Opinions in the Shorts: Vol. 320

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Oh yes – classic federal government story. My wife and I applied for a special program. The first available “interview” in Cincinnati was September 2017. So we decided to drive 4 hours (each way) because they had interview openings in December. Well, all they wanted was to take our fingerprints and tell us basic information, which took 10 minutes for each of us.

Had to laugh at this rerun scene from Everyone Loves Raymond.

I still love this vintage television commercial for the season. After all, I used to say that the Christmas holiday wasn’t official until I saw this.

The next post will be about John Glenn. Meanwhile, this story saddened me because it can be applied to many people – but Mr. Glenn in this case.

The Christmas and New Year’s Day holiday causes me to change my posting – so I’m not sure about the next OITS. At this point, I’m hoping to have a few Explore posts between those two days.

Wow … Congress actually demonstrated that bipartisanship is possible with the 21st Century Cures Act. Then again, maybe it was time to use their once-a-year allotment.

As a whole, I am not impressed with President-elect Trump’s cabinet selections. It will be interesting to see which nominees meet resistance from enough Republican senators.

The partisans on both side of the aisle continue to amuse me with their predictability.

Potential conflict of interests involving Mr. Trump’s business remains on my radar.

When will Mr. Trump abandon his on-stage schtick?

Here is The Onion’s 2016 Year in Review.

President Obama’s Five Faults of the Week
Brown spots on bananas
Too many Canada Geese
A dysfunctional Congress
Aliens disguised as squirrels
Cleveland Browns playing in London next season

To lead you into this week’s dose of satirical headlines, The Onion offers this tips for hotel etiquette.

Weekly Headlines from The Onion (combos welcome)
Nation comes to a halt to watch crane move massive concrete tube
More realistic meat substitute made from soy raised in brutally cruel conditions
Universe feels no connection to guy tripping on mushrooms
Eighteen dead in Kansas town after tornado siren set to “Vibrate”
First nap doesn’t take

Interesting Reads
Fake news leads to a guide to facts
Better sleep in a stressful age
A look at observing teachers
The South Korean President who stepped down
Education in Singapore
The 1952 killer fog in London: An explanation?

Instead of using a popular classic to send you into the weekend, here’s a high energy song that I’ve used in previous years. Not only do I enjoy the Trans Siberian Orchestra version, I marvel at the skill level of the Raleigh Ringers. Enjoy! Hope all is well with you, and in the words of Garrison Keillor, Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.

Opinions in the Shorts: Vol. 265

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Contrary to my predictive statement last week, sources tell me Donald Trump (R-NY) is in the process of completing the necessary paperwork for his presidential candidacy … and his poll numbers are rising. The Bloviator-in-Chief is a sideshow attracting a certain type of voter. Fortunately, those voters are a minority. Unfortunately, The Bloviator takes votes away from more worthy candidates. Then again, maybe he will announce The Nincompoop as a running mate!

Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA) just entered the presidential race as the 13th candidate. Here’s his candidate profile from The Onion. I’m also happy that his announcement put this past Onion headline to rest: Bobby Jindal unsure he wants to put family through 2-month campaign.

The Supreme Court’s latest decision about the Affordable Care Act was predictable to me … and so has been the responses by the presidential hopefuls.

Numerous southern families support flying the Confederate Battle Flag because their ancestors fought under that flag. OK … so why isn’t the Nazi flag flown at the cemeteries for World War II German soldiers?

Although tropical storm Bill made the news, Anna did not. Here’s the list of storm names for 2015 (which includes a subtle, but interesting, Cincinnati connection): Ana, Bill, Claudette, Danny, Erika, Fred, Grace, Henri, Ida, Joaquin, Kate, Larry, Mindy, Nicholas, Odette, Peter, Rose, Sam, Teresa, Victor, Wanda.

We recently attended a concert by a world-class handbell group. Their individual skills make their collective efforts shine. I was in awe with the fluidity of the fast runs … and Flight of the Bumblebee demonstrates my point. The upper-bell players (on the left) are holding two bells in each hand. Because each bell is at a different angle, each is individually rung by changing the hand position .. meaning the players are incredibly fast.

Act 6 of Meals: The Musical featuring alcoholic beverages to accompany the meal is complete. Although the number of songs was down, the crowd as a bit rowdy. For those wanting a head start on Act 7, see the Hear Ye page.

Unfortunately, this continues to amaze me: The number of bloggers who used to visit here, but they are no longer blogging.

Two announcements

  • An Explore post for your Saturday … this time – a place … but where? 🙂
  • Hoping to announce a challenge early next week

To lead you into The Onion, here’s their list of tips for managing your energy bill.

On This Week’s Headlines from The Onion (Combos welcome)
Study: Workers happiest when pretending to be working from home
Disney World forced to euthanize character that attacked visitor
Mom recommends previously-unheard-of form of transportation son could take to get home
Guest given air mattress that will slowly deflate throughout the night
FDA approves female-libido-enhancing man

Interesting Reads
A world without work
Positive and negatives of online education
Innovation districts
(Photo Gallery) The Deteriorating Side of Ellis Island (from 2014)
Platypus venom
(Interactive Timeline) What the census calls us over time

Here’s a 2-fer to send you into the week – a leftover from this Act 7 and a hit from the 80s. Have a safe weekend and in the words of Garrison Keillor, Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.

