Monday, November 29, 2021

Happy Hanukkah 2021

Hanukkah started on Sunday night, and I'm excited to share some videos to celebrate the holiday. First up, Dave Grohl and producer Greg Kurstin return for another year of their Hanukkah Sessions. 

It's nice to see A Cappella groups The Maccabeats and Six13 back with new Hanukkah songs.

I know this isn't real, but Lady Latka is a potato pancake making more potato pancakes. She's shredding her own kind! Plus, while I haven't spent much time around dogs lately, why wouldn't Blue eat her? It's food on the ground!

Nissim Black and Kosha Dillz teamed up for a new song. 

I have no idea what this is.

While I've mentioned this several times over the years, if you celebrate Hanukkah, please include pickles as part of your celebration. This is the story of how the pickles at Hanukkah tradition started, and this is the Facebook page dedicated to pickles at Hanukkah!

Finally, this is a now deleted tweet by Leeds United apparently hoping that Hanukkah lasts for 10 days instead of 8.

Thursday, November 11, 2021

My Elevator Ride With Robert Plant

I recently took a trip to Nashville for work, and after the first day of meetings on the mezzanine level* of the hotel, my colleague and I got on the elevator to go back to our rooms. When we entered the elevator, there was a tall (compared to me) gentleman with long, curly hair already there by himself. He instantly looked familiar to me. This was Robert Plant, lead singer of the legendary Led Zeppelin. His stop was on the 4th floor while I was on the 3rd and my colleague was on the 2nd. My colleague apologized saying that he probably didn’t want to stop on every single floor just to get to his room. He said no problem as he scrambled to put his mask back on. After my colleague got off on her floor, it was just me and him. I didn’t say anything in the probably 5-10 seconds when the elevator moved (though it felt like minutes) until the elevator arrived on my floor and I said have a good night as I exited. I think I said you too.

When I got back to my hotel room, I decided to do some internet research. I mean, why would Robert Plant be in Nashville and staying in my hotel? It’s a nice hotel, but I would think that Robert Plant would stay somewhere nicer. And why would he stay on the 4th floor instead of a penthouse suite? I gave it about a 5% chance it was him. 

My online search only came up with a New York Times article published that day about a reunion between Plant and Alison Krauss. The article mentioned that Krauss and producer T Bone Burnett spoke by phone from Nashville. I then texted my colleague asking if the guy in the elevator had a British accent since I wasn’t sure. She said that he did, so I bumped it up to about a 25% chance it was him. Of course, I'm glad that I missed the part of the article where it mentioned that Plant spoke to the author from his home in England. That might have ended my quest completely.

A little later, I went downstairs and ran into some colleagues in the lobby. I asked, “Is there any chance that Robert Plant is staying in the hotel?” One colleague instantly exclaimed yes! She said she saw him checking in and he looked familiar, but she couldn’t place him. Now, it was a 40% chance it was him!

We spent the next 24 hours or so trying to solve the mystery of if we were in the presence of Robert Plant. I asked multiple hotel employees if he was staying at the hotel. They refused to confirm or deny. I tried a different route by asking if it was possible to share if any of the guests were part of a highly successful rock band from the 70s? They refused to budge. There were discussions of maybe hanging out on the 4th floor to see if we could see him again. Finally, I decided to contact Robert Plant directly through his Instagram account. He didn’t reply. I suspect that he’s not the person running his Instagram account. At that point, I gave up.

Fast-forward to Saturday night. I returned from the Grand Ole Opry and saw some colleagues at the hotel bar. One of my colleagues was sitting right next to Robert Plant (or at least someone who looked exactly like him). 

Apparently, they talked for about 30 minutes, but it was a very general conversation. As he was leaving, someone in our group asked to take a picture with him, so there’s now a photo of about 10 of us with Robert Plant. He doesn't particularly look thrilled in the picture, but there's now proof. Well, or at least a 98% chance it was him. I guess someone could be an amazing Robert Plant impersonator!

So it turns out, the surprise guest from the Grand Ole Opry show was Robert Plant!

*There is a song from the mid-90s called "Super Bon Bon" by Soul Coughing that includes the line, “You have to take the elevator to the mezzanine.” I think of this line every time I see a sign for mezzanine. I can’t be the only one!

