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.
In St. George, I can see a six foot cement block wall in my back yard. In the Salt Lake Valley, I can see the Wasatch range and watch the clouds and the rain and the rainbows and the sunrises. Being able to see such beauty and being able to watch the changing clouds has helped me in my recovery from vertigo since I have been able to do very little up until now but sit in my recliner and watch the mountains and the clouds.
For years, my wife and I attended every performance of the renowned summer Shakespeare Festival in Cedar City UT. Sadly, attending the Festival is one of many things we can no longer do. But we have many fond memories of the wonderful plays, the exceptional talent and costuming, and the beautiful summer nights in Cedar City. If you have not been to the Festival, and live anywhere in driving distance, get yourself there and be charmed and entranced by the wonderful, wonderful experience you will have there. The photo of the Shakespeare bust was taken several years ago at the theater in Cedar City.
Kate happens to be one of my granddaughters whose correct title for a few more months is Hermana Kate, since she is serving an LDS mission in a Spanish-speaking mission in Texas. She quoted my famous saying "I know stuff" in her last letter home, attributed to Dwayne (my nickname the kids gave me when they were working at our bookstore in Fort Collins CO and didn't want to call me Dad or my real name, which would have been disrespectful) aka Dwight aka gpa (for grandpa, how I sign my letters) sangre. Not knowing what sangre meant, I asked the Spanish speaking daughter of our cleaning lady yesterday, and she informed me, "sangre means Blood." Aha. I got it. I was referred to as "gpa Blood." Thanks, Kate. You never know what gems of wisdom spewed forth in moments of inspiration will go forth to inspire generations. The statement "I know stuff" will settle any argument, advance any discussion, puzzle any know-nothing, and impress all listeners. Try it some time. Out of the blue, just say, "I know stuff." You don't have to reveal to anyone what you actually know or don't know because the statement itself is overpowering and intimidating.
Long time followers of my Curmudgeonly Professor blog have likely given up on new postings by now. In early May, in the middle of the second night after returning to Salt Lake from Riverton, I woke up in the middle of the night with a severe attack of vertigo and landed in the emergency room. I stayed in the hospital for three days going through every heart, blood, MRI, and any other test they could come up with and ended up with a diagnosis of vertigo. I have learned since that several members of my family and some friends have had or now have regular bouts with vertigo. My problem was that my attack unwired my balance and it has taken weeks to at least partially recover where I was before the attack. Thanks to a wonderful physical therapist and an equally wonderful cardiologist, I am finally on the mend and, for the first time, actually feel up to sitting down at the computer and explaining my absence.
I passed every MRI test, every blood test, kidney function, echo cardiogram and EKG, and was left totally puzzled about why I felt so miserable for so long. I had to use a walker when I came home. Now, I finally think I am on the mend after about six weeks. I have whined and complained a lot but without much sympathy from my wife who has her own serious health problems. We have had a lot of help from family, friends, church members, neighbors, and health and medical professionals. We are grateful to everyone for kind thoughts, food, visits, phone calls, and for caring, help with shopping and doctor visits. planting 4 dozen petunias in our front flower garden, and so many other things. I keep hearing the words "it could have been worse" echoing through my mind as I think of friends and neighbors with far more serious and devastating health issues than I apparently have.
So please don't give up on the Curmudgeonly Professor. I have been worried that I would not recover balance enough to take photos as I have always done. Maybe, however, I might just recover enough to do that. I have a brand new fancy schmancy and expensive macro lens that I bought just before I got smashed and I am anxious to learn how to take pictures of bugs, spiders and other little bitty things. Plus I have taken hundreds of pictures 0f the beautiful mountain views just outside our windows to the east side of the south Salt Lake Valley. I hope to see you all back and will try to come up with more sarcastic wisdom to entertain and enlighten you. Thanks for enduring and for your patience.
Dear True Love: You can forget about sending me seven swans a swimming. No more graceful bird exists (the graceful white swan goes gliding along, and etc.) but swans can also be nasty and temperamental. Plus they are hard to care for. The developers of our retirement community in St. George installed a bunch of ponds and floated swans in each of them. Many of us never got to see them anyway, and every year we were all paying for the miserable things. Gradually they got too expensive and then disappeared, forever, I hope. We no longer had to subsidize the feeding and care of swans. Oh happy day!
