Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Sean's Best and Worst Of 2022

Welcome to my annual best and worst of 2022 in pop culture and more. 

Best TV Shows: Severance and The Afterparty

There is a lot of good television being made. While I'll get to my favorites momentarily, I want to give honorable mentions to Abbott Elementary, Barry, Station 11, Squid Game (which I watched in 2022) and Alaska Daily. I don't think the last one gets the credit it deserves since it's on ABC rather than on cable or a streaming service. Throw in a few swear words and maybe some brief nudity, and I think this show would be on many critics' top shows list, particularly with Hilary Swank as the lead. And yes, I understand that the show is highlighting the importance of strong local journalism, but what's wrong with that? I didn't see any Better Call Saul this season since I made a mistake with the DVR, and it erased the first few episodes. I feel like there's a good chance the show will make my best of 2023. 

I generally don't consider myself a sci-fi guy, and I'm not even sure if Severance counts as a sci-fi show. What would happen if you could completely separate your work life and your home life? Severance truly separates the two where characters medically cannot remember work when they are out of the office or remember anything outside work when they are in the office. Adam Scott is the main character and leads an incredible cast including Britt Lower, Patricia Arquette, John Turturro, Tramell Tillman, and Christopher Walken. The show is quite suspenseful, and I can't wait to see a second season.

The Afterparty is also on Apple+ but besides having an amazing cast, that's where the similarities end. A famous Justin Bieber-type character (played by Dave Franco) returns for his high school reunion and gets killed at the after party. It's a murder mystery with Tiffany Haddish as the detective as she interviews potential suspects including Sam Richardson, Ike Barinholtz, Ilana Glazer, Ben Schwartz, and Zoe Chao. This show is very funny, and I love watching any of Ben Schwartz's songs. (Please note that there is one bad word in this song.)

Best Movie: CODA

I almost forgot that I saw this movie in 2022 since I probably watched it during the first week or two of January. Even though CODA won Best Picture at the Oscars, no one talks about it since the ceremony was overshadowed by Will Smith. It's a fun, coming-of-age movie about a high school senior who is a child of deaf parents. (That's what CODA stands for.)

Worst movie: Home Team

I guess this is supposed to be a redemption story of New Orleans Saints football coach Sean Payton who served a one-year suspension for Bountygate where players got paid for injuring their opponents. I had no idea Payton needed a redemption story. During his suspension, he moves to a Texas town and helps coach his son’s football team and tries to build a relationship with the kid. Sean Payton is played by Kevin James who is not funny at all in this role. Rob Schneider plays the new husband of Payton’s ex-wife and is also not funny in this film. Actually, not funny would be a compliment. Payton eventually takes over the team and only cares about winning. Oh, there's also a scene where all of the kids on Payton's team vomit and that helps them win the game. Even that part is in the trailer. While I guess there's a life lesson in this movie somewhere, the story ends with Payton going back to coaching the NFL, apparently leaving his kid behind, but now he remembers names of people in the Saints organization. 

Best Song: I Ain't Worried by OneRepublic

I'm breaking my previous rule that the best song needed to be featured in a blog post earlier in the year. I had a really difficult time choosing a best song of 2022. Not a lot really jumped out for me. I think the message of "Victoria's Secret" by Jax about body image is important, and I recently started listening to and enjoying "Burning" by Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs. OneRepublic just manages to crank out catchy hit after catchy hit, and "I Ain't Worried' is their latest. When I write my best and worst of 2024, I probably won't remember this song, but I ain't worried 'bout it right now.

Worst Song: Hold Me Closer by Elton John and Britney Spears

What happens when you take the classic, beloved song Tiny Dancer and make it much worse? This! Elton John and Britney Spears didn't even feel the need to make a cameo in the video for this cash grab.

Best Podcast: SmartLess

I'm definitely late on this podcast. Jason Bateman, Will Arnett, and Sean Hayes make fun of each other and interview celebrities. I laugh out loud at least once every episode. I also want to give an honorable mention to Futbol with Grant Wahl. I went to his podcast before and after every US qualifying and World Cup match and whenever something big happened in the soccer world. He's gone way too soon.

Best Book: The Worst Teddy Ever by Marcelo Verdad

I’ve really struggled reading since the Covid pandemic started. I used to read everyday during my commute, but now I drive instead of relying on the bus and Metro. While the amount of time I spend listening to podcasts is way up, the amount of time spent reading is way down. 

I traveled to Austin, Texas in November, and although I didn’t see any bats, I did stumble into the Texas Book Festival. There were dozens of authors speaking and tents filled with exhibitors over multiple streets all in front of the Texas capitol building. I loved walking through it! At one point, I passed by a tent and heard an author having a playful discussion with kids. The tent next to this was filled with children’s books for sale including one by this author. I bought "The Worst Teddy Ever" and brought it home for my kids. It's about a teddy bear who is too tired to play, but there's a good reason for this. The book is definitely more geared for my kindergartner, but I enjoy it too. 

Best Blog Posts: The End of Celebrate Fairfax and RIP Chris

I'm still a little upset that the Celebrate Fairfax and Fall for Fairfax festivals appear to be over. Such a loss to the Northern Virginia community. I also wrote about my friend Chris who passed away earlier this year.

Worst Blog Post: TMI Thursday Karma

I wrote a post about buying a new plunger.

Best Sports Bet: Kansas winning the NCAA Tournament

I picked this before the tournament. They won. Go me!

Worst Sports Bet: The Pirates winning over 62.5 games. 

