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.
Last weekend I took advantage of having my daughter in law and two grandsons staying with us, so I enlisted them to set out a cucumber plant and a zuchinni plant by the back downstairs door. While watching them, I noticed numerous hornets flying in and out of the nearby TV dish tube. We have always had wasp issues at our home in the Salt Lake Valley each year when we return from St. George for the summer months. Usually, we spray a few small nests and then knock them off in a day or two and that is the end of it. I thought I had better check the underside of the deck and, lo and behold, this is what I beheld--a monstser hornet's nest. I sprayed the nest with a full can of wasp spray from about 20 feet away but all that did was make them mad. So I called an exterminator who came this afternoon and sprayed our house and outside and checked the wasp's nest. He decided to return at 7:00 a.m. tomorrow when, he said, the wasps are more docile. He said he would soak the nest with a power sprayer and then spray up inside the nest. He said a nest this size could easily have over 200 hornets and they get really, really ticked off if someone tries to disturb them. I decided it was too much of a risk for me to try and get rid of it. S0 I'll let you know tomorrow how it all turns out. I now understand more fully the meaning of "stirring up a hornet's nest."
Yesterday my wife and I went to a workshop on house cleaning presented by our neighbor who does professional home cleaning services. Since I have done most of the house cleaning for the past couple of years since my wife's ability to do cleaning has been limited by sciatic pain, my wife thought I could probably use a few new pointers. Lo and behold, I was the only male there among 15 women. I immediately detected the possibility that men just simply do not do house cleaning and that house cleaning is strictly women's work. Nonetheless, I braved my minority status and sat through the 45 minute presentation and learned a few do's and don'ts that should help in my efforts to try and keep our homes clean.
I am not without janitorial experience, however. For four years, I was a janitor on the University of Wyoming Buildings and Grounds student janitorial crew. At one time or another, I carried the master keys to virtually every building on the University campus, including Old Main, which included the administrative offices such as the President's office. Looking back on it, I am amazed that a 17 year old kid was entrusted with such a responsibility. I'm not sure how much I learned. The routine was basically the same each night: empty the waste baskets, wipe the ash trays, dust the window sills, dust mop or wet mop the floors. Cleaning the "Half-Acre" Gym, Wyoming's original large gymnasium, involved pushing a six-foot dust mop up and down the huge expanse of hardwood flooring. At various times, I also janitored for the phone company and then was responsible, with my partner, for the Roach Building, Laramie's skyscraper at 5 stories high. Coal cinders from steam locomotives were the main affliction of downtown buildings and painful eyes, since diesels didn't come into being on transcontinental railroads until 1957. The main method of janitorial skill I learned was the "lick and a promise" method: Give it a lick today, and promise to do a better job tomorrow. Janitor work was hard work, and mostly done in the middle of the night and early morning hours, causing my 8:00 o'clock instructors to chew me out for dozing off once in awhile. But, at 75 cents per hour, it got me through school and so I was grateful for the opportunity.
So, at least, I am not intimidated by cleaning up messes, vacuuming, doing windows, mirrors, bathrooms, mopping floors, etc., etc. Mainly, I am thankful I am still able to do at least a reasonably presentable job of house cleaning since my wife has had to deal with her painful malady. Maybe I am making up for many decades of slothfulness and depending on her for everything. I sort of knew what all this work was like, but I have an even greater appreciation for what was done for me all of those years.
In general, the Curmudgeonly Professor has a huge negative bias against big box stores, except maybe for Costco which is a destination vacation spot. Costco also does not confuse its shoppers with unclear exit and entrance signs so you do not run into folks who pay no attention and blindly go the wrong way time after time. His hardware store of preference is Ace Hardware, even if John Madden does not make personal appearances like Santa Claus every time I go to an Ace Hardware store. Our Ace Hardware in south Salt Lake is housed in what amounts to a prefab tin shed. The check out counter is battered and bruised and chipped and discolored with the patina of decades of loving and tender lack of care. The store is relatively small, the aisles jampacked, the shelves sort of have an organized look in spots. But I have never failed to find whatever I needed there since old-timers are there to take you exactly where you need to go in this maze. Same in St. George. Ace Hardware in St. G. looked at me disbelieving when I told them that Big Box Store XYZ wanted to charge me $50 for delivering my new stepladder. "We never charge for home deliveries," explained this more humane and customer-friendly store, again staffed mostly by old-timers who actually know the difference between a hammer and a screwdriver and have long since passed the minimum voting age.
