Opinions in the Shorts: Vol. 415

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The next weekend concert is approaching. Join us with The Guess Who +. The plus sign means the following artists will be accepted: The Guess Who, Burton Cummings, Chad Allen, Chad Allen and the Expressions, Brave Belt, and Bachman-Turner Overdrive (hopefully limited). Concert starts this Saturday at 1:00 AM (Eastern US).

California sadly burns again. Good luck and be safe.

Believe it or not, I have not good trips planned for the rest of 2019.

Our ushering duties allow us to see a wonderful play – The Lifespan of a Fact. Although from from esoteric, it engaged my cerebrum.

Cleaning out the blog closet has been fun … and I still have more to come!

Just heard this one. According to the Kentucky Bourbon Association, current bourbon inventory is at the level of 2 barrels for each Kentucky resident.

Baseball is officially over – congratulations to the Washington Nationals for winning and ending a 95 year draught … and let the record show that the Reds have gone more days without losing than all the teams that made the playoffs.

While wins by the away team are typically uncommon, many were amazed that the away team won all of the World Series games – but they also forget that unusually similar (but not the same) results happened in the most recent playoffs in professional hockey and basketball.

My fantasy football team sits at 6-2: one game out of first and tied for second (#3 seed). The Benevolent Impalers end the first round this weekend in a must-win against the #5 seed – but the team has scoring issues!

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The way Republicans are protecting President Trump is a prime example of a politician’s party-first mantra. Then again, that mantra is not limited to one side of the aisle. I like this recent column by George Will.

Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) continually comparing the Democratic-led private hearings to what happens in Russia is more than pathetic. Given President Trump’s affinity for Russia, interesting that Rep. Scalise chose those words.

In their way of not defending President Trump, Republicans are relegated to focusing their anti-impeachment argument on the impeachment process that focuses on two key points: 1) their partisan base, and 2) public ignorance.

I continue to believe that people want elected officials to solve problems. While people complain about the collective (but not their representative), only 11% (48 of 435) elected to the House of Representatives are members of the bi-partisan Problem-Solvers Caucus.

To lead you into this week’s satirical headlines, The Onion provides a timely list of the pros and cons of e-cigarettes.

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Weekly Headlines from The Onion (combos welcome)

ISIS member unsure whom to submit PTO request to
Drama queen waiter completely full of shit about plate being too hot to touch
Heroic Secret Service agent takes bull intended for president
Dad figures funeral just as good a time as any to try out new camera lens
Aggressive flagellate just going around whipping other single-celled organisms
Toddler standing up in shopping cart surveys grocery store like grizzled sea captain on whaling expedition

Interesting Reads

Different kinds of stupid
Thoughts about the next 50 years of digital life
A view of the meaning of life
Yellowstone’s volcano: What if it erupted?
Why dog people live longer
(Graphic) Largest acquisitions by the largest tech companies
(Photos) A collection of street art

To send you into the weekend, here are The Piano Guys because it’s been a long time since I’ve featured them. In the words of Garrison Keillor, Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.

On a 2016 Season of Lights

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A candle is a small thing.
But one candle can light another.
And see how its own light increases, as a candle gives its flame to the other.
You are such a light.
Moshe Davis and Victor Ratner

Interfaith graphic by Justice St. Rain (Bahá’í Community) of Interfaith Resources

Interfaith graphic by Justice St. Rain (Bahá’í Community) of Interfaith Resources

Such a short poem, yet so profound in many ways … and even better in the season of the lights. On the religious side of 2016, Christians and Jews have celebrations on December 24th – Christmas Eve and the first day of Hanukkah. Three days earlier was another day that provides spirituality for many – the Winter Solstice. Toss in the fact that Christmas also serves as a secular celebration for many, these days impact many.

To me, Santa Claus is a symbol that crosses all cultures – all people – simply because he is the symbol of goodness. After all, goodness across the world as it transcends religions, languages, cultures, skin colors, gender, ages, sexual orientations, and even politics.

As my regulars know well, I enjoy using videos in many of my posts. In the spirit of Santa’s goodness, thank you for all the joys you give me through your interaction here and for your posts. Even through all the craziness in the world, the good feed off each other.

Enjoy any or all of the music selections of the season that are below … but I appreciate knowing which you enjoyed … so stay as long as you wish.

For all who find peace and renewal through the Winter Solstice.

For all finding the light shining bright through the night.

For all who appreciate the music of the season done a different way A few weeks ago we heard – Little Drummer Boy done to the rhythms of Ravel’s Bolero.

For the many regulars here who enjoy The Piano Guys … (I had to include them.)

For all who appreciate the music of other cultures (This one has stuck with me ever since I saw this in person many years ago).

For the fans of Trans-Siberian Orchestra, who meld their words with the beauty of Pachelbel’s Canon.

