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.
Thirty days hath September. We have no extra day in September to make up for all of the things we intended to do in the first 30 days but never got around to doing. So today is the end of September. I hate to see September go. September has the best songs--September Song sung by Willie Nelson, Falling Leaves, Frank Sinatra singing September of my Years, Pale September, James Taylor singing September Grass, and the list go on. I don't know of any songs for October and November that evoke so much nostalgia and a few memorable tears as do the songs of September.
Then again, September is my birth month. September is the usual month I started school all my life. Imagine the first day of school, 1938. New bib overalls. I would turn 6 two weeks after school started. Lucille was weeping and her big brother had to come and comfort her. Miss Shinn. Fifty five students in one room. Palmer penmanship scroll across the entire front of the room, a penmanship style I and my friend Dolores would both master so that 60 years later you could not tell our writing apart. After life 12 miles from town with my sisters, first grade was amazing. But what were we supposed to do? Color inside the lines? Read? I already knew how to read. My schoolmarm big sister already taught me how to read. So what else was there to do in the first grade? And then, and then, fast forward to my first day of teaching a large class of 90 students at age 21 on a September day with a shiny new master's degree and a textbook and class assignment given to me out of thin air three days earlier. How do you do this? Will I perish? Now fast forward through 45 more Septembers, thousands more students, as the song says, so many Septembers of My Years.
I thought this post was supposed to be about how to continue preparing your annual progress report. However, how do you think I ever got through thousands of lectures? With side trips, diversions, stories, bad jokes, and threats of pop quizzes and other evil instructional motivations, of course. Whenever you gaze out on 400 students that have glazed over eyes, nodding heads, some staring at the ceiling, you know you have to take remedial action to perk everyone up again. So that is what I tried to do. Take remedial action. Nobody teaches you how to teach college. I took all the courses required to teach secondary school and learned not one whit or scintilla, as they say, about how to teach. I remembered how my best teachers taught and I tried mightily to emulate them.
I figure about now that my readers are sick and tired of me haranguing them with two million tasks, none of which they really want to do and most of which they are bored with reading and thinking about. Thus, today's post is a diversionary writing. You're on your own today. You don't need a teacher, a counselor, a nit picker, a reminder-in-chief, a harasser, a nuisance, to change you from a negative thinker bound and determined not to make any improvements into a shining example of self-improvement.
You might, however, start thinking seriously about just what, exactly, you have accomplished so far this year, whether large, small, invisible, or just wishful thinking. And, you might think a little bit more about what, exactly, you plan to do about your state of procrastination and your inspired conscience to make the last three months of this year really count for something and make a difference.
Task Number 272: Continue your preliminary efforts to prepare your annual progress report. A little bit of progress counts. One tiny move in the right direction counts. An extra smile and word of encouragement count. Changing your attitude from woeful preaching to spreading sunshine earns you a major promotion and a pat on the back. Good luck, think about your year so far, then think about what you are going to do with the rest of the year, and keep going. The Curmudgeonly Professor.
One of the most detested annual tasks during my long years in academia was the requirement to prepare an annual progress report. We had to list the results of all of our course evaluations. While most students evaluated teachers and the courses they taught objectively, the course evaluation also provided belligerent students the opportunity to blast away in revenge for being persecuted and dealt with unfairly. I noted that some of my colleagues passed out free doughnuts or other goodies on course evaluation day, a last minute attempt to make students raise their estimate of the teacher's performance. The course evaluation was important in considering merit raises, promotions in rank, and reputations as teachers. Most teachers were honest in doing the best job possible in their courses. However, some were famous for inflating their distribution of A's and B's to reduce the number of hostile insurgents who were ready to take their wrath out on a teacher who gave low grades. At one university, I came to class one day to find the following note stuck to the lectern with a knife: "Student knifes professor who gave a low grade." Lovely. I usually did relatively well on my course evaluations so I rarely had any concern about how that would affect my academic standing.
Next on the annual evaluation came publications. Oh yes, publish or perish is no myth in academia. No matter how inspirational and wonderful a teacher you are, if you don't publish something refereed by a peer group of experts in the Journal of Landfill Economics you will get a tsk-tsk from the department chair or the dean or both and admonished to make some contribution to the advancement of minor knowledge in your field by the time of the next performance evaluation. Instructors who are awaiting the Great Idea for a Publication to come streaking down out of heaven one day and save their academic career are likely not to advance beyond instructor or assistant professor rank, let alone preserve their academic appointment.
Then the powers that be peer over your contributions to the university, to the department, and to the community. Your role as a citizen of academia is important. One cannot sit in one's office and think and wait to be inspired. No, countless committee meetings dot the calendars. A committee meeting is a meeting which takes place when you barely have time to prepare for class and which you must attend to listen to the same people monopolize the discussion one more time. The busier you are, the more committee meetings you are required to attend. Some committee meetings are glorified with the name "faculty retreat." Retreat where? Retreat how? The only difference for a retreat was that it was usually held at least two blocks away from the campus.
I was always tempted to summarize my progress report by saying something like "I tried to do better in each and every way." I was a department chair for six years and a faculty member for 39 years. I have a file of many of my progress reports. I am afraid to look at them. I wonder some times how I managed to survive all of those years and teach all of those thousands of students. I remain thankful for my academic career, despite the comments about progress reports I have written here. No better life existed for me anywhere outside academic life. I was just beginning to catch on to how to become a professor by the time I retired.
