Wednesday, December 27, 2023

Best And Worst Of 2023

It's time for my annual best and worst of the year in pop culture, entertainment, and more. As you'll see, there are not many "worst of" below. I have limited time, so I'm not watching or reading things I'm not interested in. Here we go:

Best TV Show: Shrinking

I loved this Apple+ show. Jason Segal plays a therapist struggling with the loss of his wife. While I like the storylines of Segal with his patients and his relationship with daughter, what really makes the show are his colleagues, Jessica Williams and Harrison Ford. They are fantastic. It's fun watching Harrison Ford be funny. This scene was the best thing I saw all year.

Honorable mention: Jury Duty

This was such a unique show. Everyone, meaning the lawyers, judge, jury members, etc. are actors...except for one jury member named Ronald who believes that this is a real case. Ronald is such a likable guy, and I don't think this show would work with a different lead. James Marsden playing a version of himself is also fun.

For no apparent reason, I tracked every TV show I watched this year, and I feel like sharing this. 

Better Call Saul (last season)
Party Down (original)
The Chair
Night Court
American Auto
Not Dead Yet
Quantum Leap
Abbott Elementary
Yellowjackets (season 1)
Ted Lasso (season 3)
Welcome to Wrexham
Lucky Hank
The Big Door Prize
Mrs. Maisel (season 4)
The Afterparty (season 2)
Jury Duty
It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia
The Wonder Years
Miracle Workers
Barry (last season)
Succession (part of last season)
Lego Masters
The Bear (season 1)

Best Songs: HONEY (ARE YOU COMING?) by Maneskin and bad idea right? by Olivia Rodrigo

All caps and no capital letters at all? Can we please work on this! While I'm way out of her target audience, I am an Olivia Rodrigo fan, particularly with her up-tempo songs. bad idea right? gives me a vibe of  "Naked Eye" by Luscious Jackson. Oh, the song is definitely not suitable for work.

Meanwhile, I think Maneskin has the best guitar riff of the year with HONEY

Worst Song: Popular by The Weeknd, Playboi Cardi, and Madonna

Looking at my archives, I picked two songs by The Weeknd as the best of the year over the last few years. This is certainly not an anti The Weeknd post. While Popular isn't bad, I don't find it good either. It's repetitive and don't feel that Madonna adds anything to it.

Best Movie: Parasite

Parasite won the best picture Oscar a few years ago, so I'm a little late to this. The storyline is essentially a poor family scamming a rich family. I mean, there's definitely the message of class and the spoils of the rich. Definitely did not expect the ending.

Most Interesting Movie: The Menu

I can't put this as the worst movie since it's just so different from anything I've seen. I watched The Menu on an airplane and remember leaving the plane thinking "What the heck was that?" I really want to see this again.

And now, these are all of the movies I watched in 2023:

The Menu
Rise (A movie about Giannis Antetokounmpo and his family)
Anchorman 2
Logan Lucky
Homeward Bound: An Incredible Journey 
Family Switch

My New Year's Resolution for 2024 is to watch more movies. Almost all of these are movies for kids/families. There's no Barbie or Oppenheimer. I mean, how can I get a media credential for The Oscars with this list?

Best Sports Moment: Sheffield Wednesday

Sheffield Wednesday completed the biggest comeback in English Football League playoff history back in May. Down 4-0 after the first leg, the team battled back to tie the overall score at 4-4 in the 90+7th minute. Peterborough, their opponent, got a goal in extra time, but Wednesday tied it again before advancing in penalty kicks. By far the best sports moment of 2023. (More about this game is available from my May post.)

Worst Sports Moment: Pittsburgh Sports

Although Pitt's men's basketball team returned to the NCAA tournament and the women's volleyball team is now a consistent power, the professional teams struggled. The Penguins missed the playoffs for the first time since the 2005-2006 season, the Steelers are an average NFL team, and the Pirates, though better in 2023 compared to 2022, still had a record under .500. While I don't have a specific moment for the worst sports moment, the Pirates were 20-8 after we attended the 16-1 victory over the Nationals, and several weeks later, the team's record was 35-42. Lots of losses. Actually, there is a worst moment. The Penguins, battling for a playoff spot in the next-to-last game of the season, lost at home to the worst team in the NHL.

Best Book: 12-way tie!

