12/31/2008

HAPPY YOU-KNOW-WHAT!

To be serious for just a moment.

The past year has been a long one in some ways and short in others. One of the things I realize is that I am now almost 86 years old. With a background of booze, cigarettes and obesity I never would have guessed I would see this year. I am very, very grateful, especially to the love of my life, Jen-Chi. I couldn't have done it without her nor would I want to.

I also take close note of the many, many friends I have been fortunate enough to meet online. That has been wonderful and I wish every one of you a very happy new year.

If I don't see you before, I hope to meet you here a year from now. The "hope" part pertains to you. I'll be here.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!








The Old Professor
Carmel, CA
December 31, 2008

12/30/2008

READ THE FINE PRINT!

I realize, when compared with the population of any continent, there are relatively few people who stop by here to read whatever nonsense I might have to say. Even so, I never have used this platform to advance any particular viewpoint. But I’d like to make an exception and pass along my version of an online adventure I am currently in that might help others.

Some time back I saw an internet ad for free samples of a diet drink called Slim Easy Pro. In the ad there appeared to be cans of one of those “substitute it for a meal” drinks. They offered to send me a 2-week supply for free. Why not?

So the 2-week supply arrived and it was a jar of a powder that was to be mixed with water or most any other liquid.

As often seems to happen to me, I didn’t get around to actually trying it when another 2 jars showed up – another 30-day supply! Then I noticed my credit card was charged for $88.97! Investigation showed me that I had agreed to try the product and if I didn’t cancel within 20 days I would be automatically enrolled in "the program" which would send me a 30-day supply every month -- for $88.97.

As of this date I have received no satisfaction when I e-mailed a protest. I do admit I didn’t read the fine print closely enough and I’m willing to be penalized for that but not to the tune of $88.97.

So, all my friends (and the rest of you also), be careful out there. I have a hunch I’m going to end up wasting a bunch of money here so be sure to read the fine print before you agree to anything, especially if you're dealing with Slim Easy Pro.

Lots of luck.

The Old Professor
Carmel, CA
December 30, 2008

12/29/2008

CONFESSION IS GOOD FOR THE SOUL

I feel that in all honesty I should correct something I wrote in the blog I posted yesterday, December28, 2008. At that time I mentioned one of my children asking about how much a dozen cookies cost and I explained how I walked her through the solution so she would always be able to figure it out herself.

Well, I’m ashamed to admit that was not exactly true.

I recall the event clearly. She asked me, “Daddy, do you know how many quarks there are in an atomic nucleus?” (She’s studying physics.)
I replied, “Yes I do but I think it would be better if you looked it up yourself. That way you’ll remember it longer.”

I’m glad to get that off my chest. I feel better now.

The Old Professor
Carmel, CA
December 29, 2008

12/28/2008

USING WHAT I LEARNED YEARS AGO

When I was in college, majoring in Education, I recall many courses that more or less were “Methods of Teaching”. The main purpose of these courses was to convince us that teaching was more than standing in front of a class and spewing out information we knew and thought the students didn’t. It turns out to be true. There is much more to it than that and probably the worst teachers are those who fail to get the students involved in the process.

Personally I found that things I learned in those courses were also helpful as a parent. I often ran into something like this:
“Daddy, do you know how much a dozen cookies cost?”
I would say, “Yes and I could tell you but let’s start with what we do know and see if we can figure it out together. Do you know how much the cost of one cookie is?”
“Yes. It’s 10 cents.”
“Good. Now do you know how many cookies there are in a dozen?”
“I think it’s 12.”
“Yes, very good, it is 12.
Then I might say, “Do you know how much 2 cookies would cost?”
“Yes, 20 cents.”
“And 3 cookies?”
“30 cents”
“Now, how did you know that?”
“I times-ed it. 3 times 10 is 30.”
“Good. Very good. Now, using that same method, how would you find how much 12 cookies cost?”
“Times it by 12?”
“Very good”

In spite of the fact it would be much easier to just provide an answer, using this method will enable the child to calculate the cost of a dozen cookies for the rest of his or her life.

I have found there are many times this approach can be used in the adult world too. Just last week I was stopped by a policeman. He came to the car and asked, “Do you know how fast you were driving?”
As a result of my experience I confidently replied, “Yes, I do and I could tell you but let’s start with what we do know and see if we can figure it out together.”

The Old Professor
Carmel, CA
December 28, 2008

12/25/2008

MERRY MERRY


The Old Professor
Carmel, CA
December 25, 2008

12/23/2008

WORST RENDITION OF A CHRISTMAS SONG?

I happened to have some Music of the Season from a cable TV channel playing in the background. I really wasn’t paying much attention until I heard “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” being sung by a vocal group called The Temptations who recorded it in the 60s.

You know:

Then one foggy Christmas Eve
Santa came to say:
"Rudolph with your nose so bright,
won't you guide my sleigh tonight?"

Then all the reindeer loved him
as they shouted out with glee,
Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer,
you'll go down in history!

It was far and away the worst rendition I have ever heard but in addition someone dreamed up an embellishment. This group not only had an off-tune, slow-moving version but right about the time the songs says,

Then all the reindeer loved him
as they shouted out with glee"

Someone in the background shouts,"Hey, Rudolph!"

Get it? Shouted? With glee?

Merry, Merry,

The Old Professor
Carmel, CA
December 23, 2008

12/19/2008

A BRIGHT SIDE TO EVERYTHING?

This morning I was reminded of something I hadn't thought of in a long time. Many years ago, perhaps when I was in my early 30s, I began to notice that loose hairs were mysteriously appearing on my pillow each morning. At that time I tried all kinds of treatments to slow this down but nothing seemed to help. I even paid for several rather expensive treatments with Dr. Breck. At that time there was a line of hair care products under the Breck name. Dr. Breck himself ran a clinic touted to help people with my "problem". It didn't help at all and I should have been suspicious when I first saw Dr. Breck and couldn't help but notice he didn't even have a single hair on his shiny head. His answer to my obvious question was, "If I knew then what I know now I wouldn't be this way."

The treatment consisted of having one of Dr. Breck's assistants rub a lot of black goo into my hair and then shampoo it out. When I mentioned this to my barber he told me I was wasting my money. He said, "One day he will come in and pull at the top of your hair and show you there was no loose hair. That’s because he rubbed out all the loose hair!"

Sure enough, after my very next treatment Dr. Breck came into the room, yanked at my hair and said, word for word, exactly what the barber had told me. That was my last contact with Dr. Breck.

Eventually I became somewhat hair-disadvantaged. However, by some cruel twist of fate, I have just enough hair that I need to go to a barbershop just as regularly as I always did. Many years went by before I finally realized I really do have a fantastic advantage over a person who has the top of his or her head thickly covered with hair. When I go outside I know that it has started to rain before anyone else!

