's good for you.

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Branns' busy weekend

It was a very busy weekend for my family...a few of the tidbits are above.  Julie & Sophia had their first-ever troop camping outing down in Stafford.  They had a good time, but they were tired when they returned home on Sunday.  Tyler & I had his 4th soccer match on Saturday.  My folks came up for the game, and the Nationals game in DC later that afternoon.  It was Scouts Day and Tyler Clippard bobblehead day at the park.  We got to see the World Series frontrunner win 5-1. 

In addition, today's a big anniversary in our household.  One year ago today, we added a new member to our family when we rescued a beagle/hound mix.  He was named "Happy the Hound" when we got him, then later "Yankee," before we finally settled on his final name - "Copper."  Copper (based on the "Fox and the Hound" character) seems to fit the best.  The year had its ups-and-downs, but mostly ups.  I know I'm glad he's a part of our family.  I wasn't convinced getting a dog was the best move for me, but there's something about a dog who's always happy to see you and simply wants you to pet him and cuddle that charms you in the end.  Please stick around a long time, Copper.

Have a good week.  I'm exhausted just thinking about what awaits for us in another busy week.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Jeter's Fitting Farewell

There are moments that clearly define the career of retiring Yankees SS and Captain Derek Jeter, and last night he added another one.  With the Yanks ahead by three in the top of the 9th, we all knew what was coming:  Manager Joe Girardi would walk on the field to remove Jeter before the final out.  Instead, the O's had other ideas.  They smacked two HRs off Yankees closer David Robertson to tie the score at 5.  Jeter would have the 3rd at-bat in the bottom of the 9th.  

With pinch runner Antoan Richardson on 2nd, Jeter stroked the winning hit to right field on the first pitch from O's reliever Evan Meek.  Richardson dashed home at full speed sliding in before the tag.  Jeter raised his hands in celebration as he rounded first, as he's done many times in pinstripes.  

The Yankees aren't playoff-bound for the 2nd year in a row, and their 82 wins doesn't make me happy as a Yankees fan.  But, last night's moment (and what followed:  The adulation was appropriate and emotional, just like the Captain) was why so many of us Yankees fans gravitated towards Jeter as our favorite Yankee.  He steps up when it matters.  He defines pride, leadership, and passion.  He's professional, and does his job.  He's a class act defined.

From the Times:

“An out-of-body experience is the best way to put it,” said Jeter, who was uncharacteristically expressive after the game.

It was a night when everything seemed to happen specifically to allow Jeter to be Jeter in front of his home fans for the last time. The rain stopped, the Orioles pushed the game to the bottom of the ninth by hitting two home runs, a Yankees runner got to second base, and Jeter came to the plate again with his name ringing in his ears. He then did exactly the kind of thing that had made him so adored by his fans.

Jeter was so overcome with emotion both during and after the game that he shed his usual cautious approach with reporters.

“I don’t know what to tell you,” he said. “Write what you want and put my name at the bottom of it.”
For the record, Jeter went 2 for 5 with a double, three runs batted in and a run scored.

What may have been the best blown save in Yankees history provided him the platform to be a hero once again.

The Yankees were leading, 5-2, heading into the ninth inning, but Adam Jones hit a two-run homer off Robertson, and Steve Pearce hit a bases-empty shot to tie the score. Jeter was at shortstop at the time, and he slumped his head momentarily. But on the bench, his teammates looked at the scoreboard and saw who was batting third in the bottom of the inning.

Soon, they were jumping all over Jeter on the infield as if they had won a big playoff game.

“I went from all-time low to all-time high,” Robertson said.

After the game, Jeter was greeted on the field by his former teammates Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada and Bernie Williams, as well as his longtime manager Joe Torre, and he hugged them all.

When the congratulations were over, and with the Orioles standing in their dugout watching, Jeter walked out to shortstop for a solitary moment of reflection.

“I wanted to take one last view from short,” he said.