They had to improve in 2022 and not lose 100 games, right? Wrong. They went 62-100. There were many bad losses, but the worst might be the Pirates leading 8-4 in the bottom of the 9th at Yankee Stadium, and the Yankees winning 9-8 thanks to home runs by Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge.

Please feel free to leave your best and worst of 2022 in the comments section below. Hope that you had a good 2022, and here's to a better 2023!

Friday, December 23, 2022

Sean's 2022 Concerts

When I go to concerts, I try to record part of a song or two. Holding a phone up to record the entire concert or even an entire song just doesn't seem like fun. You're there to see artists perform and be part of the atmosphere, not watch the concert through your phone. While I wrote about seeing Coldplay in June and included a few videos of their songs, I wanted share my videos of seeing H.E.R. open for Coldplay as well as Garbage and Toad the Wet Sprocket.

It was a really good concert year for me. Oh, I visited Niagara Falls too!

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

What A Drag It Is Getting Old

Here is where I am at 47. I’ve worn glasses since 6th or 7th grade, and in recent years to see small text, I either need to take off my glasses or if I'm wearing contacts, put on a pair of reading glasses. Well, I am now the owner of a new pair of glasses with "progressive lenses." It seems to be a fancy way of saying bifocals. 

(I got a haircut since this picture.)

Shortly after Chadwick Boseman passed away in 2020, I asked my doctor at my annual physical if I should get a colonoscopy. With COVID cases high and the recommendation to get a colonoscopy still at 50, the doctor suggested waiting a few years. Last year, he said I should get one. Well, I finally did on Monday. All the stories about the preparation being worse than the procedure are completely true. Per the preparation instructions, I changed my diet on Friday and Saturday, and then Sunday was clear liquids only. I basically "ate" Gatorade and Ginger Ale with some Jello and veggie broth mixed in. Not fulfilling. At 4:00 in the afternoon, I celebrated the Steelers win over the Carolina Panthers by having a bottle of Clenpiq. 

I thought it wasn't bad after the first sip, but as I continued, the worse it tasted. I tried to take a shot of the medication followed by a chaser of Italian Ice, but it didn't help. The aftertaste was just too strong. I had another bottle at 9:00 and somehow it was even worse. And yes, there was a lot of time in the bathroom in the evening and night. The discharge information from the doctor included this line: The quality of the bowel preparation was good.

The entire time at the gastroenterology facility and with the doctor and staff went smoothly. I slept very well during and after the procedure, and the findings were normal. I could share pictures of my colon, but that's probably not necessary. I have no idea what I'm looking at anyway. The recommendation is to repeat a colonoscopy in 10 years for screening purposes. Woo hoo!

Besides the new glasses and colonoscopy, I also recently went to the dermatologist to remove two skin tags and two warts. In the near future, I probably need to go to a periodontist for receding gums and a podiatrist to take a look at a toenail. Yes, this is my life.

Monday, December 19, 2022

Happy Hanukkah 2022

Happy Hanukkah to those of you who are celebrating! Hanukkah started on Sunday evening and whether or not you are partaking in the annual celebration of eating latkes, donuts, and pickles, playing dreidel, and lighting the menorah, here are some videos to enjoy this year:

Giving It Up For Hanukkah is truly a viral success story. As of Saturday evening, Brothers of Song had 108 followers on Instagram, which is even less than the number of people following me on Instagram. Their YouTube channel has 8 videos with all of them under 1,000 views except for one with 69K views. Then, out of nowhere, Giving It Up For Hanukkah has over 2.7 million views in less than 2 weeks. Good for the brothers!

Six13 is back (are back?) with a Hanukkah tribute to Elton John. 

There's a fantastic Cameo video out there of the legendary Smokey Robinson wishing someone a Happy Chanooka. Kosha Dillz along with Gangstagrass created their own Hanukkah song based on the mispronouncement. 

Sure, this looks like a Best Buy commercial to get you to visit their stores but notice the menorah on the windowsill while the family opens gifts. I like how this shows diversity within the Jewish community. 

This David Ross, who does not appear to be the Chicago Cubs manager, was able to create numerous versions of himself for A Funky Chanukkah. I could be wrong, but this may be an ode to Michael Keaton and the movie Multiplicity

Thanks to members of the US Armed Forces for their service and also for singing this Hanukkah medley.

The Kurstin x Grohl Hanukkah sessions are back with special guest Judd Apatow.

Let's finish up with the small screen. My kids have outgrown Disney Kids, so I'm not familiar with the show Firebuds. This is their Hanukkah episode.

And there is now a Hallmark Hanukkah movie called Hanukkah on Rye featuring Ithaca College graduate Jeremy Jordan, Yael Grobglas, and Lisa Loeb. I might "Stay" and watch it.

Monday, December 12, 2022

Brand New Pickle Taste Test For Hanukkah

Like Fetch, I'm still trying to make eating pickles part of the Hanukkah tradition happen. 

2022 marks the 25th anniversary of this tradition. If you're not familiar, the quick story is that there was a Kosher Pickle Taste Test at San Diego State University, and since this occurred in December, the student newspaper thought it was part of the Hanukkah celebration. (The longer story is here.) Now, more and more people really do eat pickles at Hanukkah, and one of my life goals is to spread this tradition. It's right up there with trying to be a good father, visiting all 50 states, attending a professional hockey game in every NHL city, and winning fantasy football and baseball leagues.

On Sunday, I had the opportunity to spread this tradition as my synagogue hosted an early Hanukkah celebration. There was a menorah build with legos, dreidels, food, and they let me have a pickle tasting table. I bought 14 jars of Wegmans, Grillo's, and Mount Olive pickles (total, not each), and spent much of Sunday morning cutting them up into sample-size pieces. Then, I put on my Portland Pickles T-shirt and brought them to the synagogue. 