So far I haven't found any great use for this ability except to feel sorry for people with all those hair-crested people who don't even realize when it has started to rain. Here in California, we have been tolerating a rather lengthy stretch with no rain at all but this morning it started raining lightly.

I was the first to know.

The Old Professor
Carmel, CA
December 19, 2008

12/08/2008

WHAT IS A CEO?

Has anyone else wondered what a CEO is? I mean, I know it’s an abbreviation for Chief Executive Officer. I know it means the CEO is the head person – the one who is responsible – the one who makes the big bucks. But what does a CEO actually do? Many of these people earn millions of dollars a year and, I ask again, for doing what?

Did you know there is such a thing as the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT) complied by the US Department of Labor? This is 5 volumes, more than 6,000 pages, of brief descriptions of every known occupation listed alphabetically from Abalone Diver to Wrong Address Clerk. Nowhere is there any CEO or Chief Executive anything. According to the Department of Labor there is no such occupation.

Of course, we all know there are such occupations. At least there are people who claim that title and get paid a great deal of money for doing it. Many even get big bonuses when they are fired for not doing it well enough. But once again, what specifically does the CEO of a big steel company, for example, do? I know he doesn’t decide if more chromium needs to be added to a particular batch of steel. There are others who do that. But once those “others” are in place can’t the CEO go play golf or something?

I still can’t wrap my mind around someone being paid a million or more dollars every month to do a job that doesn’t exist. Maybe I’m a bit envious.

The Old Professor
Carmel, CA
December 8, 2008

12/06/2008

I APOLOGIZE

I never have had much to do with the stock market. It isn't that I wouldn't like to but in the past whenever I investigated this it seemed there was some money involved and I never had any money. At least not any "extra" money that I felt I could risk especially in an area I knew nothing about.

However, in chatting with my brother he mentioned some fund that he and some of his friends had invested in that seemed to be very safe. He said this fund paid a dividend every month and had paid the same dividend every month for at least the past seven years. So I decided, just for the fun of it, to put a small amount of money in this fund. I had no idea that my poor luck would have global consequences and that the value of investments all over the world would tumble.

Take a look at the 1-year chart. The red arrow I drew indicates the day that I invested $50. It's the truth and I apologize to everyone who had any kind of money invested in any kind of stock. As O. J Simpson says, “I didn’t mean to hurt anyone.”

The Old Professor
Carmel, CA
December 6, 2008

THE ECONOMY

Lately I've spent quite a bit of time thinking of my father. I had always thought he was a wise man but my view of life was slightly different from his. For one thing, when it came making a career choice my father always ranked security as the number one factor. This is quite understandable as he spent many of his working years during the Great Depression. In the 1930s he even built living quarters into the attic of our home because his in-laws had no money, no job and no place to live.

He was a police officer and even though his pay was reduced for a few years he did have a job. So, to me it's quite understandable that he would always want his children to have some kind of a career that would be secure no matter what the economy was. I never really understood this until now. I mean "now" when it’s 2008 and I am in my 80s.

I was very fortunate that I was able to start my work career in 1940 when getting a job was not a problem. In addition, I completed an apprenticeship as a Tool and Die Maker. Later on I went into the teaching business and this background helped me a lot. It wasn't the skills I learned, it was more that I knew I could get a job anywhere, anyplace and anytime. So as a teacher my employment stopped in June and I spent the summer working at the trade that I knew. I never had any trouble getting a job. In fact, I don't ever recall applying for a job that I didn’t get. I even moved my wife and three very young children from Massachusetts to California with no employment prospects at all. And there was no problem. I went to work the first week I was in California.

I suppose this led me to have a certain degree of cockiness. I never worried about losing a job because I knew I could have another one probably within a day. And that's the way it's worked out -- until now. Of course, I'm not seeking employment now, not at my age, but I do think back to what it was like when my summer employment was essential. At least it was essential in order to maintain our lifestyle but being unemployed and not be able to do anything about it would terrify me.

The current condition of the economy makes me think back to my father and how wise he was. I'm certain there were times he could have left his job in law enforcement and moved to some other field for a higher salary. But I'm equally sure that he remembered the 1930s when his in-laws and most of his friends were unemployed. He knew from first-hand experience that no matter what the economic climate was there was always going to be crime and someone would be needed to control it.

I think he even forgave the city that reduced his pay by 10% during the Depression. He often spoke about how the city eventually restored that pay cut by increasing his pay 10%. The first time he explained this to me might've been my introduction to a higher level of mathematics. He carefully explained to me that when you reduce $100 by 10% you have $90. (Not that his pay was anywhere near that much) But then when you take that $90 and increasing by 10% you only have $99 so your original pay was not really restored.

A very wise man was my father. Not wealthy but wise.

The Old Professor
Carmel, CA
December 6, 2008

12/04/2008

OLD HABITS

I ran into a minor problem a couple of weeks ago when we changed our time from Daylight Saving back to Pacific Standard. There was no real problem except with one clock, which is in the room where I keep my computer. The clock is above the door.














This needs a small ladder of some kind to reset the time and I just didn’t seem to get to do it. As a consequence I found myself glancing up at the clock as I habitually do and then mentally subtracting an hour.

I finally asked what you probably already thought, “Why not move the clock?”
So I did.
However, old habits die hard and I still found myself looking up to where the clock previously was only to find a bare space and then recalling the clock had been moved.

I thought this was a clever solution.















The Old Professor
Carmel, CA
December 5, 2008

WILL IT EVER END?

Something on the front page of today’s New York Times caught my attention. The article was headed with:
Episcopal Split as Conservatives Form New Group

Now this is beginning to puzzle me. As I understand it, many years ago, maybe billions, God decided, for whatever reason, to create the Heavens and the Earth. From what rock carvings tell us there was only one religion at that time. Most people lived in caves and worshiped a stick. However, history tells us that some of the loyal stick worshipers became dissatisfied with worshiping a stick because they wanted certain things and when they asked the stick for them, the stick failed to produce. At least it didn’t produce with any satisfactory average.

So it came to pass that a group of the stick worshipers got together and said, “This isn’t working. Let’s worship this stone.” At first things seemed to go well and the stone worshipers thought it was rather foolish to worship a stick. “After all, it was only a stick”, they said.

But after awhile (history is unclear as to how long it was) the stone worshipers began to have doubts too and a group of them started to worship something else -– history is also unclear as to what it was.

And so it went, through eons of history, until today where there are hundreds, maybe thousands, of different religions or variations of religions. But there still is that group that says, “This isn’t working the way I want it to work. Let’s start something new.”

Will it ever end? “Ever” is a long time, but probably not.

The Old Professor
Carmel, CA
December 4, 2008

11/30/2008

IS THERE NO END?

From what I hear it's possible for me to use my cell phone to watch movies or television programs. Thinking about the small screen reminds me of the early days of television.

