways. And then, seemingly out of nowhere, you go over beautiful Lake Marion in South Carolina. It's such a shocking and unexpected difference in scenery. And then, it's back to tree-lined highways.

* If you're driving on 95 through North Carolina and have an extra 45-60 minutes, I recommend visiting the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park in Wilson, NC. While the entire story is on the Whirligig website, the late Simpson created dozens of "Whirligigs" out of recycled metals. The city created a downtown park and pavilion for these sculptures, and it's a cool little area to walk around. Unfortunately, the air was completely still when we visited, so we didn't see the sculptures move with the wind. 

* We also didn't get to visit the "Treat Yo' Self Bakery" just down the street from Whirligig Park since they were closed for the day. I hope that Michael Schur and the folks at Parks & Recreation are okay with the bakery name. 

* I have never been to Savannah, so I had a brilliant plan to break up the Florida to Virginia drive by staying overnight in the "Hostess City of the South." The day before leaving, I looked up hotels in the Savannah area and found that just about everything was sold out. The only exception was what appeared to be a really nice hotel in downtown Savannah which cost about $500 or 60,000 Hilton Honors points. That wasn't going to happen. I ended up booking a hotel in Manning, SC instead. This turned out to be a fantastic move. By the time we arrived in Savannah, we definitely wouldn't have had time to enjoy the city or the hotel. When we got to Manning after 9:00PM, the hotel and others in the area were sold out. Making the reservation worked out very well. 

* Can we talk about South of the Border? This cornucopia of activities is located just south of the North Carolina border in South Carolina. South of the Border bills itself as "America's Favorite Highway Oasis."  I'll admit that I have never stopped, but the countless signs on 95 promoting the venue are unavoidable. I truly appreciate the name, the idea, and the fact that it's been around for over 70 years. Now the negative. Some of the ads, which were probably created about 70 years ago, are just racist. Keep the premise, but get rid of the stereotypical Mexican cartoon and images.

* I was really disappointed that the musical group Florida Georgia Line wasn't just hanging out and playing on the Florida-Georgia line. We crossed this border twice, and they weren't there either time. (And in case you think this is just a Florida-Georgia Line thing, I fully expect to see Boston in Boston, Chicago in Chicago, etc. Europe in Europe or Asia in Asia might be a stretch though.)

* I'm fascinated by the Roanoke Rapids Theatre about 15 minutes south of Virginia-North Carolina border. It's just a beautiful building seemingly in the middle of no where. I'd love to see a show there someday. 

Total mileage driven on this 15-day trip: 2336.2 miles
Total miles driven in the car in the 15 months prior to the trip: 3939 miles

Friday, August 20, 2021

Friday Video: White Town

I've listed to a lot of pop music this summer. On our drive on interstate 95 (more on this next week), the kids constantly wanted to play the Hits 1 station on SiriusXM. One of the songs we heard is "Love Again" by Dua Lipa. It's not her best song, but it's fine. 

The point of this post is the sampled music in the song above that is very familiar to 90s music fans. After seeing Green Day and Weezer recently, maybe I'm just on a nostalgia kick right now. In any event, I still like "Your Woman" by White Town.

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Cape Canaveral National Cemetery Funerals

At some point in the next few weeks, I plan on writing about our first family vacation in two years. Today, though, I'm writing about just a few minutes of the trip. On our drive from south Florida to Northern Virginia, we passed a funeral procession on interstate 95. The procession was presumably heading for the Cape Canaveral National Cemetery located in Mims, Florida. Without knowing anything about the cemetery, I wondered who was being buried. Was it an astronaut? Someone involved with the space program?

When I got home, I thought about this a little more. I tried to see if there was information online, but was unsuccessful. I then contacted the National Cemetery Administration, a division of the Department of Veterans Affairs. They were extremely helpful and provided a quick response. With multiple interments, they could not say for certain which service it would have been. Instead, they gave me the names of four veterans and the spouse of a veteran who were buried on the day we passed the procession. 

While I generally like to keep things light here, I wanted to share what I found about these individuals. 

Stanley ("Chip") Wessel

Chip was born in Orlando, attended University of Central Florida, and reached the rank of corporal in the Army. More importantly, he was a father of three and had a huge impact on the Brevard County, Florida lacrosse community. This Facebook post really sums out how much he meant to so many people. He passed away at only 51.