Turns out that my friend, the Wizard of Google, only coughed up about 85,000 entries to explain seven swans a swimming. Major emphasis on Google is the poor lady on Wheel of Fortune who allegedly prounounced swimming as swimmin' when presented with most of the letters for Seven Swans a Swimming, and therefore lost a whole bunch of bucks. This episode sparked a hailstorm of gripes. All of the entries in the Twelve Days of Christmas have a religious connotation, but we will skip those for now and rely on the straightforward explanation without any hidden meanings. We have to assume that the pear tree is on a pond and that the partridge, the turtle doves, the French hens, and the calling birds have hunkered down to wait out the end of the song so they can fly off to greener pastures. Only five more days go go!
Meanwhile, can you believe that nine days have passed after Christmas? Have you taken down your Christmas tree? Have you boxed up your Christmas decorations? Have you finished eating your Christmas goodies? Have you cleaned up after your New Year's party? Are your kids sick of the expensive toys they cried and whined for and then promptly ignored to go and play with a big cardboard box? Have you paid the bills for your Christmas extravaganza? Have you answered all of your Christmas cards? Are you ready for thrills on the new season of Downton Abbey? Are you anxiously awaiting the next food binge on Super Bowl Day so you can augment the 5-10 pounds you have already gained between Thanksgiving and January 1? Have you figured out how to dispose of your Christmas tree? And, since you ordered at least half of your stuff online, have you considered how you are going to get rid of all of the big cardboard boxes the stuff came in? Have you bought a carload of batteries to keep all the stuff running? We offer these points to ponder on the ninth day after Christmas, being January 3, 2014, to help keep you fine tuned and up to snuff, so to speak. We hope your New Year is indeed happy as you buy wrapping paper for 75% off to save until next Christmas.
The Curmudgeonly Professor apologizes for getting two days behind on counting the Twelve Days of Christmas. However, he has been busy cleaning up the mess from the partridge, who ate all the pears on the pear tree, the turtle doves, who got tired of behaving themselves, the three French hens, who were studying English, and the nasty, raucous blackbirds who felt superior because they were called calling birds. As if.
Now down to business. Have you ever been around a goose? A goose can be a nasty, mean bird and attack you if it doesn't like you. Or even if it does like you. Besides, goose droppings are the worst, the very worst, trust me, droppings in the barnyard. I know whereof I speak. Canadian geese were frequent visitors to our neighborhood in Salt Lake. Some one started feeding the geese because they thought geese were cute so one lady goose set up a nest in the front bushes of a neighbor's house. Trouble was, the nesting goose was nesting in a nest on the way to the mailbox. We got so we hardly dared step outside the front door without this nasty, miserable, wretched, mean, honking, snapping, unruly, vicious, unfriendly, threatening, flapping, noisy creature from Hades just daring us to walk down to get the mail. True, we enjoy the big Vees of flying Canadian geese moving grandly through the skies. But only when they land on the ground are they a nuisance. You do not want to go near a pond or a lake where geese laze around all day. Trust me.
Seeking further information, the Curmudgeonly Professor called upon his trustworthy Wizard of Google. The Wizard of Google coughed up a paucity of information related to six geese a-laying, with a miniscule 2,960,000 entries. What's more, I had to dawdle around for a full 0.35 seconds twiddling my thumbs waiting for this information. Turns out, get this, 6-Geese-A-Laying is a Belgian strong dark ale style beer brewed, not in Belgium, please, but in Placentia, CA! I bet you didn't know this factoid unless you are a strong dark ale style beer connoisseur or have been to or reside in Placentia, CA. If you are a beer drinker, which I am not, you may prefer the strong dark ale style beer over the six actual geese a-laying. What's more, Six Geese A-Laying is also the title of a chick-lit book about a lady named Ginny awaiting the birth of her first child. If you wish further clarification and light, check out the other 2,960,000 entries that the Wizard has proffered.