The year was probably 1949 when I saw my first television set. I was visiting someone in New York City and we stopped at a bar. I noticed there was a small screen behind the bar and it was displaying a hockey game. I not only was intrigued, I was hooked. Even though there was no logical way my budget could afford it I had to have a television set. So when I bought my first set I was advised not to buy the 7 inch screen because it was too small and would ruin my eyes. Therefore I bought the 9 inch General Electric television set in a huge, ugly black, plastic case. Of course, the picture was in black and white and required that an antenna be mounted on the roof of the house.

Even at that small size we thought it was wonderful and I even had groups of my more sensible friends come to the house to watch things like the World Series. Of course, by today's standards the coverage was extremely poor. There usually only was only one camera. In fact, I recall watching golf matches where there was only one camera set up at the 18th hole and while waiting for the next golfer to get there, a professional golfer gave tips.

Eventually they made bigger picture tubes which meant I bought a 12 inch screen. And then a 14 inch screen and then an 18 inch screen,. And so it went as we inched our way up to larger screens and color television. Then came High Definition Television and my present 52 inch screen.

So now, if I understand it correctly, we are starting small again. As I see it, there is no possible way this can work. As people want larger and larger pictures on their cell phone it will soon be impossible to hold the thing up to your ear. I don't think that would work even with my old 9 inch TV.

The Old Professor
Carmel, CA
November 30, 2008

11/24/2008

THEY SAY

From people I talk to and hear from, I gather most are pleased, or at least satisfied, with our new President Elect, Barack Obama.

One e-mail I received commented on how nice it will be to have a president who speaks in complete sentences. I mean real sentences with subjects and predicates and verbs and all that good stuff.

I do note he occasionally has a bit of trouble with that "I/me" thing but that is so common these days that acceptance may have changed by the time he finishes his term. If so, he will attain a rank with the other great presidents who have left their marks on the language of our society.

For example, Abraham Lincoln is still remembered for his “Fourscore and seven years ago...” speech. Up until then no one had any idea that a “score” was twenty years. Now even school children recite that.

Or Franklin Roosevelt, in 1933, when he said, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” Up until then most people didn't fear anything. They were too busy worrying where they were going to get food for the next meal or sleep that night. Now even school children recite that.

And of course, President Bill Clinton’s famous speech where he redefined what sex meant as he did with his famous “I did not have sex with that woman!” speech. Now even school children recite that. Well, high school kids anyway.

Perhaps in eight years it will be accepted practice for everyone to say, “Michelle and me are grateful...”. That, of course, assumes everyone will have a wife named Michelle and will actually have something to be grateful for.

The Old Professor
Carmel, CA
November 24, 2008

11/11/2008

IT HAPPENED AGAIN!

It has happened again! I can’t count the number of times I’ve come up with a worthwhile idea and someone else steals it. It happened again today.

On October 14, 2008 I posted a blog I titled "CAREER DECISIONS". In this blog I called attention to the fact that many banks were receiving government handouts to compensate for money they may have lost from making unwise financial decisions. I explained that the many, many unwise financial decisions I’ve made always resulted in my working a second job to get the money needed. Over the years I have earned money selling food freezers, managing a bowling alley, being a public opinion survey worker and even worked one long day picking apples. As I concluded several times in my blog, I should have become a bank.

So the news today announced the American Express Company has applied to be classified as a bank in order to qualify for some government monies. Where did that idea come from? Do you suppose some highly paid executive just happened to be in his office on October 14th and just happened to be cruising the Internet and just happened to come upon my blog? You don't think so? There's more here than meets the eye.

The Old Professor
Carmel, CA
November 11, 2008

11/10/2008

A GOOFY BLUE JAY

Around our home there are many birds but one particular one has been getting my attention lately. It’s a magnificently colored blue jay (cyanocitta cristata) but apparently not too heavy in the brain department.
We have a small glass room where plants are grown. For the past few days this particular blue jay has appeared and stood on the ground, outside, in front of the glass, pecking at his reflection. He must like what he sees because he comes back again and again and repeats the same scenario.

Because the noise is annoying I’m thinking about getting a large picture of a cat and putting it on the inside of the glass. If he would keep trying to get some action from a cat I will know he has progressed from being not too bright to dumb as a rock.

Also, since he is a male and the image he sees is a male, he may be gay. I wonder how many gay blue jays there are. Of course I wouldn’t be counting the one (or ones) that may be part of the Toronto Blue Jays baseball team.

The Old Professor
Carmel, CA
November 10, 2008

PS I don't want to pretend to be any kind of a bird expert or any other expert really. I just happened to run across the term cyanocitta cristata while looking for a picture.

11/06/2008

I LAUGHED AT THIS

The other day I saw something that was accidentally funny. As most people know, many television sets have a setting where the text of what is being said is scrolled across the screen. I assume this is primarily for people with hearing difficulties and there probably is some computer word-recognition program.

I happened to have my TV set for that scrolling when they were in Chicago setting up preparing for a huge crowd assembling to hear the final announcement of the election winners. I clearly heard the announcer say, “There’s definitely a carnival atmosphere here.”
A few seconds later the words scrolled across the screen but they said, “There’s definitely a carnal atmosphere here.”

I wonder what the deaf hearing impaired people thought.

The Old Professor
Carmel, CA
November 6, 2008

PS I received a note from rednikki who left an interesting comment:
"It's not an automated computer program. Real humans type it, as fast as they possibly can. I have friends who are or have been professional closed-captioners in Los Angeles."

THE ELECTION IS OVER

Well, the election is over and the people in the United States have chosen a new president. Even though he is the man I voted for, I am very disappointed today.

The day following the election l the television news programs were saturated with various people expressing their happiness about the outcome of the election. The most common phrase I seemed to hear was, "I never thought I would live long enough to see a black man as president of the United States." Even a man I respect very much, Gen. Colin Powell, made what was essentially the same statement.

Wait a minute! I didn't vote for a black man to be president. I voted for the man I thought was best qualified and he just happens to be black. I suppose I realized in the back of my mind that his skin color would be a factor but I didn't realize until recently that for some people it was the only factor and in my mind that is no way to select the leader of a country. That's not even a good way to select a leader of a Boy Scout troop.

I can only hope that someday people will look back at the new president, evaluate his accomplishments and say, "Oh yes, by the way, he was black."

The Old Professor
Carmel, CA
November 6, 2008

11/03/2008

VOTE !!

I was a big fan of Adlai Stevenson. In 1952 he ran against Eisenhower for the first time. Not being very politically astute in those days (not to imply that I am today) I felt he would be a shoo-in. Why not? He thought the same way I did so naturally he would make a great president. Perhaps then was the first time I had my eyes opened as to what politics was really all about.

