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.
I've often wondered how birds communicate when some goose or other bird decides that it's time to get off their bird rear ends and fly around for awhile and then land either somewhere else or come back to where they started. How does this all work?
Here is a January shot of the area surrounding the St. George LDS Temple in St. George UT. The view extends to the south end of the city into the rugged bluffs extending beyond. The photo was taken with a telephoto lens on a Canon 7D from the Red Hills Parkway. The Red Hills Parkway is an east-west connector across the tops of the bluff on the north side of St. George extending from Bluff St. on the west to the east side of St. George and into Washington City on the east. Double click for full detail.
My wife had intended to have this puzzle finished by Christmas, but the previous one she worked on was one of the most difficult puzzles she had ever tried to put together. So here are the Twelve Days of Christmas in late January.
Today's task may seem unnecessary. However, television is usually an important part of the leisure-time activities of most people and most households. Whether television programming is decided on democratically, where everyone's choices are considered, or authoritatively, where one person decides everything that will be watched, can be an important consideration in household harmony.
A high school classmate and fellow high school annual co-editor from long ago told me this story a few years ago to illustrate today's task. She told me that at least after her husband died she could have the TV remote and listen to whatever programs she chose. She said that during all of her married years her husband monopolized the TV remote and she was stuck with whatever he decided on. I find it hard to imagine that this situation could have occurred for so many years and that it could have led to so much bitterness, but apparently that was the case.
Actually, my wife and I each have our own remote. When our current television service was installed several years ago, I told the TV installer that he could do a very fine thing for our marriage if he would go out to his truck and bring in an extra remote. After initially protesting that company rules allowed only one remote, he relented, and so we have two remotes. Visitors are often astonished as they catch on to the fact that we have two remotes.
Thus, my wife and I both participate in the TV programming choices. She watches a very few programs that I can't stand, but I only gripe intermittently. She patiently watches TV sports programs and has become more of a sports trivia expert than I am. As a result of our TV programming choice procedures, we have little, if any, friction or hard feelings over what programming is selected. We both agree that most programs aren't worth watching anyway, even on a new large screen HD television set.
So today's task, if it is necessary at all, is simply this: Share the choices on television programming. Willingness to share TV programming is likely to lead to greater peace and harmony in a variety of areas of life with others in a household as greater flexibility in TV choices spreads to other household choices and activities. So share the remote, keep going, and good luck. The Curmudgeonly Professor.
Today's Task Number 28 in our 2015 list of tasks is intended as much for me as it is for any of my readers. After being busy with errands and other activities most of the day, I almost decided that I wouldn't bother to post Task Number 28. First I did the usual breakfast and kitchen cleanup and dumped some baking soda in the dishwasher to get rid of the smell. Then I sorted through a bunch of books and boxed up about three dozen books to donate to Deseret Industries, the main local recycle charity. I decided I could get rid of titles like How I Can Make You Thin, How to Retire Rich, How To Find Financial Security in Your Retirement, and a few other similar books that I had never read and decided that it was too late to bother with any of them anyway. Then we went to Costco, my favorite store, where I walked over 100 miles to buy toilet paper--Costco's biggest selling product according to one recent analysis I read--tissue paper, bananas, a pineapple, sandwich rolls, a case of chicken broth, and a few other odds and ends that totaled something less than $1,000. I consumed a multitude of free samples and carefully avoided cell-phone wielding cart drivers who paid no attention to where they were going.
The checkout lady was clearly under stress because no one was there to help unload the carts or to load them again after running everything through the register. I told her that it looked like they expected her to do double duty, and she replied that she was just plain tired. Well, a checker is a human being and often we take them for granted. So I told her that I sympathized greatly with her and hoped she got safely through the rest of her shift. To which she thanked me and told me that at least my comment made her feel better. And that response made me feel that in a small way I may have helped someone for just a moment.
