Farewell to 2011: A Weird Year

As 2011 breathes it last, we stand on the precipice between a disaster-filled year (the Japanese earthquake-tsunami-nuclear meltdown; the Virginia earthquake; Hurricane Irene; wildfires in Texas; and the Halloween storm in the Northeast; the spring tornado outbreak, wiping out Joplin, Mo.) and a year that promises political to disasters to come, following on the Arab “Spring” and the Occupy Wall Street protests, not to mention the siege of the Wisconsin State Capitol.

There were some happy moments in the midst of mayhem: the marriage of Prince William to Kate Middleton. Kate has restored modesty, maturity, and manners to the fashion world (Lady Gaga take note). The gossip tabloids have it that Kate is pregnant with twins and suffering the same eating disorder as her deceased mother-in-law.

2011 was the year of the bizarre: Charlie Sheen, Anthony Weiner, the Wisconsin protests, and Occupy Wall Street. Then there was the tragic: the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords, who is recovering, and six others who were not so fortunate. The tragedy took a bizarre turn when Liberal pundits tried to blame the shootings on Conservative pundits.

The top news story was, or should have been, the killing of Osama Bin Laden. The heroes of SEAL Team Six took him out in very prompt, no-nonsense fashion. Had he been disposed of ten years ago, as he ought to have been, there would have been celebrations in the streets. Bells would have been ringing. But our executor-in-chief insisted on muted approval, lest we offend Osama Bin Laden’s followers.

Bin Landen’s execution was followed a few months later by the execution of Moammar Ghaddafi. His execution came after the full fruition of the Arab “Spring”. Because he refused to step down and said he would fight to the death, that is precisely what happened: he was hunted down like an animal and promptly shot. No one is shedding any tears over his death. Justice took a fearful turn toward the barbaric, though.

In Tunisia, a local fruit vendor in the town of Sidi Bouzid set himself ablaze and died on Jan. 4, after a run-in with the law over lack of a vendor’s license. He immolated himself over alleged humiliation by a female officer. This was the spark for which socialists in the Middle East had been waiting. The revolutionary fire spread all over the Middle East, forcing a number of Arab potentates to resign, including Hazni Moubarak.

Protesters claimed they were simply tired, and understandably so, of the corruption taking place in high offices. Out of the ashes, however, the Muslim Brotherhood has arisen like a phoenix to, in all likelihood, establish Sharia law throughout the Middle East.

Meanwhile, Iran is reaching its goal of nuclear capability, as surely and steadily as Hitler’s Nazi Germany did under the blind, uncaring eye of Europe and the British government.

Here at home, it has been the battle of the unemployment, with the government propagating disingenuous unemployment numbers that do not reflect the great numbers of workers who have not found jobs and have run out of unemployment benefits, putting them off the official count.

The stock market has been up and down, with a case of the jitters over what is probably the inevitable collapse of the Euro. Germany has been expected to bail out less responsible and productive states like Greece and Spain. It’s anyone’s guess how it will fall out. Meanwhile the U.S. is some $12 to $14 trillion dollars in debt itself, with investors bailing out Europe with money borrowed from China, itself in no very great economic shape, with its inflated yuan and burgeoning middle class.

This was the year, also, of the Green Scandals, namely Solyndra, which never produced an ounce of an energy or anything else that resembles the color green (like profits). They simply took the taxpayers money and ran. Agenda 21 is running at full steam, meanwhile, with our bureaucrats engineering planned cities around 21st transportation modes, oblivious to the news from China, where they’re having considerable trouble with their high-speed trains. Seems the Chinese no more want to ride trains than we do, if we don’t have to. Once they’ve accumulated enough money, they buy their own cars.

Here in New Jersey, meanwhile, our tea party efforts failed to prevent further redistricting in favor of the Democrats. We do have Gov. Corzine in our corner, if he doesn’t decide to accept a nomination as Vice President.

The 2012 campaign for president has already begun, with the Republican candidates tripping over one another’s feet and their own tongues and making a beeline for the middle as much as they can, though they’re beginning to heed our conservative voices more than they had.

The stock market is ending on a high note. Wall Street is gleeful right now, especially since Zoocotti Park was relieved of its creatures. Yes, they’re ecstatic over all the bail-outs that made their particular surge possible. How much of the growth is real, and how much of it is a polyethylene balloon remains to be seen.

Finally, the Media is celebrating Obama’s return home of the troops. Cheerleading right along with the Left are many Moderate and even Conservative pundits. Less to be celebrated is our reduction in arms and our many agreements to arms treaties that our co-signees will never honor. China’s fleet is growing, just as Germany’s did 80 years ago.

We’ve seen some ominous signs in 2011 – the Arab Spring, the Occupy Wall Street protests, Agenda 21, redistricting in suburbs, high unemployment, even higher debt. Retailers were ho-ho-hoing over huge Christmas sales. Who were those crazy people buying all that stuff? What exactly were they celebrating?

Finally, there’s the 9/11 Memorial. This year was the 10th anniversary since the attacks. We now learn that construction on the memorial museum has ground to a halt (again) in a monetary dispute between the City and the Port Authority. At least the outside falls are in operation.

America is poised on the edge of free-fall and economic calamity. 2011 was a downhill year. Thanks to every mistake made since 2008, when Obama was elected, we have no reason to expect any bright promise from the coming New Year.

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Published in: on December 31, 2011 at 8:48 pm  Comments (1)  

SATs – Simply Amazing Test Scores

In the catastatic act of the downfall of American education, an entrepreneurial college sophomore risibly asseverated that he merely offered an amanuensistic service to aphotic, desultory scholars by offering to take the Scholastic Aptitude Test for them. He made the didactic observation on CBS “60 Minutes” that he was helping his clients improve their prospects in life.

In other words, he helped them cheat by taking the test for them.