Okay, this definitely isn't true. I just wanted to share that I read 12 books this year, by far the most since the pandemic started. I was part of a book club in 2023, and book clubs are stressful! It's like high school all over again trying to finish a book in time for the discussion or test. At least we have snacks for book club! Here's what I read this year:

The Umpire Is Out by Dale Scott
How to be Perfect by Michael Schur
Raise a Fist, Take a Knee: Race and the Illusion of Progress in Modern Sports by John Feinstein
The Nazi Conspiracy: The Secret Plot to Kill Roosevelt, Stalin, and Churchill by Brad Meltzer and Josh Mensch 
The Book of Lost Names by Kristin Harmel
Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng
Flying Solo by Linda Holmes
The Housemaid by Freida McFadden
Just Like You by Nick Hornby
The Housemaid's Secret by Freida McFadden
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
Why We Love Baseball by Joe Posnanski

Best Live Concert: Pink

Worst Live Concert: Bruce Springsteen

Before you freak out, this is the worst concert I attended because I didn't attend. Bruce postponed his concert from August to September and then to 2024. Hopefully he'll appear in my best live concert in my 2024 post.

Best Blog Post: Goodbye Ziggy

In May, we had to say goodbye to our cat Ziggy. I still miss him.

Worst Blog Post: Is Tim Tebow's Wife a Pirates Fan?

Since she wore a hat with a "P," I immediately thought it was a Pittsburgh Pirates hat. It was probably a Puma hat.

While this may or may not be my last post of 2023, have a Happy New Year!

Monday, December 18, 2023

Wizards And Capitals Should Stay In Washington

Let's get all of this out of the way before I start the point of this post. I live in Northern Virginia but not in Alexandria or particularly close to the proposed Potomac Yard site for a new arena for the Washington Capitals and Wizards. I've attended concerts, Wizards, Caps, and Georgetown basketball games over the 20+ years I've lived in the DC area, but I haven't been to the Capital One Arena in Washington since the pandemic started. So although the recent announcement about the Wizards and Caps moving from DC to Alexandria doesn't really impact me, why does it bother me so much?

By all accounts, the Gallery Place/Chinatown area of DC was completely revitalized by the building of the Capital One Arena (previously the MCI Center and Verizon Center) in the late 1990s. Between home games for the Wizards and Caps along with Georgetown basketball games, concerts, monster truck shows, etc., there are probably about 150 events at the arena each year. Taking away the Wizards and Caps will be absolutely devastating to the businesses in that neighborhood. Meanwhile, state and local taxpayers are going to be on the hook for $1.35 billion for the building of the new arena and entertainment complex in Alexandria, Virginia. This would be the largest public subsidy of a project of this kind. There is not currently adequate infrastructure in the Potomac Yard area, so we're talking about a significant investment needed in roads, though it's not clear if that's part of the $1.35 billion. In any event, I don't see how this is a good deal for Virginia residents. That's A LOT of money. And it's not like we're going to get free tickets or free parking. Ticket and parking prices aren't going to be cheap. Now all of this is a great deal for Caps and Wizards owner Ted Leonsis. This is a live look at Ted if this deal gets signed. 

The model for Potomac Yard is The Battery area in Cobb County, Georgia. The Atlanta Braves moved about 10 miles outside the city to an area with a new stadium and entertainment district. It's really nice. Several years after opening though, I'd love to know the economic impact on Atlanta, Cobb County, and the Atlanta Braves. Cobb County (and its taxpayers) put significant money into the area. Curious what the return on investment has been. Plus, what's the impact for the city of Atlanta and the area that housed Turner Field? (I don't remember there being much to do before or after a game outside Turner Field which differs from the area outside Capital One.)

To me, it just seems like the Wizards and Caps should play in Washington. Although Potomac Yard is only four miles from Capital One, it's a world away. 

Here are a few more videos about this potential move.

Friday, December 15, 2023

Health Update

I'm really terrible at post titles. I mean, starting with a title of "Health Update" sounds ominous. Is something wrong? Was something wrong but now there's good news? It's actually none of the above.

I had my annual physical recently, and my doctor said I'm in great shape. In his follow-up report after receiving the blood test results, he wrote that I'm in "very good health" with my liver, kidneys, thyroid, etc. all normal and to come back in a year. This all sounds great, but I'm not completely convinced. First, my weight is up 6 pounds from last year. Now, I wouldn't recommend attending two holiday parties and a food testing event in the days before my physical, but I don't think that accounts for a 6-pound gain. Plus, while my total cholesterol (171) is in the okay range, my LDL, or bad cholesterol, is at 112 which falls into the high range. 

I saw the results on the doctor's online portal before the medical assistant or physician assistant called me. He shared the note from the doctor about my good health, and I asked him about the LDL number. The PA/MA said that I need to exercise more, have more salad, and eat less chips and fried foods. How does he know about my eating habits? I mean, I'm helping the economy and saving money by buying chips/salty snacks that are on sale at Costco! 

