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.
Today's photo processing software is truly ingenious and incredible. I could literally come up with hundreds of alternative views of one photo with Topaz color filters, Photo Shop, and ACDsee. Thus, one is never really finished with a single photo, ever.
Every day I troll some of my thousands of photos on my hard drive looking for gems that were never processed. Most of these photos were too dark or too crooked or had one or many flaws that prevented me from using it years ago. Here are some yucca seed pods in a five-year old photo that show what I try to do: Make something beautiful out of something very, very ordinary.
We have reached task number 65 on the Curmudgeonly Professor's Do List for the year 2015. So today is kind of an important milestone since 65 represents the first big chunk of a 365 day year, leaving only (only? really?) 300 more days to go. I figure that if I can do 65, I can do at least another 100 since I have at least 100 more tasks jotted down on scraps of paper, in the margins of a couple of crossword puzzles, on the backs of envelopes, and on yellow pads. I try not to use any of these tasks on my written lists because my goal is to come up with something new every day and thus postpone using up my stock of duties and tasks.
My goal is to provide hints, suggestions, ideas, reprimands where needed, and motivations for making small changes that can multiply into large changes and life changing and life saving forces. We don't so much have 365 tasks that we need to perform; rather, we have 365 days in a year in which we need to "stay on our toes", watch where we put the TV remote, stop eating bad stuff, smile a bit more, be kind to everyone, and then, miraculously, countless other little things just sort of automatically fall into place without our even thinking about them.
So today's task, number 65 just to remind you, is this: Don't make the same mistake over and over again." Being trained as an economist, I like to approach a problem analytically. By that, I mean, tear the problem down into pieces, evaluate each piece, and then try to put the puzzle back together again. Thus, to be pedantic about it, let us list the kinds of mistakes we may encounter or that we are likely to make: (1) dumb mistakes; (2) stupid mistakes, (3) inadvertent mistakes, (4) arithmetic mistakes, (5) grammatical mistakes, (6) logic mistakes such as caused by the Latins who said "post hoc, ergo propter hoc", which means "afterwards, therefore because of this." In other words, if we have a cold day, that means that global warming is a hoax. And stuff like that; (7) careless mistakes; (8) deliberate dumb mistakes; (9) primrose path mistakes, or mistakes where some misinformed person led us down a primrose path to a dumb mistake and we were dumb enough to follow them; (10) Forgetting where we put the TV remote until we feel a smart pinch on our behind and the TV gets turned off automatically.
Life for all of us is part trial and error, part learning, part experimenting, part celebrating successes, and part dealing with the fallout of failures and mistakes. Unfortunately, we are not given a manual that tells us how to fix the garbage disposal and how to cure 138 bodily ailments at birth. And even if we were, the manual will be out of date tomorrow. In days of yore, we thought all knowledge was in the Encyclopedia Britannica until we looked up a map and discovered that it had been redrawn and remapped 20 times since the book was printed and we didn't have another $300 to buy an updated set of encyclopedias. Thus, we are all bound to make mistakes.
Two main questions remain about mistakes: (1) How can we avoid mistakes? and (2) How can we avoid making the same mistake over and over again?
The answer to the first question is that we need to exercise a bit more care, find and evaluate the validity of information we need to know about how to do something, and then hope what we are going to do will work. The answer to the second question is that we desperately need to learn from our mistakes and not repeat them. If we have been overweight for years, we clearly have made the same eating and diet mistakes over and over again ad nauseum, literally. Many of our repeated mistakes fall into the category of bad habits which we repeat mindlessly and in a brain-dead fashion. The task we face in improving our health, our lives, and picking up the junk we left laying around the house or the office, is to change our mental set of mind. Shift the gear you are in from idle to at least low speed. Try that before you get too fancy and think you can conquer the world and lose 50 pounds in 3 weeks with the miracle fat burner pill you saw advertised in the paper yesterday.
The Curmudgeonly Professor is an expert at repeating mistakes. That is why he stayed overweight for so many years, jeopardizing his health, raising his drug and medication costs, and thus becoming a chronic whiner and complainer. So today, just switch your thinking. Get off the error-repeating track and stop doing whatever you shouldn't be doing. Task Number 65: Stop making the same mistake over and over again. Good luck, keep going, and welcome to a new life with a whole lot less repeated mistakes. The Curmudgeonly Professor.
