A collection of distilled sarcastic wisdom, numerous photographs, discussions of books and stuff to learn and more stuff to think about from a retired economics professor turned blogger and photographer.
Every where you go in St. George these past few days, you see flowering trees with both pink and white blossoms. These blossoms never last very long so I must try and get as many photos of them as I can, which I do each year. If you are still cold and snowy, look forward to your own springtime.
Those familiar with LDS temples will note, if they did not already know, that the St. George LDS temple, one of the oldest ones in existence, has a weather vane at the top of its spire and not an image of the Angel Moroni.
I can thank my sister Ann for today's task. We were talking on the phone yesterday about the occasional trials and tribulations of retired people learning to get along after retirement when some couples for the first time have to spend a lot of time with their spouses. Some couples learn to get along, some have a few difficulties. Ann commented that couples who successfully put the past behind them and learn to appreciate and love their spouses "grow into" the relationship. I thought that description was aptly put.
We rarely make any sudden or dramatic change immediately and successfully. Instead, we proceed by trial and, we hope, minimal errors as we "grow into" what we are trying to accomplish. We may have a vision of a happy and loving relationship, but we must be prepared to work at it, to sacrifice selfish expectations, and smooth over a few rough spots before we land on smoother and happier ground.
The same principle applies to each of the tasks on my 2015 Do List. We may have a vision of a thinner me, of a healthier me, but until we are prepared to slow down and grow into a thinner and healthier person, we are likely to be disappointed and possibly just give up and stop trying. Growing takes effort. Growing takes patience. Growing may involve watching glitches and failures occur that take the props out from under us. But as long as we are prepared to keep going, to keep taking the right steps, we can grow into a thinner, healthier person. We may not want or like to do some of the things we have to do to get to our destination. We may not be convinced that we need to make certain changes, and we may be skeptical that such changes may work for us even if we try them. So we need to stop being a doubter and try with all of our ability to grow into what we want to be.
You can't grow a seed or a flower or a crop, after all, without watering it, tending it, nurturing it, and paying attention to how it is growing. Similarly, you cannot expect to "grow into" a thinner person without spending considerable time and effort not only eating less, but eating smarter. You cannot expect to lower your cardiac or kidney risks just by thinking momentarily about them and then going merrily and blindly on your way. You have to pay attention to what your doctor tells you, to what common sense tells you, and what you already know is the right thing to do even though you may have pushed such thoughts to the back of your muddled brain and ignored them until it is too late.
So thank you Ann for reminding us that we need to grow into who and what we want to be. The same advice applies not only to relationships but to any expectation or vision of what we want ourselves to become. Bit by bit, small change by small change, small changes and small seeds grow, and with growth comes self confidence, and with self confidence we figure out a lot of other things, and the first thing you know, we are starting on the road that want to travel on. And if you keep growing, you will reach your goal and your destination. Good luck, keep growing, and keep trying. The Curmudgeonly Professor.
Even though you may feel that you need some encouragement yourself to keep going, find someone else to encourage and then give them a verbal and cheerful boost. We all need encouragement from time to time. We start a project and we get discouraged. Discouragement, obviously, is the opposite side of encouragement. When we are discouraged, we may give up, cuss, make excuses, blame some one else, quit, take our sour disposition out on some poor unsuspecting soul who doesn't deserve what we say to them. We get discouraged in our jobs and feel that we are going nowhere. We get discouraged financially when we can't make ends meet. We get discouraged in our personal relationships when we can't figure out how to get along with someone and give up trying. We quit trying to make positive changes in our lives because we figure, "What's the use?"
Some times just a cheerful word, a smile, a reassurance that "you can do it" will lift someone from the depths to a renewed effort to overcome some hurdle, to get out of the dumps. I once met a young girl with a wide dust mop sweeping the floors of a large grocery store who looked like she was at the end of her world. After I met her the second or third time, I stopped for a minute and told her "That's how I got through college, pushing dust mops." "Really?" she said, as she brightened up a bit. "Yes," I said, "I did janitor work for five years and paid my way through college." Then she said something like, "Well maybe doing this work isn't so bad after all. I want to go to college, too."