Rubin Ervin III

Rubin, a retired Air Force Master Sergeant, passed away in Orlando at the age of 77. He was survived by three children, five grandsons, and a large extended family. His obituary included this, "We will always remember him saying "I'm a Baaaad man!!!" and "Never give up on yourself, you have to be your biggest fan."

Ruben performed duties as a Duplicating Devices Operator Supervisor and during his time in service, awarded the Commendation Medal w/3 Devices, Overseas Short Tour Ribbon, Overseas Long Tour Ribbon w/1 OLC, Longevity Service Award w/1 Silver OLC, NCO Professional Education Graduate Ribbon, National Defense Service Medal, Outstanding Unit Award w/1 OLC, Small Arms Expert Marksmanship Military Ribbon, and the Good Conduct Medal w/1 Silver OLC and 2 Bronze OLC. 

I don’t know what all of this means, but it seems impressive.

Felix Rodriguez

Felix was born in the Domincan Republic and moved to Puerto Rico at around ten. He traveled all over in the Air Force and met his wife while stationed in Panama. They raised two children and settled in Orlando after Felix retired as a decorated Master Sergeant from the Air Force.

He earned his Bachelor of Science in Professional Aeronautics from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and later earned his teacher certification in mathematics from the University of Central Florida. He worked 20 years at Orange County Public Schools teaching mathematics at Westridge Middle School and Roberto Clemente Middle School. He was also a gardener. Felix passed away at the age of 62.

It definitely got a little dusty reading this comment on his obituary page:

Thanks Daddy for showing us how to be a husband, father, professional and a good person with your everyday behavior and conduct. If I get to be half of the person you were I would consider myself satisfied in life. Love you everyday. Thanks for being the best husband for mommy and the world #1 father to my sister and brother. Will always remember you as what you were, one of the most amazing persons I have the honor to meet. 

Gregory Olive

Greg was from Auburndale, Florida and went to Auburndale High School and East Florida State College. He served in the Air Force, reaching the rank of Senior Airman. Greg also worked on the Space Shuttle program at Kennedy Space Center, and I saw one former colleague noted that "he was always smiling, happy, and one of the nicest co-workers." Greg passed away at 54. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find much more about him.

Barbara O’Donnell

I found even less about Barbara O’Donnell, who I believe passed away in Altamonte Springs, Florida at 81.

My condolences to the family and friends of these individuals. Thanks to all of them for serving our country. RIP.

Photos by Malcolm Denemark / Florida Today and Space Coast Daily.

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Concert T-Shirts

I attended the Hella Mega Tour concert at Nats Park in Washington DC on Sunday evening. It was nice to do something "normal" again in seeing Green Day, Weezer, and opening act The Interrupters even though Fall Out Boy didn't perform due to one of the band's team testing positive for COVID. So even normal isn't really normal when one of the acts can't play and many of the attendees (including me) wore masks throughout the show unless this is what counts as normal right now. I just wrote normal so many times that I don't know what that word means or if I spelled it correctly.

While I'll share more pictures and videos below, I have a question. Let's say that you attend a football game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Dallas Cowboys. If you are a fan of one of the teams, you might wear some type of Steelers or Cowboys clothing. You probably wouldn't wear a New England Patriots jersey or a Seattle Seahawks T-shirt. I mention this because at the concert, I saw people wearing T-shirts of the following musicians:

The Rolling Stones
Foo Fighters
Jimmy Buffett

There are probably more that I'm missing, but the point is that none of these bands performed in DC on Sunday. Obviously, music is different from sports. While there's a rivalry between the Baltimore Ravens and the Steelers, there isn't any animosity (that I know of) between Weezer and The Rolling Stones or their fans. What do you think? Is it appropriate to wear a band's T-shirt to a concert of a completely different band?

This is the start of the Green Day show and definitely not suitable for work.

Even though you can see "Holiday," possibly my favorite Green Day song, above, this is from a  different perspective.

If you ever wanted to see the chorus of Weezer's "Hash Pipe" signed, you're welcome!