Before we leave this scholarly analysis, we ask ourselves, "Just what do geese lay? Of course, they lay goose eggs!" The Wiz kindly offered 6,170,000 answers to this query. We might think that a goose egg is a big egg laid by a lady goose. But as we all know, a goose egg can have a pejorative connotation, signaling zero, nada, nothing, zilch when evaluating a numerical outcome. Or it can be a bump on the head where someone conked you if you became, heaven forbid, too obnoxious.
The Curmudgeonly Professor hopes that he has provided enough factual information for you to reach your own conclusion as to whether you really, truly, in your heart of hearts, want six miserable honking geese a-laying. Or whether you just want to sing the song and be done with it. Happy New Year.
Few events in our lives are really final, but the last day, the last hour, the last minute of a year we have just lived is one of those events that have a finite end. Year ends are fraught with memories, some sad, some happy, some neutral, but a juxtaposition of life's moments that will always remain with us. Feeling sorry for ourselves becomes all too easy, and guilty feelings over things we should have done, fences we should have mended, goals we should have achieved, help we should have given, or weaknesses we should have overcome are all too often the heavy loads we carry from the last day of the Old Year to the first day of the New Year. Yet, we should all take some comfort in feeling that, for so much of the year just passed, we did the best we could with what we had. We let some things slide, some problems left unresolved, that we did not know how to handle no matter how long or how much we felt weighed down with them. And still, we made it through the year.
We made it through 365 days of house cleaning, dishwashing, meal preparation, trips to Costco and the grocery store, trips to a dozen medical specialists, daily trips to the mailbox. We survived Downton Abbey and Lark Rise to Candleford and Foyle's War and a dozen other television dramas. We endured football and basketball games when our teams won and lost. We welcomed friends who phoned regularly and who came by with plates of cookies and a moment of cheer. We were happy to see men and women from our church who knew we were having difficulty attending meetings. My sisters and brother kept in close touch and Velna's sisters came regularly while we were in Salt Lake. I took several thousand more photos and posted hundreds of them on this blog. I began reading books again, and read several dozen during the year. My wife worked on crosswords, needlepoint, put puzzles together, and read countless books. I converted her from paper books to a Kindle Paperwhite and haven't been able to separate her from it since. We suffered through heat in Salt Lake and an unprecedented snowstorm in St. George.
But on this, the last day of 2013, we give thanks. My wife and I give thanks for each other and for the fact that we are still here to take care of each other. We give thanks to our family, our children, our grandchildren, and our great grandchildren. We are grateful for friends who have not forgotten us and who express their love and concern for us. We are thankful that we were able to celebrate our 61st wedding anniversary two weeks ago. We are thankful for help freely offered and given. We may not think we accomplished much in 2013, but we rejoice in the fact that we made it through the year. And now we have another year to live. We welcome 2014 and wish you all a Happy New Year.
Yes, folks, today is the third day after Christmas. Presents have been removed from the living room and assigned to various destinations that will ensure their oblivion. Maybe a few of them can be recycled to pass along for birthdays and wedding showers. The toys that are not already broken will lie underfoot on stairways and floors for years to come. Christmas goodie trays are now down to a few stale crumbs, with pieces of fruitcake usually the last to go. Stuff we don't want is now being hauled to Kohls, WalMart, Costco, and Woolworths, oops, I guess that was 50 years ago. We are maintaining a stiff upper lip to wear something we just got that we don't like so that we can prove that we really, really love it to avoid hurting the giver's feelings. Whoever pays the bills is frantically going through the credit card receipts and figuring out how in the whatever she (assuming the male of the household is a lousy detail person and bill payer even though a feared CEO and boss of hundreds or even thousands at work) is going to pay for all of this already-forgotten stuff.
Today my true love is supposed to send me three French hens. I still do not have the partridge in the pear tree nor do I see the two turtle doves that were expected yesterday.