For today's task, I wanted to review briefly my own experience with annual progress reports to get you thinking about what you may have accomplished so far this year. My wife instructed me in no uncertain terms to make today's task writing brief, so I will leave my comments and let you fill in the blanks. Further tasks will illuminate the important task of thinking and writing about just what we have accomplished and what progress we have made this year. Good luck, and keep going. The Curmudgeonly Professor.
We all get bored occasionally. Children get bored quickly, even on Christmas morning in the midst of all of their wrapping paper and mountain of toys and gifts. What else is there, they ask. On a dreary weekend day when the only programs on TV are the Waltons or the Golden Girls, we have no idea what we can do to liven things up besides take a nap and complain. Retired people may easily get bored. After working for 40 years and then spending 24 hours a day at home, what are we supposed to do?
To assist unimaginative readers, here are some tried and true helps to extricate anyone from the depths of boredom:
Buy stuff from Amazon. Be sure you pay for Amazon prime so you don't have to pay shipping. Then you can break up bigger orders into a whole batch of smaller orders. The idea is to have UPS or FedEx leave packages on your doorstep as often as possible. I buy kitchen gadgets which may or may not be used and about which my wife frequently asks, "But where will we put it?" I have also learned to have fun with Amazon pantry where you pay a fixed fee and then can find a bunch of stuff you don't need to fill up your pantry basket to get as much as possible from one shipping fee. Look for bargains. The main idea with a bargain is that some stuff is cheap. And being cheap is reason enough to buy something. You can give it away if you find that you don't need it. My wife bought me a circular saw 20 years ago when I said I was going to become a home handyman. She asked me the other day when I was going to use it. I replied that I was going to saw up a whole bunch of stuff any day now. Meanwhile, I have a panini press, a big heavy pizza stone, and a raft of other kitchen goodies just waiting for me to launch forth many culinary adventures.
Play video games. I gave up video games years ago when I was spending approximately 21 out of 24 hours a day mastering Tetris, Space Invaders, and a few other wondrous time wasters instead of preparing economics lectures and helping do the dishes. One of my sisters is a great quilter but she keeps showing up on Facebook with another incredible award for rising to a spectacular new level on some video game.
Watch infomercials. Nothing else on summer TV is worth watching anyway. Always pay attention when the infomercial admonishes you, "Wait! There is more!" and they tack on $235 worth of free stuff onto something you don't need and will never use but which you cannot resist buying just in case.
Ask your spouse or whoever is in your household annoying questions. My wife's favorite annoying questions which threaten my continued residential safety are the following: (1) Where are you going? There aren't a lot of choices of where to go, but I feel I need to keep track. (2) Do you think it is anything serious? I am a hypochondriac and whenever I get a new fleeting symptom or pain or health crisis, I need her reassurance that I am not about to croak. (3) How soon will the cuisine (pronounced Que-Zene in our family) be served up? For years, the standard answer was, "When I decide what to fix and when I then get it ready." Not terribly informative answers. I asked my wife this morning if she was sick and tired of living with me 24 hours a day. She replied, "Well, actually it's only eight or nine hours a day." So I guess that is why I am still safe.
Shock whoever you are living with by actually doing a chore you have put off for ages, maybe years. Or pick up your clothes and socks you have littered the floor with. Or volunteer to help with the dishes while the Denver Broncos are playing. You have to be careful here, however. If what you are doing is too far removed from your normal behavior, you will be suspected of being up to something. And then you could really be in trouble. Ease into doing things a little at a time.
Waste some time on electronic media. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and email are all terrific time wasters. Learn to text so you can annoy as many other people as possible with inane comments and useless information.
Read a book. Probably 98 out of 100 people say they don't read because they don't have time. Yet President Theodore Roosevelt read one book a day, at least, while he was President. People don't read because they don't take time, and they have more important ways to piddle away the hours and the days. I have over 1,000 ebooks on my iPad, so I don't have to haul 10 boxes of books back and forth from St. George to Salt Lake City and back again.
Go to Costco. You can always buy a rotisserie chicken for five bucks. Two people can eat from one rotisserie chicken for several days and then make chicken noodle soup that will last another two or three days. Meanwhile, buy ten pound bags of everything you see. Be sure to go on days when many tasty free samples are available so you won't have to buy lunch. A 25 pound bag of onions, a $10 bag of lemons, and enough tuna to last three months are all excellent choices. Kleenex and TP can easily make up 40 or 50 bucks worth of your total purchases.
Start your weight-loss program you have successfully avoided for ten years. I just had to throw this one in.
Start writing your life story. Write one paragraph today, another paragraph tomorrow. Before you know it, you will have revealed all of your secrets.
See how easy it is to rescue yourself from total boredom into an exciting, vital, life that is full of new surprises and challenges?
Task Number 270: Ten things to do if you are bored. Or, use your imagination after you wake up from your nap and actually invent some new, exciting, and rewarding activity you can do to rescue yourself from your doldrums. Good luck, wake up, have a good time, and keep going. The Curmudgeonly Professor.
Partial eclipse. I couldn't see the moon when it first was supposed to come up and then it was just a little dark blob that couldn't be photographed. So I missed out on the photographic opportunity of the year. All I managed to get was this bit of chewed up eclipse. Then the full moon appeared, but so what? I'm mad that I couldn't get the moon shots I planned on getting.
So how can you tell that this perfect circle is actually the moon and not a piece of paper cut out with a cookie cutter? And how did the moon get to be so round? Just wondered. I didn't pay attention in 7th grade science when Mrs. Strong had a little model that showed how the planets went this way, the sun that way, and here goes the moon. I was too dumb to ever figure it out. What a shame.