Now on to Home Depot. I was greeted cheerily at the door with a "How can I help you?" To which I replied, "I need a 12 volt battery." She pointed me in the direction of the batteries near the checkout counter and I thought, "Voila (I did pass French for my Ph.D.), I will be in and out of this monstrosity in record time." Little did I know. No 12 volt batteries there. Eager store helper no. 2 told me, "Go to the back by the door, you will find 12 volt batteries there." I walked 20 miles down long, endless aisles to get to the back where store helper no. 3 told me, "We don't keep those back there. They are up by the registers." To which I replied cheerfully (not too) "The man up there told me they were back here." To which store helper no. 3 said, "We've never kept those back here." Store helper no. 3 accompanied me to the front of the store, another 20 miles, and store helpers no. 2 and no. 3 engaged in an argument over where the &%#$-blank 12 volt batteries were located. Ultimately, these two stalwart big box pros ascertained by induction and deduction that they were out of 12 volt batteries, whereupon they checked inventory and called a couple of other Home Depot pros who reinforced their conclusion that they were, indeed, out of these little gems. A half hour later I exited the store, another mystery, since Home Depot prefers that you go in one end of a 10 acre store, walk 20 miles, and walk out the exit at the other end. As an economist, I marveled at the efficiency of my general rule that, "The larger the store and the more acres it covers, the less likely you are to find what you need, or find someone who knows where it is, or even someone who knows what it is."
So my wife walked into our tiny neighborhood Walgreen's, asked for a 12 volt battery, paid less than 3 bucks for it, and walked out in less than five minutes. Now I can fix the garage door opener if I can find the small Phillips screw driver. I'll get right on it and have it fixed some time before spring arrives. Have a nice day.
The list of things we no longer need to buy keeps growing. Here are a few such things:
Cookbooks. You want a recipe for carrot-raisin salad, Google will give you 2,521. Take your pick. Except I still buy a few cookbooks. I've bought cookbooks for decades. My wife never looked at any of them. All she looked at was the original Betty Crocker cookbook I gave her when we got married since her mother had overlooked teaching her how to cook. That vintage cookbook is now worth a fortune. Except it is tattered and battered. So I bought her the next edition. I like to look at the pictures in cookbooks and study the recipes when I can't sleep. Except for I never tried cooking any of them. Now, I love to prowl the recipe sites on my little computer.
Palm pilots. Remember when everyone had to have the stupid thing? My sons all had them and I thought I had to have one, so I shelled out $$$$$ for one and then used it to store about 20 names and phone numbers.
Day planners. Some people who make 20 appointments a day while they are trying to get rich still use them but my expensive leather bound day planner was an expensive phone list and I quit paying $$$$ for the fancy annual updates. I'll be glad to donate mine to anyone who wants it. If I can find it.
Newspapers. Except for doing the crossword puzzles. I hate doing puzzles on the computer.
Books. Unless you love the feel of paper and the pictures on book covers so much that you want to store another 200 books or more per year, which, over 20 years comes to, let's see, 4000 books. Happy reading.
Season football tickets. Unless you love getting fried in the hot sun, struggling through hordes of rude people crowding in and out and through the concourses, standing up just when the play of the game comes along and before you can react and stand up yourself, paying $5 or so for a cold "hot" dog, buying $3 water and $3.50 soda, and taking two hours to get out of the parking lot and on the freeway after the game.
Tomato plants in the spring. As an agricultural economist, I can calculate marginal costs and marginal revenues (benefits). I even have a master's degree in agricultural economics. I paid, let's see, about 6 bucks for 5 tomato plants, $20 for new metal cages, $6 for a bag of steer pucky, $8 for a bottle of spray stuff that was supposed to make the tomatoes set on, $5 for some Miracle Gro which was supposed to grow miracles, and spent 20 minutes a day of my valuable time watering the stupid things during the heat of the summer. And what did I get for my efforts? Thus far, about 20 tomatoes, 15 of which are piddly little things. I can buy a whole box of tomatoes at the farmers' market for 15 bucks that are bigger and better than anything my poor, pathetic tomato plants can produce. Next year I plan to plant rocks and buy tomatoes at the farmers' markets. At least they know how to grow them.
Ronco Rotisseries. Set it and forget it. Or, rather, set it in your storeroom and forget it. At one recent point in time, my sisters all had rotisseries including one who lied about having one because she didn't want to feel left out but she told a big fat lie and is still lying about it. Then one by one they all complained about taking an hour to clean up the stupid thing while they could buy nice fat rotisseried chickens at Costco for 5 bucks. For a five dollar chicken, two people can eat off of it for a couple of days, make more sandwiches, a couple of chicken enchiladas, and then boil (berl) the carcass for chicken noodle soup to keep you going for another week. All for 5 bucks and you don't have to curse the stupid rotisserie while trying to clean it up.
We have run out of space here on our list of stuff we no longer need to buy. We will continue this foray into home economics some time soon. Meanwhile, enjoy your rotisserie, your season football tickets, your new books, your newspapers, your day planner, and your cookbooks. When your storeroom gets too crowded to put more stuff in you never use any more, hire some neighbor kid to come in and haul it all out to their yard for a nice garage sale or call your local favorite charity to donate it to needy folks who are dying to set it and forget it. For nothing.