Discouragement was my big enemy for students during my long years of teaching thousands of students in college. "I just can't get it," they would say. Or I would hear, "I don't know what I will do if I can't pass this course. I'm so discouraged." I spent many a moment in the office, in the hallways, after class, trying to put a happier and more optimistic face onto glum and worried countenances of struggling students. Some times I succeeded, some times I did not. Some gave up anyway and dropped the course, knowing full well they would just have to repeat it next year or next semester. Some students blamed me for their dilemma; the more responsible and insightful students accepted their own responsibility for their lack of performance and continued to try their best.
Words of encouragement can mean the difference between despair and optimism. Or, when appropriate, a hug, or a helping hand can lead someone out of their depths. One of the difficulties I faced as a long-time college teacher was getting students to tell me what was causing their learning problem and feelings of discouragement. Some did not want to face up to dyslexia, some had vision problems, some had various health problems that impeded their learning process. Encouragement is a process that may require patience on everyone's part, but with patience and continued encouragement we may be pleasantly surprised at the results that occur.
Task Number 56: Encourage someone today. Then provide a word of encouragement whenever and wherever you can see that you might give someone a boost. Good luck, and keep going, The Curmudgeonly Professor.
The Curmudgeonly Professor has been found woefully inadequate and incompetent to be a professional drama and television critic during his efforts to provide authoritative reviews of the 2015 episodes of Downton Abbey. For one thing, he can never quite figure out what is going on. The adventures and complications in each episode flit here and there, a moment here and a moment there, and we are supposed to remain totally entranced with the wonders of British aristocratic life in the 1920s when we have little idea of what is happening.
The first difficulty is that we have to keep the cast of characters straight when the characters themselves almost sound like the cast of Pirates of Penzance. Now in episode 8 we have no less than a Marchioness. What is a Marchioness?
I think we'll start at the end of episode 8 rather than at the beginning. The trailing of the cast of characters from the wedding festivities of Rose and Atticus back to the dreary confines of the Downton Castle, I mean Abbey, put me in mind of singing "There's a long, long trail a-winding into the land of my dreams," and so forth. We were privileged to listen in on a plethora of little tidbits and secrets between and among the walkers who, apparently, did not merit door-to-door transportation either by horse or by motorcar. Everyone seemed to be there in pairs or triplicates except poor Anna who found herself hauled off to the hoosegow. Pin a rose on Mr. Fellowes for keeping the puzzle of Mr. Green's demise boiling up until the very last minute which, presumably, may be clarified by the end of the two hour finale next Sunday.
Meanwhile, to note some of the more dramatic highlights of episode 8, here are a few. Lord Grantham, who may not be much of an agricultural economist and who keeps worrying about how to rebuild cottages to keep the aristocracy afloat apparently is more competent at genetics as he notes, as I have suggested previously, that little Marigold looks, what do you know, like her daddy, Gregson. Now that an increasing number of Downtonite denizens know Lady E's secret, it's only a matter of a few minutes before the information will be no longer hush-hush. Daisy keeps pining away for the museums and art galleries of London but Mrs. Patmore knows how to dump a boatload of guilt on the poor little aspiring kitchen helper so that Daisy postpones, at least for now, wandering off to exult in the open air beyond the lower reaches of the Downton kitchen. Lady M consults her surrogate daddy, Carson, who seems to know more about exactly how much Lord G was worth in comparison with the worth of Lady G, not half as much, or less than 50 %, Mr. Carson assures the lovelorn Lady M who thus far has been totally unlucky in tragic and ill-chosen romances.
Now back to the beginning for some of the useless trivia that filled up the loose holes in the hour. Barrow and Mosely fuss over being short a footman when company is coming so, miraculously, a former hall boy or some such shows up who becomes fodder for Denker to take off to a gambling club where she plays her nefarious game of getting free drinks for everyone without paying for them. Seriously, didn't Violet do a character check on Google for Denker? Tom, who has been elevated from lowly chauffeur to a full member of the Downton aristocracy from his marriage to Sybil, and who waved by by to the obnoxious Miss Bunting in a real tear jerking sequence because he loved the aristocratic life in the Abbey more, and (long sentence, I know, don't complain) discovers that someone is expanding into farm machinery in Massachusetts USA, so he apparently is all but off for the colonies.
