's good for you.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Billy Joel returns to DC

For the third time in my lifetime, I saw legendary singer/songwriter/performer Billy Joel in concert.  He returned to Washington, DC last night with a show at Nationals Park, which was also my first-ever concert in a baseball stadium.  We saw Joel the first two times at the Verizon Center.  Once again, the man doesn't disappoint.  The voice was as strong as ever for a 65-year old man.  He seemed more bothered by the bugs that kept flying around his head than anything last night (he used a flyswatter throughout the entire performance...really).  

The setlist was pure Joel gold:  You can find it here.  Julie & I went to the show sans kiddos, but it's definitely a show where children are welcome and it's safe for their eyes and ears.  I can't say the same about my Buffett experiences, which I'm getting too old for as well.  Last night's show was sold-out, and if he ever returns to the city, I'm sure the next one will be sold out as well. 

Thursday, July 24, 2014


Today is my birthday.  42 feels like an uneventful number, since it doesn't have the makings of a landmark birthday.  To me, I think "42" in terms of baseball:  Jackie Robinson's number, and the last number to be worn in the majors by newly-retired Mariano Rivera.  42 makes me think of my dad, who found out he was going to be a father for the third (and later fourth) time at the age.  42 is the opposite of 24, my birth day.  Maybe there's some cosmic magic in that...who knows.  42 is a number I hope to double-up and move beyond; maybe a little Brann (and Croxton) longevity will shine on me. 

On my 42nd birthday, I know all of the following:  I am happily married to an incredible wife.  I have two wonderful children.  I have a dog who treats me like I'm the greatest man on Earth.  My new job is solid, and I work with some good people.  My parents are still alive and kicking.  There could always be more $$s, but we're doing okay.  I live in a good town with good schools and close to things I enjoy.  None of my closest family members live further than five-six hours away.  Despite a fear minor irritants, I'm pretty darn healthy. 

At 42, I am a happy man (as long as I get ahead of, this waxing poetic moment must end).

Monday, July 21, 2014

Julie's birthday

In no particular order, here are some pics from Julie's birthday on Saturday.  We celebrated with a picnic at Sky Meadow State Park, peach and corn picking at Hollin Farms (no berries...darn...not ready yet), and a little bocce at a nearby winery (where we skipped the wine...just bocce!).  We wrapped the day up later with dinner at our favorite BBQ joint in Gainesville.  Days away from my 42nd...

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Captain shines in final ASG

In his final All-Star Game, Derek Jeter did his part to give the AL home field advantage in this fall's World Series.  Jeter went 2-2 and scored 1 run in the 5-3 win.  In the 3rd inning, he was honored by the MN crowd when he exited the game.  From the Times:

Jeter finished his All-Star Game career with a .481 average (13 for 27) after a single off Alfredo Simon in the third. He went back to shortstop for the top of the fourth, but before Chris Sale’s first pitch, Alexei Ramirez took the field to replace Jeter at short.

Jeter pointed to the N.L. dugout as he left the diamond, pausing before the baseline and then stepping over it, like Burt Lancaster in “Field of Dreams,” crossing a threshold and knowing he could not return. That was the end of his All-Star Game career.

With “New York, New York” playing over the loudspeakers, and his parents cheering on the scoreboard, Jeter walked the length of the first base dugout, exchanging handshakes and hugs with each of the players and coaches. He returned to the field for another ovation, tipping his cap — a garish All-Star Game-only version, with a white panel in the front — to the crowd.

Let's hope Jeter gets to take advantage of that World Series home field edge in the Fall Classic.  


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Derek Jeter ad

Kudos to the Jordan brand for the Derek Jeter tribute ad that came out on Monday.  Wow.  Derek Jeter will start the MLB All-Star Game tonight for the AL, leading off in the bottom of the 1st. 


Friday, July 11, 2014

Bad, bad news for my Yanks

The one bright spot in the Yankees' heavily-injured pitching rotation this season has been Japanese sensation Masahiro Tanaka.  Well, now they'll have to see what it's like to live without him for at least six weeks - and maybe longer.  Tanaka needs rest for a partial tear in his ulnar collateral ligament, and he may eventually need Tommy John surgery and be out for a year.  This season, the Yanks have now lost four of their five pitchers from their opening day rotation.  An already mediocre season just got a lot worse.