A former Great Neck (N.Y.) North High School student, Sam Eshaghoff, 19, a sophomore at Emory University, was arrested in September and pleaded not guilty to criminal impersonation and other charges. He told the news program he grew his test-taking enterprise through “word-of-mouth.”

Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice has called the charges serious, saying there is “no level playing field when students are paying someone they know will get them a premier score.”

Twenty students have been arrested. But Eshaghoff said, in the interview to be broadcast Sunday, he did not believe any college applicant lost their place to an undeserving student. “I feel confident defending the fact that getting into the schools that they ended up getting into didn’t really affect other people,” he said (disinegenuosly).

Eshgahoff’s lawyer told Newsday that his client entered a plea deal several weeks ago under which he will tutor underprivileged students for a substantial amount of time, though he would not elaborate. Eshaghoff told CBS that when a struggling student came to him, what he did was like “saving his life.” He said he took pride in his success like any other business person. “By giving him an amazing score, I totally give him . . . a new lease on life,” he said.

Emouna said his client agreed to the TV interview in an effort to move forward, and called him remorseful. Eshaghoff has been accused of taking the test for as many as 15 students for fees ranging up to $3,600.

“Taking others’ SATs was the biggest mistake of my life,” Eshaghoff admitted to Newsday through a Facebook message. “I’ve come a long way. I hope people can overlook my mistake and recognize me for my strengths. I would like nothing more than to excel in school and to make my family proud,” he said.

“Sam is extremely upset about this whole ordeal,” his lawyer added. “He has brought shame upon his family and the good name that they deserve. He is a gifted student and wants to explore the possibility of where the future will take him. He is an extremely good-hearted, kind individual, a good friend who wants to be a good son.”

The lawyer said it’s unfortunate that his client has become the “poster boy” for SAT and ACT cheating, which, he said, has gone on for years.

“Cheating has been an epidemic that has existed since Adam and Eve,” he said.

Cheating has, indeed, been universal. Still, we never learn our lessons properly. The inflation of the common bachelor’s degree has made it a necessity, much as the high school diploma was once a criteria. As our students learn less and less, our population grows, and the competition for better jobs grows keener, the anxiety to pass the SAT – the most common test required for entrance into undergraduate studies – turns into hysteria.

Employers, for their part, are no longer satisfied with the high school diploma, and now insist upon a bachelor’s degree for anyone who wants to gain an entry-level position into a company. For someone with higher ambitions, the master’s degree is de rigeur. In this economy, someone without that coveted master’s degree hasn’t a prayer of even gaining an entry-level position into a company.

Misguided students take on all sorts of esoteric, and very useless, studies during their undergraduate years, when a basic, liberal arts education would suffice, and a degree in business would almost guarantee their entry into just about any company (providing the student gets decent grades).

The problem is getting over the SAT hump. The tests have been reduced in their severity at least once in their history. That’s where the term “dumbing down” was said to have been born. Back in the day, the parents of affluent and even middle class students would pay fairly big bucks for their high school scholars to take SAT cram courses so they could score better grades and get into better schools. Weaker students were out of luck. Inner city students – fuhgeddaboudit.

Civil rights activists rightly complained, but applied the wrong remedy. Instead of fixing the students, tutoring them just like their suburban cousins so they could also pass the SATs, they prevailed upon Princeton to “dumb down” its tests. Guess there’s no money in coaching inner-city students.

Two of the words in the first paragraph of this blog – taken from articles in the Dec. 19th issue of the National Review – were not in the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, 11th ed, pocketbook version. I didn’t know the meaning of the word “catastatic” myself and had an inkling of what “aphotic” meant (a lack of something), though I thought perhaps “phot” indicated light. A lack of sunlight, or someplace where the sun doesn’t shine. Thank goodness for the Dad Dictionary, c. 1938.

Students can’t be blamed if they feel their degrees don’t mean anything. They can be taken to task for not listening to parents who urged them to get a degree that could get them a job – namely, a business degree. Business is where the money and the jobs are. The media fills young students’ heads with dreams of fame and fortune. Those dreams only come true for the very lucky, the very talented, and the very-well connected.

Today’s students are also, in a short, four-letter word – lazy. They don’t want to take the time to study advanced mathematics and science. Math isn’t for the creative – or for those who don’t want to bother applying themselves. I didn’t. As a result, I completely flunked the math portion of the Graduate Record Exams (one of the placement tests for master’s degrees) when I was younger. I have an opportunity to try again and I mean to take advantage of that opportunity. I have no intention of cheating, either. I spend a portion of each day on mathematics, Latin, and history (yesterday was a wash because I’d come down with a nasty cold) in addition to my blog.

I don’t blame anyone but myself for not having passed that test. Reviewing the Algebra I for Dummies book, I see now that what I thought was impossibly complicated really isn’t. I might not feel that way when I reach Calculus, but at least I’m headed in the right direction.

I also have a Latin book and some study cards on the Greek language. My father told me studying Latin was how he came to have such word power. Once you learn the base words in Latin and Greek, you’re better able to solve a vocabulary problem by going back to the word’s Latin or Greek roots (i.e., aphotic). Mathematics, Latin and history didn’t seem so important to me, when I was 18, as they do now.

One must have a reason, beyond mere pecuniary ambitions, for seeking a master’s degree, other than an MBA. My reasons have to do with our current situation. I don’t want to be a mere sheeple, not knowing or caring about what’s going on or why. The degree will never get me anywhere in an ordinary job. History teachers are begging for work. That’s the case with my neighbor’s son. Loved history; can’t get a teaching job.

Maybe I’ll never get anywhere with a Master’s in History, except on my own steam, as it were. So be it. Getting the degree and particularly taking that test are, for me, a matter of honor.

Avatars need not apply.