I'll miss you, Captain.   See you in Cooperstown.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Cowboys pull one out of their butts

Oh, Cowboys.  You can't make it easy.  Nonetheless, I'll take a 34-31 road victory on Sunday to improve our season mark to 2-1 (good enough for 2nd behind 3-0 Philly).  Dallas was down 21-0 in this game before coming back to take the lead and eventually the game.  The deficit was the largest comeback in Cowboys' history in a regulation game.  Dez Bryant, above, had a 68-year old TD reception on the day, but he wasn't alone - kudos to a bunch of guys for leading the charge in this effort (including a potentially underrated defense).

It's a long season.  But, 2-1 a good way to start.  Next week...New Orleans.  The outcome could be a lot different.


Busy weekend for our little guy

Tyler had a busy weekend in our household.  His third soccer match of the fall was Saturday, and he helped his team by scoring two goals in the 4th quarter in the 11-3 win.  On Sunday, Tyler was part of the children's choir at our church and sang the classic "If You're Happy and You Know It" (foot-stomping above).  Next up:  With his mom and sister out of town this weekend for a Girl Scouts camping trip, Tyler & I are journeying into DC with my folks for the Scouts Day at Nationals Park on Saturday.  I just need to get through five busy days at work first...

Friday, September 19, 2014

Gatorade's Jeter ad

There's been many fitting tributes to the Yankees' retiring SS & Captain Derek Jeter this season, but this ad from Gatorade may be the best.  You'll be missed, Captain. 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Mason soccer & Nationals baseball

It's been awhile.  The fall has already started off with a bang of busyness on the homefront and workfront, so there's not much time for extraneous activities like blogging.  Nonetheless, I've been tracking a couple things locally.

Congrats to the Nats on winning the N.L. East Division title a couple nights ago and securing their place in the playoffs.  With the Yankees headed to a second-straight non-playoff year, I'll be a Washington fan this postseason.  As for the Yankees, so much for spending half a billion.  Even worse:  The hated Orioles won the A.L. East title, so I'll have to deal with their irritating fans a bit longer.  It's a while since 1997, Bawlmer.  Enjoy it, but don't get too's ONLY A DIVISION TITLE.

Mason's men's soccer team has picked off where they left off last year when they won the A-10 tourney and made the NCAA tournament.  So far, they're 5-0 to start the 2014 season and nationally ranked in three different national soccer polls - they're as high as 12th in one of them.  The Patriots have a road trip up north this weekend, but I hope to see them in Fairfax once A-10 plays.  The team is led this year by the talents of three players in particular:  F/MF Timi Mulgrew (who was homeschooled in Loudoun County before coming to Mason), G Steffen Kraus (from Germany - only a sophomore), and F Henning Dirks (also from Germany and only a freshman).

Good luck to the Nationals and the Patriots. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Never forget

Sometimes I wonder if much has changed in the past 13 years since the greatest tragedy this country has ever known.  Look at us now:  More obsessed with the stupidity of a NFL player than an impeding threat overseas that's vowed to kill us all.  But, we did change - this country and the individuals in it who lived through that horrific day.  I know I woke up this morning with images of that day swirling in my head.  I won't forget what happened in NYC, Virginia, or Pennsylvania.  I won't forget the lives lost or the heroes we gained.  I won't forget that no matter what blow you throw at this country, we'll get up stronger and determined to bring you down.  

Take some time to remember today.  I know you will.

Never, ever forget.

Monday, September 08, 2014

Here we go, again

I had no optimism going into this Cowboys' football season, and Sunday's loss vs. the 49ers in AT&T Stadium validated my feelings.  Dallas was beat 28-17, but the outcome was a lot worse than the final score indicated.  The Cowboys were destroyed 28-3 in the first half, behind four turnovers that led to 21 points - including three TOs by the always reliably sucky Tony Romo (above).  This game was over in the first minute.  To add insult to injury, the majority of the fans in the stadium were 49ers fans.  Embarrassing.

So, you can expect very little to be written about the Cowboys once again this fall...I don't think you'll miss anything.

Friday, September 05, 2014

Good news from the A-10

The Atlantic-10 conference announced some good news regarding their annual men's basketball tournament locations.  Because the ACC is taking over Brooklyn in 2017 and 2018, the A-10 was forced to find a couple new homes for a couple years.  It's good for me, since I'm close enough to both to attend if Mason is worth seeing again at a tourney in a few years.