So tonight we had to watch the Utah Jazz lose to the not-so-well-liked LA Clippers after leading most of the game, and then the Mysteries of Laura. By then it was 11:00 p.m. and the day was waning, about to end. And I thought, what kind of a role model am I if I just throw in the towel today because I thought I was too busy today to write up something for Task Number 28? So I told myself "Don't be a Quitter." And that is the task I send along to those of you following my 2015 Do List: Once you start doing something good that you know you need to do and keep doing, don't be a quitter. Don't quit eating less. Don't quit writing in your daily journal, your food journal, and your daily account of how you spend your time. Don't give up your need to get a doctor's appointment and a medical checkup. Don't quit drinking more water. Don't quit smiling.
Then I told myself that if I quit writing my tasks today, how can I expect any of my readers to keep doing the things I am suggesting that they do to make life better for them? So here I am at 11:05 p.m., with still an hour in the day to go, and I am telling myself and anyone who is following what I write: Just don't be a quitter. Just keep on going. And smile while you keep going. Good luck, the Curmudgeonly Professor.
And just for the fun of it, I decided to add this photo to see if it would provide us all with a bit of inspiration to help us through whatever trials and tribulations we faced today by reminding us about what a beautiful world we live in.
I know this photo is out of season but we need something in January to perk us up a bit and remind us that after the winter doldrums are over, the iris and everything else will bloom again. So it doesn't hurt to have a few reminders, does it?
The original photo above was extremely dark and I guess I thought at the time it wasn't worth saving. But like many photos, a bit of touching up and removing the dark stuff results in an interesting and colorful photo.
When we stop to think about it, we find that we can achieve amazing results by making seemingly minor and somewhat effortless changes in our daily lives. One such change we can make is Task Number 27: Drink water. Perhaps we are already following this path, in which case we are on the right track.
All too often, we find people addicted to diet colas, sugared soft drinks, loaded lattes, beer and other alcoholic beverages, gallons of coffee and anything and everything else that is liquid to drink except water. If you have followed our task list and have started keeping a food (and drink) journal, you have recorded whatever you have been drinking as well as the amounts you have swallowed. Too often, we may think we are escaping the risks of sugared drinks by drinking diet drinks but many recent analyses have shown that diet drinks don't really solve many problems and may, in fact, create some health issues.
For several years I was addicted to Mountain Dew. I loved those green and red cans and kept several six-packs in my office fridge. I would come back from class and have a quick soda. Then one day I went to the hospital with atrial fibrillation and learned that caffeine can trigger A-fib. So on that day I gave up my beloved green and red cans of Mountain Dew and have never had another caffeinated beverage since. Occasionally we open a 2-liter bottle of 7-Up or some other soda at home and drink small amounts when we are thirsty. We drink a little, not much, 1% milk. Other than that, we drink water, night and day.
You may have withdrawal symptoms if you give up a caffeine-loaded regimen of beverages. You may weep crocodile tears if you decide to cut down on your cold and refreshing beverages while watching TV. You may have serious longings when you watch all the happy people downing gallons of beer on the beer commercials. But before you weep and cry too much, consider the benefits of switching mostly to water as your beverage of choice. Add up the calories you are consuming with one or two cans a day and a half dozen to a dozen cans a day. And heaven help us if you are among the happy throng that loads up on 64 ounce guzzle cups at the convenience store on the way to work. Horrors! And then think about how much time and money you are saving--time saved not having to load up on six packs and 2-liter bottles of your favorite beverages, and the money saved from not having to buy them.
Just make sure you are drinking filtered water. If you don't have a reverse osmosis or similar water filtration system in your home, you can get a filter to attach to your water tap. Bottled water is among the most unnecessary expenses imaginable although having bottled water to take on walks and trips is always a good thing to do. And if you have crummy tap water and no other way to drink pure water, bottled water may be your only choice, however pricey. You might consult your health care professional about the benefits of drinking more water. Many ills and misfortunes are caused by dehydration from insufficient consumption of water. Kidney function can potentially become a problem.
Drinking water is one of those little changes that can spin off into other changes that seem to come out of nowhere but that become obvious after we get unhooked from our previous regimen of soda and other beverages. The only cost is what we give up by switching to water. You figure out what those costs are in your own case.
So Task Number 27 is to drink water. Good luck, reach for a glass of water when you are thirsty, and keep going. January is about shot, but we have eleven more months to go, plus the rest of our lives. Can we do it? Are we up for it? I hope I am and I hope you are. The Curmudgeonly Professor.
