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.
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.
Three whole weeks of January have now bit the dust, so to speak, so it is time to get caught up to date. As regular followers of my blog are aware, I have taken a brief respite from the daily task of finding photos and writing learned and witty words to post. Actually, my daily page view count has gone up, not down, so maybe I can just quit blogging and live off the thousands of photos and blog posts already posted. However, a conscientious pang has struck (stricken?) me so I must now bring things up to date, to wit:
Since three weeks have gone by, it is probably time to chuck your New Year's resolutions. Chances are, you have not (a) lost one pound; (b) repented of one sin; (c) quit being lazy; (d) cleaned up the clutter you leave around the house. The problem is, when we try to be someone we are not, i. e., when we precipitously start overcoming some egregious habit, others near and dear to us will suspect us of some nefarious guilt on our part. Otherwise, why would we try to fake it and overcome our transgressions?
If we plan ahead for next January 1, we can sort of ease into any transformations that are necessary in our behavior, maybe announce them ahead of time, little by little, so that we are not sneaking around trying to make changes for the better and then have people wonder what we have been up to.
I have spent hours shopping for a new computer. This here computer started out with 500 G several years ago and now there is a little red bright bar reminding me that I have about 27 G left and then, kaput, I will not be able to post another photo or word of knowledge. I have searched all the ratings websites, Amazon, hp, Dell, Costco, etc. Every time I find something that I think might be what I need, I start reading the comments. "Don't buy this computer." "Quit working after 3 months." "Tech service from India horrible." "Switching stuff from old to new computer wouldn't work." "Windows 8 a real pain." Etc., etc., etc. So now I am trying to delete stuff from this PC to see if I can stretch it out a bit. You'd think that since the tablet market is swamping the PC market the PC folks would be a bit more anxious to give their PCs away and make sure they work than they seem to be in some cases. Any recommendations? I need at least 1T and lots of speed for 150,000 photos. Help.
We have a new President as of today. Today was all nicey-nice. Tomorrow will be back to the more normal kind of nasty stuff we have gotten used to.
We have sunshine and 50 plus degree weather in St. George. Salt Lake is in the 20s with lovely smog inversions that are killing people off. Thank heaven we are here.
I probably could go on for another several thousand words, but do not want to overburden your attention span. Perhaps I will post something else without waiting a couple of weeks to do it, but it is too early to tell yet. I hope your New Year is as happy as you thought it was going to be on January 1, and that you are on item 15 of your New Year's Resolutions, having conquered the previous 14. If not, plan ahead for next January 1. Have a nice day.
The most heralded, and, at the same time, the least effective rite of the New Year is about to begin: Making New Year's Resolutions. Dusting off last year's list is likely a starting place since odds are none of them were achieved, interest in them having lapsed by January 10 or earlier. And, chances are, last year's resolutions are likely a rerun of the previous year's, and the year before that, and the year before that, ad infinitum. In other words, we have motivations to change, such as when we think we are about to die, or when our doctor warns us to do this or else, or someone or something else inspires us momentarily to make Big Changes. But motivation dies early. After all, we have a whole year, twelve whole months, 365 whole days, to overcome our problems, repent of our sins, lose our weight, pay more attention to our family, clean out the attic and the garage, and so on. By January 5, we realize we have got by without doing any of this stuff so far, so why bother doing anything about any of it now? After all, the Lakers or the Knicks are playing, we're tired from a hard day of playing Word and checking our facebooks and our twitters and our emails and discussing last night's games around the water cooler. Something to think about. For five seconds, at least.
The Curmudgeonly Professor now wishes to evaluate the progress we are all making on the New Year's Resolutions we made four months ago, which likely are about the same resolutions we have made each year for the past umpteen years. Typically, any time after January 1, our New Year's resolutions are "out of sight, out of mind, " so to speak. Just as a euphoric moment in our lives leads us to promise to do everything better, when the moment passes and we get back to normal, then our lives rarely change. Deathbed repentance generally tends to be ineffective if the doomed person lives. Here is a pop quiz on how well your New Year's Resolutions are coming this year: ( I know, you thought you had gotten off scot-free, as they say, for another year, but the Curmudgeonly Professor is keeping track of you).