Weezer has a new song called "All My Favorite Songs" featuring the band AJR. When Weezer performed this song, I sent a 30-second video to my wife to show my kids since they like AJR and know the song. My kids were convinced that the video was of AJR, even though the band name Weezer was prominently displayed on the stage!

Finally, even though Max Scherzer was traded to Los Angeles, he's still watching you!

Monday, August 09, 2021

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Caterpillar

Outside playing with my kids, we came across this little fellow on our street. 

I thought it was a toy at first, but then it started moving. 

It turns out that this is an Eastern Tiger swallowtail caterpillar. The kids and I were fascinated by this insect, but after a few minutes, the kids wanted to get back to playing. We were all careful to make sure that we didn't step on the caterpillar as it walked across the road. Fortunately, as the caterpillar neared the sidewalk, a friendly bird picked up the caterpillar and helped him (or her) reach its destination. Or at least the bird's destination.

A few weeks earlier, I took a picture of this butterfly.

I've come across several of them in my neighborhood, and as you may have guessed, this is what the Eastern Tiger swallowtail caterpillar turns into. I presume that before turning into a butterfly, the caterpillars eat through one apple on Monday, two pears on Tuesday, and three plums on Wednesday (but are still hungry before going on a crazy eating spree on Saturday).

Tuesday, August 03, 2021

First World Problem

My wife and I celebrated our anniversary by getting an extremely rare night away from the kids. We stayed at a very nice hotel, and when they saw it was our anniversary, the front desk staff said they would send something to our room. When we left for dinner nothing had arrived, so we didn’t think much of it. We ate dinner and dessert and came back to the room a few hours later to see a bottle of champagne in an ice bucket and a box of chocolate-covered strawberries. Since we were stuffed from eating too much at the restaurant, we decided to take the strawberries back home with us.

Unfortunately, there was no refrigerator in the room except for the minibar. Not really caring about the products inside, we took out four non-alcoholic drinks and put the box of strawberries inside. The next morning, the bill arrived under our door, and we got charged $12.72 for two bottles of Pellegrino. First, $6.36 for a regular-sized bottle of water?!?! Second, I would struggle to drink a bottle of Pellegrino if you GAVE me $6.36 to drink it. Like Ted Lasso (a show that I finally just started watching), I just don't like sparkling water. (This video is not suitable for work.)

Apparently, there are sensors in the frig, so while the box of strawberries covered two sensors, the other two were exposed. Therefore, it noted the two missing bottles and added it to our bill. Fortunately, after we returned all of the cans and bottles to their original place, the front desk staff removed this from the bill and even comped us for a can of ginger ale that my wife did drink. 

I'm just glad that they don't have sensors for the two pens that I took home from the room. They are great pens, and I probably would have been charged $8.41 each for them!

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Telemedicine Appointments

During the pandemic, we have had the opportunity to shift some of the kids' doctors appointments online. It has saved so much time and allowed me and the kids to meet with doctors without having to miss work and school. Seven year old Pedro Tulo has seen one particular specialist for over two and a half years. In June, Pedro Tulo had an EEG, and they wanted him to have as little sleep as possible. He made it all the way to 2:45 AM, and I woke him up at 6:00. The Moose stayed up for moral support (and the chance to watch unlimited TV) until midnight. After I woke him up from the couch to take him to bed, he angrily objected and declared that he wanted to win the contest for staying up later. I had to try to explain to a tired and delirious 10 year old that there was no contest and that he needed to sleep.

I'm getting way off topic. That happens a lot. The EEG was in person, but we scheduled the follow-up to be online. This worked out perfectly since we planned on being on vacation. About 30 minutes before the telemed appointment, a staff member from the doctor's office called to check on Pedro Tulo's height and weight and to confirm his medications. She then asked to confirm if we were in the state of Virginia and had the Zoom link. I paused and replied, "Is the first part a problem?" I probably shouldn't have said anything, but I did. The answer was yes. 

Apparently there is some type of Virginia law that you must be in the state for any telemed appointment. I should probably mention that I live in Northern Virginia, just outside of Washington DC. The doctor is affiliated with Children's National Hospital in DC, so he likely has patients in DC and Maryland. I could be in Washington or Bethesda only about 10-20 miles from the office, but the doctor could not meet with us online. Meanwhile, if I was in Roanoke or Virginia Beach over 200 miles away, that would be fine.