I graduated from the University of Wyoming in 1953 with a degree in agricultural economics. I later served on the faculty of the economics department from 1965-1974 and was also, for part of this period, director of the Division of Business and Economic Research. Several times, I was summer janitor in Old Main as a student where one of my tasks was to clean the President's office which is on the second floor on the left of this photo.
As January is fading, so are New Year's resolutions and good intentions going the way of the annual disappearance of said good intentions and fond hopes for improvement. The market place for quick diet fixes, fads, miracles, and magic formulas is flourishing once again as gullible and desperate people search for the magic potion or method that will melt the pounds off, restore their beauty and good looks, eliminate their stretch marks, shrink their pants size 3 sizes, lower their blood pressure, find true love, eliminate their embarrassment for hauling around so many extra pounds, and solve all other problems, great and small plaguing their current lives.
Two diet books are in the top ten best selling books on the New York Times best seller list. I bought a lot of these books over my life time and never found one that I could feel gave me reliable advice or advice that would help me keep my weight off permanently. Some missing link always seemed to be there that led me to regain my weight once it was lost.
The only reliable advice is this: Losing weight is a lifetime process. Losing weight requires patience and forbearance. Losing weight requires consistent and persistent application of a few simple rules like eating less. Fads and quick fixes often have negative and some times dangerous side effects. We have seen low-carb, high-carb, low protein, high protein, cabbage soup, and a million other quick fixes. Some elements of truth may be attached to any one of these diets, but none of these diets can be relied on to provide complete and balanced nutrition. Moreover, any artificial eating plan or diet will result in regaining weight once you return to your normal and usual eating patterns. My only solution is to continue eating pretty much what I usually eat, minus high-fat and high sugar stuff, but eat a lot less of it. That way I'm not forcing myself to eat an artificial diet that I know I can't stand to stay on. Consider this point: If any one of these fads or miracle cures or diet books had all the magic answers, every doctor and health clinic in the world would be using it on all of their patients and we would all be thin, happy, and lose our weight forever. Unfortunately, however, most of us stay overweight, discouraged, and feel hopeless that we will ever conquer our weight problem.
Just save your money and skip the fads and magic solutions to weight loss. Just use your heads and watch what you eat and eat less of it, and follow this rule every time you eat something. We know what to do, we are just too thick headed to face up to what we need to do and do it. Good luck, avoid weight loss fads, eat less, keep a food consumption journal, and behave yourself. The Curmudgeonly Professor.
By popular request (at least five people, all relatives) the Curmudgeonly Professor has been persuaded to continue his blossoming career as a television and drama critic. Thus, we now turn to Episode 4 of Season 5. And where to begin? Episode 4 is a bundle of hanging enigmas, a cacaphony of grouchy and unhappy people, a cluster of obvious suspicions and lingering doubts.
So we begin at the beginning. Instead of the white dog wagging its tale, we have the slow and ponderous walk up the entrance to the Castle (Abbey) by one Mr. Barrow who lied his way out of the lower regions by professing to go see his father. In reality, however, Mr. Barrow was obviously plagued with the need to fix something or other in his muddled and troubled life that he obviously hoped, somehow, could be cured by squirting himself with something in a syringe. His nasty lines were limited in this episode and we are not quite sure whether to feel sorry for him about 5% of still hate him 100%.
Lady Rose wonders if daddy can stay at the Abbey. Papa, Lord G., according to one, is sounding more and more unreasonable. Molesley tells Baxter "You're too soft." Branson, Mary, and Lord Save My Abbey wander around in a pasture to consider a land plat for building houses. Later in the episode, we are favored with a reprise where Lord G, who up to this point has lost Lady Cora's fortune on Canadian railroad stock and has shown little interest in pigs, crop rotations, and grain sales, has all of a sudden and miraculously become Lord Entrepreneur as he announces his vision for something or other that can be built and save the Abbey and save the pasture. Whatever.