Fine. I'll start eating more celery. (Is celery with ranch or peanut butter okay?) I also just bought a pickleball racket, so I hope to hit the courts this winter since I definitely don't want to do any outdoor exercising. Stupid winter!

Photos are a screenshot of Brewster's Millions and from this Forbes article.

Wednesday, December 06, 2023

What's Going On

Once again, I'm stealing Heidi's idea for a "Housekeeping" post to share what's going on in my life.

* Both The Moose and Pedro Tulo are playing basketball this winter. This is the first time Pedro Tulo (4th grade) has played organized basketball, and this is definitely a learning experience for him. I'm hoping that he becomes a defensive stopper this season since it's still difficult for him to shoot. The baskets are really high for a little guy. Meanwhile, this is the third season for The Moose (7th grade), and he has the same coach along with a few teammates from last season. The Moose seems to be all about taking outside shots. He doesn't seem eager to battle with the "trees" down low.

* Hanukkah starts at sundown on Thursday. As usual, I'm trying to promote the pickles at Hanukkah tradition which started in 1998. (Here's the full story about how the tradition started.) While I'm excited to host a pickle taste test at my synagogue as part of our Hanukkah party (per the picture below, the pickles have been purchased!), the main way I'm attempting to promote the pickle tradition this year is commenting on and liking somewhat random Hanukkah posts on Instagram and Facebook with the pickle accounts. Not sure of the effectiveness of this plan. By the way, please follow the Hanukkah Pickles account on Instagram and the Pickles at Chanukah account on Facebook.

* With the temperatures regularly in the 40s, we’re now in dry-hand season. My hands look forward to March and April.

* I’m very late to this, but I started watching Yellowstone. This show proves that I could never work on a ranch. Or get involved in Montana politics. What’s interesting is that I’m watching most episodes on CBS, and thanks to a Thanksgiving marathon, I recorded many episodes from the Paramount network, a station I didn’t know I had. It’s quite jarring watching a show without swear words transition to one with swear words. I think you’re used to one or the other and not characters “changing” their language part way through a show.

* I took Luigi to a birthday party of one of his first grade classmates a few weeks ago. Nothing makes my introverted side come out more than a trampoline park where I don’t know any of the parents and don’t even know which parents are part of my group since there are several parties going on at once.

* My recent dentist appointment was a success. The receptionist at my dentist’s office noted that I’ve been a patient for 20 years now. This is now one of my longest relationships!

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Three Games As A Soccer Referee

It's been a long time since I've shared stories about being a soccer referee. For those of you who don't know me very well (or know about this side of my life), I became a certified soccer referee in 1990. It was a great high school job since the pay was good, and I only worked on weekends giving me time to do homework and participate in activities during the week. I continued working as a referee when I returned home from college, and after taking a few years off, got recertified again around 2005. Before kids, I worked as a referee most weekends during the fall and spring seasons. In my mind, I get paid to exercise. Between all of the kids' activities, I don't work as much as I'd like, but I still try to get out when I can. I have two amazing primary assigners who I've known for years and understand my schedule. There are many times when I'll email them on Thursday to see if they have any availability for games on Sunday, and if they do, they slot me in. This post is about three games I worked this fall.

(That's not me in the picture.)

Game 1: Under 12 Girls

While I stopped working adult games at least 4-5 years ago, I generally referee games for middle school and high school aged kids meaning that this recreational league game was slightly younger than I usually work. This game featured one team with girls that were a foot taller and probably 30-50 pounds heavier than their opponents. While I probably called more fouls against the “bigger” team since it was warranted, many times, I let the teams play simply because players on the “smaller” team just bounced off players from the “bigger” team and hit the ground. After the bigger team scored a late goal on a penalty kick, one of the parents yelled for me to call it both ways. Then, as I was leaving the field, I overheard the “smaller” team’s coach explain that soccer is a physical game and that the players need to play through it sometimes. 

Most times, I forget a game as soon as it ends. This one stuck with me. Should I have called the game tighter based on the age and skill level? Would that have been unfair to the “bigger” team? I don't know, but both answers seem to be yes.

