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.
There just isn't much to watch on TV this time of year. We are too early for Downton Abbey, and series we liked are off the air such as Doc Martin, Bally Kissangel,The Paradise, Mr. Selfridge, and assorted others. The Utah Jazz keep losing and, though they have some brilliant and talented young players, noone seems to know how to put them together and get them to more than a tiny number of wins, so watching the Jazz is problematic. We are through watching Matlock reruns, having wasted years and years of productive time watching Matlock episodes with a corpse popping up in the first five minutes and 55 minutes minus 20 minutes of ads to nail the culprit and for Matlock to collect his $200,000 fee. That leaves Hallmark romances. I do have to say that the Hallmark episodes are clean and safe for your four year old to watch. To help you navigate a generic Hallmark romance, here are a few clues:
First you will meet a gorgeous young female. She may be single and escaping a rotten and failed romance, widowed with one, two, or three adorable children, divorced from a scumbag, or simply a victim of a series of failed relationships. Likely, she will have a dog. No cats yet.
The gorgeous young thing has left a promising high-powered career on the 33d floor of a swank office building in LA or New York to attempt to rebuild her life and get away from the demons in her life.
The gorgeous young thing will bump into a handsome, half-shaved hunk of man. Or she will stumble and drop her groceries on the sidewalk after she and the half-shaved male have rudely bumped into each other.
Said male will also be divorced, widowed, ticked off at fickle female who dumped him, and otherwise seeking to find himself.
Gorgeous young thing and semi-shaved male will glare at each other and instantly hate each other.
Visions of acrimony in above observation are fake. You will know instantly that gorgeous young female and half-shaved male will find true love.
After enduring 20 minutes, at least, of ads and watching for another hour and 55 minutes, gorgeous young female and handsome dude will find true love after all, will embrace chastely while assorted kids cheer and the program will close to miniscule credits too small to read.
This year we have had a lot of Christmas tree lot sagas. Or there may be a music competition, a cooking competition, a dysfunctional family or two. We need a small home town to find refuge for the troubled predictable lovers.
Soon Hallmark Christmas sagas will disappear for another year and there will be absolutely nothing to watch on TV until the 3,233 epic college football bowl games begin their tedious assault on monopolizing the TV schedule.
Happy Hallmark watching. At least suspense in the outcome of the Hallmark sagas is lacking although we may have to exterminate a few villains,some despicable past boy friends and girl friends, end up in the hospital with a broken toe, or something else to kill time during the two hour saga until we come to the final clinch and go off into the rapturous sunset.
I call my Rosemary bush by my front door, appropriately, Rosemary. Honest, Rosemary has enough little green twigs to season anything you could want to season with rosemary for another fifty years. When we arrived in St. George, Rosemary was covered with pretty blue winter blossoms. Now, she is resting under the snow and ice.
The Curmudgeonly Professor has written lucidly and extensively about the trials, tribulations, and sloppy handling of details by the phone company, the tv company, and the venerable but sloppy US Postal Service every six months when we migrate back and forth between St. George UT and Salt Lake City UT. So far, we have had to have the TV repair man come out three times to get our TV back to where it was six months ago. Working, that is. The US Post Office made its share of mistakes in not recording correctly the forwarding instructions. The phone company, after assuring us that all was well, neglected to set up our Salt Lake phone with a forwarding number, neglected to set up our St. George phone with calls forwarded to our answering machine, and sent a modem for the internet after they had already acknowledged that I had an internet modem to begin with.
What is so aggravating is the outsourcing. To change newspaper service in Salt Lake City, you are routed through Honduras or some similar place. The phone company can land you in the Phillipines. Automated phone answering means you listen to inane hot air about how they really are anxious as all heck to talk to us and if we will just wait patiently for the next available person anywhere from Timbuctoo to Anchorage AK for the next hour and a half, and then listen to ten or twelve options, and then punch in our number a couple more times, and then avoid using bad language about genealogy and such, we might be favored with talking to a real, honest to goodness person. And then, after being assured that all is well, we wait a day or so, and all isn't well. In fact, all is just as bad as it was before. Half the time I can't understand what the outsource persons with foreign accents are saying. I don't blame them. I blame the companies for going on the cheap to provide inferior service and generate an endless flow of consumer headaches and mistakes. If you write a letter in St. George to your next door neighbor, it goes first to Salt Lake City to be sorted and then comes back to St. George.
