Friday, May 28, 2021

Eric Carle

I've read a lot of books to my kids over the last decade. There are some that aren't very good, but you read them repeatedly because your kids like them. There are others that both of you and your kids enjoy, and you're happy when your kids want you to read them. Many of these books were written by and/or illustrated by Eric Carle.

I received a news alert on Wednesday that Carle died at the age of 91. He actually died on Sunday. In this day when news is immediate and instantaneous, it's odd that it took several days for this announcement to go public. When I saw the alert, I said "oh no" out loud because of books like "The Very Hungry Caterpillar," "From Head to Toe," and "Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?" that I've read countless times. When Pedro Tulo was less than two years old, we had difficulty understanding him, and he struggled communicating. He qualified for assistance with a speech pathologist who came to my home once a week and daycare once a week. I clearly remember working with him and the speech pathologist by using Eric Carle books.

Besides the books, The Children's Museum of Pittsburgh had the "Very Eric Carle: A Very Hungry, Quiet, Lonely, Clumsy, Busy Exhibit" for several years. After learning about Carle's death, I found pictures and videos of my kids playing at the exhibit. And by my kids, I definitely mean me too.

While Eric Carle is no longer with us, his books will continue to be kids' and parents' favorites for years to come. Thank you to Mr. Carle for writing and drawing such amazing books!

More about Carle's life is available at NPR and The Washington Post.

Eric Carle photo by Jonathan Wiggs / The Boston Globe via Getty.

Friday, May 21, 2021

Sidney Crosby Saves Game

Sidney Crosby is an awesome hockey player. Reason #947 was this play on Thursday night to prevent the New York Islanders from tying game 3 of the first round playoff series late in the third period.

Yes, most hockey players would have done the same thing in this situation, but it's one of the greatest players of the last 20 years being in the right position late in the game.

Meanwhile, Ben Roethlisberger is the greatest quarterback in Pittsburgh Steelers history. The Steelers would not have reached 3 Super Bowls and won 2 of them without him. While it's not really fair to compare Sid and Ben and the two plays, I'm doing it anyway. This was Ben in the playoffs earlier this year.

Again, I know that it's not fair to compare the two plays and James Conner was also there for the Steelers, but there didn't appear to be any urgency by Ben on this play. 

By the way, this is my final blog post in my 30 blog post in 30ish days challenge. Go me!

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Cicadas Are Here

It was only a few weeks ago when I wrote that the Brood X cicadas are coming. Well, they're here. We spotted our first cicada on Saturday and found more and more each day.

We have a common area on our street with more than a dozen trees. There are shells and live cicadas on the trees and especially on the small plants below them. They are really everywhere now. What's interesting (at least to me) is that they aren't flying yet. They also aren't making any noise. I guess I should expect them to be flying everywhere and being extremely loud in the next few days and weeks.

The kids are fascinated by them. Three year old Luigi calls them 'cadas and is very conscious of not stepping on them when walking on his "balance beam" which is really the painted yellow curb separating the sidewalk from the street. If he sees a cicada on its back and struggling to flip over, he wants me to help. 

A friend on Facebook posted a picture of a blue-eyed cicada that she found. Who knew that there are white walker cicadas?

Oh, there is also a fungus that's making cicadas sex crazy. So basically, there might soon be millions of sex-crazed white walker cicadas. Winter is coming!

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Tough Sports Weekend

Playoffs and tournaments can be difficult for players and fans. At the end, there is only one winner. Take this past weekend. The University of Pittsburgh's men's soccer team advanced to the final four for the first time in school history. They had a tremendous season, but lost 1-0 to Indiana University on Friday night despite having more quality chances and possession than the Hoosiers.

Meanwhile, Ithaca College's women's lacrosse team defeated the #2 seeded Washington & Lee in the round of 16 on Saturday evening 16-11. I believe the announcers said that Washington & Lee had won 40 straight matches at its home stadium. The win was so convincing that Washington & Lee is now considering changing its name.* Ithaca then advanced to the quarterfinals, but lost 16-5 to the Salisbury University Steaks. Fine, it's the Sea Gulls, though I think the steaks would be a better nickname. Anyway, Ithaca had a terrific season and advanced to the quarterfinals of the Division III NCAA Tournament for only the second time in the school's history.