Photo of Plant and Krauss by Eric Ryan Anderson for The New York Times.

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Sean Visits The Grand Ole Opry

I recently visited Nashville and had the opportunity to go to the Grand Ole Opry. I'll admit that I'm not a big country music fan, but this seemed like something I should do. If you're not familiar with the Opry, the website describes its history. It's basically the most famous country music venue and has been in operation since 1925. The current location opened in 1974 and is a bit outside downtown Nashville. It's now part of a huge complex that includes the Opry Mills mall with a Rainforest Cafe (I thought they all went out of business) and the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center. 

While I knew the Grand Ole Opry name and learned a little bit about the history before visiting, I didn't know exactly how it worked. On the night I attended, there were 8 different acts who all performed for a limited period of time each. I also had no idea that this was a radio show. While we saw the performances live in person, the show was being broadcast on radio and SiriusXM across the country. That helped explain why the announcer does commercial reads between acts. 

There was an introductory video before the show narrated by Carrie Underwood. At the end, she mentioned that there are special guests, so you never know who might appear. This video, which showed Steve Martin and Pharrell Williams, got me very excited. Who might be the special guest tonight? Part way through the second act, the announcer mentioned that there are regularly a lot of visitors from outside Tennessee and welcomed us to the Volunteer State. He talked about the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee being the most-visited national park and that there's a highway in the park named after Dolly Parton. I started thinking, HOLY CRAP! THE SPECIAL GUEST IS DOLLY PARTON! His next line was that there are 815 Dollar General locations in Tennessee. No Dolly Parton.

Regarding the performances, my favorites were the two "young" acts. Priscilla Block made her 2nd appearance at The Opry while this was Frank Ray's debut. They clearly shared their joy and appreciation of being at the Opry and had infectious energy. Unfortunately, both artists only performed two songs each. I would have preferred to hear more from them. I'm also curious to see where both of their careers go from here. Priscialla Block's song "Just About Over You" reached the Billboard top 20 airplay chart.

She also has a new song that is about to debut called "Peaked in High School" which is going to be a hit. Meanwhile, Frank Ray has had two #1s on the Texas Country Regional radio chart. Apparently, this is a real chart because of course Texas would have its own chart.

The highlight coming into the show for me was seeing Charles Esten on the bill. He was born in Pittsburgh and played the character Deacon on the TV show Nashville, a show I watched for nearly its entire run until right after they killed off Connie Britton. Oh spoiler. Sorry. I watched the series finale after skipping the last season, and the bad guy who harassed (and probably sexually harassed) multiple women was going to be forced to sell his music company for millions of dollars. Sure, he should have got fired and maybe gone to jail, but I guess there was justice in that he was no longer involved in the music industry and had to use his money to buy multiple homes and travel the world. Oh spoiler again. Sorry. Actually, I'm not sorry. This isn't The Sixth Sense! You're not going to go back and watch Nashville. And if you do, you're definitely not getting to the last season!

Anyway, this was Esten's 145th appearance at the Opry. That seems like a lot. His songs were perfectly fine, and I definitely appreciate his dedication to being a musician and actor. I write this because I think he was given some really good songs on Nashville and the ones he performed just didn't reach that level. Still really cool to see him and hear more about his story and life.

The other performers were country music hall of famer Connie Smith who is releasing her 54th album. 54?!?! I don't think I've listened to 54 different albums in the 21st century! Comedian John Crist was funny, which is what you'd expect from a comedian. I didn't know John Conlee and Daily & Vincent before the show and had to look them up again while writing this blog post since I forgot their names. Bobby Osborne and the Rocky Top X-Press started the second act, and the X-Press clearly carried the soon to be 90 year-old Osborne. I just learned that his brother and bluegrass great Sonny Osborne passed away only a few weeks ago, so it must have been difficult for him to perform. Oh, if you're a college football fan you might know the Osborne Brothers' "Rocky Top" played regularly at University of Tennessee football games.

I was probably one of about 25 people in attendance wearing a mask. I'm not making a judgement here. For me, I'm just not comfortable yet being inside a crowded venue without a mask and especially when that place has hundreds of people in one big room (or in one smaller gift shop). 