While people were a little reluctant to approach the pickle table at first, primarily because they were more interested in eating pizza and getting donuts, more and more people stopped by, tried the pickles, and voted for their favorite. I'm particularly proud of The Moose, Pedro Tulo, and one of The Moose's friends for helping with "plating" the pickles for sampling, encouraging others to try them and vote, and then counting the ballots. I didn't ask them to help; they just jumped right in! 

I consider this year's event a trial run, and I think it was a success. I'd like to do a similar event next year with 10 or more different types of pickles, including by local pickle people. My dream is to have Kosha Dillz perform too. I also hope more Hanukkah celebrations around the world include pickles. It doesn't have to be a taste test (though those are fun), but just pickles next to latkes and sufganiyot would be great.

In case you're wondering, the Wegmans pickles won in a tight race. Oh, my car still smells like pickles too.

Wednesday, December 07, 2022

It's Me, Hi, I'm The Problem, It's Me

The Washington Post recently announced the discontinuation of the weekly Washington Post Magazine. I was a Washington Post subscriber for years, so I would receive the Sunday paper with the coupons/circulars and the Post Magazine each week. The magazine was perfect to read during my commute because you had the long-form stories but also a humor column, brief interviews with a wide variety of people, restaurant reviews, and more. Date Lab, where Post staff match singles, was part of this more. I read Date Lab to The Moose during potty training and some of the stories made for fun blog posts. The kids also enjoyed Second Glance where you try to find differences between two seemingly identical photographs. The magazine's content was always interesting, and it was easy to carry and transport to and from work. 

After having The Moose and Pedro Tulo and especially after Luigi arrived, I found that I didn’t have time to read the paper on Sundays. In an ideal world, I would love to just sit on the couch on a Sunday morning and read the paper but three kids made this impossible. There were always activities or errands to run or simply playing and spending time with the kids that prevented me from sitting down with the paper. They would just pile up until I recycled the papers at the end of the week. Still, I managed to find time to read the magazine most weeks on my commute. And then I didn’t. Maybe it was reading more books during the commute or doing activities on the phone (including writing blog posts), but the magazines started to pile up too. While I intended to read them, it didn’t happen.
With me not reading the print version of the paper or magazine, I unsubscribed from the print version of The Washington Post. I maintained my online subscription, though I admit that I rarely read The Magazine online. And I should. While Gene Weingarten no longer writes for the magazine, Damon Young (a fellow Pittsburgher!) is an excellent writer with a very different perspective from his predecessor and definitely worth your time (including in his recent column about Kyrie Irving). The Magazine's quality continues to be excellent and relevant. However, I never read the print version anymore and don't often think about checking it out online. There are probably thousands of others like me out there. Maybe that's why The Post is cutting the magazine. Even though 5 of the top 40 most-clicked stories on the website over the past year were produced by the magazine, I'm sure there is some metric out there showing that there aren't enough clicks. For a paper as large and as important as The Post and with an owner in Jeff Bezos with deep pockets, this is unfortunate and disappointing. I feel bad for the people losing their jobs and for the public in missing out on reading outstanding stories.

Friday, December 02, 2022

Friday Video: Current Songs That Would Fit In The 80s

I've mentioned several times that my kids only seem to want to listen to current pop music. Sirius XM's Hits One station ends up being played much of the time when we're in the car. There are two current songs by major artists that could easily fit into FM radio in the 1980s. The first is Music for a Sushi Restaurant by Harry Styles.

If you go to just after the 1:00 minute mark, the horns could easily be in a Phil Collins song. I'm thinking Sussudio.

The second is 2 Be Loved (Am I Ready) by Lizzo.

The chorus sounds like a song that The Pointer Sisters could sing. Maybe on the next track after I'm So Excited.

There might be more, but the drive from the school to my home is rather quick, so I'm turning off the car and turning the music off. Get out of the car!

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Don’t Root For Your Team To Lose

Today, I’m writing about the Pittsburgh Steelers and specifically about Steelers fans wanting the team to lose. Look, I get it. Even with the Monday night win over the Colts, the team is below average this year, and Steelers fans aren’t used to losing. Even in down years over the last 15-20 years, the team is almost always at or above .500 and battling for a playoff spot. Because the team isn’t going to make the playoffs this year, there is a fairly significant portion of the fanbase who want the Steelers to lose to improve their draft pick. In the NFL, this is just ridiculous. 

“Tanking” for the top draft pick makes some sense in the NBA where one player makes a huge difference with only five players on the court per team at a time. LeBron James, Tim Duncan, and Anthony Davis were all top picks while Ja Morant and Kevin Durant went 2nd overall. In football, one player (outside the quarterback position) generally doesn't make a huge difference on a team's performance. For the sake of argument, let's say that tanking for the top QB is somewhat acceptable since that position really does impact a team. However, even the #1 overall pick isn't a guarantee of success. For every Joe Burrow and Peyton Manning, there's Sam Bradford, JaMarcus Russell, and Baker Mayfield. How did the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Arizona Cardinals, and LA Rams fare based on their picks of Jameis Winston, Kyler Murray, and Jared Goff respectively? With the top pick, you expect Hall of Famers or at a minimum consistent Pro Bowl and/or playoff appearances.  

