Opinions in the Shorts: Vol. 359

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I knew my Cincinnati Reds baseball team would not be very good, but they have exceeded my expectations of badness. They are more than pathetic. People here complain more about the Bengals while many give the Reds a free pass, but as an organization, the Bengals are much better – an it’s not even close. The Reds fired the manager Thursday morning. I feel sorry for him because it tough to with those players.

Did anyone see 60 Minutes last Sunday? Allegiant Airlines has a significant presence in Cincinnati. After watching the segment about them, I doubt I would consider them in the future.

It’s been a big week for planning our 2019 vacations.

During my teacher days, I was reformed minded and a long-time antagonist toward standards and standardized testing. My cynical side smiled when I read this view of testing results.

Our handbell was preparing an interesting piece for our last song before breaking for the summer – The Day of Resurrection (Jason Krug). Unfortunately, circumstances caused the director to delay that song until the fall. For those who want to hear it, click here.

News earlier in the week of former First Lady Barbara Bush’s death marks a sad time. Besides living into her 90s and being married to the same man for 73 years, I admired her strength and wit – even though I didn’t always politically agree with her . Loved the fact that she was known within the family as The Enforcer. Meanwhile, her granddaughter – Jenna Bush Hager – wrote a beautiful piece for the Today show. Read it here. (Video here @ CBS)

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Cheers to UN Ambassador Nikki Haley for standing her ground after the White House appeared to throw her under the bus. To me, she is one of the few bright spots in the Trump administration.

This is my favorite one of the week. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) said “I have not” heard President Trump lie. A perfect example of a partisan hack!

A candidate running for a local office in the upcoming May primary. His campaign signs state, “A Real Republican” – which (to me) is code for obstinate asshole.

For those who didn’t see the hair trade deal between President Trump and Kim Jong Un, search the following on Google Images: president trump kim jong un hair deal

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To lead you into this week’s dose of satirical headlines, The Onion shows an image of a man fearing he may never trust again after a treasured picture of a duck turns out to be a rabbit. (I have a personal reason for loving this one.)

Weekly Headlines from The Onion (combos welcome)
Man with backed-up shower drain enjoys luxurious foot soak
Shy balloon spends entire party floating in back corner of room by itself
Grandma defiantly taking scone recipe to grave
Controversial theory suggests aliens may have built Ancient Egypt’s intergalactic spaceport
Woman who choked to death alone in apartment kicked out of book club for missing last 2 meetings

Interesting Reads
How France cut heroin overdoses by 79% in 4 years
The dark side of solar energy
Life in the world’s most polluted city
A Nazi who defected to the Soviet Union then became a hero
Ways people cook pasta wrong
Honey bees and bacteria
(Photos) 50 years of powerful photography

To send you into the weekend, enjoy this song from James Taylor. In the words of Garrison Keillor, Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.

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On Religious Liberty

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Before Europeans came to America, Christian traditions and practices were well-rooted in Europe for over 1000 years. Catholicism was the predominant form of Christianity, at least until the Protestant Reformation of the early 1500s The Protestant Reformation was a major schism is Western Christianity that ultimately influenced America – both before and after independence.

Whereas the US Constitution’s First Amendment (ratified 1791) granted religious freedoms for individuals and that government cannot establish religious preferences, I content that American has a long history of battling this ideal by continually challenging it in the name of religious preference.

As the Puritans came to America (1630) seeking religious freedom in their disagreement with the Church of England (Anglicans), they established the Massachusetts Bay Colony in order to establish an orthodox community seeking to save their perception of Christianity from the wayward Anglicans. Puritans saw themselves as the chosen people – the new Adam and Eve with the American colonies being the New Jerusalem – the new Israel.

Yet, I think of Puritan Anne Hutchinson, a well-spoken and well-versed Puritan who Puritan leadership banished for heresy.

I think of Puritan Roger Williams, who Puritan leadership banished, so he went on to establish a new colony of Rhode Island.

In the 1740s, Rev. George Whitefield (an Anglican cleric) came to America. Without a congregation, Whitefield, a vibrant orator, travelled throughout the colonies preaching a message of rebirth and revival to large crowds in towns and fields. Not only did Whitefield help spread Methodism in America, Whitefield and his contemporaries fueled the Great Awakening in America.

Yet I think of those who opposed Whitefield – the Anglicans whose doctrine did not support rebirth and revival. – and the Puritans who challenged Whitefield cause his message conflicted with their orthodoxy.

I think of the Evangelical Baptists from Pennsylvania whose preaching in Anglican-centric Virginia spurred harassment and imprisonment.

I think of the religious freedom voices uniting with the freedom of liberty voices. There’s Thomas Jefferson who drafted the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom (1777) supporting the non-Anglicans. Anglican opposition would prevent its passage for nine years. After this statute became law, it would serve as the framework for the First Amendment (ratified 1791).

