Friday, December 31, 2010

Hello 2011

We are beginning our New Year's Eve welcoming ceremonies. We have our little rituals by which we welcome the morning, or the evening. And for New Year's Eve, we have followed a ritual for about the past 30 years.
We begin our nibbling at around a standard dinner hour. But our dinner this eve follows a common  theme:
1. A platter of baby clams in their shells, sauteed in garlic buter until they open. We consume these with a generous helping of wine.
2. A plate of cold shrimp.
3. A plate of Swedish meatballs.
4. A Caesar salad . . . again with some wine to help our digestion.
5. A sweet delicacy from our local Chocolatiere--always wonderful.
While this is going on, we will at some appropriate time, put on our standard movie--Casablanca--the most romantic movie ever made.
This year Casablanca will run until about 11:15, at which time, we will go in to our hot tub and soak for a while. Feeling properly relaxed, at around 11:45, we will don our night clothes, and go to the fridge for a bottle of champagne.
We will pop the champagne a few minutes before the ball begins dropping in Times Square.
Then we will issue our standard toast--"To us babe", and we will watch the people milling about in Times Square for a few minutes, then head off to bed, relaxed and ready to greet the New Year next morning.
So, to all of our family and our friends,
Happy New Year.
May yours be wonderfully fulfilling and safe.
And may the coming year include more happy moments  than the other kind.
Stay well . .. stay happy . . . stay healthy.
Happy 2011!!!!!!!!!
And below, since they start early is a picture from Oz, where they always have spectacular fireworks over the Sydney harbor bridge The Aussies know how to bring in the New Year. Click on the picture to see it enlarged. Wonderful.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

2011: A Wish List

The year looms ahead. Many days in which to revel in the joys and blessings of life, or to despair of mankind’s continued unwillingness to be kind. Which will fulfill our coming year? I hope . . . I hope for:
1.      The Pope – Since the pope continues to believe, or act, as though he still had some moral authority in the Christian world, it  would be nice to hear him begin to utter words about his priests doing penance. Maybe they need to do a bit more than say a few Hail Mary’s. Perhaps the more
morally degraded among them might be asked to spend the rest of their days working in leper colonies (do they still exist?), or feeding the poor in soup kitchens, and never again uttering a word to anyone.  And also. Mr. Pope, could you kindly butt out of other people’s business, and stick to Christianity?  I know that Muslims are always blowing things and people up, but really, you have enough to do to keep Christians on the straight and narrow. So, chill out on the other folks, huh?

2.      The President – I voted for you, I worked door to door to help get you elected, and I continue to believe that you are the brightest, most thoughtful guy we’ve had in a long, long time as the Prez. But, maybe in 2011, it’s time to move beyond the community negotiator thing. The PERPs who are trying to run you down (you know who they are) have no interest in compromising on anything.  So, start acting as our President, and Commander in Chief. If they are able to prevent accomplishing things that are right for the Nation, continue to try, but be sure the American people understand who is acting against their interests. We know that the PERPs are owned, lock, stock, and barrel by their corporate Lords, so they can’t really act differently. Their Lords wouldn’t permit them to act like civilized people.  Perhaps you need to go to the source—the Lords of the land-- and begin working with them.  Maybe invite the Koch Brothers to lunch.

3.      Haley Barbour, Sarah Barbie, Joe Miller, Newt Gingrich – put a sock in it for a while guys. I realize you will come out of your crypts during 2012, but give us a break for the coming year. Take up knitting or something, but please, just shut up.

4.      Our Military Command – Please, please, spend the coming year figuring out some way to get out of Afghanistan. If there is no way to “Achieve Victory” so as to make Old Man McCain happy, that’s OK. The Afghan’s intend to continue living in the 13th or 14th century, so let them. Bring our treasure and our guys home. Just leave a note as you leave—if they let Osama Bin Laden loose again, you will level the Himalaya’s, and turn it into a radioactive desert.

5.      The Democrats – Guys, it’s time to begin acting as though someone is in charge. You can’t continue acting like a bunch of dingbat frat boys and expect to win friends and influence people.  So at least pretend that you’re about something of value to America. Oh, and a little discipline please? When you decide to do something, get your guys on board first.  Say, here’s a thought. Ask Jon Stewart to come aboard periodically (part time, please, cuz we still need him to make us laugh) and tell you when it’s time to act like adults. Maybe a monthly lunch with Jon where he gets to yell at you would be good.

