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!