Violet keeps up another rendezvous with the creepy Prince K who presses the aging Lady Violet to spend the rest of her days with him despite the fact he has a real live princess somebody or other who may or may not be off in Hong Kong and who Shrimpie, who is supposed to be a great detective, has been awfully slow at doing any real detecting that amounts to anything. One wonders what Lady V was thinking in her earlier years or maybe Prince K whats his name was more attractive in his younger years than he is now as a patron of the soup kitchen, which I am not demeaning, just noting. Some large vocabulary thrown around about here about warning someone or other not to proclaim their intransigence. Intransigence! Look it up and see what it means. Could be a zinger here.
By studying the pet tombstone brochure which apparently was critical for paying homage to the late dog Isis, whose claim to fame was waddling up the path to the Abbey before each episode, Lord G uses his imagination to come up with a plaque mounted to the wall near the WW I memorial to honor Mrs. Patmore's nephew who apparently was of questionable valor. But everyone else dons uniforms and war medals to gather round the new War Memorial. Not to be catty, but not everyone looked splendid and a few could have used perhaps a larger size of uniform.
Now it's time for everyone to toddle off to London. Lady Rose implores, mummy, daddy, behave, act like a happy couple. We are ready for the peak social event here with the appearance of Mr. and Mrs. Shrimpie aka the Marchioness and husband and Lord and Lady Sinderby the parents of Atticus, the betrothed of Lady Rose. Not to be outdone by the nasty uproars at previous Downton dinner parties, we are in for another treat here with a full blast at divorce and a dose of anti-Semitism at the dinner party. Apparently the main family concern here is that the future heir produced by Lady R and Atticus will not be Jewish and that will cause a whole batch of unresolvable problems.
But wait. We're not through yet. Atticus has a bachelor party and a floozy shows up at his hotel room after the party, moves her dress a bit down her shoulders, and then departs, allowing enough time for scandalous photos to be taken to try and derail the Lady R-Atticus nuptials. The Marchioness, I think, turns out to be the culprit. Everything gets smoothed over and apparently the nuptial ceremony, which we are not privileged to witness, must have taken place. A critical point takes place when someone opines for some irrelevant reason "Shrimpie knows India and you don't." Whatever.
So after some unparalleled nastiness between the Marchioness and Shrimpie (what is his title, the Marchion?) we're down to deciding what to do with the cottages. I know! Sell the painting Mr. Bricker was so hot on the trail for! That will finance the cottages! Or will it? Did Bricker know something the rest of us Downton sycophants didn't know when he confessed his true devotion to Lady Cora? Was it a ruse to recover the painting? Tell us, Mr. Fellowes. Please don't string us out until next year to find out, for heaven's sake.
Now for dramatic highlights. Denker shows up crocked. Mrs. Patmore sheds crocodile tears over Daisy leaving the lower regions of Downton. In the most wonderful narrative of all 8 episodes, Lady Mary informs Scotland Yard detective Vyner that "I am Lady Mary," to which Vyner tells her, "I don't care if you are Queen of the Nile!" Imagine! Downtonites are not used to being put in their place.
At the end, we can award a few awards. Award for the most quiet, most seldom seen, children: Sybbie, George, and now Marigold. About 30 seconds per episode with no evidence of Lords and Ladies ever changing a nappie. Award for the most sad and pathetic demeanor: Anna, who bears all of the burdens of herself and Bates but also must hide Lady M's personal doodads and marriage book; most sweetly saccharine, Lady Cora, who smiles sweetly through every crisis but gets irked if she is left out of a big, big secret; best scene in a pigpen, Lady M.; most egregious change of hairdo, Lady M whose so-called bob didn't work as well as we might have thought; most sour disposition, Lady E, who has been tossed and turned by the winds and waves but now has a publishing company of her own and has relegated Mrs. Drewe at the pig farm to her rightful place; Most unlucky in love, Lady M., hands down; worst financial manager and investor, Lord G, who wouldn't have been a Lord in the first place living like a king if it had not been for Lady C's fortune which he toodled away on Canadian railroad stock only to have his late son-in-law Matthew, so ingloriously done away with in a gruesome finale, pony up his wealth to keep the aristocracy in starched shirts and butlers and ladies' maids for just a little while longer while they figure out how to sell the painting to rebuild the cottages.