Tanaka exits the season, for now, at 12-4 with a 2.51 ERA and and 135 Ks.  The Yanks are 46-45 on the season and 4 games behind Bawlmer, who is in first.  

Yeah, this sucks.


Sophia's first trip away from home

A couple days ago, we dropped off our first-born at a Girl Scouts camp in Maryland for 2 nights and 3 days away from home.  I'm anxious to hear about Sophia's experience this evening when we pick her up.  I've missed her, and I definitely don't like the feeling of having one of my own children out of the house, sans communication.  Move fast, workday - I need to see my daughter! 

I hope she's had a great time.  Sophia has always been independent, so this camp should be a great experience for her.

Monday, July 07, 2014

Happy 1st birthday, Copper

Our "puppy" Copper turned the big ONE this past weekend on Saturday.  Happy first birthday, buddy.  Here's a couple pics of our beagle/hound mix with Sophia on Saturday and Sunday.  I think he likes her. 

Saturday, July 05, 2014

A few days with family in the Northern Neck

It was only a little bit of time, but we did a lot in a few days in my native Northern Neck.  We celebrated belated and current birthdays, visited the Lee family home Stratford Hall, and saw our newest niece/cousin for the 2nd time in person. 

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Despite Howard's heroics, the U.S. can't beat Belgium and advance

It was not to be.  Despite a historic effort in goal by U.S. goalie Tim Howard - who clearly showed why he is considered one of the best keepers in the world - the U.S. is heading home from Brazil.  The score was 0-0 heading into extra time, but the Belgians scored twice in the first extra time period to take a 2-0 lead.  A late goal by U.S. sub Julian Green - a babe of 19 - was a beauty, but the U.S. was not able to punch another in to force the match into penalty kicks.  Belgium moves on to take on world power Argentina (who barely beat the Swiss); the Americans head home with hopes of better outcomes in 2018.

As for Howard, wow.  From the Post:

It wasn’t for lack of effort, any shortage of interest back home in the States and certainly not from anything Howard failed to do. The goalkeeper stood in front of a Belgian firing squad for 120-plus minutes Tuesday, recording 16 saves, many of them heart-stopping, more than any World Cup goalkeeper since tournament officials began tracking such stats nearly a half-century ago.
“We dreamed,” Howard said, “and again, we fell short of our dream.”


"That’s what I signed up to do" he said, "put my face in front of balls. That’s part of the job. It hurts when you lose.”

Howard's performance was inspiring, which makes you hope this guy isn't too old or beat up to do it again in four years.  However, he will be 39 at that time, so this could be his last World Cup.  If so, he didn't go out on top, but he gave it his darnedest.  His 16 saves were the most in in the last half-century in World Cup play.

Congrats on a great World Cup run, America.  Let's advance farther in 2018.  I'd like to see this team in the Final Four next time, okay?

GO U.S.A. 

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Day trip to Montpelier

Even though Miss Sophia was begging to go to a Northern Virginia waterpark, we were able to convince her to get a little more Virginia history with a day trip to nearby (1 hour and 20 minutes) Montpelier in Orange County, VA.  Montpelier was the home of our nation's 4th president, James Madison - who, by the way, was born in the Northern Neck in King George County (our tour guide failed to mention this fact).  It's worth a visit if you live in the area, or close enough to get there.  It's also close enough to Charlottesville, if you want to combine it with a visit to T.J.'s spread Monticello. 

Friday, June 27, 2014

Happy anniversary to us

16 years ago on a warm summer day in Fairfax, VA, Julie & I were married at the St. Robert Bellarmine Church off Roberts Road.  Since then, we've added to our history a couple homes, a couple towns, a couple children, and a lot more than a couple professions.  There's been a couple (or more) happy days and sad days the mix.  Through it all, I couldn't have asked for a better partner, friend, and wife.  Thanks for putting up with me for 16 years, my better half.  I love you.

America loses, but moves on to the sweet 16 of the World Cup

I'm American:  I don't like to lose.  So, I'll take yesterday's ugly outing against Germany with a grain of salt, since the better thing happened.  Despite a 1-0 loss to Germany in the final match of group play, the US was able to advance with help from Portugal (who beat Ghana 2-1).  Win the win, America advances to the knockout phase for the 2nd consecutive Cup - a first in US soccer history.  The US will take on Belgium on Tuesday, July 1 at 4 pm.  