Some times we may be guilty of looking at life and its attendant problems through a set of blinders if we are so focused on ourselves and our own problems that we fail to consider a different perspective through someone else's eyes. Greg Miller, CEO of the NBA's Utah Jazz basketball team, did a stint a few months ago on the TV show "Undercover Boss." Greg donned creative disguises and worked with four groups of people who were responsible for the operation and management of Energy Solutions Arena, the home of the Utah Jazz. He participated with the Dunk Team in the half-time show, served as a basketball hoop with what is known as the Interactive Team, worked with the concessions crew, and labored with the floor crew which changes the floor setup for all of the different events at the Arena.
I saw Greg Miller, the son of the late Larry Miller, through a totally different set of eyes on Undercover Boss. Up until then, I thought of him as the rich guy's son who attended the Jazz games and sat in the second row. By working with the different crews responsible for the successful operation of a complex set of activities to ensure the success of each event held at the arena, Greg showed enormous compassion and concern as he learned first-hand what it was like to do the hard work necessary for the success of each scheduled event. He learned of serious health problems in families of some of the workers, discovered ways to make some operations more efficient and effective, and gained a sympathetic understanding of and affection for his loyal crew of hard workers.
We have often heard the admonition that we might try walking a mile in someone else's shoes. By doing so, we may see the world and other people through their eyes, and not just through our own preconceived ideas about other people and about how things should work. By taking the time to learn more about the people we work with, or even to get better acquainted with the members of our own family, we may be able to help others solve problems and overcome roadblocks in their jobs and personal lives. During my long teaching years, I did make an effort to see problems through the eyes of my students. The longer I taught, the more effort I made to make sure that I had given students every chance they deserved in order to succeed in my classes. The rewards for seeing life through the eyes of others will lift all of us and make us thankful that we stopped wearing our blinders and looked at the world and at other people with more openness, kindness, and compassion.
Task number 64: Put yourself in someone else's shoes. Then see how the world looks. And see how much happier you feel by increasing your awareness of everyday life. Good luck, and keep going. The Curmudgeonly Professor.
Before you proceed to make an important decision (or even a trivial one), take a moment and ask yourself, "Could I possibly be wrong?" When we make snap judgments we may not pause long enough to ask ourselves and then consider what other alternative decisions might be more effective than the one we almost made and implemented. Medical doctors see patients for an average of maybe 15 minutes apiece, more or less, depending on circumstances. One of the most critical questions doctors must ask themselves is the question we pose here: "Could I possibly be wrong?"
If we are so 100 percent sure that we alone have the answers and that everyone else is wrong, we are setting ourselves up for at least occasional disasters or at least some unsatisfactory outcomes because no one can be right and outguess everyone else 100 percent of the time. Some times someone else may have proposed an idea that is a better solution than the one we have decided on but we have not taken the time to listen to them or to give their idea a chance to see if it works. If we are in a hurry, we may be careless in overlooking important implications and serious flaws in our decision.
True, we can worry a decision to death, wavering between "on the one hand," and then switching to "but on the other hand" and just let an opportunity or decision just die on the vine, strangled by indecision and lack of judgment. I can't remember who it was who said, when they got tired of people arguing on the one hand and then on the other hand with him while an important decision lay pending, "Just get me a one-handed economist!"
To minimize errors, we need accurate information. We also need to understand the rudiments of a problem or a situation. Politicians often make decisions based on political expediency or hunches. Being a politician is tough because no one can be an expert in all areas of legislation. But even politicians can do better at basing decisions on valid information and facts rather than on hasty and ill-conceived faulty reasoning. Besides valid information, we need to make sure we have considered the main options and ruled out the less likely or weaker solutions. And if we make a decision that turns out to be wrong and in error, we need to admit that we were wrong and do the best we can to fix the error that we made.
We cannot know the future with certainty. A margin of error attaches to every choice we make. The world's best forecasters using the most sophisticated mathematical models and the best and most accurate data available are still going to miss the mark part of the time, at least. Errors in human perception are illustrated in court cases in which a parade of witnesses each perceives something slightly different or omits a critical piece of evidence in a situation in which they were present. Remember the story of the blind men and the elephant? Each of the blind men could feel and touch a different part of the elephant, and so they all came up with a different perception of what an elephant is like. Scientific experiments require infinite numbers of replications before we tentatively accept their findings as the best we know at the present time. True, we must always allow for the fact that scientific findings change over time, because that is the nature of the search for valid scientific knowledge.