Game 2: Under 9 Boys

I gave my assigner very short notice about my availability, and while there was a U19 boys game that had an assistant referee (AR) opening , he really needed me to be an AR for a U10 girls game and then center a U9 boys game. He explained that this was the first ever game as a center for the teenage referee assigned to the U10 girls game, and he wanted me to be there as a mentor. The teenage referee did a great job, and I was able to give her some feedback both at halftime and then after the game. Then, I got to center a U9 game, and I loved it. Yes, I called fouls during the game and made sure that it kept moving, but I also explained fouls and helped kids understand the procedure for a goal kick and the proper way to do throw-ins. One of the team's coaches thanked me after the game, saying that although they try to teach this at practice, it's often better for the kids to get the real-time feedback during the game from someone other than them. I really enjoyed being able to teach the kids and be a mentor for a new referee.

Game 3: Under 11 Boys

My final games this fall were for a local all-star recreational tournament. I was by myself (instead of a normal 3-person crew) for three games with 25-minute halves. The temperature was about 37 when I started, but I warmed up quickly from all of the running.

(It wasn't actually as cold as it was from this picture.)

Before I arrived at the field, I noticed on the schedule that no one signed up for the game after mine. In emailing with the tournament assigner, I wrote that I would stay if no one took the game. No one took the game. The game itself was unremarkable with one team winning 5-0. The losing team had some chances, but the winning team controlled the game. As I walked off the field, I heard one or two of the kids complaining about me as the reason they lost the game. There was one goal scored on what may have been offsides. It was close, but I thought the attacking player was fine. Of course, in a one-person system, I can't be even with the next-to-the-last defender on both sides at all times (and especially not in the fourth of four games). If the tournament wanted a 3-person system for all games (and increased costs for the teams), the AR would have been in perfect position to determine if a player was offsides. If it's close, I'm giving the benefit of the doubt to the attacking team. Plus, that one goal had minimal to no impact on the final result.

Anyway, I packed up my bag and as I walked to my car, a player from the losing team asked how much the other team's coach paid me. I was a little stunned, so I didn't answer. The kid continued throwing out various amounts concluding with $1 million. 

I smiled and jokingly replied that I would certainly accept $1 million to help a team win an under-11 game. Do I make mistakes as a referee? Of course. There is constant action, and I miss things. However, I really don't appreciate anyone questioning my integrity. If it was a coach or maybe an older player, I would have given a post-game yellow card for dissent. For a 10 or 11 year-old, I just left the field and went home.

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

A Dating Story

I don't really write much about my kids' personal lives because, well, they're personal. Plus, what juicy topics am I going to share about my first and fourth graders? Nothing. While there's really not much to share about my seventh grader either, I'm making an exception today for this story.

For the start of middle school, we agreed to get The Moose a phone since he might need it getting to and from school, or to let us know if he needs to stay after school. While I still believe that he should have a phone with only calling and texting functions, I understand that I lost this battle months ago. Although we try to limit his screen time, and what he can watch and do on his phone, he managed to create a Snapchat account. I don’t think he should have any social media accounts, but the understanding with Snapchat is that his account is set to private. Only his friends can see it.

A few weeks ago, The Moose declared that he had a girlfriend. When pressed about some details of this new relationship, he shared that this was a friend of a classmate of his. She goes to a different school, and he had never met her in person. They only communicated through Snapchat. I clearly don’t understand the middle school dating scene in the 2020s. Gone are the days where you get a phone number, call the house, and then have an awkward conversation with a parent before the person you are trying to call gets on the phone. Anyway, The Moose and his girlfriend never made plans to get together. I'm not sure if they ever talked on the phone.

Recently, The Moose announced that they broke up. I almost spit up the water I was drinking at the kitchen table when he said this trying not to laugh. 

It turns out that she is a Cincinnati Bengals fan and didn’t want to be in a relationship with a Steelers fan. In the name of Kimo von Oelhoffen, I say good riddance! Although The Moose doesn't seem phased by the breakup, I hope his ex-girlfriend looks like this especially this Sunday when the Steelers face the Bengals:

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

March For Israel

I’m not really a rally or march guy. The older I get, the less I like being in big crowds and that was even before Covid. Plus, I’m busy. Between work and family activities, I don’t really have time to attend rallies or protests or anything like that. Tuesday’s March for Israel was different. First, it was held on the National Mall, so I only needed to travel a few extra Metro stops to get there. More importantly, I felt that I needed to be there to support the Jewish community and the Israeli-American relationship.

Let’s go back a month. On October 7th, Hamas terrorists invaded Israel and brutally killed approximately 1,400 people and kidnapped 240 others. Children and the elderly were part of both groups. More Jews were killed on October 7th than on any other day since the Holocaust. While I shared my thoughts about the aftermath of the terrorist attacks and Israel's response two weeks later, I didn't touch on what has happened and continues to happen in America. Anti-semitism and threats against Jews on college campuses (including where I worked at Ohio State for two years). Vandalism at Jewish institutions. The number of antisemitic incidents has skyrocketed. The March for Israel was an opportunity to let our voices be heard that we're not going to take it. (Feel free to sing the Twisted Sister song.) That we support Israel and its right to exist. And that we demand the release of the hostages.