How much weight have you lost since January 1? One pound? Five pounds? Ten pounds? Or no pounds?
How much weight have you gained since January 1?
Have you done your medical checkups such as colonoscopy, mammography, skin cancer checks, etc? Or are you trusting to the odds that you won't have to bother?
Have you cleaned up your garage, den, office, pantry, kitchen drawers, closets, and anywhere else you have stashed junk for ten years?
Have you overcome any egregious habits and obnoxious behaviors? (You know to what I am referring).
Did you stop eating junk food?
Are you still drinking three gallons of Diet Coke a day?
Have you paid any attention to your spouse, your kids, your parents, your grandkids?
Have you quit being a miserable pessimist and started counting your blessings?
If none of your resolutions are on this list, you can dust off your own and take a look. Then we have two choices: We can either go on a massive guilt trip and give up until next January, or we can start all over today. Maybe we can lose one pound of weight by tomorrow morning. That would help.
Too many people assume they are correctly eyeballning every word, phrase and senntence that they type, and that they never make errxors, so they never proofread. Wrong! Wrong! Wrongg! A term I learned in graduate school is this one: Every unproofread word and page could be, and often is, plagued with miosspelled words and errors. So hear are five reasons everyone: secretaries, lawyers, business persons, trash collecktors, and anyone else who types or writes a word or a page or a book should proofread: (More than once: else why do printed books still have errorss in them?)
Errors are embarrassing. The reader knows yyou didn't doublecheck, that you don't know how to spell, and that you were too lazzy to fix stuff before you finished it and sent it outt.
Errpors cost money to fix.
Mistakes take up wasted timme, postage, telephone calls, and such, and cause headaches, stomach crampps, cussing, bewilderment, bad thoughts, delays, wrong information, and general consternation and havoc.
Mistakes can actually cause extremely serious problems, misinterpretations, legal actions, much expense to correct, and extgreme and irate anger.
Proofreading is the most efficient use of time you can make. Knowing that every word, every page, every document, every letter, every form is typed exactly correct means you never have to worry about causing the multitude of problems that errors can instigate.
I had two special secretaries during my work career, each of which worked for me for at least six years. Each of them asked me if I had any suggestions or directions for them when they started. I told both of them to remember that "any unchecked, unproofread page or typed information is wrong." I imagine a minor mistake or two might have been found, but I don't remember them. The first secretary typed thousands of pages of research monographs and technical tables. The second one was our departmental secretary and received the all-university award for outstanding secretary on the BYU campus at the age of 26, to the great consternation of the hundreds of senior staff in a large university. A simple rule. When obeyed meticulously, this rule leads to profound and outstanding results. And those who follow this rule can sleep soundly at nights.
To qualify as a geezer, one has to have sufficient time to waste to watch Matlock reruns. Otherwise, one is not qualified. Many of my geezer friends and acquaintances watch Matlock. They are not disturbed by the fact they have watched each episode 389 times and know them all by heart. Matlock is their comfort blanket, their chicken soup for geezers. Watching Matlock is all the more comforting as a painkiller and time waster by knowing the characters, plot, and outcome of each episode in nauseous detail. All I have to do is watch the opening of each episode and I can tell you the entire remaining story. You may ask: "Why are you so stupid that you keep watching it?" A plethora of reasons for watching Matlock exist, as follows:
No one is currently showing reruns of Three's Company, that cultural highbrow program.
Watching Matlock is a great time to take an hour's nap, since you are not missing out on anything you don't already know.
Watching Matlock is relaxing and stress free since you already know who dunnit.
You want to be sure that you know what is going on if you meet another geezer and you get asked if you saw today's episode of Matlock.
Matlock is cheaper than pay-per-view.
You feel that the characters in Matlock are a part of your family since you have seen them so many thousands of time.
You keep hoping that someone will discover five here-to-fore unseen episodes of Matlock retrieved from a hidden vault somewhere in Arkansas.
To help improve the efficiency of watching Matlock, here are some guidelines:
If you can, TiVo it. That way you can watch the parts you missed when you fell asleep. Otherwise, you can watch the whole hour's program in about 15 minutes by skipping the ads and whizzing through the parts you have memorized.
A corpse appears within the first five or ten minutes of the program. Today was a slow day, the corpse not showing up until 15 after the hour.