From the A-10:

NEWPORT NEWS, Va.—The Atlantic 10 Conference Men’s Basketball Championship will take on a new look and vibe when it moves to CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Pa., in 2017 and to Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., in 2018.

The announcement, made today by the A-10, solidifies the championship sites through 2021. The championship will continue to be held at Barclays Center in Brooklyn through 2016, then will move to the steel city in 2017, and to the nation’s capital in 2018 before returning to Barclays Center for three additional years through 2021.

“The opportunity to rotate our championship within the A-10 footprint is exciting,” stated A-10 Commissioner Bernadette V. McGlade. “CONSOL Energy Center and Verizon Center are two state-of-the-art venues with great fan amenities and successful histories of hosting NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship events. Bringing the A-10 Championship and brand to Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C. is another nod to the strength and value of the conference.”

As you may recall, Mason has had some magical moments in the Verizon Center in its history. It will be very easy to get downtown to Verizon Center for the games on Metro.  Plus, with our abundance of family in Burgh, that's a very easy and friendly location as well.  Both are a lot easier than getting to Brooklyn (which I hope to do one day...after all, we have family close by in Northern Jersey and NYC). 

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Back to school - 1st and 5th

It's here:  Back to school.  Sophia started 5th grade today and Tyler started 1st grade.  It will be the last time they're in school at the same time, since their age difference will keep them apart through middle and high schools.  I hope both have a great 2014-15!  (By the way, Tyler's new Yankees backpack is straight from a store across from Yankee Stadium.  He was due for a new, bigger one.)

Monday, September 01, 2014

A few pics from the weekend

This weekend, we got back to a couple places that we haven't been to in quite awhile.  We went to Burke Lake Park on Saturday for the first time in five years.  Considering all it has to offer and its closeness, it's a shame we don't go more often.  We promised the kiddos we'd go back for some boating and mini-golf at some point in the fall.  I know the park is beautiful when the leaves are changing.

On Sunday, we went to the Shenandoah Valley Discovery Museum in Winchester for the first time in their new building.  We took Sophia there when she was very young.  They moved into a new, much nicer building in May.  We saw the museum earlier this summer when we went to Winchester to check out a new-to-us restaurant and wanted to go back.  We went on Sunday with Julie's sister's family (thanks to Beth for the 2nd pic above).

Today, it's Labor Day.  One more day to go before the first day of 1st grade for Tyler and first day of 5th grade for Sophia.  It will be their last year together in the same school for the rest of their schooling.  That fact makes me kinda melancholy.  I hope they both have great years.  Expect some first day of school pics later this week, and some updates on new and old ballet, jazz (new!), soccer (it's back - for Tyler), Scouts (new for Tyler), and others.  

Bring on fall.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Mason releases 2014-15 schedule...a.k.a. "My Christmas"

It was a busy day for Mason Athletics with the release of the A-10 men's hoops schedule, and later the entire 14-15 schedule.  You can read about the schedule here, but in simple terms, here you go (very few TV games right now...I'm not shocked after last season's misery):


Date Opponent Time Network
Nov. 20-23 at Puerto Rico Tip-Off TBA TBA
Dec. 6 at Northern Iowa TBA
Dec. 20 IONA TBA
Dec. 23 at Wright State TBA
Dec. 31 at Oklahoma TBA
Jan. 8 at Richmond* 7:00 p.m. NBC Sports Network
Jan. 11 MASSACHUSETTS* 1:00 p.m.
Jan. 14 at St. Bonaventure* (Rochester, N.Y.) TBA
Jan. 17 at George Washington* 4:30 p.m. NBC Sports Network
Jan. 29 SAINT LOUIS* 7:00 p.m. A-10 Network
Jan. 31 at Duquesne* 7:00 p.m.
Feb. 4 VCU* TBA CBS Sports Network
Feb. 7 at Saint Joseph's* TBA
Feb. 11 at Davidson* TBA
Feb. 14 RICHMOND* (Homecoming) TBA
Feb. 25 at Dayton* TBA
Feb. 28 at Saint Louis* TBA
Mar. 4 GEORGE WASHINGTON* 7:00 p.m. A-10 Network
Mar. 7 at VCU* 5:30 p.m. NBC Sports Network
Mar. 11-15 at Atlantic 10 Championships

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Excursion near the city

It's taken a little while, but I'm finally getting around to posting some pics from the weekend.  On Sunday, we drove to Alexandria to check out a new-to-us family-friendly restaurant called Haute Dogs and Fries.  It's a trendy hot dog joint with locations in Alexandria and Purcellville.  It's worth the drive (to either location).  The food is good, and the atmosphere is cool.