Published in: on December 30, 2011 at 12:38 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Brawl of America

According to NBC-TV affiliate KARE in Minneapolis, Minn., shortly after 4 p.m. on Monday, more than 20 people started a riot in the Mall of America’s food court when rumors started that rappers Li’l Wayne and Drake were at the Bloomington mall.

Chairs and tables started flying and after-Christmas shopper began fleeing. Stores closed unexpectedly as the police ushered shoppers out of the mall. A cellphone video uploaded to YouTube shows dozens of young people watching as others pushed, punched, and threw chirs. The police arrested nine in the incident.

Bloomington’s police commander told KARE, “Anytime you have a large group of people together things can happen. But this is highly unusual.” At first, authorities attributed the violence, which occurred in several parts of the mall, to shopper rage. Later, they learned that rumors had been Twittered about the presence of the two rap stars in the mall.

Some family friends gave their kids something called “The Bug Trail” for Christmas. The little bugs operate on hearing aid batteries. Their habitat is three connected circles whose routes can be opened and closed. The habitat could easily serve as a model of your typical shopping mall, with the connecting passages serving as escalators.

The critters jittered around the circles, mindlessly bumping into walls, turning themselves over and kicking their feet, and climbing over one another in their frenzy to get nowhere. At least the critters have an excuse for their mindlessness; they have no brains. This family is affluent enough to have something called a “Black Card” for a certain store, which allows them the privilege of pre-store hour shopping, or did, they say.

These children have the ultimate nursery/playroom on a balcony above the living room, filled with the latest and most fantastic toys any kids could dream of. A modern, wood dollhouse, a bunkbed for their dollies complete with handmade comforters and pillows. An arts and crafts table. Bookshelves crammed with books. A horse-drawn dolly sleigh with a beautifully crafted horse. A television set up for DVDs and Wii-Fi only. Toy soldiers, GI Joes, Star Wars characters, cars and trucks, nerf guns, Barbie doll castles and cars and American Girl dolls.

Amazingly, they’re not spoiled. They’re all very well-mannered kids. Their parents take the time to teach them basics like spelling and memorizing multiplication tables. My particular role when visiting is to teach them the pleasure of making music. Nagging at kids to practice, practice, practice never works. They need to see an adult enjoying the art of playing the piano, of making music. Kids are never taught that the exercises are to help them warm up, just like an athlete or a ballerina. If an athlete didn’t warm up and exercise, he’d wrench his arm throwing the first pitch of the game; the ballerina would break her leg on the first leap.

Making music is the same. You warm up to get yourself oriented to the instrument. You do scales to get your fingers moving and your mind accustomed to different scales. It just makes playing the music you love easier. Lessening the number of mistakes makes playing a tune less frustrating in the long-run. But children naturally have a low-tolerance for tedious practice. I let the kids see me take the time to do some warm up scales and arpeggios. The parents say that they do imitate it later on after I’ve left. They suggested my teaching, but I told them no way, that I’m not “accomplished” enough to teach more than the basics. My coordination isn’t that good. My right hand often doesn’t know what my left hand is doing and when you’re playing the piano it’s very important that your two hands work together (which isn’t easy). You have to literally practice the scales two-handed until you can do them in your sleep. I can type in my sleep but I still can’t play the piano in my sleep.

I was too distracted by a houseful of brothers, their friends, and the concomitant noise to master the piano properly. That’s the trouble with America today; we’re too distracted by too much noise, too many toys, too many places we go, too many ways to spend our money. We don’t know how to concentrate. Kids today don’t even understand what concentration is. It’s no wonder America is falling behind in the sciences, particularly mathematics, the branch of knowledge that requires the most concentration. The Nephew’s girlfriend, I’m told, would get up at 7 in the morning and study until 11 at night. That’s the culture from which she comes. The Nephew, not so much.

Instead, we run about blindly in a maze of malls and superhighway cloverleafs, running into and over each other, bumping into walls and looking for the way out by trial and error instead of reason. We not infrequently turn ourselves over in our haste, kicking our feet in a futile attempt to right ourselves again, helpless and pathetic, unless the Invisible Hand should happen to reach down and help us out. The wiser, grandfatherly voice is there, though, to caution the well-intentioned to wait and let the critter right itself which, in time, it does.

Published in: on December 28, 2011 at 8:25 am  Leave a Comment  

Christmas 2011 – A “Post”-Mortem

The one thing that I should have asked Santa for, didn’t ask him for, and consequently didn’t get was more time. Since I became the family Christmas hostess after Brother A tore out my mother’s oven years ago and never replaced and my former sister-in-law quit the job (she always hated it anyway), from the 23rd of December on, Christmas is just one flurry of shopping, decorating, cleaning and cooking.

I’m proud to say I not only got the decorating done far ahead of the 23rd but even had all, or most of, the presents wrapped. Still, there was much to do and no time for blogging after the 23rd. There’s always that person that you nearly forgot – in this case, my nephew’s girlfriend. They’re both mechanical engineering grad students, so I got her a Rubik’s Cube. My nephew became instantly addicted to it, the annoyance of the original recipient.

As unemployment is in my crystal ball for 2012, I was told not to buy any presents at all. Bah humbug to that! But I did keep the price range down below $10, for the most part and near to it for the exceptions. The only truly expensive present was the Second World War set by Winston Churchill and that had been an accident. You have to watch very carefully when you’re ordering from a site like Amazon.com. Sometimes the quantities can duplicate on you, as it did in this case. I would have returned, however it’s been my habit to periodically give my nephew a book or books for Christmas.

One year I gave him the Lord of the Rings. I forget what other books I might have given him. He was very impressed with the set. He’d harbored some very strange ideas about Adolf Hitler, which the first 100 pages of the Second World War should permanently dispel.

