Current Event Friday #82

Be careful to avoid the crime of Grand Theft Baseball

NASCAR lore promotes the phrase “If you ain’t cheatin’ you ain’t tryin’” That saying could easily apply to other sports and as news broke this week, the sport now in offseason mode could see some making similar claims about their game. The alleged culprits and the outrage is today’s #CurrentEventFriday.

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World Series Runners-up the Houston Astros were alleged to have used cameras in the batter’s eye in centerfield to steal signs from their opponents this season. Already found to have been caught a few years ago for similar circumstances, their previous offseason success is now in question.

Experts have evaluated the statistics for the 2019 season and shown that the Astros success at home this year is vastly better than road appearances. Call me skeptical, but if that was true the Astros should’ve won the World Series easily this season since they had home field advantage but were swept at home in the World Series. So, I have my doubts.

Regardless of the accusations being true or not the Astros can’t be the only team trying to steal signs. Every team is trying to determine the pitch that’s being thrown at any time. The entire goal of the batter is trying to guess the pitch and the location being thrown. So, how is it wrong for coaches to do the same. Stealing signs is roughly equivalent to a scouting report. I know the idea of communicating the signs to the players is the issue, but the ability to judge the pitch type, speed, and location is determined by the batter in less than 10 seconds. Even knowing the pitch ahead of time doesn’t guarantee a hit or runs produced. So, I don’t have a problem with a team scouting the competition. Back to NASCAR wisdom, this from Darrell Waltrip, “If you don’t cheat, you look like an idiot; if you cheat and don’t get caught, you look like a hero; if you cheat and get caught, you look like a dope. Put me where I belong.”

If teams want to prevent signs from being stolen, pick new signs that teams don’t already know. If you’re being outsmarted by another team with your pitch selection, outsmart them with new signals. Even if by accident, some pitchers will reveal their pitches and ‘tip’ the pitch to the batter. Catchers and coaches have already worked to prevent pitch tipping by covering their mouths with their mitts during mound visits. Worth noting, catchers might do well to avoid painting their nails so pitchers can more easily see because that same visibility extends to eagle-eyed opponents trying to figure out what the sign is.

A possible solution is borrowing technology from NFL. Why not have a pitching coordinator in the press box or bullpen with a headset connected to the pitcher and catchers who are fitted with an earpiece? The pitcher and catcher agree on the selection called by the pitching coordinator and throw the agreed upon pitch. Sure, there’s potential for problems with this, but make sure the umpires or another MLB official maintains custody of the electronics before, during, and after the games.

Is it wrong to ‘steal’ signs of an opposing team?

Current Event Friday #81

A water with a bubbly personality is ready to compete with others already in stores

There’s nothing new under the sun says the Teacher in the book of Ecclesiastes, or more euphemistically stated, “everything old is new again.” Hopefully for Atlanta’s favorite beverage company, their new old fad will go over better than their old new fad three decades ago. Today’s #CurrentEventFriday looks at the latest fizzy water offering to hit the market.

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Carbonated water and carbonated drinks are nothing new, having been around since the discovery of the carbonation process in the latter third of the 18th Century. Bottling carbonated water and dispensing it became popular in the 19th Century as a way to replicate the mineral waters at famous underground springs. The popularity of soda water or Seltzer water grew even more with flavored syrups like Dr. Pemberton’s Coca-Cola and competitors like Dr. Pepper, Pepsi, Moxie, and a slew of others. Before the bottling of soft drinks, soda shops employed carbonated water or club soda dispensers and mixed the fizzy water with flavored syrups and/or ice cream.

More recently, flavored soda waters and seltzers have seen a spike in popularity again. Offering the bubbling sensation of a soft drink without the coloring agents and sugar, seemingly everyone and their brother is a fan of the new product. Thanks to the popularity of carbonated waters like La Croix, Pepsi created their own line—Bubly, and alcoholic beverage companies like Anheuser Busch have rolled out Highball as a hard seltzer and are joined by White Claw hard seltzers and others. Not wanting to miss out, the Coca-Cola Company has announced they are creating their own line of carbonated water to be named Aha. Offering unique flavors sans the sugar, but adding 30 mg of caffeine Coke is hoping to find a larger market share than their competitors. Consumers can find the Aha line of beverages in March 2020.