Both Pitt's soccer team and Ithaca's lacrosse team had amazing seasons. However, there's a bit of disappointment now. You hoped that there would be national titles, but like I mentioned above, there can be only one winner. That's the beauty of sports, right? You celebrate the successes and wins and you mourn the losses, but there's always hope for the next game or year.

On a completely different topic, ESPNU aired the soccer semifinals on Friday night. Immediately after the first match between Marshall and North Carolina, ESPNU went right to a short film about the Vanderbilt women's bowling team. There were no postgame highlights or interviews with coaches. There was not a preview of the Indiana-Pitt match. Apparently, we needed to see this film at that very moment. There weren't 2 or 3 people at ESPN or college soccer experts out there who could have filled 30 minutes of coverage?

Photos from Pitt's men's soccer and Ithaca's women's lacrosse Twitter accounts.

* The school really is considering changing its name, but the reason is because of Robert E. Lee. You know, the military leader of the confederate army who fought against the United States of America. Most places would consider him to be a traitor. Actually, I like my line above about the school being so embarrassed by its loss to Ithaca that they could no longer live with its name, so let's just go with that!

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Honey Nut Cheerios With Blueberries

When I announced my idea to publish 30 blog posts in 30ish days, my plan was to write short posts based on several ideas I had in mind and conclude with a big post about the 20th anniversary of my trip to see the Penguins-Sabres playoff game. My timing may have been a little off since I wrote about the hockey trip and still have a few more days to go.

Therefore, I just want to share that I recently started putting blueberries in my Honey Nut Cheerios cereal each morning. It's a delicious addition.

Yes, this might be the dumbest blog post I've ever written, and that's saying something since I once "wrote" and published a post while asleep.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Penguins-Sabres Game 7 Road Trip

In May 2001, I was approaching the end of my graduate program at The Ohio State University in Columbus. I also worked three jobs and was trying to find a full-time job and figure out where I would live after graduation. Despite probably being stressed, particularly in finishing my case study requirement to be able to graduate, I watched nearly every Pittsburgh Penguins playoff game at my friends' apartment, generally with my friends Maze, Wells, and Rob. Oh, I should also mention that my friends' apartment featured a living room table with bottle caps glued on the entire surface. This really has nothing to do with the story, but the table was super cool for guys in their 20s and not something that would probably work in homes with families. 

20 years ago this past Saturday (May 8th), the Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the Buffalo Sabres 3-2 in overtime in game six of the Eastern Conference semifinals. During the postgame broadcast on either ESPN or ESPN2, the studio host casually mentioned that there were still some tickets available for game 7 to be held two nights later in Buffalo. We looked at each other and quickly tried to figure out the logistics of taking off work/school and driving the 300+ miles to Buffalo. While we were doing this, we found the phone number for the Buffalo Sabres ticket office and called to purchase tickets. There was not a way to buy tickets online back then. We managed to get 4 tickets in the top row of the HSBC Arena.

(I should mention that I showed this post to my friends before publishing it. According to Rob, the studio hosts mentioned that there were still tickets available for game 7 prior to overtime beginning in game 6. He also said that we pledged to try to buy tickets for game 7 if the Penguins won game 6. He's probably right.)

On Thursday, May 10th, 2001, we left Columbus around lunchtime and drove to Buffalo. It was a fairly uneventful ride except that Rob attempted to hang a Pittsburgh Penguins towel from the backseat window. This ended poorly as his pinky finger got smashed in what was clearly non-child friendly windows. While I don't believe there was any long-term damage, his finger really hurt during the trip. Oh, and there wasn't time to go to the doctor or even stop and get ice. We had to get to Buffalo in time for the game! (It's possible that we stopped at a fast food drive through to get a cup of ice. If we did, it probably didn't take more than 2 minutes from the trip.)