Big Brother was displeased with the two very minor gifts I gave him – a Yankees Santa hat and an aluminum wallet. He didn’t want me to give him anything at all. But I said bah-humbug to that, too. The hat was a gag. The wallet was to protect the money he works so hard for. Thieves have figured out ways to scan your credits right in your wallet. The aluminum wallet is supposed to thwart this current chicanery. He’ll set it aside for now but one day he’ll be sorry. He and his gal friend spend a lot of time at the malls. His luck will run out and then he’ll be glad for my gift.

Mama was pleased with her Victorian Etiquette handbook, which she knew about in advance. I also gave her a videotaped version of John Wayne in The Alamo. This did not please her, even though I told her it was a leftover from about 20 years, a film I just never got around to watching. The VHS machines went out of vogue before I could watch it and so it just sat there gathering dust.

Younger brother got an LED headlamp for his caveman activities. The best and funniest gifts, though, were for The Nephew. I gave him an eyeglass drinking straw, that is a straw in the shape of eyeglasses. This thing works best with a colored drink so you could watch as it swirls around the drinker’s eyes and then down the hatch. So much fun for a mere $5. You don’t have to go into debt to have a memorable, merry Christmas. His girlfriend was delighted with her game of Chinese checkers. A friend feared she might be insulted. Even though I hadn’t met her yet, my intuition told me she’d either laugh at the notion of Chinese checkers, a game they didn’t play in China (like Chinese food, which is very different from what the Chinese really eat) or she’d be very honored, having played the game in her native land from where it originated it. The second guess was the correct one. This bit of happiness was a real bargain at $2.50 from Wal-Mart.

Even the traditional World Almanacs were cheaper, coming as they did over Amazon.com, with free shipping. I always provide my own gift from my younger brother as he’s working hard but struggling financially. There was a beautiful rose clock on sale at K-Mart for half-price, $15. My mother scowled and wanted to know if I could return it. I explained it was Brother A’s gift to me and how inexpensive it was. Still, she was angry, but Brother A, God bless him, came to my defense. I bought it because I had a set of beautiful rose lamps on my piano, but I knocked one of them over and broke it. The rose clock will sit in its place (although the clock will be more firmly secured than the lamp was).

I have a very special reason for treasuring watches and clocks, which I will not get into at this point. I would ask my mother for Mrs. Piersson, our ancient, miniature grandfather clock, but being clumsy, I allowed wealthier Brother B to take stewardship of it.

I was probably too extravagant in my purchase of DVDs. I make no apologies for my book collection; the books are for the purpose of furthering my education. As I ordered the last set of DVDs I even said to Santa, “What am I doing?! I shouldn’t be doing this.” But something whispered back that it would be all right. He was right. Between my mother and others, I received a considerable amount of cash that will take care of the DVDs.

They may seem like an extravagance to most people. However, I don’t buy very much at all in the way of clothes, except what is necessary to be presentable. I don’t buy fancy dresses, shoes, jewelry, or pocketbooks. My cellar is filled with my former sister-in-law’s expensive pocketbooks. I have absolutely no use for any of them. Should my brother and his current gal pal decide on matrimony, I will give them all to her as a wedding present. She’s a typical female female. She loves shopping at malls, as most women do.

I don’t love shopping. I don’t care about clothes, I cut and dye my own hair (to my family’s dismay) and I haven’t worn a pair of earrings in at least five years. The last time I wore pumps, my feet swelled up for about 48 hours. I do wear perfume but I have enough to last another ten years, at least.

According Adam Smith, being economical is a matter of spending your money on one thing rather than another. Sooner or later, you will have to spend it. I anticipate that my biggest future economic problem will be medical bills. Food has about as much of a hold on me as pocketbooks do. I never eat out restaurants, not even fast food restaurants.

So if my one passion or vice is movies, what of it? I consider spending $100 on one – one, mind you – pocketbook, as much of a waste as 10 or 20 DVDs. Frequently, I haunt the discount bins at Wal-Mart and K-Mart, and look for bargains on the Internet. Only my earliest purchases were costly, made when I was more secure of my position. Most of my collection is within the $5 to $10 range.
This year, the additions were Christmas movies. There isn’t really a great variety on Netflix and the broadcast stations hardly seemed to be aware that it was Christmas. Most people are content to rent a movie online. Companies can and do go out of business, though. One day, those Christmas may not be there. They might even be banned and I didn’t want to get caught short.

Besides, next Christmas, I’d like to do a Christmas movie countdown on this blog, if the world doesn’t end first. I wasn’t sure there were enough to cover the subject, but it turns out there are. You won’t believe how many versions of A Christmas Carol were produced.

Anyway, that was Christmas at our house. Many thanks to Santa Claus for making my DVD wish come true.

Published in: on December 27, 2011 at 11:47 am  Leave a Comment  

Christms 2011

Christmas. It’s a subject that pretty well boggles the mind. What words can any mere mortal say that hasn’t already been said after 2011 (plus) years? What wisdom can any of us bring to the table? No words penned by any writer yet has brought about that peace on earth that was promised over millennia ago.

On Christmas Eve, a woman stood near the cashier area of the local Stop & Shop and challenged any of us “believers” to prove that we really believed in the holiday we were celebrating. She declared that it didn’t look to her, observing us racing about with our shopping carts, that we did. Where is this “Christmas” she wanted to know.

Only dread of my mother, a stickler for punctuality, get me from turning back to answer the woman. I could have shown her where it was, why she didn’t “get it”, and given her a simple exercise to find it. All I needed was a bag of nuts, probably walnuts would do, they’re pretty hard, and a nutcracker. That is a real nutcracker – the tool, not the toy, although I would have been glad to throw one in as part of the gift.

I would have pointed at her heart and told her, “This is where you’ll find Christmas. But in order to find it, you must sit down in a chair by your hearth, if you have one, open the bag of walnuts and start cracking and keep on cracking until you find the meaning of Christmas. These people may need to do the same thing, it’s true, but you’re the one asking the questions and if you have to ask, this is the only way you’ll find the answer. The toy nutcracker here will keep you company and see to it that you complete the task.”