At the time of our scheduled appointment, I clicked on the Zoom link hoping that maybe the doctor would see us. He did not. However, a few minutes after I turned off the computer, he called, and we had the appointment by phone. While I'm not a member of the Virginia legislature, and I'm not going to play one on the internet, it seems like someone should look at these regulations. How is it fine to have an appointment by phone but not online? What's the difference? It seems like it is more efficient for doctors and patients to have appointments online in some cases. Why does it matter if I'm in Alexandria or Los Angeles?

Photo by TeleMed. Apparently, there's a company with this name. I just thought telemed was a generic term.

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Swimming and Gymnastics Get Too Much Olympic Attention

Welcome to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics taking place in 2021! Obviously, the Olympics were delayed because of the global pandemic, and it's definitely odd seeing events with no fans. While I had all types of ideas for Olympic related  blog posts, I'm too late to do a preview. Instead, this post is part of my new series, Hills I'm Willing To Die On. And today's hill is that swimming and gymnastics get too much attention at the Olympics.

This certainly isn't designed to be an anti-Simone Biles, Katie Ledecky, or Michael Phelps post. They are all incredible athletes who deserve all of the accolades they receive. Phelps is the most decorated Olympian ever with 28 medals including 23 golds. Many people see these numbers and also consider him to be the greatest Olympian ever. Ledecky comes into the Tokyo games with 6 medals and will compete in four individual events and at least one relay event. Meanwhile, Biles earned 5 medals in Rio and has the chance to double her medal total in Tokyo. Again, these are all outstanding athletes and their accomplishments may not be matched in these sports for years if ever. 

The point of this post is more about these sports themselves. Women's artistic gymnastics has four individual events (vault, uneven bars, balance beam, and floor) as well as the team competition.There are six individual events for men (floor, pommel horse, rings, vault, parallel bars, and horizontal bar) gymnastics plus the team. There are 37 different swimming events! 37! Yes, it's incredibly difficult to qualify to compete in multiple events, but the opportunity to do so is there. For example, Ledecky is competing in the 200, 400, 800, and 1500 free events. The distances are different and preparation for and the races themselves are different, but it's the same stroke. Meanwhile, if you play team handball, you have one chance to win a medal. There isn't a team handball event and then an individual one. There's one opportunity to win a medal in baseball and softball. The Olympics does not have a home run derby or skills competition. If you throw the javelin, it's all about who can throw it the furthest. Why not have more opportunities for javelin athletes? Maybe have an event to see who can throw the highest too? Perhaps archery and javelin athletes can have team events to combine accuracy and distance. I understand that this sounds silly, but why not? 

NBC will show gymnastics and swimming more than other sports in part because they have so many events. Yes, Biles and Ledecky are superstars, but as I mentioned, in many events, athletes have only one chance to win a medal. I understand that I can go out and find rowing and baseball and skateboarding on TV or online, but I wish there were more focus on these other sports and athletes. 

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

2021 Pittsburgh Pirates Draft Recap

Although the 2021 Major League Baseball draft occurred over a week ago, the Pirates selected too many players with great names, so I had to write about it. Oh, if you're new to this blog and just saw the post title, I should probably mention that I often write Pirates, Penguins, and Steelers draft recaps that focus on player names and other silly things. If you're looking for in-depth player analysis, I suggest looking elsewhere, but I promise that this will be more entertaining. 

Please note that I'm not going to write about every player drafted, and this isn't in any particular order.

Round 1: Henry Davis, C - University of Louisville

Sure, I could mention that Davis batted .370 with 15 home runs along with an on-base percentage of .482 and a slugging percentage of .663 during his junior season at Louisville, but what fun would that be? Instead, I'll share that my kids watched a few episodes of the Nickelodeon TV show Henry Danger recently. 

Whenever I see the show title, I think of the band Harvey Danger who created one of my favorite songs from the 90s, Flagpole Sitta. While I can easily hear Pirates announcer Greg Brown yelling "O Henry" every time Davis makes a great play or hits a home run, I hope that nickname Flagpole Sitta catches on for Davis. Just picture it. HOME RUN, FLAGPOLE SITTA!