What's funny is that I remember very little about the game except for Darius Kasparaitis scoring the game-winning goal in overtime against future Hall-of-Famer Dominik Hasek and then diving on the ice in celebration. 

There were a decent amount of Penguins fans in attendance (at most 10% of the crowd), but much less than a Pens-Caps game in DC or any away Steelers game. While the Sabres fans were disappointed in the result, I don't remember getting any abuse or people yelling at us while wearing Penguins gear. 

After the game, we made our way to the lower section of the arena behind where ESPN interviewed Kasparaitis. I know that this made Sportscenter (a friend of mine saw me in the background and emailed me the next morning asking if I lived in Buffalo), but unfortunately, I can't find any video of this. There's audio proof of the interview though.

There's also complete footage of the entire game and interviews conduced by Pittsburgh and national media. I went through this video starting around the 3:25:00 mark like it was the Zapruder film, but I couldn't find myself.

The Penguins finished the season with a rookie goalie named Johan Hedberg. He went 7-1-1 to help lead the Penguins into the playoffs and continued his hot streak in a first round series win against the Washington Capitals. Hedberg got the nickname "Moose" and was extremely popular in Pittsburgh. You would hear "MOOOOOOOOOSE" chants when he made a big save, and there were even foam antlers to represent Hedberg. I mention this because Maze had a pair of these antlers that he wore to the game. On the way out of the arena, a Penguins fan approached Maze to buy the antlers, and purchased them for $20. While Hedberg played 12 seasons in the NHL, he never did as well as he did during the 2001 playoff run. I think getting $20 for the antlers was a good deal!

After we left the arena, we threw a frisbee to each other in the parking lot waiting for the traffic to clear. Then, several hours later probably between 2:00-4:00 AM, we stopped at a 24-hour Denny's somewhere off I-71 in Ohio. The food went right through us and Wells drove as quickly as possible to get us back to Columbus.

20 years later, I'm happy we went to the game. I wouldn't necessarily call it a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence, but this was a fun, impulsive decision that I'll always cherish. I certainly remember it more than what I would have done at one of my jobs that day. It's fun to tell people that I was at the Kasparaitis game and that we drove from Columbus to Buffalo, saw the game, and drove right back in less than 18 hours. I'm sure that my friends feel the say way.

Photos by Associated Press and Doug Pensinger/ALLSPORT

Monday, May 10, 2021

Hank Azaria- Kevin Michael Richardson-Sofia Vergara

I recently saw several articles (including this one) about actor Hank Azaria apologizing for voicing Apu on The Simpsons.  I like Azaria. He's been a voice on The Simpsons for over thirty years, but I also remember him from Herman's Head, The Birdcage, and many, many, many other roles over the years, including as the title character of the show Brockmire, a highly entertaining (and definitely not suitable for kids) show about a disgraced baseball broadcaster that makes his way back. I watched the early seasons of The Simpsons religiously and even hosted a party for the "Who Shot Mr. Burns?" episode. While I'm glad that The Simpsons are still on the air, I just don't watch it anymore.

The articles also mention that Kevin Michael Richardson is now the voice of Dr. Julius Hibbert. That name looked really familiar, so I went to IMDB. What a resume! Kevin Michael Richardson has been a voice actor for decades in dozens and dozens of television shows, films, and video games. He's also the voice of Crusher on Blaze and the Monster Machines, a show that Luigi (age 3) will likely watch today! What's funny is that I remembered Richardson from his live acting on a short-lived show called The Knights of Prosperity. (KMR is on the right.)

Back in 2006, I picked The Knights of Prosperity in a TV death pool (and even mentioned the show several times on this blog). The reason was simple. The show was supposed to be called "Let's Rob Mick Jagger," and the story that I heard was that the show thought that Jagger would be a recurring character, but he only wanted to be in the pilot. They ended up changing it to the odd title, The Knights of Prosperity. The show starred Donal Logue, Richardson, and an actress in one of her first major roles named Sofia Vergara. Sure, you might know Vergara from the multiple-winning Emmy show Modern Family, but she's also now a Steelers fan.

