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Tuesday, December 16
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell won’t become majority leader until next month, and already he is cracking the whip. He’s making senators work on Fridays - or at least they’re supposed to work on Fridays, as the Senate will be in session.

Roll Call first billed the Fridays-included-week as part of an “aggressive schedule.” A five-day workweek may not seem all that rigorous, but The Washington Times reports that the Senate hasn’t worked a full week yet this year.

In their defense, I feel compelled to note that elected officials work all the time. When they’re home on weekends, they’re hitting events and talking to local officials. It’s a lot of work to win an election, so when you succeed, you want your constituents to know that you are not a creature of Washington. And the longer your commute is the less time you want to spend in Washington.
 ... Read More 
When is the last time you received an old-fashioned Christmas or year-end newsletter? I haven’t seen one in years, and I miss them. But not entirely.

They often made me envious. The letters usually had a bragging tone. They were filled with job promotions, two-week vacations in France, new love affairs following lucrative divorce actions, grandchildren named Tiffani (with an “i”) who won a Rhodes scholarship, and hints of how happy the writer had been since joining the Rosicrucians or the Church of the Swarthy Henny Binn.

I once tried writing an end-of-year summary letter, but I never mailed it. No matter how much I exaggerated my few achievements or adventures, I still sounded like the most plodding, foot-dragging adult male on earth. Which is pretty close to the truth, most years.
 ... Read More 
Christmas. It’s a time to be jolly and nice. It’s when we celebrate the birth of a child whose homeless parents lived in a stable with all those nasty animals. It’s the time of the year when a stuffed bird, sometimes even a pelican, makes its second traditional appearance at the dinner table.

Christmas is a lot of things. It’s a season that is as virtuous as it is dreadful, depending upon your outlook on life.

I didn’t always like the holidays for reasons that are better left unsaid. There was a time when I’d block the entire Thanksgiving/Christmas season from my psyche. I even banned the playing of carols. The penalty for violating those rules was to leave sour milk and cookies laced with a laxative for the red-suited man who breaks into houses under the pretense of gift giving.
 ... Read More 
Tuesday, December 9
My co-workers were looking at me strangely - which they often do.

I was walking around the office with my old box camera, a Minolta twin-lens reflex, made in Japan between 1955 and 1966.

Yeah, it’s old and out of style. But so am I.
 ... Read More 
Although life can bring dozens of forms of stress to beat us down, harass us and drive us into an early grave or vodka bottle, ways do exist to combat stress. I have written about some of these in earlier columns. But most of my readers quickly forget what I write. So I will repeat a few previous quips and quotes. For this I ask your forgiveness, which will lower my stress level. See how things can work?

EXERCISE. A survey by the American Association of Retired Persons found that 47 percent of Americans aged 50-64 use exercises to manage their stress, while almost as many persons in the 65+ age group (45 percent) also exercise as a means of lowering stress. During most of the past 10 years I visited a fitness center. Each time I left the center after a workout I felt an enormous reduction in my stress level. Just by exiting the front door and leaving all those #%&!! clanking exercise machines behind, I was overcome by a sense of peace. “Thank goodness I’m finished with fitness for a few days!” is what my mind told me.

But as time passed I visited the center less and less. This gave birth to a sense of guilt in me, because all the health magazines scolded me, “Dude, if you don’t exercise more, you’re gonna DIE next week!” With the guilt came anxiety and tension. It was driving me nuts. So I solved the problem: I resigned from the fitness center. All at once my guilt vanished, along with the exercise-related stress. So keep that solution in mind, if you’re feeling stressed out by your fitness program.
 ... Read More 
Tuesday, December 2
We hand a man a gun and ask him to protect us. If something goes horribly wrong, perhaps in a flurry of panic, we don’t rush to punish him. We make sure a criminal justice system meant to protect all citizens also protects him. We blanket him in the presumption of innocence. It’s the reason juries are loath to convict and, as happened in Missouri, grand juries are loath to indict officers involved in shootings.