I arrived on the National Mall via the Smithsonian Metro station around 11:00. While I considered showing that I'm a local and asking people to stand on the right of the Metro escalator, I just took the stairs while many groups with matching shirts emerged from the subway. I followed my way toward the stage and got in line to enter the "front" area. I found myself next to a group who flew in from Minnesota and saw that they all had blue wristbands to get into this area. I didn't have a wristband, so I went back to the "general admission" section and stood in the grass approximately between the Smithsonian castle and the Natural History Museum. 

A pre-show rally for/by students started at 11:30 with various high school and college student speakers. Other speakers for the pre-show included Tik-Tok and Instagram star Montana Tucker (who I follow), actor Brett Gelman from Stranger Things and Fleabag, and Congressman Ritchie Torres of New York who I thought was fantastic. 

There were also performances by Israeli musicians Ishay Ribo and Omer Adam. I wasn't familiar with either, though to be fair, most of the music I know from the last few years is what I hear on the SiriusXM channel Hits One. 

The "main event" started at 1:00. with speeches from actress Tova Feldshuh, CNN's Van Jones (more mixed reactions for him than anyone else), and former Soviet dissident and Israeli politician Natan Sharansky. Israeli President Isaac Herzog spoke from the Western Wall, and there were speeches from other political figures like Israeli Ambassador to the US, Michael Herzog, and Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt, the US Special Envoy to Combat Antisemitism. To me, the most notable speakers during the rally were the Congressional leadership of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Speaker Mike Johnson, House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries, and Senator Joni Ernst. (I guess Senator Mitch McConnell was busy trying to figure out how the now 2-8 University of Pittsburgh football team handed the University of Louisville its only loss of the season thus far last month.) I really found the inclusion and words by Torres, Johnson, and Jeffries to be an important part of the event. These are non-Jewish allies sharing their support.

Debra Messing was terrific.

Matisyahu performed with the Maccabeats.

For years, I've joked about a rivalry between acapella groups the Maccabeats and Six13. While competition between these two groups is probably all in my head, I feel like the March for Israel should have been a time where they performed together. Sort of like Taylor Swift and Katy Perry coming together after years of feuding.

Although the event was scheduled to end at 3:00, it was still going strong at 3:20. After standing in one spot for about 5 hours, I was not still going strong and decided to head home. With the entrance to the Smithsonian Metro station packed, I walked about a mile away to the Farragut West station. Maybe it's because I left early, but I was surprised that the Metro wasn't crowded. I heard that buses parked at RFK, so maybe more people headed in the opposite direction. 

A few final notes:

* Many speakers mentioned their support of the Palestinian people and shared their prayers or grief with innocent Palestinian civilians who have lost their lives. (I noticed this the most in Debra Messing's speech above.) 

* While I enjoyed the rally, I think I would have had a better time if I went with a group and/or with friends. 

* 13 years ago, I attended the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear starring Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. 13 years later, there's still no cell phone reception on the National Mall when there's a large group of people. 

Overall, I'm glad I attended. Hearing from several famililes of those kidnapped was powerful. More than anything, it was a sense of unity. Of coming together. Of knowing that we're not alone. 

Here are a few more photos from the event:

Am Yisrael Chai!

Tuesday, November 14, 2023

George Mason-Austin Peay Recap

I understand that writing a blog post about taking my kids to a George Mason University-Austin Peay University November men's college basketball game isn't going to go viral. And while some of this is about basketball, some of it's not. Please stay with me here. While I've never had season tickets, I've attended several George Mason men's basketball games each year since I moved to Virginia in 2001. The arena is easy to get to, tickets are reasonably priced, parking is free, and you get to see quality Division I basketball. This isn't Duke-North Carolina, and you won't watch future NBA players, but you'll see entertaining and competitive basketball. My kids love attending live sporting events, so when I asked if they wanted to go to Mason's second game of the season, they were all in.

George Mason has a new coach this year in Tony Skinn. That name may sound familiar to die-hard and even some general college basketball fans since Skinn was the point guard on George Mason's amazing 2006 Final Four team. (Because Skinn was suspended for the first game of the NCAA Tournament, I picked them to lose against Michigan State. I mean, how would Mason defeat a Big 10 powerhouse without one of their best players? Spoiler: They did and then beat North Carolina, Wichita State, and UConn.) WIth a new coach, several graduates, and the remarkable way students transfer between schools now, the Mason roster is completely different from last year with only a few (maybe two?) holdovers. That’s how college basketball works now. 