What is a French hen? I asked myself. Is it a hen born and reared in France, or is it a species of female chicken that anyone in the world can acquire? And if one is living, say, in Australia or Alaska, how in the world will one acquire French female chickens (hens) on the third day after Christmas? Even though I took a required course in poultry production to complete my undergraduate degree in agriculture at the University of Wyoming, there was no mention of French hens and, therefore, I have lived in ignorance all my life about what a French hen was. Or is. So I asked Google.
Google is a kind of Wizard of Oz who resides in a palace in the midst of 30 megaquadzillion computers where he personally receives and acknowledges every request anyone in the world makes every second for some trivial bit of information or to get a diagnosis of the carbuncle on one's toe. It took the Wizard of Google exactly 0.32 seconds to cough up a grand total of 3,140,000 entries to answer the question "what is a French hen?"
The Wizard of Google is sort of like Santa Claus, who anyone who has watched Miracle on Thirty-Fourth Street a dozen times a year in both the original and updated versions knows, has been scientifically proven to exist. As of yet, no one has assigned the Wizard of Google a permanent home base, like Santa chooses to live in the frozen tundra of the north where his poor elves live in the worst climate on earth and his poor reindeer must forage under six feet of snow to munch on a few moldy lichens. And what about Mrs. Claus? How does she get to Costco and WalMart? No one, to my knowledge, has ever had an ounce of sympathy for her.
We do not know if the Wizard of Google is just a boring computer geek and nerd, or whether there is a Mrs. Google who brings him cold beverages on request while taking time out to watch a meaningless NBA or NFL game. Or, think this through, is the Wizard of Google a female? I have observed increasing cases where women are smarter than men, anyway.
Since I am an important personage and have several naps scheduled today after I get through my torture of the high powered diuretic I take each morning, I do not have time to check out all 3.1 zillion explanations of French chickens. Suffice it to say that yes, Virginia, there is such a species of fowl that veritably is a true French hen. Said French hen, according to the clearest Wizard of Google entry, is "a female chicken breed that is native to France." Well, that definition certainly cleared up this mystery.
Other entries describe the nature of the French hen, including having a black tipped tail feather. I have never seen a black-tipped tail feather on any artwork depicting the Twelve Days of Christmas and I admonish future artists of this tale to be more diligent in their research.
Now I must move on to my first power nap of the day. The Curmudgeonly Professor takes his duties seriously of enlightening his blog readers and contributing to their useful and reliable knowledge. Now I await the arrival of my first shipment of French hens. Possibly my sister Ann, who keeps chickens in her back yard, will sense my need.
I caught Oz, our neighbor's cat, sneaking under our deck this morning. Oz's full name is Osmond, but he goes, obviously, by Oz. Oz disappears along the Jordan River for days at a time but always shows up in the neighborhood and goes home once in awhile.
Apparently everyone in the entire world has been watching the BBC Super-Soap called Downton Abbey. I have found that boring conversations turn animated and protracted merely by mentioning the words "Downton Abbey." Here is what I have learned from the first three seasons:
The aristocracy spends a lot of time eating magnificent cuisine in ties and tails and splendid dresses while the kitchen help, which prepared the magnificent cuisine, is eating gruel down in the kitchen.
When not eating splendid meals, various members of the aristocracy and the kitchen staff engage in petty intrigues, attempts at revenge, and loud arguments.
Lady Mary, having deposed the poor Turkish guy early in the whole story, now has lost poor Matthew in a bloody auto accident so he can be resurrected and act on Broadway. Was Lady Mary really so boring that Broadway was more appealing?
A very elderly lady with a sharp tongue was the star of the whole thing.
Poor wimpy Lord Grantham apparently hadn't studied agricultural economics, or perhaps had also skipped tabulating debits and credits, and was about to sink poor Downton Abbey at which time they would all have to move into a thatched cottage in the village and take their meals at the local pub or B&B. Of course, Lord G had already sunk poor Lady Cora's fortune on a kaput Canadian Railway. Some time and heated arguments ensued before Lord G acceded to Matthew's superior insights and realized they needed to "modernize" or go to the poorhouse. Fortunately, Lord G gained this revelation before poor Matthew met his bloody demise in time for the final credits for Season 3, leaving vast audiences in tears and ticked off that the Brits already have the next series and we viewers in the colonies must wait many months to be edified. Too bad we can't come up with something to equal BBC here in the US of A.