Well, Violet and Isobel trundle off to the soup kitchen to check on the Russian Princes, who in Episode 3, appeared at the Downton Abbey tea party, and one of whom apparently once upon a time owned acres of Russian sod and was swathed in diamonds, and who, we learn, even asked Violet to run away with him. Lady Rose is there ladling out the soup to the unfortunate denizens. Problem is, a princess is missing and the Dowager feels honor bound to find her. Lady Violet is quite mum in verbal assaults on Lady Mary in this episode for Lady M's possible lapses in romantic judgement.
Now to Mr. Molesley. Molesly lusted after the high title of First Footman. But now that he is First Footman, Second Footman, Third Footman, and Fourth Footman, all rolled into one, he realizes that his hopes and dreams have come crashing down since he has five times the work load that he had before. And everyone, to their sadistic delight, keeps lumping more duties and chores on his once temporarily blue-topped head, by reminding him that he is, in fact, indubitably, the First Footman. So get to hopping.
Now enter Daisy. Daisy is being tutored by Miss Bunting and apparently has moved beyond addition, subtraction, and long division to studying about revolutions. Revolutions! Horrors! "Put your books away," admonishes the otherwise kind Mrs. Patmore, "Are you studying to be a revolutionary?" or words close to those. We all know that those in the lower kingdoms of the Abbey have no need for any knowledge other than how to cook rabbits and partridges plucked from pear trees, and that a little learning will just inflate their heads. So, just to prove that Daisy knows what's what and that everything is legit, Mrs. Patmore and Daisy are summoned to stand before the court of Higher Mucky Mucks and Lords and Ladies at the dinner table to account for the book learning. Wait, there's more. Mrs. Patmore has a relative whose name is being kept off the local memorial because of some alleged cowardice or something. Daisy can now write letters so she has volunteered to write in behalf of Mrs. Patmore and stir Abbey lore up a bit to see if she can get the name approved and all past stuff forgiven.
Now to the flirting, romantic intrigues, and class warfare of 1924. Lord Merton shows up with a romantic proposal to Mrs. Crawley who obviously has no intention of marrying, having already thrown cold water on one proposal. Mr. Bricker, the art critic, shows up and renews his flirtatious flirts with Lady Cora, who sweetly and simperingly seems to enjoy taunting His Excellence, the Lord G. Lady Mary found that one night in the sack was not sufficient proof that Lord G. was the man to spend the rest of her life with so she has Anna do the dirty work by sending a message with her to Lord G's digs. This extra round was necessary because Lord G. was not ready to accept Lady M's announcement that he was past history despite his sad plaint about whether he wasn't a good lover. Well, Lord G. wasn't the only one who ran into problems spending a night with Lady M. And in a delightful exhibition of Lady M's best snooty and imperious behavior, Mr. Blake introduces Mabel Lane Fox to Lady M as the last person to dump Lord G. No one is sure whether Branson belongs with the lower kingdoms, whence he originated, or the higher kingdom, where he was adopted by marrying Sybil.
Now to the dramatic highlight of the evening. Things are going along at their normal picky, picky, snipy, grouchy pace when the firecracker of the evening was lit. Watch, boys and girls, Miss Bunting is at the dinner table! What will she do? Well, she will start by telling Lord G that he doesn't know Daisy's name! Slander! Plus a few other well chosen incendiary comments from Miss B., all of which throw Lord G into a fit of righteous rage, enough so that he gets up, blasts away, and leaves the dinner table. Things quiet down a bit while the rest of them continue their dinner.
Now just a few loose ends. Lord G counsels Lady Edith about her lover who may or may not be arrested somewhere in Germany for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, while Violet counsels her about letting Marigold go. Lady E can't do so and wanders down to the farm house once more to ask to see Marigold and has the door closed in her face. Meanwhile, at the Abbey, we get the obligatory 20 second appearance of the two children, Sybbie and George. The Mr. Green thing is fraught with new peril as Anna is seen looking down in the water at the spot where Mr. Green met his demise after she delivered the heave-ho note to Lord Pain in the Neck Gillingham.