So do I believe that Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson might not have confronted Michael Brown, 18, and his friend Dorian Johnson, 22, if they had been white kids walking in the middle of the street on a hot Saturday morning? Yes, I do. But I also find Wilson’s explanation credible. He testified that he approached the young men because he saw cars swerving around them. It’s his job to keep the community safe.

Wilson also testified that Brown prevented him from getting out of the patrol car, that Brown punched him and that Brown tried to take his gun. Physical evidence corroborates some of Wilson’s story. Video of Brown shoving a convenience store clerk in what has been described as a strong-arm robbery minutes before the encounter adds credence to Wilson’s account. Brown may have been unarmed, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t menacing.
 ... Read More 
While surfing on TV a few nights ago I ran across the AMA - the American Music Awards. Fascinated, I watched for awhile and was reminded of what a huge, sprawling empire the music business is. And what a mistake it is for one generation of music lovers to scorn or reject the preferences of any other.

I had never heard of some of this year’s AMA performers. They included a dark-haired woman named Lorde and a band of young men named One Direction, plus Selena Gomez and Sam Smith. I could understand about half of the lyrics they sang, but this no longer bothers me. Years ago I learned that the goal of many singers and groups is not comprehension, but audience reaction. The actual lyrics, for those of us who care, can be found later on the Web or in liner notes.

I subscribe to Entertainment Weekly and allow my eyeballs to roam over all of its sections. But the modern music listings might as well be printed in Estonian. I know who Taylor Swift is - and have high regard for her voice and, especially, for her writing. But my entry into the waters of today’s music pretty well stops at the shoreline. Which is my loss, I’m sure.
 ... Read More 
Most people heed warnings about scammers who too often succeed in separating victims from their hard-earned money.

Fraudsters use every imaginable scheme from seeking money for real and/or imagined medical procedures to offering a piece of a multimillion-dollar windfall. There are the fake check scams and even, and especially, romantic insinuations.

Not many of us haven’t received an email from women with seductive names like Monique or Bianca or Savannah. The latest sex come-on is known as the 419 Nigerian or one of its many variations. The figure 419 actually is the Nigerian Criminal Code dealing with fraud. The target is lonely men and women looking for love in all of the wrong places. One example is direct from my own spam folder. It reads:
 ... Read More 
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Community Calender
• Sunday, Dec. 21, 2014
American Legion cookout
SEMINOLE – American Legion Post 252, 11433 Park Blvd., holds a cookout every Saturday and Sunday at the Tiki Bar from 1 to 5 p.m.

Breakfast is held the first Sunday of every month from 8 to 11 a.m. and the monthly spaghetti dinner is held the first Tuesday of each month from 5 to 7 p.m.  

The dining room is open to the public. Legion membership is required to purchase alcohol.  

For more information, call 391-6324.
 ... Read More 
Farmer’s market
PALM HARBOR – The Palm Harbor Farmer’s Market will take place on the first and third Sundays of the month from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Pop Stansell Park, 797 Florida Ave.

The market will run from November through April.

Featured items will include natural and organic fruits, vegetables, soaps, foods and much more, including a variety of locally produced foods.

Vendor spaces are limited, and can be applied for at www.csapalmharbor.org /market.

CSA Palm Harbor is a part of the Palm Harbor Community Services Agency, the entity providing leisure services to the unincorporated residents of Palm Harbor, East Lake, Ozona and Crystal Beach.
 ... Read More 
Holiday Lights in the Gardens
LARGO – The 14th annual Holiday Lights in the Gardens event will be run Nov. 28 through Dec. 31 at the Florida Botanical Gardens in Largo. Parking is available at either 12520 Ulmerton Road or 12211 Walsingham Road.

The gardens are magically transformed into a star-studded venue of more than 750,000 twinkly LED lights daily from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m.

A stroll through the shining gardens has become a tradition for visitors from both near and far as they are wowed by colorful lasers, animated figures and entertainers at this festive celebration of the holiday season.