We may have a few more awards to pass out after the finale on Sunday. Can I really stand two hours of twiddling back and forth and over and under and in and out of this and that while trying to keep track of what in blazes is actually going on? And if Fellowes leaves us dangling with Anna still in the Hoosegow until next January, we are in serious, serious trouble. I hope you know more about what is going on in Downton Abbey than I do and that you have a more accurate and objective picture of what transpired than I have portrayed here. The whole project has just plain worn me out. The Curmudgeonly Professor.
How my wife manages to persevere and have the patience to put these 1000 piece puzzles together, I don't know. At least it gives her some diversion and some variation in the day's activities. She uses her patented pie pan method where she uses a half dozen aluminum pie pans to sort different colors. She usually says something like "I don't know if I can do this one" at the start of a puzzle, but then the next thing I know, she is half through. She never gives up. And then she fits the last piece and then hates to take the puzzle apart. So I take a photo or two of it so she can remember what she spent a few dozen hours on and then she is off to the next one. Which I made sure I had available for her, so we'll see how this next one turns out. I think it is a seasonal spring scene.
I really do not feel like writing anything today on my 2015 Do List. I would just as soon be doing nothing or taking a nap. I'm not sure anyone really cares whether I add Task Number 55 to the previous 54 tasks on the way to 365 total tasks for the year if we ever make it to December 31 2015. I realize, however, that I have made a commitment to myself and my viewers that I would come up with one task a day for 365 days and so I know that I must keep my commitment today whether I feel like writing anything or not. Otherwise, my viewers would just say, "See, I told you so. I knew the Curmudgeonly Professor was a big fake, just like the Wizard of Oz. I knew he couldn't come up with 55 tasks, let alone 365. What a loser."
Keeping a commitment means that we can be depended upon. Keeping a commitment means that we think enough of ourselves and of the person or persons to whom we made a commitment to follow through and complete whatever we agreed or committed to do. Keeping a commitment means we will not let the horse founder in the middle of the stream and not care whether it can reach the other side. Keeping a commitment means that if we say we are going to do a task, a duty, a chore, an errand, that we will be honest and trustworthy so that no one will have to worry or be concerned about whether we will actually do something or not.
We make many commitments in our lifetime. We make certain vows and commitments when we get married. We make commitments when we sign a contract or a lease that we will honor the terms of the contract or the lease. We make commitments, large and small, in our everyday activities in the work that we do, in the jobs that we have said that we would take care of. We make a commitment to ourselves when we sign a mental contract to lose weight, to mend fences, to overcome grudges, to help someone in need.
Fulfilling commitments can be difficult some times when we face a difficult task or when we hit a roadblock that makes us stumble and wonder how we can ever finish what we set out to do. Surely we earn some points for persevering, even though we fail or make a mistake in what we know we must do. Those who persevere and continue to try are are found in a far different arena than in the arena populated by the giver-uppers, the quitters, the forgetters, the lazy and undisciplined. Those who do not give up, who make every effort to honor their commitment, will still come through in the end and receive recognition for their efforts. Those who quit may be lost temporarily or for a long time, depending on how soon they change their outlook and commit to the importance of being dependable and trustworthy.
Task Number 55: Keep your commitments. Good luck, keep trying, and keep going. The Curmudgeonly Professor.
We were not happy at all this morning, in fact we were royally peeved, when we opened the blinds and found that snow had fallen during the early morning hours. We hope that the snow and the temperature drop didn't ruin the trees that were nearly in full bloom before the snow fell. We'll see in a day or so what happened.
When we live in a place and see the same environment every day as we drive the streets and move around the town, we pretty much just take the scenery for granted and ignore it. One of the great advantages of photography is that photography forces us to appreciate the details of our environment in a way that passive quick glances can never appeal to us.
Welcome to the Curmudgeonly Professor's 2015 Do List. Five seconds ago I had no idea what I was going to write about today when I clicked on compose and started my blog entry for today. Then something came to me: Let your conscience be your guide.
Then I thought, our conscience is really kind of miraculous. Our conscience goes with us wherever we go, it is present for every decision we make, our conscience haunts us when we turn left when we know perfectly well we should have turned right. Our conscience burns holes in our feelings when we knowingly blunder and submit to temptation but our conscience leaves us shining brightly when we obey the prompts of what I call the Conscience Fairy. We have a conscience fairy, haven't we? After all, we have a tooth fairy, and who is to say the tooth fairy is not real?