Since most of us ordinary mortals have a limited stock of knowledge in our brains, we are all subject to human error. But the least we can do is implement our Task Number 63: Take a moment before you act and ask yourself, "Could I possibly be wrong?" Good luck in making wise and effective decisions, and keep going. The Curmudgeonly Professor.
We probably skip over ordinary bush leaves about as much as we ignore anything. After all, why should we care about plain old ordinary bush leaves? Once you start photographing them then you begin to appreciate the myriad hues of colors and tints on plain old ordinary bush leaves. Here are a few to think about.
When we hesitate to make positive changes that we know that we need to make, we short change ourselves and condemn ourselves to the same outcomes we have always reached before. We often hear, "I'm afraid to try that. I just don't know how it will work or if it will work." Or, Cousin Ethelbert tried that and told me that whatever it is doesn't work and that I shouldn't bother trying it."
We certainly don't want to make changes on a hunch or just because someone in the office told us we should try something until we do our own research and make sure that we know what we are doing when we try something new. But once we have done our "due diligence", we need to stop being afraid to try something new. If we have followed the same routine over and over and over again until we operate our lives like a robot, we may have to try especially hard to get out of the rut we have gotten into.
I have found that life is much more interesting and that I feel much more positively about what I am doing if I am willing to take a chance on trying something new when the potential benefits seem obvious or if I do something I have known for 60 years I should do and now get around to doing it.
Consider the roadblocks you may face in trying something new that you know you ought to try or something that you might do that could be of great benefit to you. Roadblock number 1 is inertia. We are locked in neutral gear, idling in the parking lot, and doomed to stay there forever. Roadblock number 2 is procrastination. Why do today what you can put off until tomorrow or maybe put it off forever? Roadblock number 3: naysayers who pooh-pooh your efforts to try and do something different or worse, those who actually ridicule and make fun of your efforts. Roadblock number 4: don't bother to take a few minutes or whatever time it might take to evaluate the change you are considering making. Roadblock number 5: Fear of the unknown. Roadblock number 6: the thought that we have always avoided doing something and we don't want to bother starting to do it now. Roadblock number 7: Faulty information from unreliable sources.
And so it goes. Make up your own list of 100 reasons why you don't want to be bothered doing something different that you know will improve your life, help you lose weight, help you solve your financial problems, make your home life better, make your job and work more enjoyable, and help you improve your health and general well being. Post the list on your dresser mirror or your office cubicle. Then go through the list, one by one, and develop a strategy for overcoming each reason that is keeping you from making changes.
Task number 62: Stop being afraid of making changes that you know will be of benefit to you and to others. Do your homework, but then give whatever it is that you have been balking at a try. Good luck, keep going. The Curmudgeonly Professor.
Much to my pleasant surprise, I just came across a file of 60 photos taken in the summer of 2010 that were never developed or edited. I must have just left them since many of them were dark and didn't appear worth the time to edit them. Now I am glad I didn't delete them. This photo is one of the 60. My mobility took a whack last summer with a vertigo attack and I am still a bit unsteady if I try to walk and use both hands to take photos. Thus, I am excited to find a batch of photos I can play with and post. Maybe if I keep trying, my balance will return and I can get back to my regular photography journeys.
When our youngest son, Jim, was three years old, he managed to (a) ruin my Retina IIIc camera by extending the lens and then cramming it shut; (b) ruin my Anscomatic slide projector by trying to run slides; and (c) punched a dozen holes in the padded dash of our spiffy new copper colored Chevy station wagon. We thought momentarily about turning him over to foster care, but decided to keep him and see if he would improve. As it turned out, his 3d grade teacher told him to do something besides sit on his beautocks, a term that has become a family standard to refer to the posterior. Jim went on to get a law degree, a beautiful wife, and became the father of four perfect children who, as far as I know, did not ruin stuff.
I offer this long digression as a lead in to telling you what Jim's standard excuse was when he committed an indiscretion: "It wasn't my fault." For my retirement festivities 15 years ago, Jim gave us a plaque with those very memorable words embedded on it to provide us with an indelible memory.