From the Post:

“Now we really get started,” said Jurgen Klinsmann, the German-born head coach of the American team. “Now we can put this behind us, the whole group phase. As we know from the past, once the group is done, another tournament actually starts. The knockout stage is a completely different ballgame.”

The American fans who traveled here persevered through an all-day storm, flooded city streets and an exasperating scoring drought. But suddenly, as play came to a halt, none of that mattered. They bounced, waved flags, swung scarves. They chanted and sang and cheered themselves hoarse. 

The stakes couldn’t have been higher. After beating Ghana and playing Portugal to a tie earlier in the tournament, the Americans knew a win or draw was needed Thursday to advance to the tournament’s next round. As it turned out, a loss was enough, too.

“We didn’t qualify just because of this game,” defender Matt Besler said. “We qualified because of all three of the games. All three of the games mattered, and we did enough to advance.”

Let's not forget:  The US was playing in the tourney's "Group of Death," and most soccer experts didn't expect them to win or draw during any of these group matches.  "Better" soccer countries like Portugal, England, Spain, Italy, and others are heading home.  We're still there - one of sixteen teams with a shot at the Cup.

Congrats on advancing, America...we're not done yet.


Monday, June 23, 2014

Saturday night at the ballpark

On Saturday night, we attended the 2nd of 4 Scout Days at the Washington Nationals' ballpark in Washington, DC.  We usually go to at least one game a year.  Sophia received a special patch as a Girl Scout for attending.  I organize the yearly trip, and this year, my family was the only one from the troop who wanted to go.  Their loss.  We had a good time on a cooler June night in a packed stadium as the Nats took on their top rival in the N.L. East, Atlanta.  I think that's the first time we've seen the Nationals win in Scouts Day game, so maybe my "new" Nationals cap was a good luck charm (I bought that hat when the team merchandise was first available, and I've never won it...8 to 10 years ago, perhaps?).

Late "heartbreak" for the USA

After a win and a draw in two matches in Brazil, this World Cup for the American team has already been better than expected.  Nonetheless, it was disappointing yesterday to be seconds from victory and advancing to the knockout round, only to give up an extremely late goal in injury time.  For the U.S., Clint Dempsey's goal in 81th minute gave the Americans their first lead of the game after an earlier strike by teammate Jermaine Jones.  

From the Post:

 “It’s unfortunate, but it was an amazing game,” Klinsmann said. “We just have to go the tougher way and get a result against Germany.”

The next match on Thursday vs. Germany, along with Ghana's match-up with Portugal, will determine the teams that advance in this year's "Group of Death."  For American coach Klinsmann, it will be interesting to coach against his former team - both as a player and coach.   So far, he's made a lot of great decisions in these matches; it's up to his team to execute for the full 90+ minutes. 

You're not done yet, America.  Win or draw.  Come on.


Friday, June 20, 2014

Some pics of the kiddos

As always, I meant to post some high-quality pics of the kiddos from last weekend's festivities, but once again, I never got around to it.  So, you're left with some duplicates of instant uploads of Facebook.  Sorry.  I'll try to do better.  Tyler's end-of-year Kindergarten celebration was last Friday at school, and he wrapped up t-ball with his last game last Saturday.  In addition, we held a first-ever sleepover at our house in honor of Sophia's 10th birthday.  As you can tell, it had a French/Parisian theme to it.  Overall, it was a very good weekend (Father's Day, too).  I'm looking forward to another good one this weekend.  Stay tuned for some pics!

Brett Dennen

Thanks to the usage of the song above as the "About A Boy" TV show theme song and many listens on Pandora, Brett Dennen is becoming more of a regular listen in our household.  Sure, the dude looks weird as hell.  But, he can spin a catchy pop song.  This has to be my favorite underdog song since Spoon's "The Underdog", too. 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

USA 2, Ghana 1

An early goal by a vet and a late goal by a newbie sealed the victory yesterday for America in their opening match in the 2014 World Cup.  The US beat rival Ghana (who knocked us out of the last two World Cups) 2-1 behind goals from Clint Dempsey in the first minute and a a first-ever goal in the Cup from newcomer John Brooks in the 86 minute.  Brooks' goal was key, because Ghana had dominated the match ever since the Dempsey shocking start.  The German-born back came into the match at the half and right away showed he belonged at the age of 22.  He scored on a corner-kick header from another American sub, Graham Zusi.  