6.      There’s probably more, but that’s enough for now.  Don’t drink too much . . . oh, why
not?  New Year’s Eve is made for acting foolish, just do it at home, so nobody gets hurt. Ta ta . . .

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

2010: That was the year that was

Man this was an “interesting year, as in, “May you live in interesting times.” The election, of course, had been preceded by almost two years of negativity emanating from the Party of the Extreme Right Persuasion (PERP for short).  I mean, we had a witch (remember Christy O’Donnell) announce for Congress. Then Sarah Barracuda brought her kids into the lamestream media limelight by having the kid with the bastard child try to dance against people who actually knew how to dance.  And then she whined about how the media hated her . . . Um yeah, you moron, most thinking people hate you.
Then we had the census, that questionnaire where they ask you a few questions, mainly to see if you’re still alive. Only many good PERPs became confused, trying to figure out whether they should be rebelling, since the census is obviously a pinko-commie plot.  Then they finally decided to cooperate, once it began to be clear that not filling it in might disadvantage republicans everywhere. Turns out, with the gains in the republican corners of the earth, we might well have even more republicans in Congress (really scary thought), since they seem to be outbreeding the thinking part of our population. Well, that’s not the official explanation, but you’ll have to go elsewhere for that.
But the thing I found most interesting was the declaration that the most important objective of the PERPs was the defeat of our President, regardless of the cost to the nation. Yeah, assuring that Obama was a one-term president would outweigh anything else that might require Congressional action.  It was then clearer than it had ever been why the PERPs object so much to the new health care law, and in fact to Medicare and Social Security. They have been trying to derail all three and in fact vow to kill the new health care bill once they are officially in residence.  Why? Because they don’t want the 40-50 million people without health care to finally become covered? No, probably not.
Oh, it’s true they don’t care a fig about those people, but their objections are slightly different. No, they object because they think of these programs, not as programs that benefit millions of Americans, but as instruments of the democratic party.  See, they actually don’t care what happens to the millions of people who would be adversely affected if they privatized Social Security and then it failed (like the bank failures under George I and George II).  They simply don’t care. They see the world in simple black and white terms. There are things that benefit PERPs and things that benefit the other party. They want to kill all things that benefit the other party—consequences be damned.
So, this is their main party platform—kill the other party, by any means possible.
And we have a president who still believes in negotiation and compromise as the path to peace and prosperity. I wonder . . . would Atilla the Hun have been ready to compromise??
Makes for another interesting year coming up in 2011. Stay tuned.
And elsewhere, Haley Barbour announced that the Ku Klux Klan was really just a misunderstood social club, whose members simply got a little rowdy occasionally after a few too many drinks. They never meant any harm, and are sorry if people think badly of them.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Great Christmas Snow Event

So, I am told that the last time we received snow on Christmas in North Carolina was 1947. That's a long time ago. Well, I guess it depends on how old you are, but we didn't live here then, so it was a long time ago, by definition. For the better part of a week, the weather folks couldn't make up their minds. It was going to snow; no, it wasn't. Yes it was . . . a dusting . . . no a great wad. Maybe to the north of us, or to the east of us. Finally, all the weather guys threw up their collective hands and said, "beats us . . . wait and see."
So, we all went about our business.
Come Christmas Eve, we looked out the window. Nope. No snow. Finally, Christmas morning arrived. Still no snow, but a gathering of clouds. Maybe snow??
It's dinner time, and we all sit down to a sumptuous Christmas repast of surf and turf--steak and salmon--with scalloped potatoes, asparagus, green beans and almonds, and a wonderful salad. Then the multivarious desserts--pies, especially mince meat, but also apple, pumpkin, cookies galore . . .
Then one of the kids looks out the window and announces--it is official. The snow has begun to fall on Christmas.
Driving home that night, we couldn't tell. Would it stick . . . or not. So, we all went to bed.
When what to our wondering eyes did appear . . . on rising . . . but real snow. Wow!--Maybe four-five inches of heavy snow.
Wonderfully white, making the whole world around us look new, and fresh. What a nice present.
Snow on Christmas.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