So that's my Opry experience. While this wasn't a bucket list item for me, I'm definitely glad to say that I went. I can also say that I saw the 5001st Saturday night broadcast. I'll just ignore the fact that the 5000th broadcast the week before featured Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood, Darius Rucker, and Vince Gill. One of them couldn't have stopped back for the 5001st?

Friday, November 05, 2021

Ice Cream Scandal

A few years ago, the PTA at my kids' elementary school needed someone to be the Grocery Rewards Coordinator. I thought I was the perfect person since I shop at grocery stores. It's an easy job in that all I have to do is connect with local grocery stores for their programs and then encourage parents to link their shopping card. Apparently, I've done pretty well since I was asked this year to be the Box Tops for Education Coordinator and the Dining for Dollars Chair. The latter actually takes some real time and work. I contact restaurants (or they contact us), and we pick a day where a portion of the proceeds of sales go back to the school. 

We had our first event (that was already arranged before I started) at a local Chick-fil-a. They give 20% of their proceeds when you mention our school, and we earned $300. Not bad. A few weeks later, I got an email from the PTA President who copied me on a message from someone else who booked a Dining for Dollars event on her own. Um, I thought I was the Dining for Dollars Chair. RESPECT MY AUTHORITY!

Anyway, this person booked an event at an ice cream place for a Tuesday in late-October. This seems like a great idea earlier or later in the year when the weather is better. As it turns out, it was about 50 degrees and very windy. Not quite ideal for eating ice cream outside. The main issue for me, though, is that this place only gives 10% of sales to the school. That's lower than every other restaurant that does this. 

So this person convinced some teachers to be "guest scoopers." If you dressed in costume, an additional 10% went to the school. When I brought my kids, there were about 10 people from the school and no one was in costume. Fast-forward to a few days ago when I'm working with some people for the next event. I asked how we did with the ice cream night, I learned that we made $870. $870!?!?!  So that means that the ice cream place did a minimum of $4,350 in sales. To paraphrase my kids, I'm sus. Or maybe, that's sus. I'm probably not using this phrase correctly. Basically, this is very suspicious or suspect. I spent about $13 on ice cream for my kids. I'm sure other people spent more, so let's say that the average person spent $20. That would mean that 217.5 people/families purchased ice cream on a cold and windy Tuesday night. Again, I'm sus.

Tuesday, November 02, 2021

Random Ramblings: Elections & More Edition

Today is election day in Virginia, and I think that I speak for Virginians and those in the DC area in that we’re looking forward to not seeing anymore political advertisements. I understand that there have probably been multiple studies about the effectiveness of ads on TV and at the beginning of YouTube videos, but how many millions of dollars are spent on these ads? Let’s say that there were 1,000 commercials that aired yesterday throughout Virginia (and between the various markets and numerous network and cable stations, this is probably a very low number). Half of this would certainly be sufficient. At this point, I feel like nearly everyone knows who they are voting for today. This money could be better spent on education, infrastructure, healthcare, and so much more. There are definitely political and media groups getting rich from elections.

On a related election topic, I pass several yard signs for Bob Frizzelle who is running for the Virginia House of Delegates. Every time I see them, I wonder how he's related to the teacher with her magic school bus.

After working at the same place for over 16 years, I finally got a parking spot in the building. For the first 15 years, I took the bus and Metro to work. I worked from home for the last year and a half. Now, I'm working from the office a few days a week, but I'm not really comfortable being on potentially crowded Metro trains twice a day. With a recent train derailment and Metro taking many of its cars out of service, I feel like I made the right call for now since waiting 30 minutes between trains doesn't quite work with my schedule. 

Last Friday, The Moose's 5th grade class had a costume day where they could dress like a book character. Since he was going to wear his baseball uniform for Halloween, The Moose found a book about Sandy Koufax. Instead of wearing his team's hat and jersey, we got him a Koufax T-shirt and LA Dodgers hat. You may have your opinion about the team, but the Dodger blue color is fantastic!

Finally, I met someone last weekend named Arlo Guthrie. While he was not THAT Arlo Guthrie, I'm so proud of myself for not asking about his music career or making any reference to his name and the musician.