So if the #1 pick has mixed results, what happens when you get later in the first round? Is there really a significant difference historically between the #6 pick and the #9 pick? The Steelers drafted Troy Polamalu at #16, Cameron Heyward at #31, David DeCastro at #24, and T.J. Watt at #30. It's about the player, the evaluation/scouting by the team, and the development by both the player and coaching staff. And yes, I understand that there are 7 rounds of the draft, but again, the players drafted at #125 and #129 are going to be right around the same level.

Let's get back to this year's Steelers team. The Steelers are starting a rookie quarterback in Kenny Pickett. Traditionally, rookie quarterbacks in the NFL perform poorly. Peyton Manning had 26 touchdowns in his first year, but also had 28 interceptions on a 3-13 team. Troy Aikman went winless in his starts with 9 touchdowns and 18 interceptions. Josh Allen went 5-6 with 10 touchdowns compared to 12 interceptions. Patrick Mahomes played in one game his rookie year while Aaron Rodgers only threw 59 passes over his first 3 NFL seasons. Comparably, Pickett has performed pretty well. According to Alan Saunders of Steelers Now, Pickett's 88.5 Pro Football Focus grade on Monday night was the highest for a Steelers QB since Bg Ben in week 10 of the 2018 season. Pickett seems to be improving each week and gaining confidence too. Is he going to make mistakes over the next few weeks? Of course. He's a rookie quarterback. You want him to gain experience and learn from mistakes and situations. So why are there Steelers fans out there watching Pickett and the game and hoping that he and therefore the team fails? You would think that Steelers fans hope that he succeeds and that carries over to next season where the Steelers can draft an immediate starter no matter where the team picks in the first round in 2023.

I'm going to continue rooting for the Steelers to win this year. I'm going to root for T.J. Watt and George Pickens and Alex Highsmith and Minkah Fitzpatrick and the entire team because I'm a Steelers fan. Stop hoping for the #7 draft pick instead of the #10 pick. It's a silly argument and discussion. And that's my hill I'm willing to die on.

You can see more of my "Hills I'm Willing To Die On" posts here.

Photos by Karl Roser/Pittsburgh Steelers

Friday, November 25, 2022

Hello Columbus

The Ohio State University football team faces the University of Michigan Wolverines on Saturday in a battle between the #2 and #3 teams in the college football rankings. So this seems like a perfect time to share my experiences visiting Columbus and attending the Ohio State-Arkansas State game...in September...two months ago! 

For some background, I attended grad school at Ohio State and went to most of the home football games while I was there. I consider myself a Buckeyes fan, though I don't go out of my way to watch each game now. The team went 6-6 and 8-4 in my two years in Columbus. While this record might be fine in some places, this was unacceptable at Ohio State resulting in the firing of coach John Cooper, and I received emails about the coaching search process. The November 18th, 2000 game against Michigan (where the Buckeyes lost and I got hit in the back of the head by a Sprite bottle because someone was trying to hit a Michigan fan and missed) was the last time I attended an Ohio State football game. In addition, the last time I visited Columbus was for a friend's wedding when The Moose was only a few months old. He's 11 now.

For a few years, my grad school friends and I discussed having a reunion. It finally came together over the summer when we agreed to buy group tickets for a football game. Ohio State tickets are EXPENSIVE! There are no discounts for group sales. We got 20 tickets in groups of 2 and 3 several rows apart but all in the same section. My seats with The Moose and Pedro Tulo were located in the last row of the stadium. With only bleachers, the positive is that we were able to lean back against the wall. The negative is that The Moose is not a big fan of heights. When we went to Toronto this summer, he had no interest in going up the CN Tower. While I knew he didn't like heights, I didn't realize that he really didn't like heights, and I had no idea we were in the last row when we purchased tickets. He ended up being okay though he asked several times when we were leaving which was completely unlike him at a sporting event, and we walked down the steps very slowly when exiting the stadium in the fourth quarter.

* The Ohio State band is awesome. I can watch them do Script Ohio for days. They also performed a "karaoke" medley, so my friends who are Pitt fans will appreciate that they played Sweet Caroline.

* Switching away from football, while I didn't have the chance to show my kids everything I wanted to in Columbus, getting ice cream at Graeter's was a must. So good!

* Back to football, OSU wide receiver Marvin Harrison, Jr. is really, really good. He had 7 catches for 184 yards and 3 touchdowns in the game.

* Wearing an Art Schlichter jersey is a bold move. For those of you not familiar with Schlichter, he was a 4-year starting quarterback at Ohio State before getting drafted #4 overall by the Baltimore Colts in 1982. He was a massive gambler well before sports gambling became legal and got suspended by the NFL. He has been in and out of jail throughout his post-NFL career and was just in the news again last month. Again, quite the bold move to wear his jersey.

* We had brunch before we left Columbus at The Original Pancake House. The waiter made a mistake with the order and gave The Moose an order of hash browns and eggs and buckeye pancakes. He had absolutely no chance to finish the massive amount of food!

Overall, the trip was fantastic. It was great seeing friends from grad school and meeting some of their family members for the first time. I hadn't seen most of them in over 20 years. I also stayed with and saw friends that I've known since elementary school and earlier. It's nice to reconnect with people from your past and who have known you for years. Oh, I also met some hedgehogs, so I'll give a plug to the Handful of Hedgies Facebook group for hedgehog rescue and services in central Ohio.

Go Bucks! Beat Michigan!

Sunday, November 20, 2022

2022 World Cup Predictions

The 2022 men's World Cup begins on Sunday, November 20th. That's today if you're reading this shortly after this post has been posted. I wrote a full preview of the 2018 World Cup four years ago, which was a lot of fun. Unfortunately, I didn't have the time to put together such interesting facts as the lightest and heaviest players and identifying players named after food this year. I highly recommend checking out that post though. It might be one of the best things I've ever done on this blog. The Thorgan and Eden Hazard joke alone is worth it! Anyway, this year, I decided to ask some friends for their predictions and thoughts on the games.