For the game itself, George Mason had a commanding 42-15 lead at halftime and never looked back on the way to a 67-45 victory. They appear to have a balanced team with multiple scoring options. While it’s way too early to predict how they’ll play this season, I feel like Mason could finish in the top-half of the Atlantic-10. They are certainly not going to be an easy win for opponents. 

Now for the non-basketball parts of the post. Sort of. (Again, thanks for making it this far.) In the second half, a player named Hansel Enmanuel entered the game for Austin Peay. My 12 year-old, The Moose, quickly noticed that Enmanuel had only one arm and questioned how he could play basketball. While I replied that he was playing for a division I school so he must have some talent, I was intrigued and became fixated on watching him. Enmanuel didn't do very much offensively (he caught the ball several times and then passed to teammates) though it seemed like Austin Peay's game plan was to give the ball to DeMarcus Sharp and let him try to do something. Although Sharp finished with a game high 23 points, he went 8 for 24 shooting and most of his points came with the game virtually over. Late in the game, Enmanuel got behind the Mason defense on a fastbreak and finished with a thundering dunk. While the screenshot below isn't great, I encourage you to check out the video on Instagram

When I got home, I found out more about Enmanuel primarily through this ESPN story.

We also got a halftime show featuring Christian and Scooby, who apparently appeared on America's Got Talent. I guess you would call Christian a gymnast or acrobat. The key to the performance is the dog Scooby who climbs all over Christian while he conducts his balancing act. It was impressive and fun to watch. 

This video from earlier this year at an Indiana Fever basketball game is similar to what we got to see.

Overall, a fun night with the kids. Success!

Monday, November 06, 2023

Marshawn Lynch Visits Woodland Hills

Anytime my high school is featured on national television (or international streaming in this case), I'm writing about it. During last week's Thursday Night Football broadcast, Amazon shared this video of retired NFL running back and current media personality Marshawn Lynch along with current Steelers running back Najee Harris visiting the Woodland Hills High School girls' flag football team.

Apparently, this visit occurred in September when it was much warmer in Pittsburgh, and that's why everyone is wearing shorts.

Go Wolverines (not the cheating Michigan kind)!

Friday, October 27, 2023

GloRilla Meets Mike Tomlin

My 12 year old told me recently that I don’t know anything about rap music since apparently I’m not familiar with songs from current artists. I could have replied with my knowledge of hip-hop legends of the 80s and 90s, but I let the conversation end as we just arrived home. The reason I mention this is because GloRilla visited the Steelers headquarters and got to meet Mike Tomlin earlier this week. I wasn’t familiar with GloRilla, but she was clearly excited about meeting Coach Tomlin and seems to be a long-time Steelers fan. I approve!

While I included a video above, please check out the 30-second video the Steelers posted on Twitter about the GloRilla-Tomlin encounter. My favorite part might be near the end where you see a guy in the background just trying to get work done during all the commotion outside his office.

Thursday, October 26, 2023

Itsy Bitsy Spiders

Last Wednesday, I noticed a spider on the wall of my office bathroom. The spider definitely startled me since I didn’t expect seeing it next to the automatic door opener, but I didn’t think much of it after I left the restroom. The spider didn’t move as I continued using the bathroom throughout the day, so I thought maybe it was dead. So at the end of the day, I blew on it, and the very alive spider fell to the ground and scurried into a corner. I was back at the office on Friday and figured the spider left the bathroom one way or another. Nope. It moved on the ceiling.

On Tuesday, the spider was still in the same spot on the ceiling. Then on Wednesday, it moved back to the original location. 

While I don't understand how the spider got into the restroom or how it survives (What is is eating? Where is the web?), I’m now hoping to see the spider each time I go in. It’s like my own Charlotte’s Web!

This reminded me of another spider story from last summer. There was a spider living behind my driver side window. Each morning, there was a web on my car, and the spider would hide behind the mirror when I opened the car door. Sometimes, it stayed outside for the ride. This lasted for several days until I believe it blew away.

Here's a video of this spider in action.

Please note that no water spouts were involved in these stories.

Thursday, October 19, 2023

Israel Update

Part of the reason that I haven’t posted much recently is because of the current situation in Israel. I’m spending a lot of time reading news updates, watching videos online, and following various discussions on social media. (While also working and running all over the place for my kids' activities.) It’s terribly sad reading about the people killed in the Hamas attack and those currently being held hostage. How can people take infants and toddlers hostage? That's barbaric.