Meanwhile, to put The Curmudgeonly Professor in an even more curmudgeonly demeanor, the Utah Jazz keep losing, BYU men lose to UMass. But oh happy day, Ohio State gets busted from the unbeatens by the lovely Spartans. I learned not to like Ohio State when I was a student at Michigan. I still don't like them. Once in awhile I see someone with an Ohio State baseball cap or such at the grocery store and we embark on a discussion. Turns out Ohio State can't stand Michigan either. But Michigan is definitely better, even if they lose games and such. Then the BYU women's basketball team is still unbeaten, my esteemed grandson serving as an assistant coach for this wondrous team.
At least the sun is shining today. My wonderful neighbor shoveled our walk and driveway. I made enough potato, broccoli, cheddar, and bacon soup to last for a week last night. But then the handle on the microwave broke for the umpteenth time. It costs 58 bucks to replace a two-bit plastic handle. So how do you determine when you are ahead of the game? Have a nice day. The Curmudgeonly Professor.
According to Salt Lake City National Weather Service meteorologist Christine Kruse "there have only been 19 times during the past 115 years of record keeping that St. George has seen an inch or more of snow during December. With St. George reporting two such snowfalls during the past week, that puts this month in the third-highest frequency of inch-plus accumulations. . . The record is five such incidents during the month . . ." Quoted from The Spectrum.Com article "Dixie gets rare heavy snowfall December 7 2013. Great. As snowbirds, we were supposed to leave the snow behind in Salt Lake City. Church was cancelled this morning. Only those rare few who owned snow shovels were out shoveling their driveways and walks. My kind and thoughtful neighbor was over at my home early this morning shoveling the walk and driveway. I couldn't thank him more for this kind deed.
The corner of my back yard buried in snow. The neighbor's trees are in danger of breaking apart from the heavy snow load on the branches.
We toured the Road to Hana once before. We never completed our journey — admittedly, the incessant one-lane bridges, switchbacks and lack of commitment on our part made the initial attempt a touch frustrating. We consoled ourselves with a hike to a waterfall instead, vowing to try again on another trip.
My wife and I took this fabled route on the southeast corner of Maui to get to Hana a few years ago. We can still feel a bit nervous over remembering the treacherous road. But what a memorable experience
Once approximately every six months we must change our mail, television, phone service, and a few other things as we migrate back and forth between the snow and cold of the Salt Lake Valley and the relative warmth of St. George UT. Once again we are going through the miseries and frustrations of trying to get our mail correctly forwarded and delivered. We needed to postpone our relocation to St. George since one of our granddaughters decided that she wanted to get married the day after Thanksgiving. We were happy to oblige by postponing our departure so we could be at her wedding.
So. . . we made a trip to the local postoffice. I explained to the clerk that what we wanted to do was to postpone mail forwarding from SL to St. George for a month, and to continue forwarding mail from St. George to SL for another month. Complicated? The clerk couldn't fathom what I was talking about. A manager was called in who understood quickly what I wanted and said he would forward the request to St. George to continue forwarding our mail from St. George to SL for another month.
Lo and behold, miracle of miracles, our neighbor in St. G. called us to tell us she was at the mailboxes in St. George when the mail delivery person was dumping a load of mail in our box that should have been forwarded to SL. So, another phone call to the St. George PO to straighten it out. Now, we must confront the probable issues when we actually make our change. I can truthfully say that in 15 years, the post office has never gotten our mail forwarding changes right. One summer, we didn't get our mail for 3 months. Turned out the regional PO had filed the wrong forwarding card in front of the correct card and was, therefore, sitting on our mail for 3 months.