At that particular time I was a high school teacher in Springfield Massachusetts. I happened to be in the downtown area one Saturday afternoon and unbeknown to me one of the candidates for President of the United States was coming to town. I doubt I will ever forget accidentally being there standing on a street corner as a motorcade came by. The image is burned in my mind even today more than 50 years later.

I saw a long, four-door Cadillac convertible sedan with the top down. Sitting in the back, raised up so his feet were on the seat, was a man wearing a tan gabardine suit. The sun shone on his white hair and emphasized his sun-tanned face with the big smile as he waved to people, first on the left and then on the right. I suppose he actually waved to me or the group I was standing in, though I certainly wasn’t there for that reason. I didn’t even know he was coming to town.

That was Dwight D. Eisenhower. As soon as I saw him I muttered, "Oh,(expletive deleted)!" I knew right then that I was looking at the next President of the United States. It was sort of an epiphany. It was my first awareness that a bright sunny day, a big smile and a long Cadillac were more important than anything else when it came to being President of the United States.

It’s said that years later someone asked Adlai Stevenson what advice he might offer a young person wanting to get into politics. He replied, “Never run against a war hero.”

Now, for advice I present the biggest lie you have heard during this political campaign. It goes like, “I don’t care who you vote for but vote.”

The Old Professor
Carmel, CA
November 3, 2008

10/26/2008

PUZZLED AGAIN

Am I the only one who wonders why a television commercial might try to convince me to buy a particular television set by showing me the wonderful picture it produces?
I mean, I can see why advertisers might want to show me a photograph of a new car that makes my older car look like junk but they show this new television set with the great picture and I see it on my older, substandard television set. I assume I’m supposed to notice a difference.
When I see this I do think it looks pretty good but since I can already see it without buying anything, I keep what I have.
Usually.

The Old Professor
Carmel, CA
October 26, 2008

10/23/2008

I JUST MISS MEETING STEVE HORVATH

I still have many memories of World War II. Sometimes it's difficult for me to get my mind around the fact that there are people, now in their 60s, who weren't even born until after that war was finished. Some of the memories I have are quite vivid and though I'm sure I’ve forgotten much, every once in a while something comes along that brings back a memory.

One such thing happened recently. It made me remember 1945 when I was in the United States Navy training to be a pilot and stationed at Pensacola, Florida. It was near the end of the war and also near the end of my training. The program at Pensacola was scheduled to be three months long with classes every morning and flying every afternoon. The problem was the weather was uncooperative. It seems that in the summer there are thunder storms almost every afternoon. This meant that three months had passed and all classroom work was finished but much of the flying had been canceled. Since there were no more classes we were free for the morning except we were required to have some sort of Physical Training for one hour every morning. A group of us organized a softball game and each morning we would sign in and play a game. I played shortstop and a man named Steve Horvath played next to me at third base.

Now Steve was an excellent athlete and taught me many things about playing my position. I still remember some of the things I learned from him. One that comes to mind is, "Any ball that the third baseman can reach is his to play." Some years later when I was in college I played third base and I could hear Steve's words every time a ground ball came in my general direction.

When we left the Navy we lost track of each other. Steve returned to his home in Michigan and I went to mine in Massachusetts. I never knew what happened to Steve though I thought about him often. The other day I was reading our local newspaper and doing as I usually do, scanning the obituaries. (I have no real reason for doing this, as I know very few people living in this area.) Imagine my surprise when I saw Steve Horvath's picture and a brief biography so that I knew it was the same Steve Horvath. Here for the last six years I've been living just a few miles away from Steve and never knew it. I may have even passed him in the market for all I know.

I suppose there's some kind of a lesson here but I'm not exactly sure what it is. In the past I've made attempts to track down old friends and, except for one, found they had passed away. One friend had died just one week before I called. I guess the lesson to me is that we are all going to go someday so it's best that we try to enjoy every hour of every day. I do that except for that hour that seems to devote itself to nothing but political rhetoric.

Thanks Steve, it certainly was a pleasure knowing you.

The Old Professor
Carmel California
October 10, 2008

10/16/2008

STRANGE NOISES

Today I had an unusual experience; not that being unusual is exactly a rare occurrence here. I needed to go to an office and that required my parking the car some distance away and walking to the office building on a nice clean, cement sidewalk. As I was walking along I noticed a strange sound coming from my shoes. Since I had never heard this before I wondered what was causing it. So I paused and flexed each shoe but couldn't seem to duplicate the sound. I concluded that it must only happen when I was walking. So I proceeded to walk but every once in a while I would skip. That is, sort of hop on one foot and then the other. Again, I couldn't seem to duplicate the sound.

So I was still rather puzzled as I approached the building with the big glass doors. Then I saw my reflection. There was a lady walking behind me and she was wearing high heels.

Obviously I had found the source of the sound. I held the door open for the lady but noticed she kind of slid in staying as far away from me as possible.

I'm not sure that I blame her for that.

The Old Professor
Carmel, CA
October 16, 2008

10/14/2008

CAREER DECISIONS

I read in the news that some banks are in trouble due to bad investments of one kind or another and in order to keep them banks running, the United States government is stepping up to provide some of them with money. Lots of money.

This reminds me that many years ago I decided I wanted to be a teacher. (It wasn’t until much later that I changed that to “educator”.) In my long career in education there were many times I discovered I had made some poor financial decisions and I ended up owing more money than was coming in. Whenever that happened, and it did several times, I went out and got an extra job to cover the mistakes I had made. It never even occurred to me to ask the government to bail me out.

I should have been a bank.

In addition to making some poor decisions I was the victim of a less than complete education my college provided me. I first learned there was an “unpaid vacation” every summer when I went to my first teaching job. So, for many years I went to work in industry every summer.

I should have been a bank.

It shouldn’t be that hard for a bank to balance their finances. It’s a matter of working more hours. “Banker’s hours” has come to be an accepted term in the language. I wonder why they don’t work longer or work harder to avoid finding themselves in financial difficulties.

I should have been a bank.

The Old Professor
Carmel, CA
October 14, 2008

10/13/2008

SOME DAYS YOU GET LUCKY

I had a very interesting adventure the other day. It was Friday just a little before six o'clock. I remember the time exactly because I had needed to go to the bank and, as the bank stays open until six o'clock on Fridays, I just made it. I had managed to get my business done and was on the way home driving on a very busy 4-lane highway. That's two lanes each way. I was in the slow lane which I was to learn is referred to as the number one lane and I was going about 35, possibly 40 mph which might have been a little slower than most of the other people were driving. Because it was six o'clock or so most of them were probably anxious to get home.