Naturally, Israel couldn’t just say, “this is terrible and we really hope Hamas gives us back those who were kidnapped. Sure, the Hamas charter calls for the destruction of our country, but we’re sure that if we do nothing there will be a peaceful solution.” Unfortunately, innocent Palestinians are getting killed in retaliatory attacks. I’m like nearly everyone else in the world who truly wants the bloodshed to end and peace in the region. That's never going to happen as long as Hamas runs Gaza. 

Does Israel deserve criticism? Absolutely. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has gone on for decades, and Israel is certainly not blameless. But I'm also not sure what Israel can do when Hamas wants the country destroyed. Israel pulled out of Gaza nearly 20 years ago, and Hamas governs Gaza. What are they doing to improve the lives of its citizens? I'm sure that some will blame the Israeli-Egyptian blockade for all the ills of Gaza though again, the reason for this is to prevent weapons from getting into Gaza. 

Now that Israel has been forced to respond, innocent people are being killed. I'm sure you saw the awful news that hundreds of people were killed at a Gaza hospital. The immediate story was that this was an Israeli attack, but according to President Biden per the National Security Council, the explosion was likely caused by an errant rocket or missile launch carried out by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a group that's not going to be considered for a Nobel Peace prize. Of course, that didn't stop people from blaming Israel and Jews in general. A historic (though defunct) synagogue in Tunisia was destroyed, and a Berlin synagogue was bombed. There is also increased security at my synagogue and others throughout the country. We have nothing to do with what's happening in Israel, but there are people out there looking for any excuse to target Jews. I'm tired of people online (and at least one member of Congress) refusing to blame Hamas for anything and criticizing Israel for everything. Most people truly want peace and for the Palestinian people to be successful. But that should be the same for Israel too. 

Monday, October 16, 2023

Remnant Low Sean

There has been a lot of news in the last 10 days, so it's easy to miss any stories about Tropical Storm Sean. About a week ago, the National Hurricane Center announced the formation of Tropical Storm Sean in the Eastern Tropical Atlantic. Over the next few days, Sean alternated between a Tropical Storm and Tropical Depression. It was a confusing time! It's not everyday that there is a storm named after me, so I asked Rico from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, someone who knows significantly more about hurricanes and weather than me, a few questions about Sean.

It's mid-October. Isn’t this late in the year for a named storm?

Rico:  It isn't late.  Hurricane season lasts until Nov 30 but after mid October the frequency of  tropical storms drops off. See

Note there have been storms as late as Late December/early January.  The 2005 hurricane season that had storms in December 2005/January 2006.  The hurricane center started using the Greek alphabet to name storms then.  See

At least as of Thursday, Sean was switching back and forth between a Tropical Storm and a Tropical Depression? What’s the difference and why can’t Sean make up his mind?

Rico: The difference between a tropical storm and a depression is the maximum wind speeds in the storm.  Once the maximum sustained wind speeds are >= 39mph, the depression becomes a tropical storm and it is given a name.

A couple of things are needed to maintain a tropical system.
 1) storms need warm waters (> 80F)
 2) low or no wind shear, wind shear is the change of wind speed and direction with height ( light winds are needed from the surface to high in the atmosphere)
 3) storms need to be surrounded by a moist air environment.

Sean's fickleness (from the limited amount of discussions I read from the hurricane center) was caused by wind shear and dry air intrusion.

What is the current status of Sean and any potential impact on land?

Well as you are probably aware, Sean has dissipated.  So no impacts whatsoever.  Wind shear and dry air were the causes. 

Finally, there was a storm named Sean in 2011. Is that too soon for another Sean?

The hurricane center repeats lists of names every 6 years. So "Sean" was on the list back in 2017 but that year there was no storm named Sean.  The number of storms failed to reach the "S' letter that year.   If the storm was really destructive, the name is removed from being listed again.

FYI,  the hurricane center has a bunch of info at its web site.  Check it out:

While I like having my name in the news, it's even better that Sean isn't going to cause any damage.

Monday, October 09, 2023

I Stand With Israel

I'm posting this on Monday afternoon. I'd really like to write about yesterday's Steelers win over the Baltimore Ravens (and I guess I can since this is my blog!), but that's not on my mind right now. Instead, I can't stop thinking about the terrorist attacks in Israel over the weekend. 