Of course, the problem of never following through and of making errors in doing things is not unique to the post office. We typically also have problems with the TV, phone service, and internet service and have to make a half dozen calls or so to straighten them out. This experience is delightful since one must deal with automated horror machines that leave you dangling forever while continuing to tell us that our call is important to them and that if we will just patiently wait for another hour we might be privileged to speak to someone. Changing the Salt Lake Papers to St. George involves speaking to an outsourced call service in Honduras. Totally disgusting. We could save all of these problems if we would just cancel TV, phone, internet, magazines, newspapers, and other such stuff and go back to living the standard of living I grew up with in northwest Wyoming.
Meanwhile, would it be possible to try and train people to doublecheck what they do and make sure they get it right? At least for those slow on the draw who don't have brains or professionalism enough to check stuff without mommie standing over them and reminding them? Is that asking too much? My new secretary when I became department chair at BYU asked if I had any instructions for her. I said no, other than making sure that you doublecheck and proofread everything. She was competent enough to already be doing all of that, one in ten million. And, to my knowledge, she never made a mistake. And our department nominated her for the All-University service award for outstanding secretary which she breezed through and won, much to the consternation of many secretaries old enough to be her mother.
I signed up for Pinterest quite awhile ago. I always try almost everything out that is new and looks interesting. Then I ignored Pinterest up until last week. My perusual of Pinterest suggested vast infiltration of pins and boards from the fairer and younger gender, young females, that is. Pins seemed to flutter around female attire, flowery and lacy doodads, and a zillion other efforts to organize and file information of little interest to me. Meanwhile, I was off on a Twitter crusade. I kept posting snide political comments on Twitter because I knew none of my family would likely ever see such comments, beings as how I am regarded as a hopeless degenerate Democrat. I ground my way up to about 400 followers, which have stayed constant over quite a few months. My posts on Curmudgeonly Professor were automatically reposted to Facebook and Twitter, so I still had some presence there. I had a sterling list of distinguished people I was supposed to follow. However, as time went on, too many Twitter posts were unintelligible mishmashes of hashtags, trivial nothings, and inside information understood maybe by the original poster and one potential postee. Meanwhile, the rest of us were scurrying and scrolling and trolling trying to find a Twitter tweet worth looking at. Maybe I just don't follow the right tweeters. But I seemed to waste a lot of time trying to follow stuff that just didn't make any, or much, sense. So I will keep my Twitter account and check it occasionally, posting from my blog. But my former true love, Twitter, is now fading as my former ardor has dissipated, having met my new and exciting best love, Pinterest.
Once I discovered I could use Pinterest for a giant filing cabinet to sort stuff I find on the internet, I was hooked. Ninety-eight percent of my affection was transferred from Twitter tweeting to Pinterest pinning. I first had to overlook the fact that the stuff I am interested in has a paucity of male pinners. Presumably males are busy working, gathering around the water cooler or going on coffee breaks while their dearly beloved spouses deal with broken water pipes, grubby sinks, piles of dishes, indelible stains in laundry, incorrigible but otherwise adorable children, and preparing for the most coveted moment of the day when overworked hubby comes in the door, asks "what's for dinner" and then heads for the remote and the couch. Since my wife ran into some health problems a couple of years ago, I have learned to feel very, very guilty for my shameful lack of support for cooking and housecleaning over the past 60 years. (Our sixty-first anniversary is coming late December). Thus, I have had to school myself in the fine culinary arts of gourmet cooking like beans and fried eggs, and trying to figure out how to get soap scum off shower doors. Enter Pioneer Woman and Mel's Kitchen Cafe, bless them both and all their cute kids. Actually, I have learned to make quite a few things, like Mel's "best clam chowder" ever, which my wife hates so I get to eat it for lunch for a week and it is very, very good.