For all who find awe and wonder in deep space with this classic.

For all attracted to one of the most beautiful natural lights of the season – the Aurora Borealis – and set to my favorite version of a classic tune of the season.

Whether it be Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Christmas, Happy Holidays or whatever greeting you prefer, I issue a greeting of your choosing for the season … plus Peace and Joy to all!

On a Tribute to a Regional Home

For many of the Explore posts I precede the video with reflective quotes that tie to the video – but not this time. Many readers here enjoy The Piano Guys. Although the music is theirs, the video is a tribute to their home.
Besides multiple occasions at the Salt Lake City airport, I’ve never been to Utah. It would seem to national parks like Zion, Arches, Canyonlands, Bryce Canyon, and Capitol Reef would be quite the journey in itself … but I’m sure there is more to see. So, enjoy the music and visual tribute The Piano Guys give to the region they live and love – southern Utah.

Opinions in the Shorts: Vol. 309

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A global economy and nationalism seem to be opposing forces – so here’s a good read from William Galston in the Wall Street Journal.

I live in a part of America that has fireflies – an insect that fascinates those who don’t have them in your area. Here’s an article from National Geographic about what I also call lightning bugs.

Need new wallpaper for your desktop? This fabulous collection of photos from National Geographic Travel Photography Contest is a must-see.

I didn’t realize most minor league baseball players get a very low wage. I wasn’t expecting a gold mine, but more that the meager pittance they receive. Here’s the column where I discovered the disheartening news.

Earlier this week, Answers in Genesis (who operates the nearby Creation Museum) opened Ark Encounter – an exhibit about Noah’s Ark in the view of a 10,000 year old Earth. Being a local event, there have been many Letters to the Editor … many of which encourage me to bang my head against a wall.

Given current time demands and several life adjustments, not only did I not post this week, I’ve been reflecting about my future on these pages – which will probably lead to an open (irregular) posting schedule. Besides, not visiting other blogs bothers me very much.

There will be an Explore post this weekend.

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The timing of the FBI report surprised me. At the beginning of this incident I stated that her decision to have private servers was a poor and careless decision – and it seems the investigation more than supports my statement. Meanwhile, the Republican response was more than predictable. I appreciated this comparison by the Washington Post of the Clinton and Petraeus scandals.

Regarding the FBI report and the Clinton email scandal, I enjoyed this comment, “Americans’ trust in public officials and public institutions has fallen abysmally, as we all know. So far as we can now tell, the country in this instance has been well served by a leader and an FBI that has been diligent, hard-working and fair. Embittered partisans will disagree, but for my book, the FBI seems to have gotten this one right.” (David Gergen, CNN Senior Political Analyst in this column)

In terms of the effect on my vote in the election, I consider the Republican offering of an obnoxious bloviating jackass whose depth doesn’t go beyond insults, name-calling, and taglines is much worse than Mrs. Clinton’s poor judgment (in this case) and her distrustful nature.

Columnist George Will is a great writer. Although I haven’t read him much over the past 5 years, I have been noticing his battle with Donald Trump – and love this recent quote: “He (Trump) has an advantage on me. He can say everything he knows about any subject in 140 characters, and I (Will) can’t.”

Two weeks ago (in OITS 307) I listed an article about US politics in the Interesting Reads. Interestingly, last weekend Meet the Press interviewed the article’s author. Glad to know that NBC followed my lead. Here’s the article.

This week’s aFa Power Rankings for Donald Trump’s running mate: 5) Mary Fallin, 4) Jeff Sessions, 3) Scott Brown, 2) Mike Pence, 1) Newt Gingrich

The first week’s aFa Power Rankings for Hillary Clinton’s running mate: 5) Xavier Beccera, 4) Julian Castro, 3) Chris Murphy, 2) Thomas Perez, 1) Tim Kane

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To lead us into the satire portion of this post, The Onion discloses what Vice President Joe Biden is doing this summer.

Weekly Headlines from The Onion (combos welcome)
Swiss guards charge writhing mass of black tentacles devouring Pope Francis
Dad’s eyes welled up at sight of perfectly packed cooler
Synthetic tree removes carbon dioxide from air
Fireworks accident blows off tip of Florida
Rest of the evening spent declaring the asshole not going to ruin the evening
God regrets never creating any two-head snake creatures

Interesting Reads
State of the news media (Pew Research Center)
Georgia O’Keeffe: An American Painting Icon
Football and ALS
Are algorithms biased?
Mating habits of seahorses
(Photos) Dessert landscapes from National Geographic

When searching for a song to send readers into the weekend, this one came to attention. Paul, a friend and great person, pops in my mind from time to time. Although he died several years ago in a senseless murder, I smile when I think of him … and this song from The Piano Guys is what I link to him … plus, it’s a good song to send you into the weekend. Have a safe weekend and in the words of Garrison Keillor, Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.