Matt - Pittsburgh Riverhounds' Director of Communications

Josh - Founder of Josh's World and always up to participate in any of my collaborative blog posts.

The Moose - My 11 year old son

John - Big Croatia fan.

Sean - That's me. Hi! I write this Sean's Ramblings blog and recently applied (again) for media credentials for the Oscars.

Mike - One of regulars on one of my favorite podcasts, Owls Americast. It's a podcast for Sheffield Wednesday fans.

Nick - My brother. He decided to add his own questions and predictions at the end.

Justin - Another Owls Americast regular who you can regularly find at an ice rink.

Matt Gatjka - A jack of all trades. He calls hockey and soccer games and is a certified golf fitness specialist.

1. Who will win the World Cup?

Matt - It seems like the South American powers are the trendy pick, but I'm going to go out on a limb with a repeat for France. I know they bombed out the last time they were defending champs in '02, but with the attacking firepower they have, they're never going to be out of a game.

Josh - U-S-A! U-S-A!!!! Wait, is this men or women?

The Moose - I think France will win the World Cup

John - Belgium.  Yes, I know I tweeted earlier this week that Belgium would underachieve again this year.  I'm still picking Belgium.

Sean - Argentina. It will be a storybook ending to Messi's international career.

Mike - Argentina...Despite being ready for the all North American final that the world wants to see, it'll probably be a European giant who already has multiple stars on their crest. But let's be romantic: Argentina beats Brazil in the most watched final in history.

Nick - Brazil

Justin - No clue - most open tournament since 2006. Gun to my head I'll say the Germans surprise. (Sean's note: Do the Germans ever surprise?)

Matt G. - The Netherlands hasn't lost a match since (literally) last year, and I live in the Dutch bubble of West Michigan now, so I'll go with it. Oranje! Also, they'll throw in a heartbreaking defeat of the USA in the Round of 16 just to rub it in.

2. In the 2018 World Cup, 6 of the 8 quarter finalists were European teams. How many teams from Europe will reach this year's quarterfinals? 

Matt - I'll say 5 European teams, 2 South American and one Asian team make up the quarters — I liked Senegal making a run out of Group A until the Mané injury news

Josh - I am confused, why are there teams from England, Wales, and Scotland? If they just combined as UK, would they dominate? Oh, sorry to answer the question...5.

The Moose - 5 teams

John - I have five, plus two South American and one African.  For the record, none of the five are Croatia.  I am now banned from eating stuffed cabbage for the next 4 years.

Sean - 5. I really want to go with 3 or 4, but I don't see that happening.

Mike - Five. See above. I suppose that's France, Germany, and Italy. add Spain and England, and either the Netherlands or Belgium. This is where someone will go look at the groups and the brackets and tell me why that combination is impossible.

Nick - 5 - Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, England and Denmark

Justin - 5

Matt G. - I'll go with four Europeans teams in the quarters this time around. Two from South America, one from Asia, one from Africa. (Sean's note: This is the first prediction that isn't 5. Hooray!)

3. How far will the United States advance during this tournament?

Matt - Sadly, I'm not as bullish as some on the U.S. team. They're inexperienced at this level and a bit tactically naïve, so I think they get bounced from the group stage but learn some good lessons for the Aaronson/Adams/Pulisic generation to take into 2026 on home soil.

Josh - All the way! I actually have no clue how this works. It is not like a March Madness-style single elimination tournament, right? They do weird pool play. I do not know, they will advance just far enough that people will get sort of excited, and then lose to Benin.

The Moose - I think the United States will make it to the quarterfinals.

John - They'll finish second in their group and lose in the first knockout round.

Sean - I think they get out of the group stage, but lose in the round of 16.

Mike - Finish 3rd in group. The all North American final that the world wants to see is Canada and Mexico.

Nick - Hoping they make it out of the group stage.  Truthfully I think they will be knocked out by goal differential and Wales will advance.

Justin - Round of 16.

Matt G. - I spoiled this a couple of questions ago, but the USA will advance for the first time since 2010 -- actually just two World Cup appearances ago, but it sounded dramatic -- by drawing both Wales and England, then beating Iran. I'm actually semi-excited about this group, if only because we're young and you can always dream on young teams. Also, the expectations aren't high at all. I don't remember being this carefree about a USA team at the men's World Cup for as long as I've been watching. Feels like a recipe for a little bit of success. But they'll lose in the Round of 16.

4. Who will be the World Cup's top goal scorer?

Matt - Leo Messi and Cody Gakpo — both are drawn into groups where they can pump in some goals and advance, so I'm predicting a swan song and a coming-out party to be joint top scorers.

Josh - I would say Kylian Mbappe is probably the best bet to win the coveted Golden Boot. I totally cheated and looked up best odds, and took the guy with a cool name.

The Moose - Neymar

John - This one is tough, I think... I'm going to take an aging Lionel Messi.

Sean - In 2018, Harry Kane won the Golden Boot with 6 goals, but I'm pretty sure that 4 of those came from the penalty spot. That seems like cheating. Since I have Argentina winning it all, I'm picking Messi since he's going to be the one taking penalty kicks.

Mike - Logic...the player who kicks PKs for the team that relies on PKs to win and will make a deep run. So it's Alex Morgan. (Or Harry Kane - but everyone picks Harry Kane.) Karim Benzema because France will make a run and he was unstoppable in the UCL and Sean just told me he's injured. Just put me down for Neymar.