Corporate officials at Coke acknowledged this is one of the more significant new products the beverage company has rolled out in more than a decade. Of course, the company has expanded their major product lines and adjusted chemical compositions such as the Diet Coke retooling a few years ago, or the Stevia-sweetened coke, but the company seems eager to tout a brand-new product line. Assumedly, longtime corporate officials may be wary thanks to the debacle of New Coke of 1985. Lasting only 3 months, the reformulation of the Coca-Cola formula that resulted in a sweeter product, the new formulation was scrapped, and Coca-Cola Classic took its place. Although a few skeptics believe the company reformulated the drink to drive up sales of the classic formula.

Whether Coca-Cola’s efforts in the carbonated water game remain to be seen, no doubt the brand name behind it will affect sales one way or the other. Beverage consumers are fiercely loyal and proclaim superiority of their brand of choice spurning those who offer the rival soda. So, Bubly may have to watch out for Aha all while everyone else taking a neutral line can get buzzed while drinking White Claw.

What’s your favorite sparkling water?   

Current Event Friday #80

Eve isn’t the only woman who’s had trouble with snakes

If there’s something strange in the neighborhood, who you gonna call?—The Indiana State Police. This time of year you’d think the answer of Ghostbusters would make more sense, but thanks to an odd story here in the Hoosier State, they might be less helpful. Today’s #CurrentEventFriday is all about what the strange Indiana State Police discovered.

On October 30, Benton County Police responded to a report of an unresponsive woman. As police arrived at the home, about 25 miles West of Lafayette, Indiana they discovered the homeowner being constricted by a python.

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Medics attempted to save the woman’s life but eventually pronounced the woman dead at the scene. The Benton County Police working with Indiana State Police and discovered well over 100 snakes and other reptiles in the house.

The woman involved visits the house several times a week, to help care for the snakes. Interestingly, the house is owned by the local sheriff. The sheriff had previously sold snakes and other reptiles. Indiana State Police are investigating to what extent the sheriff was involved. An autopsy is scheduled later today.

A brief look at this story looks somewhat like the tailing moments of Snakes on a Plane. The film depicts an amateur herpetologist (snake guy) is bitten by a snake at his snake house when FBI agents raid the building to find the list of snakes on the plane and collect antivenom for the snake-bitten victims on the plane. Working with loads of snakes is probably best left to professionals such as zoologists, veterinarians, and biologists in their respective settings.

Snakes can be helpful in dealing with pests around the house and don’t necessarily need feared. Much of the herpetophobia is likely due to historic attitudes about snakes from the Bible particularly references in Genesis and Revelation.

Maybe I’m not as scared of snakes thanks to growing up in a small town in a wooded setting, plus I’m a guy.  We all know little boys are made of snakes and snails and puppy-dogs’ tails while little girls are made of sugar and spice and everything nice.

I can appreciate a person wanting to have a pet snake, but the number and types of snakes in the house were not merely pets and should be in the wild or in a professionally approved setting for them. I’d guess that the larger snakes, including the alleged murderer the python will be moved to one of those settings.

Was this woman being smart in handling these snakes?

Current Event Friday #79

Here comes the bride costume???

It’s the most woke time of the year, with the kids costumes at department stores drawing attention from outraged shoppers. Every Halloween season a new costume is forced to be removed from shelves thanks to complaints. So, we’ll marry the outrage to Current Events for today’s #CurrentEventFriday.

This year’s costume being questioned is a kids’ bridal costume at Kmart. Critics argued that by promoting a bridal costume to kids it encourages the practice of child brides. More woke critics also argue that it promotes antiquated stereotypes of marriage and gender roles.

Liberal criticisms of traditional attitudes about marriage and gender are not exactly surprising. Seemingly, liberals find many costumes offensive that would normally seem harmless. In my honest opinion, the child bride argument is a bit of a reach. Child marriage as a practice internationally is certainly to be decried but the costume doesn’t exactly rise to that level. Little girls like to dress as brides and princesses at Halloween and other times, but it’s usually seen as harmless play. Boys also like to pretend to be husbands, police officers, and firefighters but it’s harmless play for them too.

Kmart pulled the costume from stores in Australia thanks to a petition that gathered a couple hundred signatures. Some responded to the originator of the petition as being out of touch and excessive for a harmless costume.

Since it’s Kmart that offered the costume, it makes at least some sense to pull the costume. Already an artifact like Circuit City, Blockbuster, and Toys ‘R’ Us in the U.S., the department store can ill afford lost income Down Under.

I’ll admit that I don’t remember hearing much of the outrage about Halloween costumes growing up, it seems to be a phenomenon in the last two decades. It’s possible that as a kid I wasn’t completely aware of outrage, but I’ve seen the same outrage and wokeness as the Internet exploded and millennials came to adulthood.