As I approached a street on my right I saw a black car trying to get into traffic to go in the opposite direction from what I was traveling. That meant he would have to cross two lanes and turn left. I could see his head turning left and right and I think he finally saw an opening and made a dash for. The only problem was he apparently didn't see me. When I saw him inching out I eased over one lane. Just before I got in front of him he made his dash for it and ran right into the passenger side of my car knocking me and my little Prius into the very busy oncoming lane. I managed to control the car and drove off the road facing traffic but I was very, very lucky that none of the oncoming cars hit me.

I sat there for a few minutes just composing myself. I thought I had seen a black car hit me and then drive off. But I noticed there was a tan car parked on the road behind me. So I eventually got out of the car and walked some 50 feet to that car. There was a lady sitting in the car, she rolled on the window and I asked, "Are you the person who hit me?"
"Hell no. I was a witness and I just called 911 for you. I saw the car was a black BMW S. but I didn't get the license number. He hit you and took off."

So, we waited for some enforcement officers to appear and it turned out we waited more than an hour and she stayed with me the whole time. What a wonderful lady.

I decided to walk back to my car and see what kind of damage had been done to the car. As I was walking along I heard a strange clacking sound in the middle of the road and, lo and behold, there was the front license plate from the missing hit-and-run driver. As I walked back toward the lady I said, "Some days you just get lucky."

Eventually all of the paperwork was finished and luckily the car was still drivable. It wasn't until I got home that I had time to think of the experience and realized the few seconds I was in the wrong lanes, facing cars bearing down on me were probably the most terrifying times of my life.
However, as they say, all is well that ends well. I was lucky in that the passenger side seat was empty and I do have insurance to cover the damage.

I imagine there is some guy who managed, or thought he managed, to get safely home after he had hit someone. I'm getting a great deal of pleasure out of imagining his surprise when the police arrive at his door and ask if he lost his license plate. I wonder if they will arrest him for leaving the scene of an accident. That’s a crime.

The Old Professor
Carmel, CA
October 13, 2008

PS My car should be back in a week or so and there is an estimated $3,100.00 damage.

10/05/2008

AT LAST, MAYBE

A few days ago the famous American football player and sometimes actor, O.J. Simpson was found guilty of kidnapping and armed robbery. It is almost a certainty that he will be spending many years in prison. In a way, for O.J. Simpson this might be considered a plus because 13 years ago, when he was acquitted of the brutal slaying of his ex-wife and her friend, he made a pledge. He vowed to spend the rest of his life trying to find the real killer.

Since then I have seen him and read reports of him searching on many golf courses and in casinos, nightclubs and restaurants. It's rather obvious he has been unable to find the real killer so there is a real possibility he may be successful and finally locate him in prison because that's where many murderers are. There is even a chance he might share a cell with the real killer.

The Old Professor
Carmel California
September 5, 2008

9/30/2008

I GET SNUBBED

A few people may remember a short time ago I used this blog to announce to the world that I had won the writing contest sponsored by the local newspaper. I am proud to say that I not only won first prize but also an honorable mention, a feat accomplished by very few authors. If you would like to look at these prizewinners you can still click here for the first prize. Click this one for the honorable mention.

Keeping these prestigious awards in mind you can imagine my chagrin when I learned there was to be a Carmel Writers & Ideas Festival featuring 35 well-known authors and I was not one of them. At first I couldn't believe it because the population of Carmel is not that large and the number of authors, particularly prize-winning authors, who live here couldn't be that many.

It wasn't so much that I wanted to be recognized, I can do that right here. However, I noticed The Festival ran for three days and the cost of attending this started at $515. I checked the website at http://www.carmelauthors.com and found the $515 tickets were for the cheap seats and that the 2008 Festival was sold out. If I had been invited to attend I would have been honored and probably be able to whip up something to present that might be worth a small honorarium, say $35 or so. But alas, no one even contacted me.

I probably shouldn't have made that last statement. Our phone was out of order for half a day recently and probably that's the time they called me. Oh well, there's always next year, though considering I'm bearing down on my 86th birthday, they had better hurry.

The Old Professor
Carmel, CA
September 30, 2008

9/28/2008

1 plus 1 equals 2

It seems to me that I often hear someone say, “I never was good at math.” I never really understood this. Math is not a gift or something you are born with like freckles. The thought that some people are born with the ability to eventually solve quadratic equations is, to my mind, ridiculous. It’s a skill one develops more like walking than anything else. You start out with very simple steps and eventually you are able to appear on Dancing With The Stars.

And just like walking, math starts out easy. When I hear someone contend they “never could do math” I might ask what part gave them trouble. “Was it one plus one?” If that concept was grasped then “How about 2 plus 2?” If this approach was carried to ridiculous lengths one might find there was one simple step that was missed. Since that brick is missing from the building it obviously can’t be built much higher.

So, all the INWGAM (I Never Was Good At Math) people it is possible to go back, put that brick in place and go from there. You will find, as I have, that having some math skills comes in handy in unexpected places. The other day I ran across a Life Expectancy Table and was able to use my math skills to determine I was exactly half way.

I will admit to using a calculator here but I subtracted the year I was born from this year and converted that to weeks by multiplying it by 2,548 because there are 7 days in a week and 52 weeks in a year. I then divided this by 12 because there are 12 months in a year and subtracted 4 times the usual days in February to allow for Leap Year. The answer came out to be almost exactly half of what my life expectancy is.

If I were one of those INWGAM people I never would have known this. Now I can get on with the second half of my life. It should be fun.

The Old Professor
Carmel, CA
September 28, 2008

9/26/2008

AN ACT OF KINDNESS

This is a true story I don't tell very often because it involves a very unhappy time of my life but there is one bright spot in it that some people might find helpful.

I was 27 years old at the time. I had a marriage that was painfully crashing and I had no idea how to fix it. I was working two full-time jobs and for the first time in my life I was living completely on my own in a small room at the YMCA, which was all I could afford.

The YMCA building had a basement and in this basement there was a lunch counter. I think they sold sandwiches and such but the only contact I had with it was at breakfast. The first time I went there I realized I didn't really know what the proper procedure was for ordering something. I noticed a row of small boxes of cereal on a shelf and there were some bananas I could see. When the lady behind the counter inquired as to what I wanted I told her I would like a box of cereal and a banana. She proceeded to get a bowl, open the box and pour the cereal in it. She then picked up a banana, and this is the part that surprised me. She peeled the banana and sliced it into the cereal. She then handed it to me with a small carton of milk and the appropriate silverware and a smile. Being inexperienced I had no way of knowing if this was the way it was done or I even thought she might be doing this especially for me because in some way she recognized the pain I was going through.

That was almost 60 years ago and even to today I think of that kind lady every single time I slice a banana. I almost always wish there were some way that I could thank her personally. Of course, I can't because she was much older than I was then and there aren't that many people who are much older than I am and still around.

I think my point is this: It's possible that every one of us might be in a position to administer some little act of kindness to some person we don't even know and that act will be remembered and appreciated by that person for many, many years.