1935 – A Great Year, as years go.
A few biggies born that year.
Elvis Presley January 8th -- Tupelo, Mississippi, United States – great rock and roller
Sonny Bono February 16th -- Detroit, Michigan, U.S. Greatest idiot in Detroit.
Dalai Lama 14th - July 6th -- Taktser, Amdo, Tibet – Proving that some religious leaders are actually good for the world.
Julie Andrews – October 1st -- Great voice . . .
Luciano Pavarotti - October 12th –maybe even a greater voice, although he's fatter.
Woody Allen - December 1st -- Brooklyn, New York, U.S. Great writer-Director. Funny man, although weird at times.
Carol Schmidt (nee Foreman) – December 22nd – Tallman, New York – Great Wife-Mom-Grandmom-Great grandmom. Demonstrates that Goodness and love are still alive in the world, despite the other stuff that continues occurring.
Other Stuff that happened in 1935
Germany - The Luftwaffe is created as Germany's air force, thereby giving Adolph a false sense of security.
Iran - Persia is renamed as Iran. Ahmedinjehad is renamed Ahmedinajad, so that everyone can more easily pronounce his name, demonstrating Iranian concerns for the world outside.
U.S. - Amelia Earhart flies solo across the Pacific, even before Pan Am flew across the Pacific.
U.S. -President Roosevelt signs the US Social Security Act Providing Unemployment compensation and pensions for the elderly. Republicans protested en masse.
U.S. -President Roosevelt signs the Revenue Act often referred to as the Wealth Tax Act . The Death Tax was yet to be enacted, because republicans hadn't yet invented the name.
U.S. - The great Labor Day Category 5 Hurricane with winds approaching 185 mph strikes Florida Keys on September 2nd . George W. Bush was not yet in charge.
U.S. The Emergency Relief Appropriation Act on April 8th creates The WPA or Works Progress Administration to create millions of jobs . Republicans protested en masse.
U.S. 1,200,000 people face starvation in Illinois due to lack of funding. Republicans assert that we can’t afford to feed people just because they’re poor.
U.S. First Public Housing Project launched in New York . Donald Trump protests en masse.
Pakistan - Earthquake destroys Quetta in modern-day Pakistan - 26,000 dead . Quake blamed on America. Osama begins his climb to the top in protest.
Carol’s mom gives birth to a fantabulous female child, Carol by name. The little baby outshines everything else that occurred that year. Curiously, she actually lives up to her reputation.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Birthdays and Other Stuff

December 17th 1903, the day of first flight, courtesy of Orville and Wilbur . . . an auspicious day it might seem. Who would imagine that those powered gliders would turn into stealth bombers? But Orville and Wilbur, we salute you.
But I'm thinking of 1934 right now. So, why was 1934 an interesting year?
Well, for instance, The FBI ambushed and killed Bonnie and Clyde. They also toppled the glamorous crooks Baby Face Nelson, Pretty Boy Floyd, and John Dillinger. It is the last time on record that the FBI did anything socially useful.
Inner City Slum Clearance began in New York, beginning in our old neighborhood.
Elsewhere in the world, someone (a Scotsman, who may have been tippling a wee bit too much) spotted the Loch Ness monster for the first time. Adolph Hitler declared himself Germany’s Fuehrer, clearing the way for the ending of the Great Depression. Joe Stalin was also up to no good in the vast wasteland called Russia. And then his USSR joined the League of Nations, thereby assuring the demise of that fledgling international entity.
In San Francisco, The feds opened “The Rock”, or Alcatraz, the first federal housing project for Republican politicians. And Congress passed the Securities Exchange Act, creating the Securities Exchange Commission to oversee the thieves on Wall Street. Unfortunately, Shrub and his republican colleagues invited them back in 2000.
And, while we think stuff is expensive today, in 1934:
Gasoline cost ten cents a gallon (as opposed to 13 cents when I started driving)
A new house cost $5,970 (whereas our first house after marriage was $5,000)
The average wage earner brought in $1,600 per year—my first job out of Stanford was $5,100.
A Studebaker truck cost $625. Our first car, a (used) 1952 Studebaker cost us $500.
So, all in all, I celebrate that vintage year for all the good things it delivered.
Oh, and my mom became pregnant in March of that same year. And then I came along, just before Rudy (dear old dad) got drunk and disappeared for the first of many such disappearances. Mom just "kept on truck’n", largely paying no attention to him. Unlike Rudy, She actually cared about her kids.
So, mom, I salute you. You did good, Daisy.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Ludwig and Stuff