Then I would have hurried on my way to have Christmas Eve dinner with Mom and the boys and picked up the ham for the next day’s dinner. Some complain about the commercialism of Christmas, buying the latest gadget, toy, or unwanted gift. Selecting a gift says as much about the giver as the receiver. If you truly love the person to whom you’re giving the gift, your heart (with a little help from Santa Claus) will help you find the right present, one that will make the receiver happy.

Some people are clueless or don’t want to give the receiver the thing that would make them happiest, but the thing of which the giver would most approve. Some people simply give money to meet the obligation, either because they don’t care, don’t know what the other person wants, or don’t approve of what the other person wants. To the most jaded giver, Christmas is, as Scrooge says in the story, ‘an excuse to pick someone’s pocket every 25th of December.’ It is they who complain loudest about the commercialization of Christmas.

Christmas is for children. Only children truly need to be surprised at Christmas. Money (or a gift certificate) seems a cold and selfish gift, but as it avoids many unhappy problems and hurt feelings for adults, it’s not as bad a gift as you might think at first. The thought may count, but if the thoughts are all wrong, bitter, or resentful, it’s no gift at all and totally misses the meaning of Christmas.

All these material things are well and good, but none of them and none of us lasts very long. We received the best gift anyone could give 2011 years ago, at the ultimate cost of the giver. We were given the gift of redemption, of restoration to God, and eternal life.

What more do we want?

Published in: on December 27, 2011 at 11:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Christmas List 2011 – A Ladder

Dear Santa, this is the last item on my list of practical gifts for Christmas: I’d like a ladder. A ladder is the one gift that will actually be under my tree this Christmas, thanks to Big Brother.

The ladder is really more for my brothers, so when they need to paint or fix things in my condo unit, they can reach it. A day will come, when I’m going to need it. I’m slightly taller than most gals, but only slightly and if I live to grow to my mother’s current age, I’m sure to shrink. The longer time goes on, the less likely I am to have help doing things, so I’m going to have to do them myself and that means having a ladder.

I’d also like a ladder to remind me to never stop trying, to never give up trying to better than I am. Life should never be so easy that we stop making the attempt to reach for the next height. At work, I never wanted a promotion because it just wasn’t what I wanted to achieve. I saw no challenge in the supervisory and leadership positions; only long hours and longer headaches. God bless those who are willing to lead and supervise.

If I’m going to spend all those long hours, I want to achieve something more than a bigger paycheck and an impressive title. For some people, there’s a title and a paycheck at the top of the ladder. Personally, I’m terrified of heights.

When I get to the top of my ladder, I want to be able to look down and see that America has been fixed. That’s what ladders are for – fixing things. I want to read all the books I’ve collected (if I stacked them all up, one on top of another, I’d need a ladder to reach the top) and find out where we’ve been, how we got to this point, what some authors think the solution is, and even what the bad guys are up to, so we can head ‘em off at the pass.

We need a ladder to scale all the obstacles the Progressives have built in the path to freedom. We need to scale every one of those obstacles – intimidation, apathy, lethargy, propaganda, political correctness, censorship, corruption, and misinformation.

Americans need to be reminded that the successful, the so-called “One Percent,” got where they are by climbing the ladder of success. They weren’t helicoptered to the peaks of fame and fortune. Sometimes the climb is strenuous. Most people give up. I guess that’s why only one percent of Americans make it. Not because they’re greedy or selfish, but because they persevered and worked hard.

I’ll be very glad to see that ladder under my tree on Christmas morning, Santa dear. I intend to begin climbing right away – and I won’t give up until I’ve passed that GRE!

Published in: on December 23, 2011 at 5:50 pm  Leave a Comment  

Christmas List 2011 – A Dog (or Two)

On a happier note, Santa dear, I’d love a dog – or two – for Christmas. Of course, we’d have to do something about my association’s two pet rule. They’d also have to be small dogs because my apartment is small. I love the cute little dog in the other insurance company’s ad (the one with the umbrella). Nothing against my own company ; they just don’t have an advertising dog.

Since I won’t be working anytime soon if I go to school for my degree, I’ll have the time for them. I love dogs, Santa. All kinds of dogs. Great big Great Danes that you can saddle. The mountainous St. Bernard and its cousin, the Berber. Sleek greyhounds and whippets, so mild and gentle. The handsome German shepherds and Rottweilers. My cousins had a female German shepherd. She was enormous for a shepherd and especially a female. The floor would shake when she’d trot back and forth in their house in Mt. Vernon.
I love sheepdogs, too, and border collies. The border collies are incredibly intelligent. Irish setters and golden retrievers are the beauties of the large dog family, but I adore bulldogs, boxers, and pugs, too. I interviewed a subject who owns a giant poodle named Jean-Pierre. He’s a therapy dog. His owner takes him to visit people in nursing homes and mental health facilities. He’s a very good dog, Santa.

So is Darcy, the Black Lab who lives next door. She’s so friendly and so cute, always wanting to play. She needs a bigger home, though, Santa, with a yard to play in. By coincidence, I need a neighbor who minds his or her own business. Look at this way: the Tattooed Lady loves to garden. If she rented a house with a yard, Darcy could play and she could garden, and the rest of us could get back to living in harmony again. Just a thought.

The dogs would make good security guards, too. The neighborhood is getting gradually more dangerous. If the world turns over next year, and all the illegal immigrants wind up falling into America, we’re going to need all the protection we can muster. A couple of little terriers like the ones in the commercial would make enough noise (terriers are noisy and fearless) to scare off burglars yet would be small enough not to initimidate my poor cats (Chopin is a big coward).