Prior to the murder, a big argument or fight has occurred between the corpse-to-be and someone who had problems with the potential corpse.
Favorite methods of creating corpses are (1) stabbing, (2) poisoning, (3) shooting, (4) smacking their heads against a hard object, (5) clubbing them with figurines or bookends and such, (6) pushing them down the stairs, (7) throwing them over the balcony, preferably 10 stories up, (8) giving them a drug overdose, and possibly others. No corpse has yet materialized just from boredom from the first ten minutes of the program.
An innocent person, some times the person who had the big pre-corpse fight, comes upon the corpus delecti and is horrified.
A policeman, janitor, or bystander observes the innocent person who often stupidly is found picking up the knife or other killing instrument and standing over the body. Dumb, dumb, dumb.
The innocent person is hauled off to jail.
Matlock is called to the jail whereupon he ponders whether to take another murder case since he already is bogged down with defending non-killers of Atlanta's finest corpses.
Matlock explains that his fee is $100,000, since he needs big bucks to support his lifestyle of crummy cheap suits, a plain old house, and the hotdogs he consumes after every trial is over.
Miss Crump from Opie days shows up occasionally, apparently having gone to law school and become a judge who has the gall to admonish Ben Matlock (Andy Griffith) about his courtroom behavior.
I forgot: whoever gets to be the corpse can go home very quickly after the TV cameras roll to shoot the sequence, since they are dead and can make no further contribution to the episode.
The prosecuting lawyer must stand and say "I object" every few minutes or so since that is the only line they have in the episode and they must do something to earn their income for a little bitty performance.
A lot of other people get killed along the way in some episodes, but car bombs, bullets, kidnapping, drugging and whatever other potential or actual means of extermination can not extinguish our Ben. Obviously. Otherwise, who would be in the next episode?
Matlock has a succession of stunningly beautiful daughters, whom he seems to enjoy hugging from time to time.
Matlock has a continuing affectionate relationship with a lady prosecuting attorney, but it never seems to go any where.
Oh, I forgot, cheapo Matlock shines his own shoes, sews on his own buttons, patches his own socks. Why waste his $100,000? And by the way, what does he do with his big fees? He still drives an old wreck of a car, besides.
It takes exactly 60 minutes minus 20 or 25 minutes of ads to discover who dunnit. Meanwhile, tension builds as Matlock and his private investigators, his daughter of the hour, and others pursue villains over land and sea and through forests and alleys and dumpsters so Matlock can get them on the stand and browbeat the living daylights out of them until they plead for an orange jumpsuit so they don't have to listen to his blather any longer.
Has the jury reached a verdict? We have, your honor. Will the jury please read the verdict? We find the defendant not guilty. Imagine. Now the defendant does one of several things. The defendant, if a beautiful woman, gives Matlock a big hug. If the defendant is someone Matlock detests, they part company quickly. Some times the defendant informs Matlock it will take a lifetime for Matlock to collect his $100,000 fee. Probably explains why Matlock lives like a miser.
Matlock then goes to the only mobile hot dog stand in a major county courthouse in the United States of America and orders a dog with all the stuff on it to celebrate his great victory.
Now we wake up from our happy hour's nap, grateful for having had the opportunity through HDTV to watch another glorious episode of our most favorite soporific program, the immortal Matlock, along with a few resurrected old buddies in cameo appearances from Andy Griffith days like Don Knotts. The Curmudgeonly Professor earnestly hopes this Geezer Guide to Matlock has been beneficial to his readers. Have a nice day. Did you watch Matlock today?
The Curmudgeonly Professor is in an advice-giving frame of mind today, recognizing that people get rich by offering advice. The Seven Habits of this, the Twelve factors of that, the 235 secrets of Whatever, etc. People buy these books by the zillions. Covey's Seven Habits is still on the best seller list approximately 50 years after he first wrote it, proving that people never pay any attention to these habits, even after they read the book. The Curmudgeonly Professor offers his advice for free. Following are the Ten Laws of Riches, Success, and Love. You can read these in ten seconds and not waste time and money paying for the best selling book which is certain to follow.