As a young America grew, westward expansion followed. As people moved westward, revivals also moved across the frontier to save souls. Methodists rapidly grew in numbers. In time, they engaged is societal causes as orphanages, jails, caring for the poor, education, anti-slavery, and supporting women. They also saw education as an important role in creating good Christians for society. This activism favored a Protestant America in the New World.

Yet, I think of the large numbers of Catholics and Jews migrating to America in the mid-1800s – yet Protestants did not perceive Catholics and Jews as one of them. Protestants now became the persecutors of religious freedom by using schools to deliver anti-Catholic and anti-Semitic views.

I think how animosity between Protestant and Catholics would endure into the 1960s – and is same ways, still being present today.

The 20th and 21st Centuries provides the backdrop for increasing immigration of Muslims to America. Coupled with the presence of second generation Muslims, Pew Research projects Muslims will be the second largest group in America by 2040.

Yet I think about how anti-Islamic attitudes attempt to block the building of mosques in various communities. Let alone the general anti-Islamic rhetoric I hear in conversations and on the news.

I think about how political candidates who are Muslim face increased scrutiny – or as some politicians promote anti-Islamic and/0r pro-Christian views.

I think about today’s conservative Christians promoting anti-religious claims as the attempt to ingrain their beliefs through a variety of religious freedom laws throughout the country.

I think about the extremes attempting to establish a Christian America and those believing in the exclusion of religion from all aspects of public life.

I think about the growing number if Americans with either no religious preference or unabashed Atheism.

I think about the difference between school teaching religion and teaching about religion – with people worrying that the latter is about advocacy and indoctrination.

The US Constitution’s First Amendment is overtly clear. Yet, American has a persistent history of challenging the First Amendment in the name of their religious preference – a history of religious freedom advocates turning into inhibitors of religious freedom. Although the First Amendment has endured, I wonder if people understand it.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

On Beach Walk: No. 21

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I like walking the beach. It’s good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

Although the waves are constant, each wave is different – but patterns of similarities exist – yet waves differ from day-to-day.

Waves have a force – sometime powerful and other times not so much – but they still carry a force – a force washing the water ashore where it meets the beach’s resistant slope while refreshing my feet.

Most of the time the beach’s slope causes the water to retreat to the sea – but without following the same path. Sometimes the water successfully climbs the sand’s crest – occasionally collecting as a mini-lake away from the water’s edge only to swept away at high tide or simply percolate through the sand.

Sometimes the water climbs the crest, but then follows a natural trench – sometimes to the left – other times to the right – but always in the same direction. As the water flows left or right it may meet other naturally moving water on its return to the sea – joining as two rivers into one – but always in the same direction.

Because of these miniature streams, I think of the world’s major rivers as they are all flowing in the same direction. The Nile River going north, and the Mississippi River going south – but in the same direction. Whether the Danube River to the southeast, the Rhine to the northwest, the St. Lawrence River to the northeast, and the mighty Amazon to the east – their directions are all the same … just like the waters on the beach … because water always flows downhill.

Even with a truth through a touch of snark, walking the beach is good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

Opinions in the Shorts: Vol. 358

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Cheers – the day has finally arrived – The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame will induct the Moody Blues this Saturday!

Did you watch the special musical event honoring Elton John? I enjoyed it!

Readers provide very interesting comments on the previous post about Lead and Follow. Thanks for the surprises!

It appears my invitation to the Royal Wedding got lost in the mail.

After playing for Easter services, no rest for the handbell choir as we are back playing at a service two weeks later. Here’s the next song on our agenda: Enjoy Song of Celebration (Arnold Sherman).

Need a laugh? This is a good read from a fellow blogger who occasionally visits my little corner of the world.

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I appreciate this comment by former Secretary of State Madeline Albright: “We should be awake to the assault on democratic values that has gathered strength in many countries abroad and that is dividing America at home.”

Count me in as one who thinks the latest use of chemical weapons in Syria was by the rebels who don’t want the US military to leave.

Interesting announcement by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WS) about leaving Congress at the end of his term this year. I noticed something important in Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) in his comments about Speaker Ryan. … his speakership has yielded one significant accomplishment after another for his conference, his constituents in Wisconsin, as well as the American people.” Yes, I’m one who notices the order. Nonetheless, best wishes to Speaker Ryan for a positive future as he earn millions.

Congressional Republicans amuse me by pushing for a Balanced Budget Amendment after voting for the tax cut and a spending bill that increases the deficit and debt. What a hoot!

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To lead you into this week’s dose of satirical headlines, The Onion explains how trade wars work. 