So here we are left with two episodes. Will the Mr. Green thing be cleared up or left for next season or the season after? Is Bates innocent? Is Anna innocent? Now the policeman shows up once more since Anna was spotted at Lord G's. Will Barrow ever get back to work? Will the Abbey be saved? Or will it turn into a bed and breakfast with Lord G and Lady C leading tours with Mr. Bricker retained as the art critic? And we have left out Shrimpie. You have to watch it to learn about Shrimpie since we have run out of space and patience to deal with any more conundrums and enigmas. Good luck fellow Downton Abbeyites. May we have the patience to bear up under two more episodes just to see how much stuff is going to be left hanging over until next year. The Curmudgeonly Professor has learned that it is a lot harder to be a drama and TV critic than he originally thought.
For people who are used to talking and commanding the center of attention, one of the most difficult traits to learn is that of listening. So today's task Number 25 is straightforward: Listen. Just keep still for a moment and listen. Maybe you aren't the only one with something useful and important to say. And perhaps someone else may have something more important and more insightful than anything you can come up with if you will just give others a chance by listening carefully to what they have to say without butting into their conversation.
I wish I had listened to my wife more often during our long marriage. I made several mistakes and created several problems in our business activities in the days when we had several dozen apartments we were renting and when we were operating two book and gift stores. Had I listened to my wife, I could have avoided placing our assets in jeapordy and I could have saved both my wife and me considerable grief and misery as we struggled to bail ourselves out of the problems I created by not paying attention to her.
Teenagers, of course, often may think that we won't listen to them and some times we don't. We may on occasion prejudge what we think and possibly know they are going to tell us because they tend to sing the same song and the same verse over and over while they are balancing on the precipice of maturity and trying their wings. We had four teenagers at the same time, so we pretty much learned the challenges that four energetic and ambitious young people could provide in our daily existence. In retrospect, we as their parents likely could have and should have been better listeners. Which is not to overlook the wish that some times things would have been smoother if our teenagers would have taken a moment to listen more carefully to us. Just possibly, could it have happened, our kids might then have paid a little more attention to their parents on occasion if we had listened more carefully and then life on occasion could have been a bit smoother for all of us. Of course, the ultimate lesson comes when our children have their own teenagers and life recycles right before their eyes.
In every day conversations we need to ask ourselves if we are giving others a chance to voice their opinions and express their thoughts, or if we are too busy expounding on our own vast and unlimited sure-fire knowledge to hear what they have to say. At work we may be too busy or we may give short shrift to the ideas that others may offer about how our work is progressing and changes we may need to make to create a better work atmosphere and a safer place to work. Part of listening skills is the skill of being able to admit that we may be wrong on some given point.
Once we begin to listen more carefully, more often, and more courteously, we are likely to be amazed at what we hear. We may gain new respect and admiration for the abilities of others. We may gain insights into the worries and difficulties of others so that we can lend a hand, help allay the dark clouds from someone's life and provide some cheer and comfort. We may gain the confidence of others who may now feel comfortable in talking to us whereas previously they may have felt we really didn't want to give them the time of day or pay attention to what was on their minds. We may learn some new things of value that we didn't know before if we can stop a moment and realize that we didn't know everything there was to know to begin with. And listening to others may very well prompt us on occasion to make some of the changes we need to make to improve our own lives.
So today's task is to listen. If you are not tuned into being a listener, work at it a bit. You might be amazed at what you hear around you and what you might learn by being a bit more quiet on occasion while giving others more of a chance to speak. Your kindness and consideration to others is quickly sensed and will pay dividends for the rest of your life. Good luck in listening more, and keep going. The Curmudgeonly Professor.
Today's task is a simple one and an easy one. You don't have to plan to take extra time to do it and the benefits will cheer both you and the person who hears you. Today's task is this: Show Gratitude. Say thank you. Say thank you to your spouse for fixing your breakfast or your lunch or for taking care of some chore he or she was struggling to take care of. Say thank you to your children. Say thank you to the grocery checker, to the grocery bagger, to the deli clerk or butcher who helps you. Say thank you to the dental assistant as well as the dentist. Say thank you to the cleaning lady at home or the hospital. Say thank you to your doctor, to the tech administering your medical test. Say thank you to the UPS or FedEx guy who delivers your stuff from Amazon. Say thank you to your postal carrier. Say thank you to your paper deliverer. Say thank you to your repair people who fix all of your broken stuff that quit working. This task isn't too complicated, is it? In general, just say thank you, and mean it, to virtually every one who crosses your path and does something for you or who helps you in any way. If in doubt, tell them thank you anyway.