During my long years of teaching economics classes, one of the most frequent excuses I heard from students when they did not do well on an exam was "I really knew the material but your exam did not allow me to show what I knew." Really? Come by my office and I'll give you an oral exam and see if we made a mistake on your exam grade. Question 1, for example: tell me about the law of supply and demand. Response: very, very fuzzy answer, something irrelevant and incomprehensible. After failure to answer two or three of the most basic questions, the student usually gave up and left feeling rather sheepish, although often still angry.
The problem for complaining students was that it was easier to blame me, the professor, and to blame my exam for their own inability to learn the material and answer the exam questions correctly. The circumstances were even worse when daddy and mommy occasionally, to my great lament and regret, had the temerity to show up in my office with either Junior or Salmonella in tow to lambaste me for giving their brilliant son or daughter a low grade. Didn't I know that Salmonella was the valedictorian at Bullfrog High School and the head cheer leader? Truth is, a high percentage of students at Brigham Young have exceptional test entry scores and GPAs or they would never have been admitted in the first place. The problem is, too many of them try to coast through on their laurels and forget that they need to open the text, read the material, and come to class. Never having seen a C grade in their sheltered and cosseted years as high school teacher's pets, the reality of seeing their first C is more than some of them are willing to take. Actually, out of a typical class of mine with about 400 students, at least one fourth or more of them will get grades of 85 or higher, and many will score in the 90s on any of my exams. At graduation, when I was sitting on the stand with the faculty, I often wanted to tell a student "You didn't really learn enough to graduate!"
It is easier to blame someone else when we fail to meet our own expectations than it is to take the responsibility and the blame for our mediocre or failing performance. Similarly, when we confront many of the typical problems of daily life, what to we do? If we are wise and perceptive, we quickly assess the situation and say, "I know that this result is my fault." If we are close minded and angry, we look for a scapegoat because our mistake or failure could not possibly be our fault. The message "It wasn't my fault" rings in our ears so loudly that we can't face up to the reality that the incident was, in fact, 100% our fault, and we need to take the responsibility for it. We are simply not being fair to someone else to place an unwarranted burden on their shoulders for our own mistake or inability to perform.
Task Number 61, therefore is: Don't play the blame game. Wake up and be honest with yourself and take the lumps you earned. Then pick yourself up and keep going. Good luck, and keep going. The Curmudgeonly Professor.
We have made it to the first of March 2015. Congratulations to all of us. I know that March is the lion and lamb month, but I can never remember which way it goes: does March go out like a lamb if it comes in like a lion, or is it the other way around? If the passage of time means anything to you, by the end of March we will have lived through one-fourth of the year 2015. Thus, if we want to see some progress by mid-year, and certainly if we want to see some changes made by the end of the year, March is the perfect time to get started or to renew our efforts on any tasks we have started and maybe left by the wayside, temporarily, we hope.
One of the reasons I have observed over the years that people do not reach their goals or make the necessary changes in their lives to stay healthy, solve personal problems, keep financially above water, or meet any and all other challenges, is that they lack confidence in themselves. When faced with a new challenge, do we say "I can't possibly do that?" or do we say "I'll at least give it a try and see how it works out"? We may think, "I know I need to lose weight and lower my blood pressure, but I have never been successful at losing pounds yet, so why do I think I should be able to do it now?" Or, like one of my many students told me over the years, "I just don't see how I can pass economics. I just don't understand it. So here is my course drop slip for you to sign." Some people give up on interpersonal relationships because they think the fault for the problem lies with another person or persons.
Whatever the task, whatever the problem we face, we can enhance our ability to rise to the task and solve the problem if we believe in ourselves, if we have enough self confidence to try and then try harder. If we just keep trying then we will be more nearly able to rise to whatever challenge we face. While I saw more students than I like to remember just give up and either flunk my courses or bring me a drop slip, I also saw students with severe health handicaps, pregnant young women students who were clearly ill and uncomfortable, students who had worked all night on a job to stay in school, and others who faced incredible challenges successfully meet the challenges of staying in school, passing the courses, and graduating with honors.
Self confidence is the magic key that dispels our doubts, that unlocks our stubborn delays at conquering our challenges, and sends us on our way to achieving our goals. Task Number 60, then, is to believe in yourself. You alone can face up to your own personal demons and roadblocks. You alone can challenge doubters and naysayers and surprise yourself and everyone else by accomplishing goals you never thought possible to achieve. Good luck, keep going, and believe in yourself. The Curmudgeonly Professor.