I'm not getting into the history of Israeli-Palestinian relations in this post. I'm also not going to pretend like I'm an expert in this area. To my understanding, the West Bank and Gaza are operated by two completely different entities, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas respectively. There really seems to be a distinction between these groups. That's part of the reason why we're seeing attacks on Israeli civilians from Gaza and not the West Bank. Hamas does not acknowledge the existance of Israel and wants to destroy the country. I also acknowledge that Israel has responded and will continue to respond to these terrorist attacks. Innocent Palestinians have and will be killed. I truly pray for peace.

At least 260 people were killed at a music festival. A music festival! Everyone in attendance was there for fun and to have a good time. They were hunted and killed and others were kidnapped. This brutality is simply incomprehensible. 

I'm sharing a few stories below that I saw on Facebook. These are just a few of the many individual stories. 

Since I mentioned sports at the outset, I want to recognize the Miami Dolphins, Carolina Panthers, and Washington Wizards among others who shared messages over the last few days.

Friday, October 06, 2023

Fan Points

One of my favorite podcasts, The Poscast with baseball writer Joe Posnanski and Parks & Recreation and The Good Place creator Michael Schur, featured an episode where the hosts discussed fan points. While I had heard of this idea before, the premise is that you have 100 points or 100% to assign to your favorite sports teams/players. Basically, this is a way to show your fandom and what you really care about as a fan. For example, let's say that you are a Dallas Cwboys fan. First, my apologies. You only care about the NFL, so in this case, maybe you assign 95 or even all of your fan points to the Cowboys. Maybe you give 5 points to whoever is playing against the Philadelphia Eagles or another team that will help the Cowboys. It seems rare that a person is only a fan of one team, but this is just an example. Today, I'm sharing my fan points.

22% - Pittsburgh Steelers
22% - Pittsburgh Pirates
22% - Pittsburgh Penguins

Growing up in Pittsburgh and still being a passionate Pittsburgh sports fan, these three teams are part of my identity. Obviously, these numbers fluctuate throughout the year depending on the season. While I'm very interested in what the Pirates do in the offseason, I'm more concerned in the immediacy about the Steelers upcoming game against the Baltimore Ravens. However, this list is designed for the entire year, so I'm not going to show favoritism between my three kids, I mean, teams.

10% - University of Pittsburgh athletics
10% - Ithaca College athletics

I'll admit that I'm cheating here by grouping entire athletic programs into one category. Like my fandom for the professional Pittsburgh sports teams, I grew up on Pitt sports. I went to Pitt football games at Pitt Stadium with my Cub Scouts troop. I remember watching the "Send It In Jerome" basketball game on TV. 

In recent years, I've really enjoyed seeing the success of Pitt's men's soccer team and women's volleyball team. Sure, I should assign specific percentages to each individual team, but this is my blog, so my rules! 

Ithaca is where I went to college, and was and is a big part of my life. I have lifetime friendships from and connections with the institution. In the last year, I've been able to attend an IC football game, women's volleyball game, and women's basketball game in the DC-Baltimore area and loved being able to support my alma mater. 

This is where things get difficult. 

5% - Sheffield Wednesday

I shared the story about how I lived in Lancaster, England for a summer and how my supervisor took me to a Sheffield Wednesday match. It's difficult for me to watch matches, but I generally follow gamecasts and commentary on ESPN and Twitter and listen to a weekly podcast about the team. It will be amazing if the team ever gets back to the Premier League, though I'm just hoping that they don't get relegated back to League One at the end of this season!

4% - Ohio State Football

I went to graduate school at Ohio State and had season tickets to football games when I attended. Watching a game at Ohio Stadium with 100,000+ of your closest friends is an amazing experience. Unfortunately, the team was lousy (for Ohio State standards) when I was there, so I also got to see and hear about some of the bad side of fans. While I don't go out of my way to watch most Buckeyes games, and I can't name more than a handful of current players, I make sure to see them play Michigan and root for them to win a national championship (especially against SEC schools). 

5% - Miscellaneous

I usually attend 2-3 George Mason men's basketball games a year, so while they should probably get their own fan points, I'm including the team here. Miscellaneous also includes things like the US National men's and women's soccer teams, anyone against Novak Djokovic near the end of a Grand Slam tournament, and DC United, Loudoun United, and even the Washington Nationals when I attend their games in person. While I'm not including Coco Gauff in her own category, for the two weeks of the 2023 US Open, I followed her more than anything else in sports. That's the purpose of miscellaneous points.

So that's my 100 points. Although I follow the NBA, there's not a specific team that makes the list. (Sorry Washington Wizards.)  Now that I'm done, I just realizd that this could all be a lie. I should probably reduce nearly everything above in half and add a significant amount of my points to fantasy sports. I spend way too much time on that in my sports fandom!

Feel free to share your list in the comments section below.