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.
You have to get yourself to Costco when their annual shipment of quite large poinsettia plants comes in or you will rue the day and cry your eyes out and have to wait until next year or go to the grocery store and pay an arm and a leg for a little bitty red thing.
Again, these photos were rescued from a series of about 100 photos I took in 2009 that turned out mostly too black to use. Now that I can recover them, I hope you enjoy these photos as much as I am enjoying seeing them emerge from darkness into beautiful images.
According to Ask.com, on one of a piddly 898,000 posts concerning 10 lords a leaping, "A Lord a leaping is a type of dance that is wild and strenuous and it is performed between meal courses during feasts." Well, what do you know. Serve the soup, the lords all get up a leaping. Serve the truffles, the lords are at it again. Then the boar's head, and the lords just can't get enough prancing around.
The only lord I know today is Lord Grantham on Downton Abbey. Lord Grantham hardly appears as if he could gracefully and daintily leap in between courses. By the way, the food on Downton Abbey is presumably prepared at a movie set somewhere in London and the stately lord-and-lady-like meals are presumably taking place at a mansion somewhere in the boondocks. We leave it to your imagination as to how the meals get transported from point A in London to point B in the boondocks. Besides, Lord Grantham apparently is a lousy manager and poor bookkeeper and the below-stairs staff is whining a bit about less footmen, butlers, hair combers, and such, beings as how we are now in postwar England and the hoity-toity aristocracy is now on the downhill slope on account of economic necessity. Another two decades, Lord Grantham will have to go downstairs and get his own grits.
But Lady Mary, gradually recovering from her black-widowhood of having done in three men in her life, is taking issue with Lord Grantham, her daddy, over selling off a big chunk of the estate to pay the taxes. So we will see if she can outsmart the Lord of the manor before she gets too caught up in her next romance. Meanwhile, the partridge, calling birds, French hens, and turtle doves can hardly wait for the twelfth day of this tune so they can regain their freedom. So far, five hens in 24 days, averaging 4 French eggs laid per day, have laid 96 eggs. The milk maids have long since been sent off somewhere and the ladies dancing have all gone to Las Vegas, having got sick of the birds and the stupid pear tree. Two more days and we will be through with the Twelve Days of Christmas for another year.
The Curmudgeonly Professor confesses to slovenly and lazy behavior in waiting 21 days to take up the ninth day after Christmas celebrated by nine ladies dancing. Why would anyone's true love want to send their true love nine ladies dancing? Wouldn't that be a pain in the neck? Meanwhile, the Professor is concerned that a full 21 days have elapsed since Christmas and that we are finally getting around to taking up the ninth day. If I were a teacher, I would give a very low grade for such late and inexcusable performance.
In consulting my dear friend the Wizard of Google, I am pleased to see that a mere 66.9 million entries pop up for the entry "twelve days of Christmas." Clearly, this topic is more critical to the Wizard than issues like unemployment, the diminishing rate of returns, and the reasons why marginal costs are supposed to equal marginal revenue in economic analysis. I assume, without checking even 1 million of these entries, that some hidden and arcane knowledge must be associated with all these women prancing about the stupid pear tree, which by now is all bedraggled and littered by all the noisy birds roosting in it night and day. Moreover, no one has ever offered to go and gather the eggs from the French hens and, obviously, without a French rooster, these eggs will never hatch into baby hens and baby roosters.
Rather than bemoan the passage of time since Christmas has gone by, it is now time to begin planning for next Christmas. If you haven't taken your Christmas decorations and doodads down, my suggestion is just to leave the stuff up all year and save the trouble. Unless you are the compulsive decorator who has umpteen boxes of Valentine junk, 300 plastic pumpkins and goblins for Halloween, 150 pilgrims and turkeys for Thanksgiving, and your garage is littered with storage boxes for all of this valuable stuff. Not to mention 4th of July and the signing of the Magna Carta. And Cinco de Mayo. As the reader can see, the Professor is bypassing the issue of how on earth we can get rid of nine ladies dancing since the mere thought reminds him of noxious TV commercials that cause wrenching headaches. Three more days go to.