Nick - Vinicius Jr.

Justin - Messi

Matt G. - If the Dutch are to win their first World Cup, someone like exciting winger Cody Gakpo will likely lead the attack. I'll say he gets the Golden Boot with six goals in seven matches. (He already scored in the opening match vs. Senegal, so this is totally cheating.)

5. The World Cup in Qatar is taking place in November and December because it would be too hot for matches played there during the traditional June and July timeframe. Qatar is still a warm place. What will be the highest temperature recorded during a World Cup match?

Matt -  I'm going to say 91. It'll be warm, but not stiflingly so for most of the tournament.

Josh - Qatar is still a warm place. What will be the highest temperature recorded during a World Cup match? 95.3

The Moose - I think the high will be 91

John -  91 (I have a better chance of getting this right than maybe any of the others!)

Sean - 88 just so that I can say Muuuuuuuuuuuth!

Mike - 80 degrees...but what's the question? Temperature on the field during a match? Temperature for that city during a match? Trick question...it doesn't matter. It's not the heat, it's the humidity. In 2019, World Athletics held their Championship in Doha in October. I remember it being bad, but not awful inside the stadium (which will also host WC matches). They did run marathons on the roads. Twenty-six miles starting just before midnight. 86 degrees and 70% humidity for the women. 18 men and 28 women didn't finish their respective races...but that was midnight in October. So if I math that out to December: 80 degrees

Nick - Going with at least one match that hits 104.

Justin - 88 degrees Fahrenheit

Matt G. - Looks like temps are going to be lingering in the 80s at midday for the next couple of weeks, so I'll say 87 degrees will be the hottest. Which reminds me I was just playing golf in shorts less than two weeks ago, only to dig out nearly two feet of snow last weekend. Good time to hunker down in front of the tube!

6. Better joke subject: Referring to the country Wales as whales or singing "I Ran" by A Flock of Seagulls for any mention of Iran?

Matt - Not Ghana go there. (Sean's note: This is the winner!)

Josh - And I ran, I ran so far away...

The Moose - Stop it, Dad!

John - Look at those two fat English ladies over there.
- Wales.
- Look at those two English whales over there.

Sean - Definitely whales. I mean, how will the US get by the Wales defense? They're huge!

Mike - Whales because my temperature answer was too long. And the heat talk made me want to think about the ocean and not Iran.

Nick - Whales

Justin - Neither

Matt G. - My son is pretty obsessed right now with playing iPad games where he tries to spell out country names after being given the flag. That is so say, I've gotten really good at spelling every country in the United Nations at this point. That is to say, Iran is one of those I can easily talk him through. Also, I think of that Lonely Island song about Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that samples Flock of Seagulls whenever I hear 'Iran.' The Whales thing is lame. Is that a thing?

7. Will the USA, Mexico, and Canada combine for 20 or more tournament goals in the tournament?

Matt - No. I'll guess 15 between them.

Josh - Yes

The Moose - I think no.

John - I'm taking the under on this one.

Sean - No. Mexico has really struggled lately, and while I'd like to see Canada go far, they aren't winning a lot of 4-3 matches.

Mike - Nine match minimum. Twelve matches in the best case. Nope. 15.

Nick - No

Justin - No

Matt G. - I'll say the USA gets six, Mexico gets five and Canada gets three. So if my math is correct, no.

8. Arguably the most important question. On Saturday morning Eastern time November 26th, Sheffield Wednesday will face Mansfield Town in the second round of the FA Cup. Who will win and will the World Cup delay the start of the France-Denmark match until this one ends?

Matt - 3-1 Owls, and I might have gone back to sleep before then because Australia/Tunisia is at 5 a.m.

Josh -  I have no clue what any of this means. Like there are words and I know they mean things, but none of it means anything to my non-soccer brain. In fact, every time you would write about Sheffield Wednesday, I was confused. I thought it was like Taco Tuesday, Thirsty Thursday, or Sunday Funday. I was too embarrassed to ask about Sheffield Wednesday. 

The Moose - This is a dumb question.

John - Sheffield Wednesday is playing on a Saturday? This is enough to confuse Ted Lasso.  Sheffield Wednesday wins 2-1 and FIFA will absolutely delay the start so that France and Denmark's players can watch Sheffield Wednesday win it in stoppage time.

Sean - Wednesday will win (Go Owls!), but the World Cup will never delay the start of the match...unless a few Wednesdayites storm the field in Qatar causing a delay,

Mike - Wednesday win 3-1. The second part is a moot point because here is no TV or stream and with Twitter going down, we’ll only know who won by reading a paper newspaper the following morning which is how the good Lord wanted it.

Justin - Wednesday will win and FIFA will erroneously start the (very exciting) Denmark/France match instead of respecting the Massive FA Cup game.

Matt G. - Sheffield Wednesday might be the most English-sounding club name in soccer. Wow. How would they not win this very important match?

Nick - No

Nick then continued with all of this:

Other predictions/ questions 

Who will sport the best haircut?

Biggest upset: Ecuador defeats Netherlands 2-1,  France is knocked out before the QF.

Which country will sport the best and worst Jersey? (US for the worst)

Biggest controversy:  France will protest Qatar policies on migrant workers,  LBGTQ issues and womens rights.  Isn’t that what France is known for ?  Revolutions?

Other controversies:  Switzerland vs Serbia will end with at least 4 red cards, 2 red cards  which will come via VAR.

Qatar will advance out of the group phase.  No home team has not advanced out.