So, that's the post. No point, just random things that came into my head. This is probably what I envisioned when I named this blog Sean's Ramblings!

Sunday, May 09, 2021

Happy Mother's Day

I bought a nice bouquet of roses for my wife for Mother's Day. The Moose (age 10) decided to make a special card for his mom using one of the roses from the bouquet. This is the result:

Happy Mother's Day to those who are celebrating!

Friday, May 07, 2021

Sheffield Wednesday's Relegation Battle

I haven't written about Sheffield Wednesday much this season. While few people who read Sean's Ramblings care about the team, almost as important for writing purposes is that they have been awful. If Sheffield Wednesday was awful because the team was only playing younger players, that wouldn't be terrible. If they were tanking in the hopes of getting the top draft pick like Sidney Crosby, LeBron James, or Trevor Lawrence, that would be understandable. However, there are no drafts in European soccer, and the team isn't playing many young players. They are just bad.

A little background on the season. The team started with a 12-point deduction because of shady financials. I'm not going to elaborate on this since I don't fully understand the financial fair play regulations, but just know that before the season started, every team in the English Football League Championship had 0 points while Wednesday had negative 12. It looked funny in the standings, and it probably was for fans of the other 23 clubs in the league. Fortunately, the 12-point reduction was later reduced to 6 points. 

On the field, defender Dominic Iorfa, the team's player of the year for the 2019-2020 season, played only 10 league games before rupturing his Achilles. Solid midfielder Massimo Luongo has also only played 12 matches because of various injuries. I honestly think that if Iorfa was healthy all season, the team would be safe from relegation, and missing him and Luongo have been big losses. It also doesn't help that the team can't score goals. The team has scored 37 goals in 45 league matches. That's good (well not good) for 20th of the 24 EFL championship clubs and a major reason why they have been awful. 

Let's talk about managers for a moment. The team started with Garry Monk until he was fired in November and replaced by Tony Pulis. Pulis lasted all the way until the end of December until he was canned. Neil Thompson served as the caretaker manager until the club hired Darren Moore at the beginning of March. People seem high on Moore, but unfortunately, he has missed several games after developing pneumonia as a result of COVID. Moore will also miss Saturday's match with Jamie Smith taking on the managerial duties. Not very much consistency here.

Oh, did I mention that there have been several times when the players haven't been paid in full? If your employer is unable to pay you in full on time ONCE, maybe you chalk it up to a mistake as long as it's fixed quickly. If this happens several times, I can't imagine that you want to stay there. Yes, plenty of people say that they would love to play sports for free, but if you have to pay a mortgage, buy food, and spend money on childcare, you're not going to play sports for free for very long. I can't imagine that the players feel any type of loyalty to the club if the organization can't even do the most basic function of paying them on time.

So if you made it this far, you understand that the team is a mess. Still with all this, the team is still amazingly alive to remain in the championship division. For those of you not familiar with relegation/promotion, the best teams in this particular league get promoted to the Premier League for the opportunity to get destroyed by Manchester City, Manchester United, Leicester City, Chelsea, etc. However, the difference of being in the Premier League and the EFL Championship is millions and millions of dollars. Plus, you get the chance to compete with these teams. The bottom three teams get relegated to EFL League One. Think of the Premier League (or at least the top teams in this league) as a private jet. The Championship is probably the middle seat of a commercial flight. League One is a DC to New York bus. Little to no television coverage and much less money involved. You really don't want to go to League One.

So on Saturday, Sheffield Wednesday plays against Derby County managed by DC United great Wayne Rooney. (He may have played somewhere else too.) If Sheffield Wednesday wins and Rotherham United (yes, this is a real team) loses or draws Cardiff City, Sheffield Wednesday will finish in 21st and avoid relegation. Despite being awful, Derby and Rotherham have been just as bad if not worse. According to the FiveThirtyEight website, Wednesday has an 83% chance of getting relegated. This seems bad until you realize that this percentage was in the mid-90s a week or two ago.