The Curmudgeonly Professor lacked inspiration in how to deal with the eighth day of Christmas with the alleged horde of maids a milking. My friend the Wizard of Google offered me a scant 656,000 entries which took him (or her) 0.25 seconds to cough up, so you can see the Wizard could basically care less about a whole batch of maids running around and milking cows.
Speaking personally, the only milk I want to see comes in plastic bottles or paper cartons. I grew up helping my Dad milk cows every night. My lot was to milk Blondie and Blackie, the two tamest cows in the herd. Blackie, however, was our biggest producer and it took forever to finish. Dad, meanwhile, was milking cows like Old Red, the kicking maniac from Hades. Refreshing moments always occurred when, while sitting peacefully on my T-shaped milk stool which I made from 2 x 4 s, I would get a big whack with a manure covered tail in my face, or when the cows decided to spraddle and relieve themselves,so to speak. Since my homemade milking stools tended to fall apart or get broken, I had to make a steady number of replacements. Meanwhile, our herd of cats waited patiently for their free handouts, being part of the 47% who depend on freebies. But at least we never saw a mouse around the place.
I started college on a cold January day of 1950 at the University of Wyoming living in a student room in the hayloft of the sheep barn at the University stock farm and getting up at 4:30 several mornings a week to help the dairy herdsman milk the University milk cows. My job was usually to bring each group of cows into the milking parlor and brush them off with a curry brush and hope I didn't get whacked in the shin with an errant kick. On Saturdays, while my friends were all off having a really good time, I was scrubbing manure specks off the walls of the dairy parlor with a wire brush and freezing my hands and other exposed body parts. Thus, after one quarter of this glorious work, I graduated to becoming a student janitor for the remaining four years of my University career. I vowed never to get close enough to a cow the rest of my life to get whacked again, nor did I ever plan on milking one of the nasty beasts again.
What, you may ask, does all this reminiscing have to do with eight maids a milking in the Christmas song? Obviously, I didn't have much to say about eight maids a milking, nor did I care. Three cheers for anyone who wants to milk cows. Someone has to do it. My dad milked cows for years. Thus, some digression was ncessary to fill up the space in this post. A teacher at BYU once told a class one of my kids was in that a special place in Heaven awaits anyone who has ever milked cows. If you have ever milked a cow, you know whereof I speak. Anyway, the picture in the Twelve Days song is getting too crowded what with all the stupid birds yapping and the maids running around milking cows just so they can be part of the song. Hang on, things are going to get a whole lot more crowded.
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.
We are now on the fourth day after Christmas. We realize that there are only 361 more days until Christmas 2014 appears. My sister Ann has not sent me any French hens and no turtle doves or partridges in pear trees have materialized. Today, my true love is destined to send me four calling birds. I am now worried about how to clean up the mess if, in fact, we had partridges, turtle doves, French hens, and calling birds. Do partridges eat pears?
Being deficient in knowledge about what a calling bird is, once more I appealed to the Wizard of Google. I was rewarded in 0.18 seconds with 35,400,000 Google posts to answer my question. Never let it be said that the Wizard of Google sits idly by and twiddles his or her thumbs while penitents seeking trivial and inane knowledge sit mentally deprived awaiting an answer. Thirty five point 4 million answers is no piddly amount of information. I estimate that if I indeed looked up all thirty-five and nearly one-half million answers, it would take me at least until the next century.
Apparently a raging debate exists about whether these fabled calling birds are actually song birds, colly birds, or collie birds. Look it up if you don't trust me. The Wizard of Google does not discriminate among questioners nor does he or she ponder whether the questioner is really stupid and whether the question is really worth the 0.18 seconds of effort the Wizard has expended in providing zillions of answers. Ask.com says in no uncertain and unequivocal terms that a calling bird is a black bird, since "collie" means black. Blackbirds can be downright obnoxious and so I implore my true love to skip the calling birds. Just for today.
The artwork in the lovely Twelve Days of Christmas book I rely on to see what I am going to get the next day shows one of the French hens as a white chicken. Oh dear. And the four calling birds are shown as four colorful parrots. Makes sense.
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.