So let's do it! It probably won't cost much and certainly can't hurt.

The Old Professor
Carmel, CA
September 26, 2008

9/18/2008

AN ELECTION IDEA

Most people who have read my blogs know there is very little serious material here. I hope it's been noted that I especially avoid discussing political subjects. However, this time I'm going to make an exception.

As most people in the United States realize, there is an election coming up in November that will select a new president. We have been constantly bombarded with politicians explaining to us why we should vote for them. There's only one problem and that's a big problem. They all tell lies! For some reason they are all afraid to admit there is anything they can't do even though the United States Constitution forbids a president making decisions without involving Congress.

Wouldn't it be refreshing to have a candidate who told the truth? For example, if he were to be asked, "What will you do about global warming?" and the candidate responded with, "I don't know because I am not an expert on global warming but if I'm elected I will find the best people on earth to advise me about global warming."

"Well, Mr. Candidate, what will you do about health care?"
"I don't have a clue at this time but there are many people who do and I shall consult them."

Just suppose that some candidate did that during the whole election process. Wouldn't it be more honest? Personally I would rather see a new president who is intelligent enough to seek out answers to problems instead of one who seems to know all the answers to problems without anywhere near sufficient knowledge to make a wise decision.

Wouldn't it be smart to vote for someone like that? I know when John F. Kennedy was elected president he promised to put a man on the moon within 10 years. He had no idea at all how that would be done but he knew how to get the project started and, as it turned out, many people did know.

The Old Professor
Carmel CA
September 9, 2008

9/15/2008

THE SEVEN WONDERS

I don't know if they still do it this way but when I was somewhere near the fifth or sixth grade we were required, for some obscure reason, to learn The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Today I have no idea what the seven were except I remember one was the Pyramids of Egypt and another was the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, though I have no idea what they are. At that time I thought Miss Perry was one of the Ancient Wonders inasmuch as she must have been at least 150 years old.

Then I think there was another list of the New Seven Wonders of the World. These included things like the Great Wall of China and the Roman Colosseum. But I don't know of any list of the Seven Wonders of Old Age.

Since I am now 85 years old I feel qualified to offer my own personal list of the Seven Wonders of Old Age. These wonders are How, Why, Where, If, When, What and Who.

1. I wonder how people move that fast.
2. I wonder why people move that fast.
3. I wonder where I left my keys.
4. I wonder if I took my medication.
5. I wonder when I take my next medication.
6. I wonder what that spot on the back of my hand means.
7. I wonder who this doctor is. (He looks awfully young)

In my mind the most important Wonder is the Number 2. Wonder. That is the one where I wonder "Why?" Why is the only Wonder that doesn't require any physical activity. I can wonder why all sorts of things without moving from my chair. Lately I've been wondering about "words". Specifically, I wonder why we need so many words that mean the same thing. As an example, I was thinking about sleepwalking. Now this concept is fairly easy to understand. A person is sound asleep and does something which might involve moving around and eventually wakes up having no knowledge of doing it. That is often called "sleepwalking". Now, why does it also need to be called "somnambulism"? And if that isn't bad enough it also is called "noctambulism". In fact, outside of the medical community, who would have any use for these words? Would you think of approaching someone you know and saying, "Last night I had a short spell of somnambulism?"

So here we have three words that mean exactly the same thing and do nothing except increase the thickness of the dictionary. I therefore propose thinning down the dictionary and thereby saving trees which somehow will affect global warming in a positive manner and we will all live many, many years longer. Well, in my case maybe one "many" will do fine.

The Old Professor
Carmel, CA
September 15, 2008

9/14/2008

YOU DON'T REMEMBER?

Did you ever see a full-page ad in a magazine promoting some particular medication and the reverse side is another full-page filled with warnings? I happen to see one of these today that caught my eye. This was directed to people who have some sort of sleep disorder. One was called AMBIEN CR and the other was called AMBIEN C-IV. Both medications had a full sheet of warnings printed in very small type.

One of the warnings happen to catch my eye.
Is "having sex" something that many people tend to forget? Or is that a possible excuse that the teenage daughter might use to explain her unplanned pregnancy?

"I don't know how it happened. There was one time on the way home from the football game that I took an Ambien pill to help me sleep when I got home. I suppose it could have happened then. I don't remember."

It's my personal opinion that any medication requiring a full page of small-print warnings is not one I really want to "ask my doctor about".

The Old Professor
Carmel, California
September 9, 2008

9/10/2008

I'VE WONDERED ABOUT THIS

This morning I saw this picture of the North Korean army on parade in the paper.
It made me think back to the 1940s when Adolf Hitler had his armies march to the famous goose-step.
The Russian armies under Stalin marched the same way.
If I recall correctly Mussolini's Italian soldiers did also.

I wonder why it is that all governments which are basically bad seem to march funny. Could it be that living under an oppressive regime automatically stiffens ones knees? As the old saying goes, "If you can't tell the Good Guys from the Bad Guys, just watch them in a parade."

That actually isn't an old saying but rather it's a saying made up by an old guy. Same thing!

The Old Professor
Carmel, CA
September 9, 2008

8/26/2008

AIR FORCE ONE

I would assume that just about everyone in the world knows the United States government maintains an airplane for the exclusive use of the President of the United States and his entourage. In fact, there actually are two airplanes and they both are called Air Force One. One reference I noticed indicates the cost of running one of these planes is $40,280 per hour.

The cost of operating Air Force One is $40,243 per hour of flight. Each year the Pentagon spends approximately $185 million on travel expenses for the President and his top aides, according to the House Post Office Committee's Subcommittee on Human Resources.

I also assume that most people have seen one or more movies where the pilot of the airplane is overpowered by bad guys and forced to carry out some evil mission. In each of the movies that I saw there is always a plea for someone who knows how to fly the airplane. Should we not take this into consideration when we choose our next president?

Now, it's a well-known fact that John McCain was a pilot in the United States Navy. It's equally well-known that Barack Obama was not. Would it not make sense for us to have a president who knows how to fly an airplane in the event of an emergency? On the other hand, I suppose it wouldn't cost too much to train a president to do this. After all, I was in the United States Navy and I flew airplanes so it couldn't be too hard.

The Old Professor
Carmel, CA
August 28, 2008

WISDOM COMES AT 85

When I was about 45 years old I looked forward to the day when I would be 85 years old. I was sure that by that time I would have the answers to all the questions in life. It turns out that I now am 85 years old and I do know all the answers but find I have the problem that no one asks the questions.

As a good example, there's a question about, "What is the best speed to drive an automobile?" My many years of research and trial and error testing led me to the conclusion that the best speed to drive automobile is 42 mph. Yet, in spite of my knowing this, I see people driving at unsafe speeds every day. It's very easy to fall into the trap of driving the way these people do but I don't do that. I get into my lane and stay there driving 42 mph.