I noticed the title of the book my wife has been reading: The Lost Art of Gratitude by Alexander McCall Smith. Then I thought, have we lost, all too often, the social grace and good manners of telling everyone who does something for us, great or small, thank you? We may thank our dentist for doing a major extraction, but do we thank the dental assistant whose skills aided the dentist in his procedures? We may overlook the teenage boys and girls who sack the groceries, but that is their job and they need to make sure they know where to put the eggs and the perishable stuff, and they need a word of encouragement as well. A few more thank yous strewn liberally among our family members may go miles in making everyone feel appreciated and that we care about what they have done and are doing for us on a daily and continuous basis.
What we are trying to accomplish with these 365 (I hope) Do List topics is to help us focus on others, to lighten the load in our lives and in the lives of others, and to improve our dispositions and outlook on life so that we can accomplish whatever goals we have decided are important for us to achieve. As we broaden our awareness beyond our own selfish perspectives and become more kind, more aware, of what we owe to others and also show our kindness by simple acts like saying "thank you" liberally and often, we are breaking down our own some times brittle exterior and opening the way for us to chart a new and uplifting course in our lives. Good luck, and keep going. The Curmudgeonly Professor
(remember, you can find earlier posts in this series under the Category list on the right of this blog listed under "The Curmudgeonly Professor's Do List." You might want to review them periodically if you haven't recorded the list somewhere else as we go along in our daily search for new tasks to accomplish.
Today's task was generously provided by Lisa J. Bjornstad, a professional counselor. With thanks and appreciation, here is Task Number 23:
Abandon Your Resentments
Resentments, also known familiarly as grudges, have never done anybody any good. Get rid of yours. The person you resent probably doesn’t even know you hold anything against him anyway. Here’s an example: You are walking down the street. Across the street, walking in the opposite direction as you are, is someone you met not long ago but have not seen since. You call out a greeting to him, but get no response. Your immediate thought is, “Wow. What a jerk. He can’t even bother to acknowledge me. He must think he’s pretty hot stuff.” You start fuming. You assume all kinds of negative things about him. The more you dwell on his offense, the angrier you get. Weeks pass, and you can’t get his slight of you out of your mind. Every time you think about him, you get mad all over again. You start telling people about the situation and make sure everybody knows what a stuck-up loser he is.
Guess what. When you called out that greeting to him those many weeks ago, he didn’t even hear you. He was preoccupied; he was listening to music via earbuds; you were too far away and your voice didn’t carry—there are any number of reasons why he didn’t respond. Furthermore, he has no idea that you are angry and carry a resentment against him. He’s oblivious.
Your resentment is not affecting him one bit—but it is affecting you. Carrying resentments around with you throughout your life is akin to drinking poison and hoping the other person dies.
The human brain is capable of thinking only one thought at a time. That may not seem true, because thoughts go through our minds in split seconds. But it is true, and if you are allowing resentments to take up a whole bunch of time in your brain, what worthy, positive, and productive thoughts are you cheating yourself out of?
I read somewhere that flowers will cure the January blahs. Or any other blahs for that matter. So here are a couple of pink carnations for your January cure today.
In the Curmudgeonly Professor's 2015 Do List, we have assigned the task of planting a flower. Since that task was assigned, I brought home a red and white azalea which lasted a month and a bouquet of pink carnations. Then I ordered an amaryllis and a paper white which should be here any day now. Plus I am printing and hanging up on the walls a new batch of flower photos. We might as well be immersed in flowers from every possible source in every possible form. Here is the picture that I just hung in my den today replacing a very drab and humdrum photo of a bee in a cactus blossom that has bored me for 10 years:
See, now isn't this picture a whole lot more inspiring and enlightening than a ten year old picture of a single bee? Now I'll continue and plaster our walls with a whole new array of flower photos to help us get through the challenges we face each day. I hope you will think of as many things that you might do to bring flowers in any form into your daily life--photos, bulbs, plans for spring gardens, whatever.