December 14th . . . two days until Beethoven’s birthday. That was, as we all know, in the year 1770. A giant of a year that was. So what else occurred in that amazing year?
Well, let’s see . . . we have the Boston massacre on March 5th. That was a biggie, huh? A bunch of royalist goons in uniform decided to test their funky muzzle loaders on a bunch of Bostonians. Who knew they could actually shoot? Bummer.
And then James Cook (known to his buds in the hood as Jimmie) dropped anchor during April in what would be called Botany Bay, because of all the stuff, ya’know plants and thingies, discovered there. Yeah, that was big . . . and then Jimmie and his guys went on and discovered . . . are you ready . . . Australia! So, it turns out they named a town in Oz “1770” because of that biggie.
And Marie Antoinette of “let’m eat cake” fame arrived in France and married that guy soon to be King Louis XVI (who unfortunately lost his head . .heh heh heh). Marie baby . . . wow, dudes . . .and we think Carly and Justin are big. And then later that same month, they went and hosted a humongous fireworks display and killed 132 people . . . talk about a downer.
July 1st . . . a dazzling comet, Lexell by name, passed the earth, just barely missing –man, it was only 2,184,129 kilometers from us . . . we were almost toast.
And then, as the year was fading into oblivion, along comes Ludwig to dazzle us all. Every time I consider complaining about some “getting older” ailment, I think about Ludwig, conducting his ninth and last symphony, while he was so deaf he not only couldn't hear the orchestra, but he couldn’t even hear the audience applauding at the end. Someone kindly turned the not so old (poor guy was only 57 when he caught a cold and proceeded to die) guy around, so he could be properly and thunderously applauded.
Yeah . . . Ludwig, I salute you babe. You were a real mensch.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Infrastructure: A Modest Suggestion

As I was checking out a new mobile phone company, CREDO by name, I happened to check customer reviews at the same time. CREDO is a new provider that seems to be associated with Working Assets, a company that is careful who and what causes it supports. CREDO is trying to woo liberal or progressive customers away from AT&T, Verizon, et al.
CREDO apparently buys its actual services from Sprint. We were with Sprint at one time and dumped them for two reasons: 1) their service coverage was generally lousy; and, 2) they tried to bill us $1,000 for services not rendered—they had managed somehow to integrate with our bill the bills of two other Schmidts, but these two lived in the Bronx, whereas we live in North Carolina. It took a lot of calling to get them to admit they had screwed up big time. So, we dumped Sprint and have had no wish to return—reason number 1 still prevailed.
But it set me to thinking about our nation’s infrastructure, and how it is generally falling apart. That part which is relatively new, like the cell phone infrastructure really sucks—it’s spotty, being great in some areas and awful in others. When you travel long distances, you realize how screwed up is the cell phone infrastructure.
I realize in this country that many of our citizens worship at the altar of our private sector capitalist system. The same folks seem to hate anything associated with our Government, despite the fact that our Government actually performs pretty well—see Medicare, Social Security, and our Military, and other vital systems that protect us. But, I wondered what, for example, the national interstate highway system would be like, had we delegated it to the three major auto manufacturers. I can imagine not only bridges to nowhere, but roads to nowhere all over the country. This is essentially what we have done with our telecommunication system. At one point, we simply delegated it all to Ma Bell, and while not perfect, the phone system worked most of the time.
Then Jimmy Carter decided to break up Ma Bell in the name of “competition”. Yeah, that’s the ticket—deregulate telecommunications, break up Ma Bell, and just for the hell of it, deregulate the airline industry. Both industries have been a mess ever since. At one stage we had a healthy and competitive (globally) telephone system and airline system. After we deregulated, and brought in the holy grail of capitalism—competition-- both systems seem to implode. Oh we got a lot of competition, but most of it seemed counterproductive.
So, here we are 30 years later, and (back to the starting point . . . finally) everybody hates both industries. In reading over the customer reviews, the dominant kind of review was, customers who thought the coverage was awful, the service was worse, and an urgent need to carefully monitor their bills. The airlines, if anything, get worse reviews. I personally believe the airline industry is completely dysfunctional.
So, I’m thinking that maybe Obama should begin to talk about replacing the cell phone infrastructure with some national grid, designed by some NASA-like entity and contracted to the private sector to construct. The infrastructure would provide the same (high) quality coverage whether you were in some remote spot in the Bronx, or the wide open plains of Indiana, Kansas, or Montana.
Also, the system would operate such that the customers would be free to buy any piece of equipment they wished to own, from an I-Phone, to the least expensive Chinese-crap cell phone on the market, without regard to which cell phone company you wanted to use. Then you could select your carrier and the kind of service package you wanted, based on your needs. The carriers would have to compete on cost and quality of service, but your basic service, i.e., the ability to make a call wherever you happened to be standing/sitting would be a constant.
And maybe, under such a system, Apple’s I-Phones would actually be able to make calls. Now that would be novel, huh?
Oh, and the system would have to operate such that you wouldn't need both a cell phone and a "landline" phone service. One system would cover both needs.
Just a thought . . .