Very often I will have people in other cars wanting to ask a question, perhaps about safe driving speed. Sometimes they pull up next to me and yell what I assume to be questions. I don't have any idea why they would assume I would pull over, park and answer their question. I usually just roll down the window and shout as loud as I can, "42, 42". That usually answers their question but they usually ignore my advice and speed off dangerously sometimes waving a fist with one finger held up which I assume is a modern gesture meaning, "Thank you.".

Perhaps when they get to be 85 years old they will be wise enough to figure this out themselves. If they live that long.

The Old Professor
Carmel, CA
August 8, 2008

8/25/2008

2008 SUMMER OLYMPIC GAMES

Okay, so the 2008 Summer Olympic Games are finished and Tibet is still not free and people are still not allowed to stand in front of tanks in Tinanmen Square but I think everyone must admit that at least China knows how to put on a show as evidenced with the opening ceremonies for the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing, China.

I thought that was about as good as it could possibly get but the closing ceremonies came close to matching it.

I understand that most of the performers were "volunteers". Some reports mentioned there were, perhaps, as many as a million of them.

As much as I enjoyed watching both ceremonies on television I can’t help but think, "That would buy a lot of rice."

I wonder if those same "volunteers" are out there with brooms the next morning cleaning up all the debris that surely was created by the fireworks.

Probably not.

The Old Professor
Carmel, CA
August 25, 2008

8/22/2008

WHAT'S WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE?

This year, in our area, they have an annual event is known the Concours d'Elegance. At this time, antique and classic automobiles come from all over the world to parade and be seen on display. We also see these antique cars driving around the highways with the drivers in costume, including wearing goggles as they did in the old days. I even saw an all chrome sports car. I mean, it was all polished chrome. Not just the bumpers and wheels and trim.













I wondered how all these expensive cars managed to get here. I know they don't drive these cars from all over the country. Then I happen to drive down one particular street and saw all of the moving vans lined up. These cars all have their own deluxe moving vans and drivers to take them wherever they need to go. I thought that was nice and that these people must have a lot of money.















Then I was reading about the Olympic equestrian events. I saw beautiful and expensive horses from all over the world and I wondered how they got to be in Beijing, China to compete. I then heard they have special airplanes fitted out with almost anything a horse would need. I thought that was nice and that these people must have a lot of money.

Then I saw this picture.













I thought, well, I wasn't sure what to think.

What do you think?

The Old Professor
Carmel, CA
August 22, 2008

8/12/2008

MOTEL NAME

Today I had occasion to drive by a motel. In front there was a huge sign proclaiming to the world that it was the LONE OAK LODGE. This seemed strange inasmuch as there didn’t seem to be an oak tree in sight – lone or otherwise. There was one tall palm tree but that was all.

It made me wonder how that place got its name. Perhaps at one time there was an oak tree there but it was no longer and they just didn’t change the name. After all, what a motel is doesn’t necessarily need to be represented by its name.

Just a little farther down the road there was another motel called QUALITY INN. That made me wonder too. After all, what a motel is ...

The Old Professor
Carmel, CA
August 12, 2008

8/07/2008

SIGN READ IN A DENTIST OFFICE

Today I was in my dentist’s office and noticed this unusual sign. I made me wonder about punctuation. Now, I’m not a stickler for such things but do believe most of the rules exist for a reason and violating the rules can give a false interpretation.

Now, in this sign the word “Technologist” might rate an opening upper case letter much the same as President or General might. Although technically that’s not the correct way unless we say, “Yes, X-ray Technologist Smith” as you might say, “Yes, General Smith.” (A note here: There is no provision for saying, “No, General Smith". No one says "No" to a general.”)

So, we might move to the word “Pregnant.” I suppose you might speak to a lady and say, “Yes, Pregnant Smith.” but that doesn’t sound very nice. Maybe, “Yes, you are Pregnant Smith.” Meaning I agree, you are the Mrs. Smith who is pregnant. But that phrasing is a bit awkward.

Anyway, I was in the chair long enough to get that fairly well sorted out in my mind but I never did quite get the “X-Ray Taken” at the end. That must have been a signature of a person with the first name of “Xavier”, a middle name of “Raymond” and the surname of “Taken”.

Very strange.

I mean the sign.

The Old Professor
Carmel, CA
August 7, 2008

PS For those of you who are ridiculing this waste of time: What do you do when you are stretched out and then told, "Don't move. I'll be right back."? What do you do for the next 30 minutes? I read all the signs and look at all the charts.

8/06/2008

THE OLYMPIC TORCH

By now I suppose everyone is aware of the Olympic Games being held in China. Many will recall the lighting of the torch ceremony. It’s sort of a tradition for a torch to be lit someplace on earth and passed from runner to runner until it is delivered to the stadium to open the games. The identity of the last person who carries the torch and lights the flame is usually kept secret.
The previous Olympic Games featured an ailing Mohamed Ali running up the steps and lighting the cauldron of the Olympic Flame. One of the reasons he had this honor was because, amongst his many other accomplishments, in 1960 he was the gold medal winner boxing in the light heavyweight division
There is much speculation as to who will light the torch this time.

I have a hunch based on very little information but it does seem strange to me that the President of the United States, George Bush, is flying all the way to Beijing at this particular time. It seems like a long way to travel just to watch games.

Do you suppose?

Nah.

The Old Professor
Carmel, CA
August 6, 2008

7/30/2008

ABOVE THE CLOUDS

Flying an airplane above the clouds sometimes can be a rather spiritual experience. Ordinarily we don’t think of it but when we are standing on the ground and the day is overcast and rather dreary, we tend to forget that it only looks that way to us when we are on the ground. The dreary look is, like most things in life, only one side of it. It’s the underside of the clouds that look dull. If we could see the tops we would see it is all bright and sunny and fluffy white. If the angle of the sun is just right you can even see the shadow of your airplane following you.
Occasionally, when atmospheric conditions are in sync you might see a thing called The Pilots’ Cross. It doesn’t happen often because the angle of the sun and the atmospheric conditions need to be just right. I’ve only seen it once in several hundred hours of flying above clouds. When the conditions are right a beautiful circular rainbow gently surrounds the shadow of the plane and follows it across the sky.

I’ve been searching the Internet for a picture and more information about this phenomenon known as The Pilots’ Cross. I’ve been unsuccessful so far and my attempt to describe it certainly doesn’t do it justice. I’ve never seen anything to compare it with.

There will no doubt be many who see this occurrence as an omen of some kind. I just saw it as a thing of beauty and treasure the memory of having seen one once.

The Old Professor
Carmel, CA
July 30, 2008

PS I attempted to fake a drawing using my graphics software but I couldn’t draw anything that came close to showing its beauty. I doubt that anyone could.