As you may have already noted, the Curmudgeonly Professor lives in a state of continual clutter. Many creative writers have made fortunes writing books about clutter. People are too lazy and dumb all by their own little selves to realize that, to get rid of clutter, you pick it up, sort it out, and get rid of most of it. Amazingly simple. But hope springeth eternal, and people who are compulsive savers, compulsive mess makers, and otherwise suffering from numerous phobias, nervous tics, persecution complexes, and the vision to see that today's clutter is tomorrow's expensive artifact, will continue to spring forth the money to buy a book on getting rid of the clutter. I bought one of these treatises years ago, but it ended up vanishing in the quicksand of clutter, just like everything else before I got around to digesting it.
But as time for departure draws near, I am invoking the five minute rule. The five minute rule states: Do what you can in five minutes and then stop. Otherwise, you will get a headache, become tired, overstressed, depressed, and disgusted. Anyone can handle five minutes. Time yourself. Toss out everything you can, organize everything you can, put away anything you have time for, and then rest. Watch Matlock. Not Fox News, please. But you will be amazed at what you can get done in five minutes. Then, when you are close to the hour of departure, spend another five minutes, and see if you can take care of the rest of it. If not, just leave it. You will be back in six months and you probably won't need any of it where you are going anyway. Then you will have a fresh perspective. In the meantime, buy another book about decluttering your junk, listen to motivational tapes by Tony Robbins and Wayne Dyer, and watch Beverly Hillbillies, Magnum PI, and Andy Griffith. Don't overdo it.
As my wife left for water aerobics this morning at 9:00 a.m., she reminded me that I needed to vacuum the carpets today. As she left, at 9:01 I got the vacuum out and positioned it in a strategic position. At 10:11 a.m., I heard the garage door go up, so I quickly turned on the vacuum and was merrily doing my housework. A few minutes later, she asked "When did you start vacuuming? When you heard me come home?" So much for living together in matrimonial bliss for 56 1/2 years. There are no surprises.
I wish the comic strip "Pickles" wasn't copyrighted. In the morning strip, Opal is telling Earl, who is ironing his shirt, that he can vacuum the living room after ironing his shirt. Earl protests, saying "I don't think that's a good idea. Too much vacuuming can wear out the carpet fibers." And, finally, "Just like too much brushing did to my hair." I can certainly attest to those truths.
The Curmudgeonly Professor has long been in awe of the time, money, effort in shopping in dozens of stores, hunting through bargain bins, dollar stores, attics, junk piles, etc., to provide the creativity to litter our homes and yards with "decorations." The problem at the end of the year is that people start decorating for Halloween immediately after the Fourth of July. So all of the patriotical stuff has to be dismantled and stored, and all of the fake pumpkins, ghosts, scarecrows, crows, bats, spider webs, broomsticks, corn stalks, straw bales, and plastic Halloween doodads have to be brought out of hiding to do justice to Halloween. To some people and imaginative home decorators, Halloween has become more important than Christmas. More important than Hanukah. More important than birthdays, wedding anniversaries, wedding receptions, high school band concerts, house cleaning, taking pills, and sleeping. One of my daughters in law is a professional Halloween decorator. According to one of my granddaughters, she has about 24 huge storage boxes full of Halloween doodads. Unfortunately, she is trying to finish her college degree along with her daughters so she has not lived up to decorative expectations this fall.
The most annoying types of decorations are inflatable gizmos that take up rooftops and front yards, tons of obnoxious schlock strewn about the front yard, and even projectors projecting scary images on garage doors and into the sky. These people need to take up blogging so they can be doing something that benefits mankind rather than irritating their fellow patriotic citizens. After all, if you don't want to read a blog, don't read it. But how can you avoid the schlocky front yards when you have to drive by them?
I'll say one thing for my wife. She is only a minimal doodad collector. For one thing, seasonal decorating is a lot of work. For two things, our decorating junk is spread from St. George to Salt Lake. She did put up our Thanksgiving decorations the other day, which I have documented in the following photo. As you can see, these decorations consist of two scrawny and grouchy looking underfed pilgrims, a cheerful looking tiny pilgrim, a turkey with candy suckers for feathers, said suckers probably being at least 30 years old, and two candle sticks with stuff around the bottoms. With these festive decorations, our appreciation of Thanksgiving is daily enhanced.
Some people spend all year planning for seasonal decorations. They buy picked over stuff on sale the day after each holiday and then try to keep it out of the way for another year so they can trot it all out in the spirit of whatever holiday it is. People have been putting up their Christmas lights this year for some time now. I gave up trying to attach lights to the eaves of my roof years ago since every year several old guys like me fall off of ladders and spend their Christmas seasons in body casts and rehab. We have a couple of net-type Christmas light thingies that we spread over a few bushes in front of the house and call it good.
Of course, when Christmas and New Year's are over, out come the plastic inflatable valentines, the plastic inflatable bunny rabbits and easter eggs, and other egregious stuff bought on sale the previous year. And we haven't even mentioned the stuff that skilled home decorators stick on top of their kitchen cabinets and soffits, known unceremoniously in our family as "soffit crap," a term, I guarantee you, I did not invent. The contest seems to be based on points for who can stick up the most greenery, pottery, ceramic doodads, dishes, memorabilia, per square foot of soffit space. We will have to reserve this topic for a later blog post that will require more room than we have today.