Weekly Headlines from The Onion (combos welcome)
Fender introduces new line of sympathy and bereavement guitars
Oat farmer seriously thinking about getting into barley
Unstable couple playing with fire by organizing game night
Retired Pope Benedict promises to donate soul for ecclesiastic research
Cows go extinct

Interesting Reads
An interview with a retiring Republican Congressman
The era of fake video is now
Bots and Twitter
Molly Ringwald revisiting The Breakfast Club
Relating male organ size to extinction 
(Photos) A trip to Antarctica
(Photos) A story of Sri Lankan tea-making

To send you into induction weekend, here’s another Moody Blues classic. In the words of Garrison Keillor, Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.

On Lead and Follow

A search for quotes about “lead and follow” provides many references to leadership friendship, and other relationships. Although they are very applicable, Lead and Follow is also about ballroom dance.

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When starting to learn ballroom dance, the focus is on hold and basic feet movements. At that stage, Lead and Follow is more like memorizing: Lead does this, then the follower does that. More steps means more memorizing. However, in time, Lead and Follow becomes very important – and it’s not easy. So what is Lead and Follow?

Lead and Follow is the essence of social ballroom dance, which is not choreographed. Lead and Follow is an interaction between two people that allows them to synchronize motions to compliment each other and the music. Lead and Follow is about dancing together and enjoying each other with the Lead being responsible for initiating steps and patterns while navigating the floor and planning ahead while the Follower interprets and executes the signals from the Lead.

Given a variety of skill levels present in a social ballroom dance setting, it is paramount the Lead recognizes their partner’s ability level and leads within that level. I frequently see the following at social dance: A lead is given, but the follower didn’t respond with the expected step. The Lead then goes into instructional mode of “When I do this, you do that.” That is not Lead and Follow! Yes, some of their problems may be due to skill level differences, but most is due to the lack of connection between the dancers; therefore poor directions delivers poor results.

I still recall one particular lesson we had with an instructor who wasn’t our regular one. (It probably was within the first or second year of our lessons). Her points were simple: Leads should be subtle, but clear; Followers needs to tune in to detect the subtle signal, and then respond accordingly. Both leading and following are difficult skills, but can come with experience.

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Lead and Follow requires a connection between the partners because that connection is the communication line transmitting signals through a strong frame. With the goal of moving together as one, signals travel through any of the following (or combination of): whole body, core, shoulders, hips, back, elbows, arms, hands, legs, and feet, plus extensions and compressions.

For me, my dance frame has been strong for much of my dance journey. Therefore, I notice when my partner’s frame is weak – which makes communication difficult. No wonder dancers struggle when both frames are weak because the communication line is (at best) on life support. I also know why ladies with good frames who struggle when they dance with men with poor frames.

Developing clear and subtle leads is a never-ending journey – and I admit that I haven’t always been subtle. Even though my frame, connection, and subtlety have improved with time, there is still plenty of room for improvement.

Yet, I now know that Lead and Follow is more like a series of act-and-react actions. After all, what if my partner does something different from I anticipated? It could mean my lead wasn’t clear – but it also means I have to react by keeping the time and adjusting my next movement while disbanding my anticipated plan – and then my partner must react to my adjusted signal – and then it’s back to me. This act-react cycle is ongoing throughout the entire dance until the music stops.

When things get out of whack, I admit to enjoying the maddening flurry of steps with a skilled partner to get us back in sync. Fortunately, I possess an ability to do that much of the time – although I may never duplicate the series again because I don’t know what I did. On the other hand, I also enjoy leading a less-experienced dancer to do steps they didn’t know.

There are numerous analogies for Lead and Follow. Lead is speaking while Follow is listening. Lead is communication while Follow is translating. Lead is the driver while Follow is the passenger. Lead is the offense while Follow is the patient defense. I’m sure there are more, but hopefully these analogies make sense.

No matter the ability, Lead and Follow is about the connection between the partners on two levels: with each other and with the music. My favorite dance partners are the ones with good frames that serve as the foundation of a good connection and they know how to follow.

On the other hand, two people who have never danced together can have a magical first dance – a dance that is socially flawless – well, as long as they have a strong connection with each other.

Recently, I have had some remarkable dancing with people I’ve never danced with before. The reasons are simple – a strong connection between two people, the ability to read each other, and comparable skills levels. For me, those times are euphoric – and at the end of the dance, two people can smile, look into each others eyes with amazement and appreciation, and thank each other for a wonderful dance.

Enjoy this video. Although this couple practiced this routine, the majority of the steps/patterns in their routine can be done with Lead and Follow in a social ballroom dance setting – well, assuming the dancers know the dance – in this case, Bolero.

On Beach Walk: No. 20

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I like walking the beach. It’s good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

Waves are free to wash ashore. Sometimes as mild laps – other times as large roaring waves. No matter if during low tide, high tide, or in between, waves do as they please. Now that’s freedom – although nature’s forces are at work.