From the Post:

Two days earlier, “I had a dream. I told some teammates I dreamed I scored in the 80th minute and we win the game,” he said. “Now it was the 86th minute, and we won.”

In the dream, he said, “I also scored on a header. . . . It was my first dream [about scoring]. Hopefully not the last.”

The Americans endured hamstring injuries to Jozy Altidore and Besler before halftime, a glaring lack of possession and constant duress to take a considerable step toward the knockout stage.

Two teams from the so-called Group of Death will advance to the round of 16, and the Americans will need at least another point from games against Portugal and Germany to remain in the hunt.

“We know we’ve got a big challenge ahead of us, but it’s a big step,” goalkeeper Tim Howard said. “We put ourselves into a really good position to get through the group.”

The opening win gives the US some breathing going into huge matches vs. Portugal (next Sunday) and Germany (on June 26) in the "Group of Death."  Still, there's no guarantees that they'll survive match play.  Nonetheless, it's better to start with a win instead of a loss.

Congrats, USA.  We believe.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Tanaka: 10-1

You know:  I'm starting to think the $$s spent on Masahiro Tanaka may have been a good thing. :)  This guy has been nothing but spectacular since he put on the pinstripes this season (or road grays, like last night).  Tanaka defeated the Seattle Mariners 4-2 with a CG 11 K peformance to improve his record on the 2014 season to an incredible 10-1.  

From the NY Times:

“He’s got great composure; he’s got a lot of confidence in himself,” Derek Jeter said of Tanaka. “You can see it when he’s on the mound. He makes some pitches sometimes, and he’s real hard on himself, even when they don’t hit it. He expects to be perfect out there. No one’s perfect, but he expects perfection.”

Tanaka allowed six hits, walked one and matched his career best with 11 strikeouts.

“I think a lot of my pitches were going right in the middle of the zone, so that would be one thing” to fix, Tanaka said through an interpreter.

Teixeira said he loved seeing Tanaka upset after he yielded Cano’s home run.

“The guy wants to keep getting better,” Teixeira said. “If he does, that’s good for us.”

With the win, the Yanks improve to 33-31.  They've had a run of poor performances lately, but Tanaka always seems to right the ship - at least for one game.  The Yankees are 4.5 games out of first place behind Toronto and tied with Baltimore.  

Keep it up, Tanaka.  GO YANKEES.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Primary day shocker

Around 10 pm last night, perhaps you heard my "CANTOR LOST?" exclamation from Bristow.  Just like the so-called experts, I did not see this one coming.  The No. 2 man in the House, Eric Cantor, was taken down by upstart, tea party candidate, and college professor David Brat in a GOP primary last night.  Brat ran on a far-er right platform, and gosh darn, he won.  One of Brat's top topics to attack Cantor:  Illegal immigration.  Hmmm...seems familiar...from days past on this blog.

Some bits about Brat:

Brat has a prominent photograph of Cantor standing beside President Obama on his Web site to embody his message that Cantor hadn’t fought Obama’s agenda hard enough. He summarized his own bid in a Twitter bio: “I am running for Congress to be ERIC CANTOR’S TERM LIMIT. Free Markets, Constitution, Liberty. No more Crony Capitalism!”

On Facebook, Brat’s team posted a picture of Ronald Reagan in a cowboy hat. “Dave pays tribute to President Reagan, and his vision for freedom, every time he says, ‘I will make Washington, D.C., as irrelevant to your everyday life as possible.’”

Larry Nordvig, executive director of the Richmond Tea Party, said Brat’s campaign grew from a dinner Nordvig had with filmmaker Ronald Maxwell, who directed the Civil War epic “Gettysburg” and, more recently, “Copperhead.” They were hashing over ideas for good candidates to challenge Cantor. 

Nordvig saw Brat speak at a fundraiser for E.W. Jackson, the conservative minister who nabbed the state GOP’s nomination for lieutenant governor last year, only to be trounced in the general election by Democrat Ralph S. Northam.

“I asked him 45 minutes of questions afterward . . . about what would he do about deficit spending, what would he do about Obamacare, what would he do about amnesty . . . and he gave very satisfactory answers,” said Nordvig, who described Brat as “presidential-looking” — important in an era of televised campaigns. “Between his appearance and his bearing and his answers to tough questions, I knew we had the right man for the job.” 