So here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to wake up for the 7:30 AM Sheffield-Derby match on a Saturday morning. (One or more of my kids is usually up by this time, so it's not as taxing as it would have been in my younger days.) I'm going to buy ESPN+ specifically for the match. I'm going to put on my Sheffield Wednesday T-shirt. And I'm going to cheer for Wednesday to win and stay up. 

And if they lose, I guess I can write a blog post this fall to try to figure out what a MK Dons is and who Accrington Stanley might be.

Thursday, May 06, 2021

Cicadas Are Coming

2004 was a big year for me. I got married, we bought our first home, and I got hired for a new job (which I actually started in 2005). That seems like a lifetime ago, and it really was. It was before kids and even before I started this blog. And that's enough of being deep or going down memory lane. I mean, you already read the title. You know that this is about insects that come out of the ground every 17 years. Or maybe you don't. 

The Washington Post put together a guide about everything you need to know about the Brood X cicadas. Billions of cicadas are about to emerge from underground, and then they'll be here for several weeks eating and trying to mate. That actually sounds like a pretty good time! Brood X cicadas are only located in specific parts of the United States with the DC area being the center. So when I wrote "or maybe you don't" above, what I meant is that maybe you don't know anything about these cicadas. Prior to their emergence in 2004, they last came out in 1987. I was a kid in Pittsburgh then, and there were no cicadas in Western Pennsylvania. Since I wasn't alive for Brood X in 1970, I first learned about these cicadas in 2004. 

In the spring of 2004, I lived in an apartment complex with concrete everywhere with the streets and parking lots. I drove to my job in another area with an enormous parking lot and spent most of my time indoors. While I certainly saw cicadas and definitely heard them, I don't remember them being a big part of my life. Actually, what I remember most about them was driving either to or from Pittsburgh for a weekend of wedding planning and getting stuck in traffic on I-70 in Maryland. The cicadas were really, really loud as we moved very slowly on the interstate.

This year is going to be different. The neighborhood where I live now has a lot of trees and grass. I already shared some of my walks on my golf course. Cicadas are going to be everywhere. I'm honestly fascinated by them. It truly is a mystery of science that these cicadas emerge like clockwork every 17 years. You really only have the opportunity to see and hear them a few times in your lifetime. My kids are going to be adults when the cicadas return in 2038. Just remind me that I wrote this when I see and hear the cicadas everywhere and get annoyed by them in the next week or two!

Wednesday, May 05, 2021

Dear Zoo

One of Luigi's favorite books and one that I enjoy reading is "Dear Zoo" by Rod Campbell. If you're not familiar with this nearly 40 year old book, here it is:

Presumably, a child asks the zoo for a pet, and the zoo sends multiple animals not suitable for a residential environment to the kid. While it's a fun book (and yes I know this is fiction), there are several questions here:

* Who at the zoo is just sending an elephant or a lion to a home? Do they just have extra animals around that they can't fit in their space? 

* Was there any vetting at all done here? How is this kid going to take care of a giraffe? Does he/she have a proper living environment and food for a giraffe?

* What type of zoo has dogs? That seems like a boring exhibit when you can just go to a dog park for free.

* Who is paying for the back-and-forth shipping? Sure, it probably doesn't cost much to transport a frog or snake or even a camel, but I can't imagine that it's cheap to move an elephant!

I feel like this zoo is not going to be in good standing with the Association of Zoos & Aquariums!

Tuesday, May 04, 2021

Andrew Needs A Kidney

I recently learned that the husband of a friend from college needs a kidney. When I write "needs a kidney," it's so that he can live an active and healthy life. I mean, what were you thinking was the reason why he needs a kidney?

If you're in Florida, please consider getting tested to be a kidney donor. All you need to do is get a blood test, and you can sign up here.

More information about Andrew, his story, and everything you need to know about being a kidney donor is available at the Andrew Needs A Kidney website and on his Facebook page.

Please feel free to pass this on to others, especially those in Florida, too!