After lunch, we went to Theodore Roosevelt Island for the first time.  The island is located off the GW Parkway across from Georgetown.  We walked some of the trails and saw the statue of Roosevelt.  

For a treat, we walked to nearby Georgetown and tried mini-pies at the Pie Sisters right across the Key Bridge.  Since I'm a creature of habit (I know what I like), I went with the mini key lime.  

I'd recommend all three outings...heck, if you're adventurous, do it a few hours like us, too.  Summer's days are rapidly coming to an end...

Friday, August 22, 2014

The Nationals: #10

Considering the Yankees' free fall since we saw them play in the Bronx, it hasn't been a bad thing to pay more attention lately to the local Nationals.  On Thursday, Washington got their 10th win in a row.  During that streak, they've won 5 of their last 6 in dramatic walk-off fashion - including yesterday's throwing error by the D'Backs that brought in Denard Span from 3rd.  The man above, Anthony Rendon (who has been incredible as the new 3B and occasional 2B, drove in the winning run.

From the Post:

The Nationals had crafted four walk-off victories in five days, and in a scoreless game Span had just created the chance for another. Moments later, after the biggest stolen base of his career and a misfire into the camera well, Span raised his left arm and trotted home with the only run of the Nationals’ 1-0 victory over Diamondbacks. The run perpetuated the most ridiculous stretch of baseball this town has ever seen, a winning streak that reached 10 games and infinite degrees of silliness.

When Jordan Pacheco fielded Anthony Rendon’s bouncer in the ninth and his throw bounded away from Trumbo, allowing Span to score from second, the Nationals had become the seventh team since 1900 — and the first since the 1986 Houston Astros — to notch five walk-off victories in six games. They also matched the longest streak in the team’s brief history, their first double-digit run since a halcyon fortnight in June 2005, their first year of existence. 

“It’s indescribable, really,” Span said. “I really don’t have the correct or the right words to say what the feeling is other than saying that we just feel confident, that somehow, someway, we’re going to find a way to inch off a victory.”

The Nationals were expected to do great things this season, and as the season comes to a close, they're proving to be worthy of the hype.  This is a talented team - great lineup, great starters, and a strong bullpen - built for a deep postseason run.  Plus, they've been playing most of the season without veteran 3B Ryan Zimmerman, who has been injured twice.  He'll add another element to the roster when he returns in September.  This team is itching to redeem itself for its collapse in Game 5 of the NLDS in 2012 in September.  Maybe, just maybe, they'll get their chance.

If the Yankees don't get a Wild Card bid (currently, they're 9 games behind the O's in the AL East and 4 games out of the Wild Card game), I know who I'll be rooting for in the postseason.  

Monday, August 18, 2014

Mason signs first 2015 recruit

Welcome to Mason Nation, Mr. Gilbert.  George Mason signed its first recruit for the 2015 season by adding 6'6 G/F Admad Gilbert last week.  Gilbert is a Philly product.  

From a Philly hoops blog:

Two weeks after visiting George Mason University, Constitution senior Ahmad Gilbert couldn’t stop thinking about the school.

So he decided to end his recruitment on Friday afternoon, becoming the Patriots’ first commitment for 2015.

“[George Mason] really loved me, they showed a lot of interest, more than all the [other] schools,” Gilbert said. “That’s somewhere I can play, they play my type of style.”

“They’ve been in my head all week, I really loved them; I didn’t talk about any other schools. It was the best fit for me.”

A 6-foot-6 wing, Gilbert had been a Division I recruit for a while, but his stock really rose this summer playing both with Team Final on the AAU circuit as well as at individual camps. The lefty’s an excellent shooter from both the perimeter and the mid-range, and he’s capable of guarding multiple positions on the defensive end thanks to his length and athleticism.