On the Season for the Crazed

Shopping, Christmas cards, parties, cooking, cleaning, travel, visitors, and more can turn the holiday season into a crazed whirlwind. Consider the later-than-normal Thanksgiving for Americans, and then top it with a death in the family, it is safe to say that the holiday craziness is shorter for us – although I’m not sure if that’s good or bad.

The purpose of this post is to provide several videos for the crazed season. Enjoy.

I have said for many years that the Christmas season doesn’t officially start until I see the Norelco commercial with Santa riding the triple-header. Yep – I’m thankful for YouTube, so the season has begun for me.

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Even though I didn’t shop on Black Friday and avoid malls/major shopping areas on weekends, this annual search for gifts makes me laugh. FYI: I have been picking gifts for my regulars, more to come.

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With the season for the frantic, this fast handbell rendition of Wizards in Winter by the Raleigh Ringers (one of America’s premier choirs) is one of my favorite holiday favorites. After seeing this video for the first time several years ago, my wife said she found watching to be exhausting. Watch the high-bell ringers on the left (especially toward the end) as they hold two different bells in each hand.

On One Instrument

A piano is one instrument with 88 keys (52 white, 36 black). Typically, one PianoKeysperson reads many notes on piano music to create rhythmic patterns aimed to please the audience. I’m not a piano player, but I admire the pianist’s skills not only with their hands, but their ability to read and play so many notes on a page. Yet, a piano is one instrument played by one person.

MusicalNotesFrequencyBands and orchestras are large groups of different instruments working together as a unit to create a complex musical sound. However, just like the piano, each member is responsible for one instrument – and their music typically displays the notes for one instrument. Therefore, it is the conductor’s responsibility to bring the instrumentation of the ensemble together to please the audience.

Although they also produce music for an audience, handbells are different because they are one instrument that multiple people play together. I imagine you never thought of a handbell choir being one instrument, but it is – Therefore, this post aims to explain this single instrument with its numerous freestanding pieces.

For starters, the number of bells in a choir varies depending on the number of Handbellsmembers and their skills. One handbell is the equivalent to one key on the piano. In our choir, that’s about 60 bells for 13-14 people – but every song doesn’t require every bell. (Note: If we had the players and money, we could add about 36 more bells.) Occasionally, music also requires some players to use handchimes, which I will work in later.

For those thinking that piano music looks busy, handbell music is more so because composers place all the notes for the entire choir together. Yep – that means the player must have the ability to locate their notes among the jungle. (I’m responsible for 2-4 notes/bells).

Besides the all the notes and standard information as key, tempo, and dynamics, handbell music has additional marking for the techniques that create a variety of sounds. Terms include marts, ring touch, let vibrate, mallets, plucks, echoes, damp, mart lifts, swings, gyros, shakes, mallet rolls, and more. (Yep, symbols for each technique.) Players can also adjust the hardness of the clamper inside the bell. (The soft setting sound is mellow, while the hard setting sound is bright; and, there is an in-between setting.

See this short (less than 2 minutes) video demonstrating some techniques.


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Just like other musical ensembles, the conductor has the responsibility of bringing it all together – but with handbells, the conductor orchestrates multiple people playing one instrument – quite the challenge! Now watch this video to see everything come together in a short, spurt of madness from Ring of Fire! (Watch for the different techniques.)


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Earlier, I mentioned handchimes. Like handbells, its one handchime per note – but they produce a different sound. Besides handchimes, handbell choirs may incorporate other instruments. We have played with piano, organ, trumpet, violin, flute, drums, contrabass bars, other percussion, and singers.

In closing, I hope this has helped you understand what is involved, so now enjoy the Raleigh Ringers with handbells, handchimes, cello, flute, and mallet chimes – and notice all the bells behind them that are not used in this piece. Ah yes, who would have imagined that the complexity of one instrument.

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Note: Special thanks to Madam Weebles for the thought triggering this post. 

On the Holiday Shopping Season 2012

I grew up with a commercial like that one. For me, the official start of the holiday season was seeing Santa on a Norelco. Fortunately, the glories of YouTube now allows me to relive that tradition!

Hope everyone had a bountiful Thanksgiving. For my international audience, that means we ate enough to cover your share as well.

For some, Thanksgiving also means Black Friday, thus the race to the stores for holiday shopping. Interestingly, give thanks for what you have on one day, and less than 24 hours later – race, push, and do what you must to get more. Ah yes – very American. However, I stay away from a major shopping area on this days!

The holiday season brings a certain level of craziness. No matter what one says after the previous year, events as the shopping rush, holiday parties, musical events, visiting lights, baking, and whatever sends many into a frenzy.

For me, this song captures the mood – both the festiveness and the frenzy of the season. Ladies and Gentleman, another A Frank Angle holiday tradition, the fast-paced Wizards in Winter by the outstanding Raleigh Ringers. The ringers on the left side wearing me out just watching them. Enjoy!