Monday, May 03, 2021

2021 Steelers Draft Recap

Welcome to my annual-ish Steelers draft recap. If you're new to my draft recaps, I want to share up front that I'm not going to pretend that I'm a draft expert. This is for entertainment purposes only and hopefully you enjoy it and possibly even smile or chuckle. An occasional guffaw is welcome! So with that, here is everything you need to know about the 2021 Pittsburgh Steelers draft class:

Round 1: Najee Harris - RB, University of Alabama

Fun fact! The Steelers had a running back with the last name of Harris who won 4 Super Bowls and went to the Hall of Fame. The Steelers also had a running back in the 2000s with the first name Najeh who had 725 rushing yards (a 4.3 yards per carry average!) and 9 total touchdowns in 32 career games. I think the Steelers and the fans expect production for Najee Harris closer to the first Harris rather than Najeh.

Round 2: Pat Freiermuth - TE, Penn State University

On Saturday morning, my 10 year old woke up and asked me who the Steelers drafted the previous evening.

Me - They picked a tight end from Penn State.
The Moose (excitedly and interrupting me) - They got Pat Freiermuth!

Clearly, he needs to do these draft recaps!  

I hope that Pat is ready to hear HEEEEEEEEEEEATH cheers whenever he catches a pass.

Round 3: Kendrick Green - OL, University of Illinois

Green joins an impressive list of University of Illinois players drafted by the Steelers.

DB Terry Hawthorne - 2013, 5th round
RB Rashard Mendenhall - 2008, 1st round
DB Bobby Dawson - 1988, 11th round
TE Cap Boso - 1986, 8th round
LB Octavus Morgan - 1974, 16th round
E (what position is E?) Gary Francis - 1957, 24th round
E Walt Kerulis - 1950, 23rd round

Not quite an all-pro line-up here. In my opinion, Mendenhall wasn't bad, but he is not remembered fondly by Steeler Nation thanks to his fumble in Super Bowl XLV. To my knowledge, none of these other guys ever played on the Steelers in a regular season game.  

We all agree that Cap Boso is an amazing name, right?

Round 4: Dan Moore, Jr. - DT, Texas A&M University

One of my favorite lines from the short-lived sitcom Happy Endings is this:

If Mary Tyler Moore married and divorced Steven Tyler and married and divorced Michael Moore, then got into a 3-way lesbian marriage with Demi Moore and Mandy Moore, would she go by the name Mary Tyler Moore Tyler Moore Moore Moore?

Let's just replace Michael Moore with Dan Moore.

Round 4: Buddy Johnson - LB, Texas A&M University

Hey Buddy!

Hi Buddy!

Round 5: Isaiahh Loudermilk - DE, University of Wisconsin

Pittsburghers (including me) get really upset when people omit the "h" in the city name. Isaiahh probably feels the same way, especially since his first name ends with two Hs. Isaiahh seems like a perfect fit for Pittsburgh!

Round 6: Quincy Roche, LB, University of Miami

Quincy Roche is trying to become the second player in Steelers history to have the first name starting with the letter Q after WR Quincy Morgan. In case you're wondering, the Pittsburgh Pirates have never had someone with the first name beginning with Q in the team's over 125 year history. Although he was a multi-sport star with excellent jumping abilities, Q*bert never got invited a Steelers training camp or a Pirates spring training in the 1980s.

Round 7: Tre Norwood - S, University of Oklahoma

I got nothing. Sorry Tre. I mean, I didn't forget about Tre.

Round 7: Pressley Harvin III - P, Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech)

Besides it taking me a few minutes to realize that this is not former NFL wide receiver Percy Harvin, Pressley Harvin seems awesome. I love this pick.

The biggest revelation of the NFL draft wasn't any of these players. It's that Darryl McDaniels (DMC) is a Steelers fan! 

Go Steelers!

Please click here for other Pittsburgh draft recaps over the years.

Photo of Najee Harris by Caitlyn Epes/Pittsburgh Steelers

Sunday, May 02, 2021

Beat This Trevor Lawrence

Sure, Trevor Lawrence was selected #1 overall by the Jacksonville Jaguars at the recent NFL draft, but can he throw two footballs perfectly at the exact same time like three year old Luigi?