The dogs would also give me an excuse to get more exercise. I need more exercise – fresh air and sunshine – and I want more exercise. These are the suburbs. Suburbanites look askance at solitary walkers. I generally avoid Blockbusters on Saturdays – in fact, I’ve taken to collecting my own DVDs – because in the suburbs, you’re expected to be with someone, especially if you’re a woman. Very old women can get away with it, but if you’re under 65, you’re expected to be with a boyfriend, husband, and/or kids. I’m still a decade and a half under 65 and have none of the above.

A dog or two would solve the problem. One dog would give me credibility. Two would add merriment to the picture and cast away suspicion. It would be obvious that I love something and that something loves me back. Actually, I’d be more assured of that love with a dog than with a significant other.

I can’t understand people sometimes, Santa. Why do they abuse animals, particularly dogs (they’re cruel to cats, too)? Over in China, they eat them, although the people there are starving (still, even with the advent of communism), so I can give them a pass. But to beat and abuse, both physically and verbally, man’s best friend. They would do anything for us and look what people do to them in return.

God bless the dogs, Santa. And the cats, too. I hope one Christmas, I’ll find a dog or two under my tree or at my door (once I can figure out how to get around the two-pet rule).

Published in: on December 22, 2011 at 10:11 am  Leave a Comment  

The Long Count Has Begun

We have exactly one year – 365 days, 10 hours, and some odd minutes and seconds until the Hercolubus, the inbound Red Planet will turn the Mayan calendar and our world over. According to Mayan tradition, Dec, 21, 2012, will mark the end of the Long Count calendar, a 5,200 year cycle, divided into 394-year periods known as Baktuns.

The last Long Count began in 3,114, about the time of the end of Atlantis and the Great Flood of the Bible and other cultures. The tradition holds that there will be numerous catastrophes, including deadly epidemics, earthquakes, tidal waves and other natural calamities. The Earth will complete turn on over (as in end over end) on its axis. Bolton Yokte, a Mayan god associated with war and death, will descend from the sky, representing the Hercolubus inbound.

The Mayans, or what’s left of them, claim that it’s not the end of the world but the end of one cycle and the beginning of another. Author V.M. Rabolu writes in “Hercolubus, or The Red Planet,” that “Human beings will become mentally unbalanced because they will not be able to eat or sleep. In the face of danger, they will throw themselves over the precipice en masse; completely mad.”

If this is true, there’ll definitely be no more White Christmases. The northern hemisphere will have the good fortune of an extra growing season, in order to better prepare for the eventual famine. Humans will better be able to handle the confusion than the animals.

Aviation experts have already noted a slight shift in the Earth’s axis, enough that they’ve had to repaint the lines on airport runways. New Jersey has experienced numerous flooding, but we assumed that was due to the nearer and less mysterious (though no less calculated) calamity of overdevelopment, particularly in the watershed areas of northern New Jersey. If you cut down trees and pave everything over, the water is going to run off into the rivers at great pace; you don’t need to consult the Rosicrucians to know that.

Still, it’s a mighty big universe and it’s possible there’s some huge asteroid that comes around cyclically to knock pretty little Earth for a glancing blow, without actually impacting Earth physically. It would have to be an awfully big planet or asteroid. Scientists say that our planet has turned on its axis at least a couple of times, all before Man moved into the neighborhood. So much for man-made climate change. If Herco is due for another visit, if it has no other salutary effect, it will silence the proponents of man-made climate change forever. There’s a prediction for you: Newt Gingrich will not be elected president.

So, will this “revolution” be sudden and (in which case) catastrophic, or gradual, like progressivism, moving us towards catastrophe a few degrees at a time. If the Earth tilts suddenly, will illegal Mexicans immigrants be instantly dumped over the United States border like change in a dryer, courtesy of Hercolubus and Bolon Yokte? Or will the change come gradually, with the assistance of a corrupted U.S. Congress, waiting to welcome the tumbling illegals with a shrug of their shoulders?

“Hey, don’t blame us! Blame Bolon Yokte. It’s all his fault!”

We’ll know for certain in 365 days.

Published in: on December 21, 2011 at 2:12 pm  Leave a Comment  

Christmas List 2011 – A Gun

Santa, darling, it’s pretty awkward asking for a gun at Christmas. But there it is: I would like a gun for Christmas. “Like” and “want” don’t exactly describe my desire for this dreadful thing. “Need” comes closer to the mark.

I don’t want the gun for Christmas so much as I want it for the New Year, and the new year after that, and new year after that. I don’t trust our government and fear the new government they claim is only the fevered imagining of paranoid conspiracy theorists, even as they weave their webs right under noses. Why it’s already practically verboten to want a gun. The gun laws in this state are so strict, that a thief could rob your entire house before you even unlocked the gun box.

Do they think we’re blind and deaf, Santa, that we don’t know what it is they’re doing? Or are they trying to reassure the sheeple in the middle who wish rather than know that the world will remain peaceful, prosperous, and happy? The communist propaganda machine is too well-entrenched and oily. Censorious and scolding, the Media gives the people their marching orders and they obey.

“Hate the Tea Party!” And one of them steals the Tea Party bumper sticker from the back of my car in the Shop Rite parking lot. If they’ll steal a bumper sticker, simply because they disapprove of it, what won’t they do in the name of their own cause?

I was fishing for money for the Salvation Army bucket at Wal-Mart. I happened to mention to the bell-ringer how my job is going away but that at least I have my blog. “You tell them!” he cried. “You tell the whole world what ‘they’ have done!” By the end of his harangue, he was pacing up and down, scowling, as his bell clanged. Having located my meager quarter, I dropped it in the bucket and hastened away before I told him that I’m a member of the Tea Party and the only “they” I blame are those in Big Government.

I harbor no ill-will, or not very much ill-will, towards my company. Sometimes a bitter mood will come over me and I’ll forget myself. But then I remember that this downsizing will result in my being able to return to school for a master’s degree, which is a very happy thought, indeed.