A donation of $4 is requested for visitors 13 and older. Children 12 and younger are free. For information, call 582-2147 or visit www.flbg.org.
 ... Read More 
• Monday, Dec. 22, 2014
Holiday Lights in the Gardens
LARGO – The 14th annual Holiday Lights in the Gardens event will be run Nov. 28 through Dec. 31 at the Florida Botanical Gardens in Largo. Parking is available at either 12520 Ulmerton Road or 12211 Walsingham Road.

The gardens are magically transformed into a star-studded venue of more than 750,000 twinkly LED lights daily from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m.

A stroll through the shining gardens has become a tradition for visitors from both near and far as they are wowed by colorful lasers, animated figures and entertainers at this festive celebration of the holiday season.

A donation of $4 is requested for visitors 13 and older. Children 12 and younger are free. For information, call 582-2147 or visit www.flbg.org.
 ... Read More 
Speak Easy Toastmasters Club meeting
PINELLAS PARK – The Speak Easy Toastmasters Club meets Mondays at 6 p.m. at Lin’s K Hibachi Buffet, 7610 49th St. N.   Guests are welcome.  

The Toastmasters program helps members become better speakers for their jobs, presentations and meetings.   Call Jim Martin at 536-3392 or email jmartin2040@tampabay.rr.com.
 ... Read More 
• Tuesday, Dec. 23, 2014
Holiday Lights in the Gardens
LARGO – The 14th annual Holiday Lights in the Gardens event will be run Nov. 28 through Dec. 31 at the Florida Botanical Gardens in Largo. Parking is available at either 12520 Ulmerton Road or 12211 Walsingham Road.

The gardens are magically transformed into a star-studded venue of more than 750,000 twinkly LED lights daily from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m.

A stroll through the shining gardens has become a tradition for visitors from both near and far as they are wowed by colorful lasers, animated figures and entertainers at this festive celebration of the holiday season.

A donation of $4 is requested for visitors 13 and older. Children 12 and younger are free. For information, call 582-2147 or visit www.flbg.org.
 ... Read More 
Kiwanis Breakfast Club meeting
SEMINOLE – The Kiwanis Breakfast Club of Seminole meets Tuesdays at 7:15 a.m. in the third floor card room at Lake Seminole Square, 8333 Seminole Blvd. 

On the second, third and fourth Tuesdays of the month, the group features speakers from different organizations. 

Visit kiwanisseminolebreakfast.com or call 319-8343 for more information.
 ... Read More 
MLK Neighborhood Center Coalition planning sessions
CLEARWATER – The Clearwater Martin Luther King Jr. Neighborhood Center Coalition hosts weekly planning sessions every Tuesday at 7 p.m. at 1201 Douglas Ave. It also hosts a neighborhood community market each fourth Saturday, with the June market set for the 28th.  

The Community Outreach Team invites people to join them in making phone calls or writing letters to the residents in the neighborhood surrounding the center to inspire neighbors with the progress that is being made.

To help, contact Karena Morrison at 518-4659.
 ... Read More 
Seminole-SPC Toastmasters meeting
SEMINOLE – Seminole-SPC Toastmasters meets at 6:15 p.m. Tuesdays at the Seminole Community Library, 9200 113th St.

This personal development program is ideal for supervisors and other leaders, or those aspiring to learn vital leadership and communication skills.

Contact Dennis Hamel at 374-2612 or visit seminolespc.toastmastersclubs.org for more information.
 ... Read More 
• Wednesday, Dec. 24, 2014
City Power Toastmasters Club meeting
ST. PETERSBURG – The City Power Toastmasters Club, a nonprofit communication and leadership club, meets Wednesdays from noon to 1 p.m. at the Municipal Services Building, One Fourth St. N., Sixth Floor, Room 600.  

The club teaches self-confidence and skills to help listen, think, speak and gain leadership qualities. Participants gain poise, positive body language and speak more easily.  

Guests are welcome to visit for free with no pressure to join.  

For more details, call 893-7918.
 ... Read More 
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Tampa Bay Newspapers
9911 Seminole Blvd.,
Seminole, FL 33772
Phone: (727) 397-5563
Fax: (727) 397-5900
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