Other than presiding at dinners and hunts and appearing imperial and patriarchial in grand living and dining rooms, I was never clear on exactly what Lord G's duties were or what he did in his spare time when not eating or presiding.
Lady Cora didn't appear excessively worried when Lord G informed her he had flushed her fortune down the creek, but Lady Cora rarely expressed herself in any emphatic tone.
Poor Lady Edith. Left crying at the altar by a rich guy who could have supported her in splendiferous fashion, she is now left to ponder her romance with Rochester, whose insane wife is locked away. Oh, I forgot, this is Downton Abbey, not Jane Eyre.
After marching poor Bates around the jailhouse yard for most episodes in Series 3, he gets a reprieve and is able to return to Downton Abbey, apparently no worse for nutritional deprivation during his lengthy wrongful incarceration.
Meanwhile, the Sunday supplements today have counted up the number of marriages among the cast of our very own soap, The Young and the Restless. Downton Abbey doesn't even come close. Meanwhile, we start the countdown clock for next year's triumphant return with many months to construct our own version of what we think will or should happen
The late Stephen Covey became world famous for his book The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People. These people weren't just successful, they were highly successful. Then he followed up that blockbuster with another book titled Doing First Things First. I never bought the 7 Habits book although the contents were so thoroughly publicized everywhere you couldn't miss having them memorized. People needed a book to remind them to figure out what to do and then do it. That may sound a bit flippant, but if you look around the world, ask yourself how many people actually know what they should be doing. And then ask yourself how many people who know what they should be doing are actually doing it. The same with Big Corporations. The same with Congress and the U.S. Government. Knowing what to do is obviously a long way away from actually doing anything. So no wonder Covey's book appealed so many countless readers around the world.
I bought the Doing First Things First book because I thought maybe it might be important to think about doing first things first. I realized, however, after I read the first chapter that the book went against the grain of procrastination and put it in my bookshelf, never to be finished. I just worried about the implications of the book every time I saw it. So I eventually donated the book to charity so I would no longer be plagued by looking at it. Unfortunately, this sequence of events concerning this book still weighs heavily on my conscience.
Here is the Curmudgeonly Professor's Guide to doing last things first:
1. Today's last thing may be tomorrow's first thing. You never know, so if you've already done today's last thing by tomorrow, and it turns out to be the first thing by then, you already have it done and you are way ahead of the game.
2. Whether some task is actually the first thing is a matter of subjective judgment. True, if you are freezing, you may rate that the first thing and turn up the thermostat. Consider the task of returning book club cards before the due date so you don't get another batch of two or three books and then have to mark them refused and take them to the post office. Actually, the book club will get sick of you and not send you any more notices or books, and you should feel guilty for abusing them. Book clubs don't even send me stuff wanting me desperately to join them again. I am on some kind of blacklist.
3. Doing the first thing first violates the Law Procrastination. I bought a book once about procrastination, but never got around to reading it. I know what procrastination means, however. It means to put off stuff as long as your conscience can bear it and as long as you can stand listening to your spouse write notes about it, give you reminders, and threaten you with divorce.
4. Many so called First Things may not actually be first things tomorrow or two months from now. Their importance may have vanished as circumstances have changed and you find you no longer need to do it. For example, the wind may come up and blow your leaves down the street and then you would have wasted all that time cleaning them up, if you can stand a reputation of being a terrible neighbor.
5. While teaching school, I put off as long as possible the task of making out exams, preparing lectures, grading exams, and attending faculty meetings. In that way, my ideas were always more fresh and creative since my mind had to work quickly and not dawdle in the luxury of having days or weeks to do something. While waiting for the last minute, however, I engaged in many scholarly pursuits of great magnitude.
This list is just a preliminary list. I am still working on my eBook on weight loss, which I will finish when I get my new computer with Microsoft Word 2013. Provided I can figure out how to use Word 2013 to format my wonderful eBook for Kindle publication. I encourage you all to part with $2.99 to buy this epic once I have announced its availability. I may then write a second eBook on how to do last things first. Right now, finishing my weight loss book is probably my first thing. And, sadly, I realize I have violated my own maxim to put first things off until the last.