Never waste time making out new New Year's Resolutions. Just recycle the ones you made ten or twenty years ago because chances are you haven't kept any of them anyway. You still haven't lost any weight, you still haven't repented of your egregious habits, you still do not think kind thoughts about morons on the highway. Just look at the old resolutions, file them away, and get them out again next January 1.
Never make out to-do lists. Such lists are depressing. If something really needs to be done, people will yell at you constantly until you do it, or until they get worn out bugging you about it.
Don't waste time sorting out your desk top or cleaning up your office. You'll never be able to find anything if you do this, and besides, neatness is not your "persona" and you will be uncomfortable with a neat, orderly office.
Do not accompany your wife to Wallchart, advice frequently offered by the Curmudgeonly Professor. Wives tend to be ticked if you don't stay by their elbow the entire time they are in the store and they complain for hours if they had to look for you. Best just to stay home.
Postpone tasks until the last minute before they are absolutely, definitively, positively due. That way many things won't need to be done anyway because their need has passed, and your creative juices will flow more freely under pressure and you will do a more outstanding job on last minute work, besides impressing everyone around who thought you were merely a lazy lout who never did anything.
Never, never ask questions during a meeting. The purpose of meetings is for insurance for management, deans, higher-ups who can then say they consulted everybody on everything that they had already made their minds up in the first place about and were just going through the motions having a time-wasting meeting. Eager beavers who ask questions and make suggestions in meetings merely prolong the agony of the meeting and delay your getting your coffee, diet Coke, or whatever break. Hydraulic hand raisers never succeed.
Never answer emails. If some one really wants to know something from you, they will remind you.
Learn to fill out your progress report wisely. Here's how I filled out my yearly progress report for 45 years: "Every day in every way I am doing better and better." You can imagine how outstanding I was at the end of 45 years. Now I have no need for further improvement, despite what my wife thinks.
Avoid the following topics of discussion with family, friends, and colleagues: Politics and religion. Everyone pretty much has a die hard rock solid commitment to their own beliefs and will merely be offended and convinced of your innate stupidity and bigotry if you express an idea counter to what everyone else thinks.
Buy as many impulse items as possible when you go to the grocery store--Cheetos, cookies, hot dogs, frozen lemon meringue pies, stuff like that. Best to go by yourself than to try and sneak this stuff in when shopping with your loved one who will always ask, "Do we really need that?", or "Aren't you fat enough already?"
The Curmudgeonly Professor will offer an update on these Laws of Success in a future post. For now, just pay attention to these first ten principles and tell me if your life improves as a result. Have a nice day!
The world is populated by three classes of people:
Pollyanna types who are just so sweet, cutesy, and who smile all the time, thus brightening up the world for everyone with whom they meet or with whom they come in contact.
Cipher types who are bland, boring, loners, recluses, hermits, and wall flowers. Some cipher types may become professors of economics, others are busy inventing stuff in their garages and piling up lists of patents. Meeting a cipher type is like communing with a cement-block wall. These types never get chosen for Dancing with the Stars or Jeapordy. Some run for Congress.
Grouches make up approximately 80% of the people in the world. Most people are continually ticked off at everyone else with gripe lists miles long. Drivers all have road rage and can't stand to drive behind anyone else, thus having contests to get in front of any driver in front of them so they can be one car ahead of them when they come to the next stop light. Grouches scowl, frown, and act nasty a good part of the time.
Here are ten advantages of being a grouch:
You never have to learn how to smile or be pleasant to people, thus inviting other people to smile back and ruin your grouchy disposition.
You can blame others for misplacing the TV remote.
You don't have to worry about other people bothering to speak to you, thus simplifying your life because you rarely have to carry on a conversation.
If you have a managerial position, you can keep all of your employees chronically irritated, thus minimizing the chance they will come in to your office and bother you unless they come in to quit.
You don't have to waste time on books like "The Power of Positive Thinking."
You can minimize your travel time by car by slicing across 4 lanes at a time, cutting off people, making crude gestures, honking your horn if someone in front waits a nanosecond too long to suit you, tailgating people you think are morons, passing on the double yellow line, running the red light, running stop signs, and other methods of demonstrating your grouchiness on the streets and highways.
You can put a nasty message on your telephone answering machine, advising people not to bother to call you any more because you don't want to talk to them.
You can tell your wife her new dress looks awful. See you in court.