The communist way is a miserable way of life. Our media cheerleads for them. Controlling the Media is one of the ten planks of Communism. You should hear how the news reporters, anchors, and commentators venerate this Kim Jong-il. He starved, persecuted, and even executed his own people. The ends justifies the means, according to them.

The communists are a brutal bunch. They’ll stop at nothing to steal from honest working people and redistribute our freedom. They hate freedom. The very word burns their tongues. They have to redefine the word in order for it to even pass their lips.

If they win the day, or the New Year, millions of illegal immigrants will flood our borders. We’ll be voted or simply evicted right out of our homes and jobs. I fear we’ll be no better off than the citizens of North Korea, and no one will know about but you and Jesus.

Criminals will be set free to loot, plunder, and rape. Women in America already know they’re not safe. No woman in her right mind goes to Willowbrook Mall at night. At the very least, they’ll take her car and her purse.

We try to avoid danger and heed the guidance of our guardian angels. Once we’re overwhelmed, the angels won’t be able to be everywhere the criminals are. We have to be able to defend ourselves, especially those of us without men of our own.

The trouble with a gun is, I’ll probably shoot myself in the foot with it. I can’t imagine shooting anyone or anything. I don’t think I could shoot the broad side of a barn, so a rifle would be out. I can’t imagine shooting Bambi or Thumper at this point, though that’s because I’m not starving – yet. This is the misery which gapes before us, more of a man-made disaster than any fantastical climate change. This is a well dug with the iron-fist of communism, encouraged by envy, and sponsored by political power and corruption.

God help me, I don’t want a gun, but I know I’m going to need one all the same in these times to come. I just pray that I’ll never need to use it.

Published in: on December 21, 2011 at 10:57 am  Leave a Comment  

The “Dear Leader” is Dead; Long Live “The Brilliant Comrade”

The news of North Korean “Supreme Leader” Kim Jong-il resulted in the most bizarre performances since the hoodlums occupied Wall Street. Hundreds, maybe thousands, of North Koreans were televised weeping, wailing, and keening in the public square, presumably in Pyong-yang. What a performance! Either these people really are under the spell of a personality cult, or there are a lot of unemployed actors and actors in North Korea.

How else to account for the grief-stricken crowds mourning a man who was responsible for 3 million deaths? Only a fanatic or a starving actor (with a gun at his head) could put on such an act for such a monster. That death count almost puts him up in the Big Leagues with Mao, Stalin, and Hitler. But that North Korea is such a tiny country, he, too, might have been responsible for 23 million deaths.

According to Wikipedia, Kim Jong-il (born Yuri Irsenovich Kim on Feb. 16, 1941/42) was the supreme leader of North Korea. He was also the General Secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea, the ruling party since 1948, Chairman of the Nationa Defence Commission of North Korea, and the supreme commander of the Korean People’s Army, the fourth-largest standing army in the world.

In April 2009, North Korea’s constitution was amended to refer to him implicitly as the “supreme leader.” He was also referred to as the “Dear Leader,” “Our Father,” “The General” and “Generalissimo.” His son King Jong-un was promoted to a senior position in the ruling Workers’ Party and has succeeded his father. In 2010, he was ranked 31st in Forbes Magazine’s List of The World’s Most Powerful People. The North Korean government announced his death on Dec. 19, 2011.

Details surrounding Kim Jong-il’s birth vary according to source. Soviet records show that he was born in the village of Vyatskoye, near Khaboarvosk, in 1941, where his father, Kim Il-Sung, commanded the 1st Battalion of the Soviet 88th Brigade, made up of Chinese and Korean exiles. Kim Jong-il’s mother, Kim Jong-suk, was Kim Il-sung’s first wife.

Kim Jong-il’s official biography states that he was born in a secret military camp on Baekdu Mountain in Japanese Korea on Feb. 16, 1942. Official biographers claim that his birth at Baekdu Mountain was foretold by a swallow, and heralded by the appearance of a double rainbow over the mountain and a new star in the heavens.

In 1945, Kim was three or four years old (depending on his birth year) when World War II ended and Korea regained independence from Japan. His father returned to Pyongyang that September, and in late November Kim returned to Korea via a Soviet ship, landing at Songbong. The family moved into a former Japanese officer’s mansion in Pyongyang, with a garden and pool. Kim Jong-il’s brother, “Shura” Kim (the first Kim Pyong-il, but known by his Russian nickname), drowned there in 1948. Unconfirmed reports suggest that five-year-old Kim Jong-il might have caused the accident. In 1949, his mother died in childbirth. Unconfirmed reports suggest that his mother might have been shot and left to bleed to death.

Throughout his schooling, which was said to have taken place in China for his safety, Kim was involved in politics. He was active in the Children’s Union and the Democratic Youth League (DYL), taking part in study groups of Marxist political theory and other literature. In September 1957, he became vice-chairman of his middle school’s DYL branch. He pursued a programme of anti-factionalism and attempted to encourage greater ideological education among his classmates.

Kim is also said to have received English language education at the University of Malta in the early 1970s, on his infrequent holidays in Malta as guest of Prime Minister Don Mintoff.

The elder Kim had meanwhile remarried and had another son, Kim Pyong-il (named after Kim Jong-il’s drowned brother). Since 1988, Kim Pyong-il has served in a series of North Korean embassies in Europe and is the North Korean ambassador to Poland. Foreign commentators suspect that Kim Pyong-il was sent to these distant posts by his father in order to avoid a power struggle between his two sons.

By the time of the Sixth Party Congress in October 1980, Kim Jong-il’s control of the Party operation was complete. He was given senior posts in the Politburo, the Military Commission and the party Secretariat. When he was made a member of the Seventh Supreme People’s Assembly in February 1982, international observers deemed him the heir apparent of North Korea.