Asia will have a good World Cup with Japan, and S Korea advancing to the finals. (Sean's note: This makes no sense if he picked Brazil to win.)

Senegal will advance the furthest of all African teams. Yes,  I know Morocco and Tunisia are in Africa.

That's enough from my brother. I'll add one more prediction that South Korea will make a deep run in this tournament. I've started watching Squid Game, and no one is going to mess with that team!

Enjoy the games and feel free to make your own predictions in the comments section below.

US team photo by Getty Images

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Ithaca College Football

While this blog has never had its own niche, there have certainly been plenty of extremely niche blog posts. This is one of them. On Saturday, the 9-0 Ithaca College Bombers football team faced off against the 9-0 Cortland State Dragons at Yankee Stadium. You read that correctly. Yankee Stadium in New York City. Yes, it's a baseball stadium, but they also host the annual college football bowl game, the Pinstripe Bowl. 

Cortaca 2019 was held at MetLife Stadium, home of the New York Giants and New York Jets. I was part of the crowd of over 45,000, the largest ever for a Division 3 football game. It was a unique experience for the game to be played in an NFL stadium right outside New York City, and I figured that this would be a once in a lifetime chance to see Cortaca played somewhere other than Cortland or Ithaca. It was awesome! Because that game was only 3 years ago, I didn't feel the need to travel back to New York City to see Cortaca again, particularly since I was going to be out of town the weekend before (to not see bats in Austin, Texas). Even though I didn't attend in person, David Boreanaz did because you have never seen the two of us together at the same time. Coincidence or maybe this blog should really be called David's Ramblings? 

The Bombers won the Cortaca game 34-17 to cap an incredible undefeated season. Woo Hoo! They also earned a spot in the Division III football playoffs and will face The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth on Saturday, November 19th in Ithaca. While I contacted the UMass Dartmouth football team and athletic department to help provide a preview of the game, I did not receive a response. Therefore, I'm doing this all on my own, meaning that most of the information is accurate, but I make no guarantees.

- Ithaca finished 10th in the final regular season D3football.com rankings. Despite finishing 9-1, UMass Dartmouth didn't even fall into the "others receiving votes" category of the rankings. EIther there is no respect for the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference or all the voters think the entire league are Massholes!

- UMass Dartmouth is not Dartmouth College, which is an Ivy League school in New Hampshire. I wonder if UMass Dartmouth hopes that people confuse the two.

- UMass Dartmouth is located in southern Massachusetts not far from Martha's Vineyard and about a 45-minute drive from Newport, Rhode Island. It's about an hour from Cape Cod and slightly longer to Boston. Looks like a beautiful part of the world though I recommend visiting in the summer and early fall and probably not in January or February!

- The school's athletics teams are the Corsairs. I didn't know about this name until about 15 years ago when a friend made a blog called Corsairs Affairs which included some posts about the Pittsburgh Pirates. Corsair is another name for a pirate. So while Wednesday, November 16th is Talk Like a Pittsburgh Pirate Day, there is no Talk Like a UMass Dartmouth Corsair Day.

- The Corsairs can score, putting up 42.1 points per game. QB Dante Aviles-Santos leads the offense with 294 passing yards per game, and the Bombers better cover WR Angel Sanchez who leads the country with 138 receiving yards per game. I don't know if leading the country is for D3 colleges or all college football.

- In looking at famous UMass Dartmouth graduates, I don't recognize any names but a lot of people probably know Carmella from WWE. Oh, Jim Perdue of chicken fame might have received a Masters from here. Actually, I take what I wrote back. I recognize one name and I'm sure the school doesn't want anyone to associate his time in Dartmouth with the institution. One of the Boston Marathon bombers was a student. Let's change the subject.

My guess is that Ithaca will be favored to win based on the rankings and the fact that the game is in New York. Actually, this doesn't seem like a fun commute for the Corsairs. It's about a 6-hour drive without stops from Dartmouth to Ithaca or you'd have to fly from Boston or Providence though the only flights into Ithaca are from Newark or Detroit. Is the team driving to Boston, flying to Newark, and then flying to Ithaca? Or are they flying into Syracuse through one of the three New York City area airports and taking a bus from there? Whatever they do, a football team traveling from Dartmouth to Ithaca doesn't sound like fun. Advantage Ithaca!

Thursday, November 10, 2022

The Austin Bats

Austin is the capital of Texas and is home to the University of Texas and a thriving music scene. It definitely seems like a great place for young professionals (basically, I’m way too old for the bar scene) and is a bit of a foodie town too. With all of these trendy restaurants, I joked with some friends that I saw a unique, local Chinese restaurant called P.F. Chang’s. I got a laugh.

The city is also famous for North America's largest urban bat population, many of whom live under the Congress Avenue Bridge in downtown Austin. I figured this was a must-see activity during my recent time in Austin. Since I was in Austin in early November, I was worried that the bats would have flown south to Mexico for the winter, but I had some time one evening and the bridge was only about a half-mile from the hotel, so I decided to check it out.

I got to the bridge around 6:35. There were people gathered on and around the bridge with more arriving as it got closer to sunset. There were also several large boats filled with people, so in my mind, with a few hundred people on land and on water, some of the bats were still in town. Meanwhile, there was lightning in the distance but with no thunder, no rain in the forecast according to my weather app, and no one leaving, I stuck around.

There are bats in my neighborhood in Northern Virginia. I regularly see them on my golf course walk at dusk. At around 7:15 in Austin, it was beyond dusk, and there were still no bats. I thought about leaving but decided to wait a few more minutes. At 7:24, I felt the first drop of rain and started walking/running towards the hotel. It was too late. About a minute later, the downpour began. I made it about a block or two and found an awning to stay under until the rain slowed down. The awning was across the street from the downtown Austin P.F. Chang’s. Yes, the restaurant was mocking me.