Then behold, once I got used to the idea that my name, Dwight, didn't quite ring true with names like Doris and Isabel and Sandra and a million other female names, I gleefully started sorting recipes, food blogs, and cleaning posts and blogs and filing them all on wonderful, wonderful Pinterest. I once contacted Mel of the famed Mel's Kitchen Cafe, never expecting to hear back, that as far as I could tell I was her only male commenter. You can sign up for Pinterest and find my posts, to date, and follow my conscientious search for new and exciting stuff to file away on my Pinterest boards. My efforts have already paid off as I successfully cleaned my shower doors for the first time in 150 years with vinegar and dishwashing soap. Who knew?
So until a new and sexier and more wondrous cyber doodad comes along, I will remain true to my new and now truest love, Pinterest. Now I need to figure out how to use Pinterest and Etsy to see if we can sell a few of our wondrous photo greeting cards which are pretty darn spiffy if I do so say so. Happy pinning from the Curmudgeonly Professor
I taught economics for 45 years. I taught thousands and thousands of introductory economics students, upper division students, masters students, and Ph.D. students in four universities. Students taking introductory economics often hated the course. When I see people today and they ask me what I taught when I taught school, universally and without exception they typically throw up. People reiterate that econ was one of their most difficult and hated classes. More is the pity, since economic illiteracy and stupidity are at the very heart of many of the problems facing our country and the world today. People and politicians cheerfully substitute their own ideological crackpot economics for sound economic reasoning and analysis. As I was warned during an early graduate econ class at the University of Michigan, "Good economics is rarely good politics."
To keep a class of 400 students semi-alert during my two decades at Brigham Young University, even 20 percent alert, I invented outrageous stories and finally began simplifying economic analysis. To begin with, on the first day of school, I usually said, "I would like all the students from Idaho to please leave now. We have too many students in here." The class would look around at each other and ask one another, "What did he say?" But no one ever left. Either I had no one from Idaho in the class or they were being sneaky about it. If they had known how much they were going to hate economics, they would have cheerfully left and avoided a semester of persecution.
Of course, students came into economics biased by horror stories they heard from economic illiterates who took the class two or three times and still failed it. So they started economics with a huge load of negative thought. Then many had heard that I was a hard teacher. By hard, they meant that I covered the basic material in the textbook and then asked them a few questions about the material to see if they had learned anything. But such expectations placed much stress on students used to a less demanding curriculum.
After the first exam, the whining and weeping and wailing began. Students would pop into my office with the usual predictable complaints such as, "I really knew the material but your exam didn't allow me to show what I learned." So I would say, "Please sit down and let's give you a short oral exam and see how much you actually knew." Whereupon, the student(s) began to squirm, sat down, and quickly proved they were full of hot air and didn't know the difference between economics and sociology.
Then again, many students, though hardly a majority, really find an intellectual home in economics. Economic reasoning requires analytical reasoning, a bit of long division, and at the upper reaches, some differential calculus. Basic economics requires doing some simple equations and drawing some simple graphs. I have watched students freeze up when I draw my first graph of the course on the overhead display. The x axis? The y axis? You have lost me. The demand curve slopes downward and to the right? Why not upward and to the left?
The best students were selected as Teaching Assistants for the next semester. I had many outstanding teaching assistants, some of whom were better able to interact with students and explain the material than I could, and I was always quick to recognize such ability. Some of the best students went on to enter Ph.D. or MBA programs, and, some times, even medical and dental school. Many went to law school. These students were quick to acknowledge that sharpening up their analytical skills was critical in their professional success.
My ultimate reward would come when I would see a former student who had been out of school awhile and they would tell me, "I wish I had learned economics. Most of the work I am now doing requires economic analysis and I know I could have done a better job if I had paid attention to you." Hallelujah. Now if just one wayward economic know-nothing in Congress would just admit the same. Members of Congress should be required to sit through a basic class in economics and money and banking. But I know that is expecting too much. It is much easier to assume that economists know nothing and just spout nonsense than it is to accept the fact that you are spouting nonsense yourself.
Dad was always looking for new ways to expand his creativity and use of different kinds of wood veneers. Making inlaid Christmas cards like this one was one way he did something new. Each piece in the card is cut out by hand, then glued to a background. Probably made some time in the 1950s.