(My apologies to Brendt Citta who was the Pirates' 38th round pick in the 2018 draft and who is currently in AA Altoona. The #1 overall pick gets this nickname.) 

Round 6: Mike Jarvis, SS - San Diego State University

First, Go Aztecs! Second, this is quite the unusual draft pick. Jarvis was a college basketball coach at George Washington University and St. John's University. He just seems a little (okay, A LOT) old to get drafted.

Round 9: Luke Brown, OF - University of Louisville

This is a country singer. The Pirates drafted a country singer. You can't convince me that Luke Brown isn't a country musician.

Round 15: Tyler Samaniego, P - University of South Alabama

Where in the world is Tyler Samaniego? Do it, Rockapella!

Round 4: Owen Kellington, P - U-32 HS (Vermont)
Round 13: Owen Sharts, P - University of Nevada

There have been plenty of jokes about the last name Sharts, but this is a high-class blog, so I will refrain from such sophomoric humor. I mean, Baby Sharts (doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo) is a potential nickname, but again, I want to focus on the first name Owen. Although baseball has been around for well over 100 years, according to Baseball Reference, there has only been one person with the first name Owen to ever play in the majors.* That's Owen Miller of the Cleveland Indians who made his debut in May. Owen Miller is currently batting .106 (5 for 47). Actually, besides retired long-time hockey player Owen Nolan and I guess NFL TE Owen Daniels, can you think of other successful professional athletes in America with the first name of Owen? (I'm not including Owen Hart.) There's not a good track record here, so these are highly questionable picks by the Pirates. Prove us wrong, Owens, prove us wrong!

Round 3: Bubba Chandler, P - North Oconee HS (Georgia)

Bubba has already committed to play baseball and football at Clemson, and honestly, someone named Bubba seems like the perfect fit as the Clemson quarterback. Looking at Baseball Reference again, there is not a great history of baseball players named Bubba. The most successful is probably Bubba Church who pitched from 1950-1955 for the Phillies, Reds, and Cubs. He went 36-37 with a 4.10 ERA and a career WAR of 7.8. Before you start bringing your thoughts about how great Bubba Trammell or Bubba Crosby were, they were not. Back to Bubba Church (which sounds like a really fun place for a Sunday service), he had 274 strikeouts in 713.1 innings. Most pitchers now have that many strikeouts in about 300-350 innings!

Round 12: Chazz Martinez, P - Orange Coast College

While there have been very few people named Owen or Bubba to ever reach the majors, Chazz Martinez could be a trailblazer. Yes, there's Chaz Roe, a mediocre relief pitcher for the Tampa Bay Rays (and even as a mediocre pitcher, he's earned over $6 in his career), but there has never been a major leaguer named Chazz. Good luck, Chazz. We're all counting on you!

We interrupt this draft recap for a fun fact!

Of the 21 players selected by the Pirates, none of them primarily play 1st base or 2nd base. Some of the position players could certainly move there as they go through the minors. Typically, the best athletes play shortstop in little league and high school, but they may no longer be the best athletes once they join the Pirates.

Round 8: Sean Sullivan, P - California

Great pick! Anyone named Sean is a fantastic pick. Sean Sullivan is welcome to write a post here anytime. 

Round 14: Braylon Bishop, OF - Arkansas HS (Arkansas)

Check mate! (I'm here for all of your chess joke needs.)

Round 16: Daniel Corona, SS - The Baylor School (Tennessee)

I'm not going to pretend to be an expert on the new name, image, likeness opportunities for college athletes, but if I'm Daniel Corona, I call the Corona beer people and request to be in a commercial with Snoop Dogg, Bad Bunny, or Tony Romo. I'm sure Corona is looking for an entry into the Wake Forest University community, and this is their chance. (If Corona says no, Corona should sign with the Pirates.)  

Please click here to see past draft recaps. 

* Update! This is incorrect. There have been about 10 major league players with the first name Owen (some with the given name). For example, Donie Bush, who was third in the 1914 MVP voting as a member of the Detroit Tigers, was born Owen Bush. Owen Wilson apparently went by Chief Wilson and had 36 triples for the 1912 Pirates. Thanks to John Dreker of Pirates Prospects for this information.