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Thinking About Blood

I’m scheduled to give another pint of blood to the Community Blood Center of the Carolinas on my 76th birthday, coming soon this month. They love my blood—A negative and CMV negative. So, when I go to give blood, I feel special. My blood may be given to an infant whose immune system is compromised, or to anyone with a weakened immune system.
But why on my birthday? Well, I feel like it’s a birthday gift from me to some unknown person. And I feel good that I am able to do that. I always smile a lot afterwards, which is a nice thing on your birthday.  And the CBCC is a really nice organization to enable me to feel this good about something. First, they keep the blood within our North Carolina communities, and I like that idea. But they are so diligent. Generally, just to let me know I’m needed, I often will receive a postcard, an e-mail and a telephone call, letting me know of the next blood drive being held at our local hospital, a few blocks away. Then when I go to actually donate blood, the staff are pleasant, efficient, and really good at what they do (extract blood efficiently and painlessly). Afterwards, I receive one or two e-mails and a card thanking me for my donation—thorough people.
So, my hat is off to the folks at the Community Blood Centers (CBCC) for all they do to facilitate this exchange of healthy blood to people who need it. Think of that--an organization that actually functions efficiently and effectively. What a concept!!
Plus, they allow me to feel good about this gift of life.
So, keep on guys. You rock!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Wikileaks & US

One of the more revealing elements of the most recent Wikileaks documents is the depth and breadth of the corruption among our Afghan “partners”. In a NY Times article, they report:
“From hundreds of diplomatic cables, Afghanistan emerges as a looking-glass land where bribery, extortion and embezzlement are the norm and the honest official is a distinct outlier. Describing the likely lineup of Afghanistan’s new cabinet last January, the American Embassy noted that the agriculture minister, Asif Rahimi, “appears to be the only minister that was confirmed about whom no allegations of bribery exist.
One Afghan official helpfully explained to diplomats the “four stages” at which his colleagues skimmed money from American development projects: “When contractors bid on a project, at application for building permits, during construction, and at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.”
Apparently this issue of corrosive, all-encompassing corruption is one of the defining characteristics of 13th century peoples such as the Afghans. It makes it difficult to impossible to contemplate seriously the now quaint notion of instilling anything remotely like democracy in this benighted pseudo-nation. Makes one wonder why we remain. Nation-building? Perhaps we might succeed in getting them to move into the 14th century . . . if we only knew how. Perhaps we should be consulting historians on this point.
But on a grander front, it caused me to begin thinking about America. We seem at the moment a 20th century nation contemplating a move back into perhaps the 18th century . . . you know, before the Civil War and all that nastiness about states’ rights and abolishing slavery. And I’m wondering whether our national mood (let’s all take a huge step backwards, people) may not be reflective of our own peculiar form of corruption at the level of our National government. We have always had our big joke that our Congress is the “best that money can buy.” It would seem now, though, that the joke is really on us. With the most recent absurdity issued by the Roberts’ Court that we needed more money in our political system, no Congressman can now afford to offend his royal owners, the corporate CEOs who bought this last election. In olden days, the peasants at least knew who the owners were—the Dukes, Barons, et al. It was easier in some ways, because at least you would understand who it would be dangerous to offend. The Roberts’ Court assured that we might never understand at whose trough our various congressional hogs were feasting.
Perhaps Mr. Assange might enlighten us on this point.
It would be helpful, as peasants need to know these things in order to survive.