Girls’ costumes are usually more revealing and even children’s versions of these costumes is no exception. The bride costume is seemingly modest compared to other offerings. Requesting the less modest costumes be pulled would likely be a better choice than the bridal costume.

Should Kmart sell the kids’ bride costume?

Current Event Friday #78

It’s the most allergic time of the year…

Ah-choo! It’s that time of year again. Time for stuffy noses & scratchy throats. Suffering through the Autumn allergy season is today’s #CurrentEventFriday topic for discussion. This choice is meant to stay above the fray of the more politically charged current events playing out lately.

Rhinitis as viewed under a microscope

I seem to suffer season allergies in the Spring and Fall when the plants are changing for the seasons. Of course, living in the Ohio River Valley complicates the sinusitis and allergic rhinitis for sufferers every year. Other sufferers of allergies in our area are well aware of the Ohio Valley Crud that keeps us so congested.

While I’d like to avoid this, I’ve yet to find a particular allergy medication that prevents my suffering. As the weather has already dropped the high temperatures below 70o  in the last week, my nasal passage is already congested. As this congestion is already at play, I wake up most mornings with a sore throat that I try to treat with hot coffee or tea to melt the phlegm draining from the nasal passages into my throat.

Treating the effects of my allergies has led me to treating the symptoms with nasal decongestant and antihistamine in the form of Mucinex® daytime and nighttime formulas. By the way, I’m not particular, I will also take NyQuil/Dayquil® as well. I usually alternate between the two to prevent my allergies from learning how to build a tolerance to the medicine.

Possibly the only advantage to the allergies this time of year is that it serves as a reminder to get my flu shot for Cold & Flu season. Of course, the signs at all the local pharmacies and e-mail reminders from my insurance provider probably wouldn’t let me forget anyways.

Admittedly, given my profession as a pastor my allergies and the sore throat associated with them do present a challenge. Thankfully with the nasal decongestant and hot tea on Sunday mornings along with prayer I can usually make it through services unaffected before the symptoms hit me like a train when service is over. In the words of Carl Spackler, “I got that goin’ for me, which is nice.”

Do you also suffer from seasonal allergies?

Current Event Friday #77

Move over Felix & Oscar, there’s a new Odd Couple,

Why can’t we be friends? While the band War asked this question in 1974 to great acclaim in the song titled with that question, it’s become relevant this week thanks to an NFL game last week. The attention for two famed spectators at the game is the basis of today’s #CurrentEventFriday.

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Ellen DeGeneres & Pres. George W. Bush at a Cowboys v. Packers game

While at the Cowboys and Packers game, viewers noticed Ellen DeGeneres and Pres. George W. Bush watching the game. Ellen addressed the odd pairing of politically opposed acquaintances on her show earlier in the week. Acknowledging that it might seem strange that a Hollywood Liberal lesbian might seem a strange friend for a Conservative Texan President, she defended friendships that transverse political lines.

Ellen argued that she desires friendships with many people, those that agree with her politically and those that disagree as well. Rising above partisan bickering allows her to remain friendly and civil with many more people than just those who align with her worldview.

Viewers of The Ellen Show and many others reshared the video of Ellen defending the civil friendship with Pres. George W. Bush. Following the example in the clip, several were on different sides of the political aisle proving it is possible to rise above partisanship.

Not everyone was pleased, however. Many on the Left chided Ellen for supporting Pres. George W. Bush. In particular, Mark Ruffalo cited Pres. Bush’s involvement with the War on Terror as reasons to dissociate with Pres. Bush. Joy Behar also pointed out that being friendly to Republicans means being friendly with Pres. Trump, an unimaginable prospect for The View contributor. This seems at least somewhat strange since Behar is at least civil to fellow panelist Meghan McCain, a Republican who has no love lost for Pres. Trump either. Not to be outdone, conservatives also rejected Ellen’s encouragement because of their disagreement with her lifestyle and her previous promise to refuse Pres. Trump from appearing on her show. So at least unintentionally, some on both sides of the political aisle were opposed to two citizens acting civil to one another.

I know that since Pres. Trump ran for and won election, the partisan fault lines have grown larger each day, but I’d like to think there could be some mending. Admittedly, I have many more on my Facebook and Twitter with whom I disagree politically but align with thanks to institutional affinity I attempt to remain above the fray and stay out of arguments with them. Some who share humorous memes about Pres. Trump are legitimately funny and I will laugh or play along with the joke. I agree with challenging hypocrisy on both sides while I may maintain my political preferences.