You can practice your creative grouchiness by speaking loudly to obnoxious TV ads, cable news bloviators, and other TV programs, thus making you feel better for having informed everyone of their defects, flaws, errors in thinking, and general stupidity.
You don't have to worry about having a nice dinner ready for you when you come home from wherever you hung out during the day, since your spouse knows you wouldn't like it anyway.
We have just begun to consider the advantages of being a grouch. The other day I was waiting at Kohl's Department Store for my wife. Again. When two cute teenage girls came bouncing in the store, and both said "Hi" with big smiles on their faces. Imagine that. That experience was almost enough to cause me to go through a 12-step recovery program to stop being a grouch. Maybe something like that is all it takes to stop being a dork and smile back.
The Curmudgeonly Professor is a sore loser, he admits it. He can't stand it when his anointed teams lose football and basketball games or when his candidates that were clearly superior to the losers who won got beat by voters with blinders on. However, the Professor is now ready to move on, and he offers herewith advice and a list of constructive activities to help his readers reconnect with sanity.
Do not listen to bloviators. A week's worth of bloviation usually sifts down to a paltry half a teacup of chaff.
Turn the TV off, except for Matlock and NBA and NFL and NCAA sports.
Do not read political columnists who also bloviate.
Accept the fact that not a whole lot is going to happen anyway and, even if something does happen, it will get reversed some time in the next 50 years.
Ignore people you think should never have gotten elected. It's called government of the people, and there are no requirements that define "people." Even you could have been elected, and then where would we be?
Alternative activites to take up your time and salve your emotions:
Clean out the garage. Garage cleaning is a purgative (is there such a word?) activity as you get rid of five years' worth of spider webs, dust boulders, junk, expired garden chemicals, broken toys, old computers, and all manner of other detritus.
Pick up all the books you have left laying (lying? never can remember) around the house.
Transfer your negative thoughts to the Miami Heat and the Los Angeles Lakers. Even if you hate the Lakers, cheer for them when they play the Heat. I'm opposed to teams that spent hundreds of gazillions of dollars to buy a championship. Why should any other team even bother to play?
Start a campaign to demolish the BCS.
Start a blog. Seriously. Just remember, whatever you say or post will irritate someone, somewhere in the world.
Go back to school and get a Ph.D.
Work crossword puzzles.
Take up photography. Flowers don't argue, they are neither Republican or Democrat, and they think the Tea Party happened long ago in Boston Harbor.
Go to Costco, WalMart, KMart, Sam's Club, or any big box store where they serve lots of free samples. You'll never have to fix lunch again. But make sure you get there after the sample persons have their wares out. And don't let a family with 10 kids barge in before you.
Read a book. What a great idea! (I originally said, innocently, "novel" idea.)
Just remember, all members of the House and one-third of the Senate and the President are already running for reelection in 012. Thus, everything that happens in the next two years is calibrated to beating the "ins" and making them look silly, after which the "outs" will become "ins", whereupon the current "ins" will try to reverse the whole thing as they labor as "outs". ("They's in and we's out," from The Pastures of Heaven, in response to query as to the difference between the party in power and the one not in power. Political science in a nutshell!
After long meditation and considerble experience, the Curmudgeonly Professor offers the following simplified guide to self improvement:
Either do something that should be done that you have been putting off or stop one obnoxious habit you should have quit years ago. But do it now and do not dither.
The advantages of this system are plentiful. If you actually do one thing, change one thing, stop one thing, the action becomes contagious. Then the next thing to do, change, or stop is that much easier because without even thinking about it the change becomes painless and easier and self-motivating.
You will save thousands of dollars on motivational tapes and books, hundreds of hours reading 30-step manuals, and life will be better. Trust me.
I used to tell my classes and my kids that the real test of their ability to cope with life would come if they lost everything they had. This potential disaster very nearly happened to me about 30 years ago when I had made a stupid mistake in opening a second book store and the energy bust in Wyoming led to declining rentals in our student apartments at the University of Wyoming. My oldest son is an attorney and he nervously awaited our decision to declare bankruptcy so he would have something to do filling out some papers. Just kidding. We survived thanks to some careful planning and resource allocation, plus my wife's incredible endurance in managing our household finances.
