On Christmas 2019

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To me, the December holiday rush is about the season of goodness. Some see it through a festival of light, others through a Nativity scene, others through the secular side of a Christmas tree, others through darkness of nature and Yule, and I’m sure other ways exist. Whatever the perspective, this is the season for joy, light, renewal, and hope.

I know that Christmas is a Christian holiday. Although I am a Christian, so my thoughts will cause some skin to crawl, but I also see this holiday time as the season of goodness that goes across humanity regardless of religion. A season of goodwill to all – l season of gratitude and appreciation of others –  a season …. And at the head of the holiday parade is Santa Claus – the Spirit of Goodness.

Santa is for Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Atheists, Agnostics, Humanists, Naturalists, Christians, and anyone and everyone else believing in a positive humanity. Yes, Santa is for everyone!

For me and to many others here, it’s Merry Christmas – but for others its’s Happy Hanukkah, Happy Holidays, Happy Solstice (or Yule), or simply have a blessed holiday.  In my final Christmas post in my little corner of the world, and being one believing the majority of the world is good, I wish everyone bountiful goodness during this holiday season with the greeting that suits them.

Below are some of my favorites for the season. For me, the gift of music for you is me. Whether you watch all or some, please let me know your favorites.

Christmas Canon (Trans Siberian Orchestra)

 

Silent Night (Placido Domingo and The Piano Guys)

 

As a ballroom dancer, I must include the light-hearted Christmas Waltz featuring a variety of clips from holiday movies.

 

In the spirit of the Winter Solstice, enjoy A Fire For You (John Boswell).

 

Ever since I saw this performed live, I love it – a Nigerian carol by the Morman Tabernacle Choir.

 

O Holy Night (piano solo with beautiful images of deep space).

 

Silent Night (Mannheim Steamroller – a long-time personal favorite arrangement featuring images of nature)

Opinions in the Shorts: Vol. 421

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Welcome to the last OITS of 2019 … so I’ve included a few extras!

Thanks to everyone for participating in Weekend Concert Series saluting Broadway. It was maddening because it was the first time I’ve done something like that. Plus, it turned out not to be the best weekend for me in terms of timing. Nonetheless, everyone seemed to have a good time and I enjoyed listening to all the songs. The next concert will be after the first of the year, and the finale to the series.

Next concert: Tentatively Saturday 4 January – Duets – (Two performers not normally paired together)

With the December holidays upon us, I will abbreviate my posting schedule. Below is a probable schedule that is subject to change (Times are based on Eastern US).

  • (Sunday afternoon) 22 December) A beach walk
  • (Tuesday 24 Dec – or late 23rd) Christmas post
  • (Friday 27 Dec) A caption challenge for an image
  • (Sun 29 Dec) – A food review
  • (Tuesday 31 Dec) New Years post
  • (Thursday night 2 January) – Opinions in the Shorts
  • (Saturday 4 January) – Weekend Concert – Duets

We recently spent an afternoon at the Cincinnati Museum Center. We the Omnimax movies. Fortunately, for us, we saw two! After visiting the vert-well-done Apollo 11 exhibit, we went into the theater for the Apollo 11 movie. Interesting, no narration – just a story told through a string of actual film footage from the time. After the movie, we stayed in our seats for Superpower Dogs, an uplifting film about rescue dogs who work to save lives – and a must for dog lovers!

Readers may remember Fiona, the baby hippo that the Cincinnati Zoo cared from birth. Fiona, 29 pounds (13 kg) at birth, will have her 3rd birthday on January 2020. This 30-second video will make you smile.

Joe Barrow, the LSU quarterback not only won the Heisman Award (college football’s best player), he won the hearts of many. In his acceptance speech, he talked about the poverty of many people of Athens County Ohio. The nation has responded with well over $500K! But there is something lost in the story. Athens County is not an island. It’s one county in a region of 15 or so counties that are very poor – worse than Athens County – let alone additional counties in adjacent West Virginia and Kentucky. How do I know? I grew up one county south of Athens.

For those who need this and dare to reach into a grab-bag, here are some holiday classics: Dominick the Donkey, a classic Santa Norelco commercial, a clean naughty Santa, the infamous Carol of the Belts, and a crazy fast holiday song with handbells (the ending is frantic). Did you watch any? If so, let me know.

I admit, The Masked Singer is a fun show. Congratulations to The Fox – Wayne Brady.

Sadly, my Benevolent Impalers experienced the agony of defeat in the tournament semifinals. It was close, but my worthy opponent had an unexpected monster game from a player and big points from the New England defense against my hometown Bengals. Ouch!

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I’m not a Trump supporter – never have, never will be. Then again, after he won the election, I was willing to give him a chance. To me, he has miserably failed – yet, I see impeachment as a sad day. Congress has not upheld its Constitutional obligation of oversight and the behaviors have been pathetic at best. I’m officially embarrassed to be an American.

If I was single, I would consider moving to another country. Yes, I am that embarrassed and concerned.

I truly believe the polls, pundits, politicians, and citizens that America is a divided nation – and possibly the most divided in my lifetime and beyond. Two strongly divided camps with shrinking common ground – each with vitrole for the other – each with disdain for moderates – each with drums beating fervently in the echo chamber – one explains, the other not listening. A divided nation with a president wearing a hat stating, “Keep America Great” – a statement reinforcing the division. A friend asked me, “How do we solve this problem?” My answer is simple. “Unless the collective of elected officials lead the change, we can’t. Otherwise, we will need a national emergency. I hope I don’t live long enough to see the next US Civil War.”

In a discussion about the current impeachment, a friend of mine (a self-proclaimed unbiased source) told me that he wasn’t sure if President Trump warranted an investigation, let alone impeachment – but President Obama should have been impeached.

For those who forgot and didn’t know, the impeachment is Obama’s fault.

Here’s a recent report on polarization from Pew Research Center.

Darn … I’m missing another Democratic debate!

As we end the year, here’s how I see the 2020 election at this time:

  • Chances of President Trump nomination: 99.9%
  • Chances of President Trump’s re-election: 65%
  • Chances of me voting for President Trump: 0%
  • Chances of me voting for the Democratic nominee: 20%

To lead you into this week’s satirical headlines, The Onion separates facts and fiction about recycling.

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Weekly Headlines from The Onion (combos welcome)

Woman not as fun-loving and carefree as pom-pom on winter hat suggests
Hungover coworker a little too functional morning after holiday party not to be alcoholic
Boyfriend ready to take relationship to previous level
Man checking if chicken wings got hot enough in microwave like first responder searching for pulse
Mom holds knife to throat of dinner guest who offered to help with dishes
Hiker trapped for days under fallen boulder survives by cutting off own ponytail
Ant flees across state line carrying big crumb

Interesting Reads

The Ottomans: Their rise and fall
A bit of barcode history
Mysteries of pain
The most important battles of WW2
Bridging differences by seeing good
(Graphic) World debt by country
(Graphics) A series of climate change charts
(Photos) Murals of women in Iraq
(Photos) Winners of a National Geographic Photo contest

To send you into the weekend, here are The Piano Guys with a song of the season. In the words of Garrison Keillor, Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.

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.