Friday, December 3, 2010

A Nation of Laws: Not

So, are we a nation of laws, or are we not? In an article in The New Yorker, author, Amy Davidson, in addressing the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s assault on government secrecy, discusses Joe Lieberman’s assertion that he can call to cut off Assange’s Internet connections, and expect to be obeyed. But, then she goes on to comment on other forms of coercion being argued by our Conservative brethren. It would appear, if the horde of neo-con thugs, aka Republicans, are to be believed, we have moved beyond that rather quaint notion of laws. Ms. Davidson reports:

There are worse things one can do than cut off a server; for example, cut off a head. That seems to be where other WikiLeaks critics are headed. Sarah Palin said that Assange should be hunted down like Osama bin Laden; Newt Gingrich said that he should be treated as an enemy combatant; and Bill Kristol wants the Obama Administration to think about kidnapping or killing Assange “and his collaborators.” Kristol doesn’t use the word “kill,” but rather “whack” and “neutralize,” as if some combination of slang and clinical talk made everything all right. Is that where we are? One question that came up in the debate about Obama putting Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen, on an assassination list without even making a pretense of going through the courts was who else you could kill on the same grounds. It is striking to see how unabashedly that line of reasoning has been pursued. If we can shoot down Julian Assange, how about any investigative reporter who might learn something that embarrasses our government? We seem to have hopelessly confused national security with the ability of a particular Administration to pursue its policies.”

So, this is the group preferred by the Tea Party enthusiasts. The group that wants to “take back their country.” Yes, and return it to perhaps the 18th century, or maybe even earlier. Perhaps they have been taking lessons from Iran and Afghanistan.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

John Boehner: Art Critic Extraordinaire

So, John Boehner, the purported Speaker-of-the-House-to-be has now taken on the mantle of Nanny to America, telling us what is good for us kids. Johnny just weighed in on an art exhibit at the Smithsonian, a work involving a video called "A Fire in My Belly" by David Wojnarowicz. The work features a brief depiction of ants crawling over a crucifix. Wojnarowicz, who died in 1992, created the film, which includes images of a statue of Jesus covered in ants, as an homage to a former lover and colleague who succumbed to AIDS complications in 1987.

According to a report by Alex Pareene, just released in
The video, along with the rest of the Hide/Seek exhibit, had been humming along without a single complaint since Oct. 31. But then on Monday the right-wing CNS News suddenly got the vapors that "the federally funded National Portrait Gallery, one of the museums of the Smithsonian Institution, is currently showing an exhibition that features images of an ant-covered Jesus, male genitals, naked brothers kissing, men in chains, Ellen DeGeneres grabbing her breasts, and a painting the Smithsonian itself describes in the show's catalog as homoerotic." It didn't take long for the Catholic League to get in on the act, sputtering that the video was "designed to insult and inflict injury and assault the sensibilities of Christians." Just breathe a sigh of relief they left Ellen's breasts alone.”
Now, to be fair to Johhny, he wasn’t working alone, as the report reveals. The Catholic League, that group representing that part of organized religion that still practices child abuse routinely, greatly fears that the American cultural psyche may be damaged by such art. Yes, we certainly wouldn’t want to subject Americans to Art Abuse, when Johnny and his gang of Congressional thugs are poised to dump on America all of the vitriol they have been accumulating since the election of a Black, Indonesian-Kenyan, Muslim, Socio-Fascist President.
Johnny and the Catholics working together to protect Amurrica . . .
Oh, and a special thanks to the Smithsonian Institution for caving in to Religious Busybodies of America. You rock Guys.