Despite the weather app on my phone saying that the rain would stop in 8 minutes and then indicating that the weather was clear, the rain did not slow down. After about 20-25 minutes, I decided to call a rideshare even though I was only about 4-5 blocks away from the hotel. After waiting about 7 minutes and the ride still not arriving, the rain actually did slow down. I cancelled the ride (a waste of $6) since I thought it was ridiculous to get a car for a 2-minute drive. I started walking and immediately stepped into a puddle since there's no adequate drainage with so much rain so quickly. And then the rain picked up again. I didn't get back to the hotel until after 8:00 and still managed to get soaked.

Back to the bats, either they already flew south to Mexico for the winter or knew it was about to rain and figured they would just stay under the bridge and let the idiot humans get wet. Either way, I felt like Dean Keaton at the end of The Usual Suspects. THERE WERE NO F'ING BATS!

(This video is definitely not suitable for work or kids.)

Monday, November 07, 2022

No One Cares About This Post

Prior to the November 2020 elections, I asked a bunch of people to share their predictions about the results. It went really well and was a lot of fun. Therefore, I thought I would try again with the November 2022 midterm elections. I asked friends, political science professors, and journalists to share their predictions and got no responses. Maybe people are just tired of politics and the never-ending commercials. Maybe people didn't want to put predictions on record. I guess it doesn't matter the reason. I'm not going to focus on the people who didn't participate. Enjoy!

Josh: Writer of Josh's World, multiple winner of annual best blog award, and always game for whatever blog idea I have. 

Rich: One of my favorite follows on Twitter and co-host of the podcast Why Bloody Valentine 

Sean: That's me. The author of this blog. Thanks for reading!

1. What party will control the House after the November elections?

Josh: The Republicans will take control of the House

Rich: I think the Democrats somehow hold onto the House, but it will be very, very slim.

Sean: While the talk has been about the economy of inflation, I think the Democrats will hold because of abortion.

2. What party will control the Senate? Please provide your prediction for the actual split too. (For example, 51-49 and which party will have more seats.)

Josh: Democrats 52-48

Rich: GOP for sure taking back the Senate. I'd say probably 52 - 48, but I would be shocked if they scored 53 or 54 seats.

Sean: Dems 52-48.

3. Who will win the Pennsylvania Senate race between John Fetterman and Mehmet Oz?

Josh: Fetterman. I do not think the debate will hurt Fetterman as much as pundits are saying. I think most people have made up their mind, plus many people empathize with someone who had a stroke and is expected to make a full recovery.  

Rich: Sadly I think Oz wins. The stroke was a real killer for Fetterman's campaign and now we find out he hasn't worked in a factory?????

Sean: Fetterman. I think he gets a boost from Obama and Biden campaigning for him and enough people not wanting to vote for a New Jersey guy.

4. Who will win the Georgia Gubernatorial election between Stacey Abrams and the incumbent Brian Kemp?

Josh: Brian Kemp, but it will be incredibly close again.

Rich: Brian Kemp. Won't be terribly close. This race is too far off from Abrams' peak popularity.

Sean: I think Kemp will win, but I also think Warnock will hold off Herschel Walker. I just don't understand how a split result could happen. Seems like everyone voting for Kemp would vote for Walker and everyone voting for Abrams would vote for Warnock.

5. Five states (Arkansas, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Maryland) have ballot measures to legalize marijuana? How many will approve these measures?

Josh: 4. Arkansas will be the weird one.

Rich: I think we get three. Maryland, Missouri, and one of the Dakotas.

Sean:  Definitely Maryland and probably Missouri. You know what? It's going to pass in all 5.

6. Will California voters approve Proposition 27, the Legalize Sports Betting and Revenue for Homelessness Prevention Fund Initiative? (The amount of money put into campaigns for and against this proposition - over $383 million - is staggering!)  

Josh: California's voters can be weird with their propositions. I am going to say No

Rich: Yes. 

Sean: There are more commercials for sports betting than there are for elections. Plus, every sports network shows lines for all of the games. California voters will want in and vote yes.

7. In arguably the most important measure on any ballot in November, will Maryland Question 1 to rename the Maryland Court of Appeals to the Supreme Court of Maryland and the Maryland Court of Special Appeals to the Appellate Court of Maryland pass?

Josh:  Oh definitely, Supreme Court of Maryland just sounds better. Every state should get together and come up with a naming system for the courts to keep it consistent. 

Rich: Earth shattering stuff here. I think it will pass. I mean it makes sense. I also can't imagine anyone being super fired up to vote for or against this so who the heck knows?

Sean: Yes, but I really hope there's a strong write-in vote for Supreme Courty McCourtface!

8. Please feel free to share any other thoughts or opinions about the 2022 elections.

Rich: I don't think it is going to be the bloodbath the media is seemingly hyping up for the Democrats, but they're obviously going to lose ground here.

I said at the beginning of election season if only one of them could win I'd rather Shapiro win and Fetterman lose and I think that's what we will see.

The GOP has gone full idiot with candidates like Mastriano and Walker and it's distressing to say the least.

You can listen to my horror movie podcast on all major Podcast apps. Just search Why, Bloody Valentine. New episodes from 03:00 AM every Monday, so you can have em with your breakfast.

Sean: Please feel free to share your predictions in the comments below. I'm also really excited for the end of political ads for a while.