Every day we learn of someone who has lost everything, or nearly so, and is approaching or in the midst of financial and personal collapse for reasons of health, family, finances, and unforseeable disasters. Some of these problems come under the heading of what I called "avoidable grief" in an earlier post on this blog. And avoidable grief is what we're talking about now. Hindsight is always sharper and clearer than foresight, of course, but sharper and more intelligent foresight could have saved much of the misery that confronts us when the roof caves in.
Some of the most frequent causes of personal loss come from mismanagement of household finances. Trust in unqualified financial advisers has led to wiping out 401(k)s, IRAs, pension benefits, and personal savings. The recent recession created many such losses, but many, if not most, complete disasters could have been avoided if funds were invested with a financial manager who switched quickly from stocks to bonds and some money funds. Fortunately, we had such a financial adviser since our son, who did cause grief as a teenager, mostly with long hair and ridiculous clothes, redeemed himself and saved our necks, so to speak. A good deal of grief comes from failure to save in the first place, to waiting too long to begin putting a nest egg together. The complaint most frequently heard is that "we don't have enough to live on anyway, so we don't have an extra $10 to save." Some early financial advice and budget planning is critical. I was talking to a young woman the other day who told me that her husband liked to spend all his money and that he turned a deaf ear whenever she mentioned to him that they needed to set up a household budget. Decades ago, I taught two sections of consumer economics to home economics students at Colorado State University. When I cautioned them that they needed to begin financial planning early and be prepared for the possibility of financial collapses from divorce, illness, loss of jobs, and other reasons, the sweet young women became much less sweet and actually became quite hostile, knowing with certainty that their marriages would be perfect and their lives without problems or blemishes. A degree in home economics was all that they needed to go forth and live a dream life and a dream marriage. So much for cautionary home economics. I hope they all had a happy life without problems and financial issues.
Having some kind of financial plan is absolutely critical. Knowing how much is spent on what and how much discretionary income is left, if any, is only the beginning. Too much of the recent financial collapse came from unrealistic expectations in thinking that megamansions were available to any and all just by signing some papers, that jobs would never be lost, that a new boat or a new car or a granite counter top would make one happy and the money would come like manna from heaven.
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.
Blog readers may have gained the totally false impression that the Curmudgeonly Professor just sits around all day twiddling his thumbs and casting hexes and spells on those who desperately need hexed and spelled. Not so. Much of his efforts go into remaining up to date. For instance, my wife just replaced the calendar hanging on my wall with a brand new 2010 calendar. Since June, I have been looking at the page for August 2009 and have remained puzzled as to why the days didn't look like they should for the months since May 2010. Now that problem is solved.
Next thing, I just replaced the battery in my wall clock in my den. When my son takes a nap in the recliner in my den, he always takes the battery out becasuse the tick-tick-tocking drives him nuts. The last nap he took in this recliner was about 3 years ago, so you can see I have remained puzzled about the time for many moons.
My first Seiko watch I bought over 30 years ago, used for 25 years ago, and gave to my youngest son, on whose wrist it is currently functioning. My new Seiko watch, which I intended to use in a working condition for the remainder of my mortal probation, quit working after about 5 years. Maybe it just needs a new battery. My old one never needed a battery, never was cleaned or repaired, and just kept going forever. I am extremely hacked. I have been learning to get along without a watch for several weeks now as I contemplate possibly going and asking someone about a battery. What concerns me is that the battery may cost half as much as the watch originally cost, and that will really tick me off. Meanwhile, as explained above, I have a new battery in my den wall clock and I yell at my wife periodically to ask her what time it is, which she enjoys because it gives us another topic of togetherness. Thus, I have learned to make do without a watch for the first time in 200 years and may never replace the battery. Or maybe I should spend the same amount on a new Timex. Or a sundial. Whatever.
Meanwhile, I have an agenda for updating other stuff. I am trying to find my book club return forms so I don't get another couple of book shipments I don't want. I don't know why these book clubs just keep my membership current as I typically return most of the book shipments. I have, in good moral conscience, occasionally resigned them after years of egregious behavior as an irresponsible member. But then I get deluged with passionate entreaties about how much they miss me as a member and how much they want me back and they will be happy to send me umpteen free books if I will just sign up and join again. Don't they ever learn?