Our conscience fairy accompanies us to McDonald's when we are in the drive-up order line and we are debating between ordering the super-size fries, the medium fries, or no fries at all. Our conscience fairy rides with us in our grocery cart around the store as we go by the cream filled doughnuts, the ice cream on special for $2.88 a carton, the double-stuff Oreos, and the basket of fried chicken at the deli counter. We can't escape our conscience fairy when we are ready to scoop more food on our plates or go back for seconds or take an extra ladle of gravy. Our conscience fairy could also be renamed the "I know I should fairy" since we are smart enough to know 99% of the stuff we know we are supposed to do but we leave the conscience fairy off at the broccoli and cauliflower counter and tell it to get lost so we won't have to be annoyed by the nasty little nuisance during the rest of our trips up and down the grocery aisles.
The conscience fairy tells us "I know I should" when we sit for two hours straight at the office desk and we know we should get up and move around. Then again, our conscience fairy waves a red flag and yells in our ear "I know I shouldn't" when we grab an extra 32 ounce caffeinated, sugar-laden soft drink. The conscience fairy isn't dumb: the conscience fairy can tell immediately whether it will applaud you for doing the right thing, for making the right choice, or chastise you for doing something you know perfectly well you are stupid to do.
The conscience fairy is your best friend. If you nurture your conscience, scrub it clean, and start down a new and life-changing track, your conscience will applaud you every step of the way and will erase those nagging feelings of disappointment from any mistakes you have made. A clear conscience, one free of worrisome guilt or despair from continual bad choices, is one of the most wonderful gifts and friends we can have.
Task Number 54, therefore, is to make your conscience be your best friend. No friend is more transparent or sad than a guilty conscience. You can even tell when your pet dog has done something it is ashamed of. Don't let the pain of a guilty conscience cloud your own cheerful disposition. Good luck, and keep going. The Curmudgeonly Professor.
When we learned that Brian Williams had embellished his war reporting experiences our reaction was to think, "Oh no, not you Brian, we really quite liked you." The sad truth is that all too often embellishment and prevarication, lying, or whatever you want to call it, is more abundantly practiced and all too often tolerated in today's everyday events than we are prepared to admit. The Williams case could be a helpful case if it could serve as a beacon and a guidepost for cleaning up other non-truths told on a continuing and monumental scale to gain political advantage, to sell products, to make deals, and if it could be used as a standard to clean up the acts of news anchors and reporters of all stripes and persuasions.
I remember when I ordered a hamburger at a fast food establishment after seeing a delectable six inch burger piled high with meat, tomatoes, and lettuce, and being served up with a flat little pancake with a minuscule beef patty and an anemic and microscopic slice of tomato. That was the last time I ever believed a fast food ad and I have wondered all these years why we let advertisers get by with deception. I bought a box of ginger snaps a month or so ago. The box showed big, round ginger snaps, but when I opened the box the box contained little bitty teeny tiny ginger snaps. Consumers have to stay constantly on their toes to keep from being deceived.
Deception gets really serious when we have noted scientific researchers fudging test results for research financed by big corporations; when we have schools cheating on student test results; when we have news anchors repeatedly spouting the same false baloney to adoring audiences who believe every word they say, when we have politicians on the floors of the U.S. Congress and in the chambers of state legislatures and city governments baldly making claims that have no foundation in fact or truth.
I feel sad for Brian Williams. I liked him. But I feel even more sad for the lines of fabrication we are fed from so many sources on a daily basis. We regret and complain about regulation and controls. Yet, even with the levels of regulation that we now have, enough imaginary shenanigans sneak under the circus tent to taint what we are supposed to believe only to find out, all too often, we have been fed a line and bought a product or made a decision based on utter falsehood.
I taught university classes for 45 years in four different universities. Some of the saddest cases in all those years were the cheating cases, the cases of fabricated resumes, contaminated research results, and other issues either just skirting honesty on the fringes or dumped right in the middle of outright deception. Academia cannot prevail as an institution of integrity without ironclad standards of honesty and integrity. The same standards need to be applied to politicians, newscasters, advertisers, business managers, workers, consumers, and, in short, to all of us. We need to be able to rely on information as reliable and factual without having to double check it or hire a research firm to see how many lies or distortions someone has fed us. I haven't written a polemic for a long time, but I couldn't resist sounding off on this one. I am sure my words won't make a dent anywhere, but I feel better for writing them.