There is freedom in snowbirding. A freedom away from the routine of home. There is no today is Monday, so we have to do these things .. and so on. Sometimes we ask, “What day of the week is it?” “Is today Tuesday or Wednesday?”

There is freedom of being away from the cold weather of home. No matter how cold it is here on the Alabama coast, it’s all perspective because Alabama cold is warmer than home.

There is freedom to standing on the shore looking out to sea – freedom to sense the salty smell in the air – freedom to taste an essence of salt on my lips – freedom of letting water refresh my feet.

There is freedom in snowbirding when facing the two biggest questions of the day: “Which direction do we walk?” – “What’s for dinner?” Therefore, “What are we going to do today?” is very seldom – if ever – asked.

There is freedom in leaving our golf clubs at our cold-weather home. We enjoy the game – but having the clubs along serves as an unnecessary obligation – and we enjoy the freedom of snowbirding.

There is freedom to decide my day will be walking five miles (8 km) to have lunch, then walking back.

There is freedom in snowbirding to letting the mind relax –  freedom to letting the mind wonder – freedom to think about metaphors to develop these posts.

There is freedom in letting go – to not worry about feeling I have to stay busy. Not worrying about what to do – freedom from daily decisions – freedom in making a spur-of-the-moment decision to go to the Flora-Bama for the music.

There is freedom to walking the beach or sitting on the balcony overlooking the sand and the water. Reading, knitting, writing, blogging, solving puzzles, using the fitness center, or watching television join the list. Others fish, sit by the pool or on the beach.

The freedom of a snowbird – freedom to think – freedom to move with the wind – freedom to have a life as an alter ego away from the home routine – freedom to walk – after all, walking the beach is good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

Opinions in the Shorts: Vol. 357

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Thanks again for the Happy Anniversary wishes. It was a normal Monday for us (dance lesson and handbell rehearsal).

Readers provided many nice comments on the recent Beach Walk about horizons. I touched – thank you. The fact that the post inspired Merril to write a poem is quite the honor, so I invite others to read it by clicking here.

I greatly enjoyed NBC’s Jesus Christ Superstar Concert performed live last Sunday. Broadway voices are extremely powerful. (Actor portraying Judas was awesome!) Did you watch it? For those that didn’t but want to, NBC had it available on their site (for free). Click here.

Congratulations to the Villanova Wildcats and their fans for winning college basketball’s National Title. Not only did they soundly defeat opponents in the tournament, the regular season demonstrated they were clearly one of the elite teams.

For many golfers (included me), Masters weekend is fun television.

Cincinnati has a local station owned by Sinclair Broadcasting Group (SBG). When I first heard their statement about their responsibility toward reporting unbiased news, I thought it was the station’s response toward the “fake news” shouts from the White House. I later learned it was an edict from SBG’s upper management to all their local stations forcing lead anchors to read the editorial script. Meanwhile, SBG has prefered to slant toward President Trump. Time will tell if I move away from my preferred choice for local news.

Because I didn’t watch Roseanne back in the 1990s, why start now?

Earlier in the week I saw this headline: The burger that McDonald’s can’t answer. My response – That’s assuming one considers McDonald’s as master burgers.

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I was a teen during the Dr. Martin Luther King years. No way I understood then about his impact. With the 50th anniversary of his death earlier in the week, Brookings Institute posted this wonderful collection of reflections by some of their experts.

John Pepper, a retired Chairman and CEO of Procter & Gamble and a retired Chairman of Disney, wrote this very interesting editorial about guns that is worth reading.

I’m still amazed at how many Republicans, and not just President Trump, are still running against Hillary Clinton.

More amazement: President Trump’s approval rating has been rising over the past three months.

I’m not sure what the Mueller investigation will find, but I’ve got the feeling neither party is going to be happy.

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To lead you into this week’s dose of satirical headlines, The Onion provides tips for a successful parent-teacher conference.

Weekly Headlines from The Onion (combos welcome)
New ‘Cut Off Your Genitals’ Challenge Gains Popularity Among Teens Online
Doomed rabbit about to teach 8-year-old about responsibility
Doctor asks new mother if she would like to keep newborn’s exoskeleton
Family Has Way Too Many Daughters For Them Not To Have Been Trying For Son
God starting to worry Heaven may be haunted

Interesting Reads
Sugars healing powers
Avocados and global trade
Revisiting Martin Luther King’s final sermon
The bodies of dead big-box stores
(Infographic) 50 inventions of modern life expectancy
(Photos) For those of us needing a dose of spring

To send you into the weekend (and as move toward their Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction), here’s another Moody Blues classic. In the words of Garrison Keillor, Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.