Opinions in the Shorts: Vol. 304

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The recent incident at the Cincinnati Zoo put my city into the spotlight. All I will say at this time is that the situation put zoo officials into a lose-lose situation. However, I’m hoping to put a post together very soon.

Did you see the news about the Cincinnati policeman and the goose? Here’s a short version.

My signs that summer has arrived: volunteering in English Second Language (ESL) is over – volunteering ushering at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park is over – Golf league is in full swing – and my part-time job at the golf course is getting more hectic – but we are still dancing.

Colors: The Musical returns next week featuring songs with a Color Shade in the title. Curtain time will be at 9:30 pm (Eastern US) on Tuesday, June 7th June 14th. Here are the key rules.

  • No songs with any of the following colors in the title: Black, Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet, Purple, or White in the title.
  • Shades should be an acceptable shade name, therefore caution should be used when selecting a shade. Just because the shade is used as a paint color doesn’t automatically qualify the entree. To make matters worse, The Producer has the final say on if the submitted shade is acceptable.
  • No duplicate shades can be used. In other words, once an acceptable song with Puce in the title has been submitted, no other songs with Puce in the title will be acceptable.
  • No duplicate songs.
  • NOTE: After considering my work schedule for next week, hosting a blog musical isn’t a good idea … so I’m delaying the next act one week (as noted by the strikethrough).

There will be an Explore post this weekend.

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Regardless of their rhetoric, I continue to believe politicians are “party-first” in their efforts. This USA Today article is interesting.

Cheers to columnist Kathleen Parker for her column about voter discontent.

This week’s aFa Power Ranking for Donald Trump’s running mate: 5) Scott Walker, 4) John Kasich,  3) Jeff Sessions, 2) Bob Corker, 1) Newt Gingrich

The strong candidate from the Never Trump wing of the Republicans … LOL.

Given the high negatives of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, it will be interesting to see if the Libertarian Party can get any traction. On the other hand, having a party chairman strip to his underwear isn’t the best way to gain respect and acceptance.

Some are wondering about potential Democratic VP candidates. It’s coming, but let’s get the primaries over.

To me, a government official having a private server is a sign of arrogance, poor judgment, and a lack of government oversight in growing technology. Therefore, the Clinton email scandal bores me. Maybe that’s a reason I enjoyed this article from The Hill.

Coming soon! I’m on the final stages of a political post on a topic that has been building up within me for some time.

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To lead you into your weekly dose of satire, The Onion is using the event from the Cincinnati Zoo to provide this pros-and-cons list for and against zoos.

Weekly Headlines from The Onion (combos welcome)
Origami Foundation announces they won’t accept any more swan proposals
New Study From National Family And Parenting Institute Finds Stigmas Persist Against Stay-At-Bar Dads
Ice Cube Thrown Into Sink Flies Up Side Like Skateboarder Shredding Half-Pipe
New Uber Update Allows Users To File Lawsuit Against Company Directly In App
Family Chooses Different Dog Than Reincarnated Grandfather
Ice Machine Reaches Deep Within Itself To Give Man One More Cube

Interesting Reads
Relating ancient trade routes and camel genes
The climate-nuclear-security triangle
Berlin: Then and now
Mastering the British method for put-downs
About a jazz legend – Peter Brötzmann (Thank to Tim for the article)

Because I know many of my readers enjoy The Piano Guys, here’s their latest video to send you into the weekend. It’s about less than a month old. Have a safe weekend and in the words of Garrison Keillor, Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.

Opinions in the Shorts: Vol. 303

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Memorial Day (Monday) gives the USA a 3-day weekend. Here’s an interesting essay published by the Brookings Institute.

Also regarding Memorial Day, this week I heard an outstanding interview with the producer of an independent documentary about the soldiers who stand guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery. Besides the trailer below, here’s a link to the movie’s website.

On this Memorial Day weekend, a salute to all fallen veterans of all countries who fought for freedom.

The Zika virus: For real or an overblown concern? Guess we’ll find out.

Season 22 of Dancing with the Stars ended this week. Wow – what a surprise because we think this was one of the best casts ever. Champion Nyle DiMarco was good, but his story was compelling and inspirational (he’s totally deaf)… plus he probably got a lot of votes from the ladies. No doubt in my mind, Paige Van Zant was the best dancer.

Act 7 of Colors: The Musical featuring Brown provided a surprise number of hits. Two more acts to go. I will make the advance announcement someday mid-week for Act 8 on the Hear Ye page.

No Explore post this weekend.

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Modernizing infrastructure is an election-year issue – meaning that after the election, it greatly decreases in importance to the policy makers. This article (from the BiPartisan Policy Center) offers a new model for modernizing US infrastructure.