One of the problems of life is that, especially as we age, that we can no longer do many of the things we could easily do when we were younger. And, of course, these restrictions are not necessarily restricted to older people as people of all ages often face restrictions on their physical and mental capabilities. Here are some typical things that many older people can no longer do:
Drive. Not being able to drive presents an emotional dilemma, a feeling of being restricted and a loss of freedom. However, once driving becomes risky, and you can no longer trust yourself to hit the brake pedal instead of the gas pedal, or if your reaction time or vision impairs you, it's time to give up the car keys. Such loss takes time for adjustment, since you must depend on others to haul you to the doctor or to the grocery store or anywhere else. The solution, however, is to concentrate on activities that keep you busy where you are.
Walk. Many older people face walking stability problems and loss of balance. Some have walking problems from hip and knee replacements and from sciatic and other nerve and back problems. Not being able to put your tennies on at 7:30 a.m. and go for a 45 minute walk is a very, very painful adjustment. Facing up to using a cane or a walking stick can save many falls and possible serious bone breaks. It's better to feel steadier than to think you feel like an idiot or a useless old man or woman because you are using a cane or walking stick. Just look around you when you are out and about and see how many others are using them. There's nothing so special about you that you can't feel safer.
Sleep. It seems like about everyone I talk to these days has sleep issues. They wander the house in the middle of the night, sleep in recliners for awhile, watch TV awhile, look at the moon for awhile, raid the fridge, read a book, fiddle with their iPad, or do anything possible to fritter away the night. Then they sleep half the day to make up for being sleep deprived at night.
People with hearing problems may not be able to go places with louder-than-home noise, as the noise gets amplified so much that they can't stand to be in such places. This problem puts more restrictions on mobility.
Many other issues restrict what we can do, and are not restricted to older people. Problems with sight, hearing, body functions, are continual issues. Too many people I know have had serious falls, some times from just the first rung on a step ladder, or falls in a bathtub, or just a misstep around the house or the yard. Making tubs slip-proof, installing raised toilets, putting grab bars everywhere possible, all may sound silly in your 50s or 60s, but you will need them as you grow older.
The solution to the problem of facing up to what we can no longer do is to focus on the things we can do. Some people become artists. Others embark on learning activities and learn a language, study classics, or relearn information in their fields they have forgotten. The miracle of electronic transmission and information retrieval opens the entire world and all the information in it to anyone in the most remote or disadvantaged situation. You don't have to go to the library and spend hours going through the card catalogue, making tedious notes. Just ask Google. Google knows all and will give you a thousand pages of info on whatever you want to know.
Too many old people think computers are beyond them. Wrong, wrong. If eight year old kids can use iPads (or even three or four year olds), you can learn to use computers and iPads too. Rather than feel sorry for yourself, get someone to teach you how to use electronic stuff. You can stay busy forever after you get the hang of a few simple tricks. Do genealogy. Research stuff you are interested in. Write your memoirs. Keep a journal. Write short articles.
I am learning to cook. I like collecting hundreds of recipes and reading cookbooks and trying all kinds of stuff. I spend hours and hours on photo editing and have over 150,000 photos on my hard drive. Don't get addicted, however, to video or computer games and waste the rest of your life on this meaningless addiction.
Well there you have the basics. Just figure out some stuff to do. If you are handy with tools, which I am not, make furniture. Learn to turn bowls on a lathe, like my brother in law does. Plant an indoor garden in pots and planters. Get a cat or dog to keep you company (not something I would do because I don't want to take care of them, but it's a great idea for some people). Skip 90% of what's on TV. Buy meaningful DVD sets like Downton Abbey and travel videos.
Above all, remain thankful for everything you have been given, for all of your life's experiences, for all that you have now, for each new day, for each sunrise and sunset, for those you care for and for those who care for you. My wife always says, "It will be all right." So quit moping and complaining and get with it. Happy New Year.