Perhaps his most important week all summer came at the Reebok Breakout Camp here in Philadelphia, where the 6-6 wing was one of the more consistent performers. It all came down to making shots, which Gilbert did all week long in front of literally hundreds of Division I basketball coaches.

“I was barely missing shots, I was rolling,” he said, “and when you’re making shots everything looks good. I was playing with my teammates the right way.”

By the end of the summer, he’d added offers from schools like Wichita State, South Florida and St. Bonaventure; his recruitment came down to Mason, Hofstra, Rhode Island and USF, he said.

Gilbert mentioned GMU’s distance from Philadelphia–about three-and-a-half hours–as a benefit, saying it wasn’t too far from home. As members of the Atlantic 10, they’ll also play La Salle and Saint Joseph’s every season, with at least one game in the Philadelphia region likely, though he said that didn’t end up having an impact on his decision.

As a junior, Gilbert helped lead Constitution to its second PIAA state title in three years, as the Generals took down the AA division for the first time after winning the A crown back in 2012. He led the team with a 15.7 ppg average as they went 28-5 overall (8-2 Public League), averaging 17 ppg during their state title run.

Of course, the rub:  What if Mason fires Hewitt after another disappointing season in Fairfax?  Like many college recruits, Gilbert could stay or he could bolt.  We'll see.


Friday, August 15, 2014

Mason in Spain

The Mason men's basketball team is in Spain right now for a once-in-a-lifetime trip for many of the team's players.  Every four years, a team can go overseas.  It gives a team a chance to practice earlier (they're allowed up to 10 practices before departing) and bond earlier.  This team has a lot of new faces, so this will be a good opportunity for the Mason coaches (and fans) to see what we have in 2014-15 early.  Mason played its first game in Spain on Thursday.  The results are in this link.  Based on those results, we know a couple things early - Holloway will be expected to be "the man" on offense in his last two years.  In addition, Mason's height could be an advantage this season.  We have a lot more tall bodies inside to protect the paint. 

Have a great trip, guys...I'm enjoying the many options for pics from coaches, players, and Mason Basketball online.


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Rest in peace, Robin

I first saw Robin Williams as a child, acting totally bizarre as an alien on a silly show called "Mork and Mindy."  I didn't give up on the talented comedian, despite that role, further appreciating him in the Comic Relief specials on HBO and his one-man shows on the same network (especially his incredible "Live at the Met").  But, it was "Dead Poets Society," which I watched on video in a Mason dorm room during my freshman year, that had the greatest impact.  After watching that film and Williams' protrayal of Mr. Keating, I wanted to become a teacher.  It took me a couple more years to officially follow-through on the idea, but it finally happened in 1999.  No, it wasn't as easy as Mr. Keating made it look in "DPS," but I hope I inspired a few kids along the way to appreciate literature and words a little bit more.

I was incredibly sad to learn of Robin Williams' passing on Monday, and even sadder to learn that it was by his own hand.  The man who made so many others smile and laugh couldn't find lasting happiness for himself.  It breaks my heart - I can't imagine what his wife and three children are experiencing this week.  Sadly, it's another tragic reminder of the wrath of depression. 

Rest in peace, Robin.  Please don't make God get a stomachache from laughing too hard at your wit.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Bronx & Philly

Last Wednesday, we headed north to visit family and do some touristy things in NY and PA.  Last Thursday, we attended our second-ever game at the new Yankees Stadium.  This one was different than a year ago, though, since the Yanks won 1-0 (they lost 2-0 a year ago in another pitcher's battle).  On our way back south, we stopped in Philly for a few days to see some of the historic and fun stuff downtown - including the oldest Episcopal church in America, Betsy Ross's house, the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, and Franklin Square.  There's tons more to do in both cities, so we'll have to make plans to get back to both soon.

Back to reality tomorrow...but, our first-ever family trip to Minnesota is about two months away.  The kiddos get to fly on a plane for the first time on that trip; plus, Julie returns to her birth state.  Bring it on! 

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