Moreover, I am late paying magazine subscriptions. I used to take a ton of magazines. Now I just take Newsweek, Time, Atlantic, BusinessWeek/Bloomberg, and the New Yorker. I take the New Yorker mostly to read the cartoons but do read some stuff now and then. I really do need to sort out the late bills and pay them. I do have some concerns about the future of magazines. Newsweek, especially, seems to have drastically altered its format, and Howard Feinman announced last night that he is moving to Huffington Post, having long been a pillar on the Newsweek staff.
Other than that, I am pretty much up-to-date. I just need to start sorting some thousands of books as my wife keeps reminding me that my kids will have a tough time getting rid of all of them. I am not particularly worried about that, as I figure I will be getting even with them anyway and they need to become more literate, besides.
The Curmudgeonly Professor has decided to launch forth into the self-help field. After noting that Steve Covey's Seven Habits of Highly Successful People still haunts the best seller lists after many years since publishing, I realize that I have missed the boat and should have climbed onto the self-help bandwagon eons ago. Covey's book has presumably inspired many people to arise from their posteriors, be proactive, do stuff, get with the program, and accomplish all manner of good stuff. Many people are probably also listening simultaneously to Tony Robbins and Wayne Dyer. One of my neighbors a few years ago told me that the best thing about being retired is that he no longer had to listen to those blankety-blank motivation and self-help tapes any longer.
I thought I would aim my first foray into the self-help field by concentrating on what I do best; viz., help people become chronically messy and disorganized. I would expect that, over time, I could write a book on the topic that would end up on the NYTimes best seller lists, appear on Costco and Walmart book tables and shelves in big piles, provide fodder for discussion groups, provide required reading for the newly married, furnish an inspirational present for teenage slobs, and establish new standards for new employees.
First, let me establish my credentials in this field. I have been messy all my life. I have been disorganized all my life. I have embarked on countless self-help programs and twelve-step recovery programs to attempt to overcome my sloppiness, slovenliness, surliness, and general messiness. But to no avail. Now that I am elderly, I figure, what the heck, I won't have to worry about it when I'm gone. Every once in awhile I go on a binge and clean up stuff. My binge usually lasts two or three minutes and then I tire rapidly, develop a headache, and find enough stuff that has been missing for months to keep me occupied for another few days.
To cut to the chase, so to speak, and at no charge to you, here are my Five Critical Habits of Slobs: As soon as this little blog post takes off exponentially, I will have to charge for this information, so take advantage of it while you have a chance. But wait! There's more! More enlightenment will follow!
Never put stuff away. By having stuff handy, you will save time wondering where you might have put it if you had actually put it some place you would never remember anyway.
Pile stuff up in piles. Don't worry about how high the piles are. Once stuff is in a pile, you will know that you never did throw away that important overdue book bill or book club reminder warning you to stop ignoring the "do not send" checkboxes on their periodic mailings.
If you run out of space on your desk, use the floor. There is usually a lot of floor space available. You might at least do a preliminary sort to have, say, books in piles in one area, old newspapers in another area, and dirty clothes and socks somewhere else.
Never file stuff. Filed stuff gets outdated soon anyway and will soon have to be sorted out and thrown away, just making more work and tiring you out when you could have been Twittering, Tweeting, Facbooking, MySpacing, blogging, texting, playing on your iPhone, iPad, Nano, Nook, Kindle, or doing a myraid of other constructive things. Actually, if you want to end book clutter, just buy the new super-duper Kindle and store thousands of books.
Actually, random dispersal of stuff works best, usually, because you increase the odds that you will quickly, with two or three hours or two or three days actually find what it is that you are looking for.
So, dear blog readers, that's all there is to it, to lard a sentence with indefinite antecedents. Remember, some of the most famous people on earth have been messy. 97% of all teenagers are slobs. Husbands are famous for strewing cast off items of clothing in a random path. When your home gets too messy to work in any more, go to the office. You won't have to clean your office until you either die, in which case you won't have to clean it anyway, or retire. And besides, your spousal unit (i.e., wife) won't be around to commentate on the miserable mess you live in. But why take time away from stimulating your creative juices to create new companies, float new IPOs, invent new social networking empires, and the like by wasting time sorting through your stuff? Food for thought.