Can people get along like Ellen DeGeneres and Pres. George W. Bush?  

Current Event Friday #76

Following Pres. Trump on Twitter is sometimes more about entertainment than news distribution

A picture is worth a thousand words according to a cliché, but for the top politicians in the country, one picture is worth only a few words. The picture and the reaction by the important parties is today’s #CurrentEventFriday.

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Pres. Trump’s tweet about Vice Pres. Joe Biden and Hunter Biden’s connections to Ukraine

Of course, anything drawing political interest more often than not involves Pres. Trump and today’s topic is no exception. Accused by an anonymous whistleblower of working with Ukraine to commit election fraud and treason, Pres. Trump attempted to shift focus to Former Vice President Joe Biden. Pres. Trump’s conversation with Ukraine’s Prime Minister has emboldened the House of Representatives to begin impeachment proceedings against him. In response, Pres. Trump argued that VP Biden’s son Hunter has questionable business ties with Ukrainian petroleum companies and wants these ties to be investigated. As news of Hunter Biden’s dealings with Ukraine have become known, VP Biden has been asked what he knows about the connections and whether he is involved.

Most other politicians would take this news about a political opponent and mention it at political rallies and/or press conferences, but unconventional is the name of Pres. Trump’s game. Taking to Twitter, his favorite forum, Pres. Trump posted a parody video with footage from “Photograph” by Nickelback. Instead of the original photograph in the song’s music video, the photograph included in the tweet shows Hunter Biden, VP Biden, a Ukrainian petroleum executive, and an unidentified man. Those identified are outlined with a red heart and a labeled with their names. Somewhat fittingly, the lyrics of the song included in the video What the hell is on Joey’s head?” work on an unintended humor level. The video included in the tweet also begins with a person asking VP Biden what he knew about his son’s business dealings with Ukraine before the Nickelback song plays.

The music video “Photograph” has been used for users in viral memes, especially for calling attention to a photograph that humorously replaces the original. Most of these video memes make their rounds on Twitter or other social media sites with no consequence from the band or the recording company. However, since it was Pres. Trump, the video was removed quickly with a copyright claim on the video requiring it be taken down.

I like to stay above the fray and laugh at what is funny on both sides of the political aisle. I can appreciate a truly funny take on Pres. Trump who has been lampooned before his election to President, but since 2016 the humor has been mostly trite, hateful, and not funny. Some of Pres. Trump’s imprecision and quick tongue or Twitter fingers invites satire and he knows that people laugh at him. Those that can do so well and with some respect allow Pres. Trump to be in on the joke and laugh it off. Hopefully the video that was attached to the tweet was not completely produced by the White House. If the Communications staff spent time creating all the elements of the video, that’s a problem. More likely is that an independent video editor created the two clips and Pres. Trump saw the video and downloaded it to his computer and posted it to his Twitter. Pres. Trump has faced similar criticism for posting videos mocking other politicians and the news media and the videos are removed shortly after Pres. Trump posts them.

Other critics have pointed out that Pres. Trump should be more serious and stay off Twitter, since he’s not being Presidential when he trolls opponents and news outlets, but he has not capitulated. Worth noting, Pres. Obama would regularly attack Fox News for being biased against him, but never posted videos mocking the hosts. Pres. Obama also appeared regularly on ESPN and The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon to promote such important Presidential efforts like NCAA Final Four Brackets and Slow Jam the News. So, there’s a little hypocrisy from the Left regarding Pres. Trump being less than befitting of the office. When I saw the video Pres. Trump posted with “Photograph” I chuckled at his ability to make a point about opponents using humor. Pres. Trump’s celebrity and humor are what helped him appeal to the masses during the 2016 election and are not unlike Pres. Reagan’s celebrity and humor that earned him his election and reelection in the 1980’s.

I’ve written before about the dying of humor for the Left before and it is regrettable to see that humor is seemingly lost thanks to the political climate. Comedians like Bill Burr and Dave Chapelle have lamented cancel culture and the inability to make jokes that don’t offend every people group. Hypocrisy and incompetency by the Left should be able to be pointed out with humor and not draw ire from the Left for doing so. It is alarming that the Left objects to Pres. Trump criticizing Alec Baldwin’s portrayal of him but promote hatred and removing an AOC parody account featuring an 8-year-old portraying the freshmen congresswoman from the Bronx. I’d love to see people adopt the Larry the Cable Guy approach, “I don’t care who you are, that’s funny.” Maybe we can get back to that approach again.

Was Pres. Trump’s tweet appropriate as well as being funny?