The results Tuesday left him and the other supporters “crazy happy,” Nordvig said. “There’s a lot of, ‘can’t believe this has happened,’ just a wonderful disbelief. Just absolutely thrilled.”
On Fox host Sean Hannity’s show after the victory, Brat said: “I was blessed. I mean, it’s a miracle. . . . God acts through people. And God acted through the people.”

Brat also cited immigration as a difference-maker in the campaign, saying politicians are beholden to the Chamber of Commerce. “They want cheap labor, and that’s going to lower wages for everybody else,” he said.

Brat has long reveled in poking the establishment, talking up battles against the “intellectual elite” while at Princeton, where he earned a master’s degree in divinity, and against “the powerful elite” at American University, where he received his PhD in economics. 

His campaign bio points to his time as an economic adviser to Virginia governors, work that prompted an accusation from Cantor that Brat had been too chummy with former Democratic governor Timothy M. Kaine.

After about a decade at Randolph-Macon, Brat took a more direct role in politics. In 2005, he took an unpaid position as an adviser to state Sen. Walter A. Stosch (R-Henrico), co-chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. In that position, Brat researched higher-education initiatives, including a proposal to create a grant program allowing underprivileged students to move beyond high school.

Brat's opponent in the fall:  Another professor from Randolph-Macon in Ashland.  It's gonna be interesting.  What's next for Cantor?  Well, I think the guy deserves some rest after dealing with non-stop stress in the capital for the last few years.  I suggest a long, tropical vacation and a run at the governor's mansion in Virginia in three years. 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Brad Edwards officially introduced as the next Mason AD

On Monday, George Mason officially announced Brad Edwards as the next AD at the university.  You can find the press conference here.  There was one question about football (not gonna happen right now), as expected, since we are hiring a former NFL player as AD.  I thought Edwards came across very well, and clearly the focus in on fundraising, student athletes (that's what they all say, right?), and college hoops.  I hope he lives up to his words on Monday.  His term as AD starts on July 1.


Thursday, June 05, 2014

Some birthday pics from Sophia's 10th

Here's a couple pics from Sophia's 10th birthday on Wednesday.  Julie met her for lunch at school and brought in a dessert treat for her and her classmates.  Sophia wants to have her first sleepover for her birthday, so that's happening in a couple weeks.  Last night, we dined at the Cheesecake Factory in Fairfax per Sophia's request.  Her Smores cheesecake, with Happy Birthday sung by some of the C.F. staff, was a great close to the dinner.  Lastly, she requested a wooden dollhouse from Hobby Lobby for her birthday, so she's getting something similar (thanks, Amazon).  It should arrive in about a week.  

Happy double digits, Sophia!

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Happy 10th birthday, sweet Sophia

It was a rainy and cooler Friday morning 10 years ago today as Julie and me waited for the arrival of our first born child.  Sophia Elizabeth Brann arrived at 12:15 pm that afternoon, and ever since then, she's been the beacon of sunshine who you see in the photo above (the photo is from her first birthday).  Our girl of ten is in-between worlds, and she seems okay with it:  She wants to cling to the wonderful things about being a kid, and she wants to grow up as well.  I'm glad she's not growing up too fast, like so many children and especially girls do nowadays.  Our girl of ten is creative, funny, sweet, beautiful, and loving.  She's the best daughter, cousin, niece, friend, or granddaughter you could ask for.  

Happy 10th birthday, Sophia.  I love you.

Monday, June 02, 2014

Fargo on FX


When I heard FX was coming out with a "Fargo"-inspired television show entitled "Fargo", I was intrigued and excited by the prospect by the show being as good as the film.  So far, it hasn't disappointed.  Featuring good storytelling, a strong cast, and that Midwestern charm, I'd recommend it.  

But, be warned:  The violence isn't for everyone.  (If you've seen the movie, it's very similar when it comes to that topic.)  One standout to me is female police officer Molly Solverson played by newcomer to me Allison Tolman.  Billy Bob Thornton is incredible in his role as psycho Lorne Malvo. 

I'm looking forward to seeing how the first season wraps up (I'm not sure if a 2nd one is on the books yet), but I'll be a bit disappointed when it's gone. 

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