Finally – after 7 years of complaining, has finally written a health care alternative to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) – and is done without repealing the ACA. That point alone is worth congratulating Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) and Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA).

Last week I mentioned about the away-from-the-center movement of both parties. Earlier this week I read this interesting column by Joe Scarborough, who looks at today’s movement through the lens of key Founding Fathers.

In terms of conversations I’ve had with people, the number of people who proclaim they can’t/won’t vote for Clinton or Trump outnumber the number who say they support Clinton or Trump.

This week’s aFa Power Ranking for Donald Trump’s running mate: 5) Chris Christie, 4) Jeff Sessions, 3) Bob Corker, 2) John Kasich, 1) Newt Gingrich NOTE: For the record, I had Bob Corker on this draft list before his Monday meeting with Mr. Trump.

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To lead you into your weekly dose of satire, The Onion provides journalism style tips for all writers.

Weekly Headlines from The Onion (combos welcome)
Congressional Compromise Legalizes The Study Of Stem Cells From Mothers On Death Row
Sixteen deer placed in small room and challenged to not copulate
Belt looks weird on child
Voyager probe badly damaged after smashing into the end of the universe
Fact unpatriotic
Heroic Police Officer Talks Man Down From Edge Of Purchasing Subway Footlong Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki

Interesting Reads
The new digital economy
The shocking 1976 wine tasting event
Is pornography a health crisis? 
A population of three
Heroic cave divers
(Photos) A gallery featuring ruins
(Video, 4.5 mins) A brief history of religion in art

Here’s a two-fer to send you into the weekend. The first is a leftover from Act 7 that certainly is a crowd please … and the second is a song from a legendary rock star. Have a safe weekend and in the words of Garrison Keillor, Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.

On the Spirit of Christmas 2015

Although the daily news goes against these thoughts, but I truly believe the following:

  • The majority of people in the world are good.
  • Smiles are the universal language that crosses all language and cultural barriers.
  • Kindness is the universal action that everyone appreciates.

These points are constantly in my head when volunteering at the English Second Language (ESL) classes – especially with Arabs and Muslims. For me, Matt Harding’s videos support my thoughts. After all, all one has to do is watch the faces in the video. Maybe that’s part of the reason this video frequently waters my eyes.

You may wonder what this has to do with the Christmas season, but (to me) it demonstrates an important essence of the holiday season in today’s world.

Yes, Christmas is a Christian holiday … and yes, I’m a Christian. While some complain about the secular and commercial aspect by proclaiming “put Christ back into Christmas”, my contrarian nature sees another view. For those embracing that mantra, I say go for it – but not at the expense of others because the spirit of Christmas is for everyone.

Besides its religious significance, Christmas is also a celebration of goodness: The goodness that ties the entire human race. The goodness that crosses all geographic and cultural boundaries, including language and religion. The goodness that is for Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Christians, Atheists, Agnostics, Sikhs, and all other religions. The goodness is for all ages, all genders, all races, and all sexual orientations … simply the goodness for all people everywhere.

Yes, the roots of Santa Claus lie deep within Christianity. From St. Nicholas (Nicholas of Myra), other traditions developed as baby Christkindl (eventually Kris Kringle), Father Christmas, and Sinterklaas. Europeans brought these traditions (and others) to the United States that serve as the foundation for Christmas today.

Several events in mid-to-late 1800s helped morph Santa: mainly Thomas Nast’s version of Santa in Harper’s Weekly, and Clement Clayton Moore’s icon poem, The Night Before Christmas.

Although Frank Baum’s The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus and various Norman Rockwell paintings helped transform Santa’s image in the early 1900s, it was artist Haddon Sundblom’s portrayals of Santa Claus for Coca-Cola that cemented the image of Santa Claus that we embrace today. From 1931-1964, Sundblom’s Santa served as a brilliant marketing total for the beverage company giant.

All along the journey from Nicholas of Myra to the modern-day Santa, goodness is the common theme. Santa Claus is the spirit of Christmas – the one who portrays goodness and kindness to all. If goodness is for everyone, it seems logical to me that everyone can celebrate Christmas. Santa Claus is the one who sees kindness across cultures, religions, races, and languages. After all, the majority of us want kindness, plus peace and goodwill for all.

In the spirit of Santa’s goodness, thank you for all the joys you regularly give to me. Thank you for helping me maintain my faith in humanity. One hand is sufficient in counting the number of visitors here I’ve physically met, but I am sure of one thing – You are the good of Santa’s spirit.

For my video gifts to you, enjoy two version of Silent Night. The first by Mannheim Steamroller accompanied by beautiful displays from the night sky is one of my long-time favorites. For those preferring a singer, Placido Domingo joins The Piano Guys.

Merry Christmas to those who accept Santa as the spirit of Christmas … Happy Holiday to those preferring that greeting … and to my Christian friends, a blessed Christmas to you.

Peace to all.