At this time Kim assumed the title “Dear Leader.” The government began building a personality cult around him patterned after that of his father, the “Great Leader.” Kim Jong-il was regularly hailed by the media as the “fearless leader” and “the great successor to the revolutionary cause.” He emerged as the most powerful figure behind his father in North Korea.

On Dec. 24, 1991, Kim was also named supreme commander of the North Korean armed forces. Since the Army is the real foundation of power in North Korea, this was a vital step. Defense Minister Oh Jin-wu, one of Kim Il-sung’s most loyal subordinates, engineered Kim Jong-il’s acceptance by the Army as the next leader of North Korea, despite his lack of military service. The only other possible leadership candidate, Prime Minister Kim Il (no relation), was removed from his posts in 1976. In 1992, Kim Il-sung publicly stated that his son was in charge of all internal affairs in the Democratic People’s Republic.

In 1992, radio broadcasts started referring to him as the “Dear Father,” instead of the “Dear Leader,” suggesting either his own promotion or that of his son. His 50th birthday in February was the occasion for massive celebrations, exceeded only by those for the 80th birthday of Kim Il Sung himself on April 15 that same year.

According to defector Hwang Jang-yop, the North Korean government system became even more centralized and autocratic during the 1980s and 1990s under Kim Jong-il than it had been under his father. In one example explained by Hwang, although Kim Il-sung required his ministers to be loyal to him, he nonetheless and frequently sought their advice during decision-making. In contrast, Kim Jong-il demanded absolute obedience and agreement from his ministers and party officials with no advice or compromise, and he viewed any slight deviation from his thinking as a sign of disloyalty. According to Hwang, Kim Jong-il personally directed even minor details of state affairs, such as the size of houses for party secretaries and the delivery of gifts to his subordinates.

On July 8, 1994, Kim Jong-il’s father, Kim Il-sung, died, at the age of 82 from a heart attack. However, it took three years for Kim Jong-il to consolidate his power. He officially took the titles of General Secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea on October 8, 1997 and Chairman of the National Defence Commission on April 9, 1993. In 1998, his Defense Commission chairmanship was declared to be “the highest post of the state,” so Kim may be regarded as North Korea’s head of state from that date. Also in 1998, the Supreme People’s Assembly wrote the president’s post out of the constitution in memory of Kim Il-Sung, who was designated the country’s “Eternal President.” It can be argued, though, that he became the country’s leader when he became leader of the Workers’ Party; in most Communist countries the party leader is the most powerful person in the country.

Although Kim was not required to stand for popular election to his key offices, he was unanimously elected to the Supreme People’s Assembly every five years, representing a military constituency, due to his concurrent capacities as KPA Supreme Commander and Chairman of the DPRK NDC.

The state-controlled North Korean economy struggled throughout the 1990s, primarily due to mismanagement. In addition, North Korea experienced severe floods in the mid-1990s, exacerbated by poor land management. This, compounded with only 18 percent arable land and an inability to import the goods necessary to sustain industry, led to an immense famine that left 3 million dead and left North Korea in economic shambles. Faced with a country in decay, Kim adopted a “Military-First” policy to strengthen the country and reinforce the regime. Communists like to boast that, on the national scale, this policy has produced a positive growth rate for the country since 1996, and the implementation of “landmark socialist-type market economic practices” in 2002 kept the North afloat despite a continued dependency on foreign aid for food.

In the wake of the devastation of the 1990s, the government began formally approving some activity of small-scale bartering and trade. As observed by Daniel Sneider, associate director for research at the Stanford University Asia-Pacific Research Center, this flirtation with “capitalism” was “fairly limited, but — especially compared to the past — there are now remarkable markets that create the semblance of a free-market system.” In 2002, Kim Jong-il declared that “money should be capable of measuring the worth of all commodities.” These gestures toward economic reform mirror similar actions taken by China’s Deng Xiaoping in the late 1980s and early 90s. During a rare visit in 2006, Kim expressed admiration for China’s rapid economic progress.

North Korean voting booths often contained portraits of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il under the national flag. Kim Jong-il was the center of an elaborate personality cult inherited from his father and founder of the DPRK, Kim Il-sung. Defectors have been quoted as saying that North Korean schools deify both father and son. He was often the center of attention throughout ordinary life in the DPRK. On his 60th birthday (based on his official date of birth), mass celebrations occurred throughout the country Many North Koreans believe that he has the “magical” ability to “control the weather” based on his mood. In 2010, the North Korean media reported that Kim’s distinctive clothing had set “worldwide” fashion trends.

One point of view is that Kim Jong Il’s cult of personality was solely out of respect for Kim Il-sung or out of fear of punishment for failure to pay homage. Media and government sources from outside of North Korea generally support this view, while North Korean government sources say that it was genuine hero worship. The song “No Motherland Without You”, sung by the KPA State Merited Choir, was created especially for Kim in 1992 and is frequently broadcasted on the radio and from loudspeakers on the streets of Pyongyang.

On June 2, 2009, it was reported that Kim Jong-il’s youngest son, Kim Jong-un, was to be North Korea’s next leader. Like his father and grandfather, he has also been given an official sobriquet, The Brilliant Comrade. Prior to his death, it had been reported that Kim Jong Il was expected to officially designate the son as his successor in 2012. However, there are reports that if leadership passes to one of the sons, Kim Jong Il’s brother-in-law, Chang Sung-taek, could attempt to take power from him.

Kim Jong-il died of a suspected heart attack on Dec. 17, and was succeeded by his youngest son Kim Jong Un, who was hailed by the Korean Central News Agency as the “Great Successor.”

The “Dear Leader” is dead; not so long live “The Great Succesor.”

Published in: on December 20, 2011 at 10:14 am  Leave a Comment