7/24/2008

THE OLD PROF TEACHES AGAIN

Occasionally it slips my mind that people from all over the world read this stuff. Well, people all over the world could read this stuff if they wanted to. A few choose not to and I can see their point.

Recently I received a note asking what something I had mentioned meant. Then a light bulb went on and I realized my knowledge of what I said was based on television commercials and all people do not have the joy of sitting though those and probably would have no idea what I meant. The product in question was “Cialis”. My e-friend didn’t know what Cialis was so I wrote a short note explaining the best I could.

As I'm sure you know most of our TV stations are commercially sponsored. Hence, most of what we watch is interrupted every 12 minutes or so while the wonders of some product are meticulously explained to us. One of these products is Cialis, which is a "male enhancement" drug. The first one of these drugs to gain popularity was Viagra, which I understand temporarily overcomes "male impotence". (Is there a female impotence?) Excuse the fragile language usage but the way they say it is, "The inability to sustain an erection." I assume they are talking about some construction project such as a garden shed, for instance. If one were to use Viagra the shed wouldn't keep falling down. These are only assumptions, as I personally have no first-hand experience with this never having built a garden shed.
Well, Cialis is like Viagra except it is supposed to last 36-hours for "times when that special moment is interrupted". One of the commercial bits for this product shows a couple playfully "fooling around" in the kitchen and apparently they are getting ready to head to the bedroom or wherever their Special Moment place is when "that Special Moment" is interrupted. It's interrupted because the man happens to lean on the faucet (I have no idea why) and breaks it causing a minor geyser to erupt in the kitchen.
"No problem", implies the voice-over announcer explaining that since the man had taken Cialis, they have 36-hours to get the faucet repaired and complete the "special moment".
Now personally I have never gone through such a thing but can imagine how I might feel after fixing a faucet that had broken off. My Special Moment might involve my seeking the plumber who did the shoddy installation and administering a Special Moment to him.
There is another Cialis spot where the daughter is making a surprise visit, apparently from college, and she interrupts the Special Moment. I'm assuming it's the daughter since she looks a lot like her mother. In this case the interruption might make a bit more sense in that the surprise visitor is probably a direct result of a previous Special Moment and therefore entitled to do her best to prevent that from happening again.

So there.

The Old Professor
Carmel, CA
July 24, 2008

7/15/2008

ANOTHER THING I DON'T UNDERSTAND

Yesterday I needed to repair a kitchen faucet. This is a fancy kitchen faucet so this meant going to a Fancy Kitchen Faucet place to buy some parts. I looked around and while I was waiting for a young lady to retrieve the part from the backroom I noticed something strange. I saw a fancy toilet and there was a fancy sign on it that read "DO NOT SIT".I called the young lady’s attention to the fact there was a letter missing between the ‘S’ and the ‘I’.
She giggled.
Even if it were spelled correctly I still don’t understand the need for the sign. Why would anyone want to spit on a toilet?

The Old Professor
Carmel, CA
July 15, 2008

7/13/2008

HOW TO MAKE ROOT BEER

This happened back in the “old days”. Fire had been discovered many years previously and dinosaurs no longer roamed the streets. It was 1950 and we had recently moved into our brand new house -– the $12,000 one. There was a little more room than the $10,000 model.

We, perhaps it was I, decided to make some homemade root beer. It was easy. All that was needed was to save all the old soda bottles, buy the extract and follow the directions. There was the rub –- the follow the directions part.

First, we needed bottle caps, which were of no use unless we had a capper. The capper was basically a hand-operated press that crimped the edges of the metal caps to hold them on. So we bought a capper. I suppose about this time I should be saying, “I bought the capper”, as my SATT (Spouse At That Time) displayed little enthusiasm for the whole project. I attributed this to the probability that she had never tasted homemade root beer. At least not my homemade root beer.

The process is amazingly simple. First, you get a fairly large container of water -– just plain water. Then a measured amount of sugar is dissolved in the water, which, as I recall, is done by boiling the water. Then a measured amount of yeast is added followed by a small bottle of Hire’s Root Beer Extract. (The last ingredient is a secret formula and, because there was no Google in those days, the only way anyone could learn the secret would be to marry into the Hires family.)

Then the brown liquid is poured into each clean bottle and the bottle is capped. So far you have yeasty tasting root beer with no fizz. Making the fizz part takes time, so the directions say to store the bottle in a cool spot for a certain number of days. This allows the yeast to “work”. I made about a dozen or so quart bottles and took them to the basement of the house where it was nice and cool.

As the root beer was working life went on and one Saturday morning we headed out to buy a new mattress. (Hmm. I have no idea why I remember it was a mattress.) Before leaving the house I had an idea. If I brought the bottles upstairs, where the temperature was a little warmer, the whole process might be hurried up some. SATT objected to this but I assured her it was perfectly all right and brought up the bottles from the basement and put them in a corner of the kitchen counter.

When the mattress-buying safari was finished we headed home. I drove home thinking how nice it was going to be to get refreshed with a large glass of homemade root beer. When I went in the house and looked into the kitchen I was stunned. It looked like a war zone! There was shattered glass and premature root beer everywhere, even on the ceiling. I think one or more of the bottles had exploded thereby setting off a chain reaction. I don’t mean the caps popped off. These bottles had exploded – every one of them!

On the bright side, though she hid it well, I think I made SATT very happy that day. I volunteered to clean it up.

The Old Professor
Carmel, CA
July 13, 2008

7/11/2008

WHEN I WAS YOUNG ......

When I was growing up the system in our family required that the kids be involved with the mundane tasks that need to be done in any family situation. I recall being about 12 years old and my job was to wash the dishes after the evening meal.
One particular evening I was sloshing around up to my elbows in soapy water. My mother happened to be in the kitchen and asked, “Do you know who Bob Feller is?”
“Bob Feller? Sure. He’s a baseball player.”
My mother then asked, “Is he a good baseball player?”
“Is he a good a baseball player?” I echoed senselessly. “Probably the best pitcher there is.”
She went on to say, “ I was listening to the radio yesterday and he was being interviewed.”
“What did he say?”
With a straight face my mother went on, “He said the reason he can throw a baseball as fast as he does is because when he was younger he used to always wash the dishes after every meal.”
I paused the dish washing and turned towards her titling my head to give her my cute quizzical look with the slight frown that meant to say, “ Are you kidding me?”
She couldn’t hold it in and burst out laughing.
It’s just as well she did because in those days children would never accuse a parent of lying yet I knew she was. Just the day before my father had told me that Bob Feller's ability to throw a ball with such speed was a direct result of his younger days when he always mowed the lawn.

The Old Professor
Carmel, CA
July 11, 2008

7/10/2008

ANYTHING'S POSSIBLE

California has long been referred to as, “The Land of Fruits and Nuts.” On June 18, 2008 I posted a blog indicating I thought I had heard one of the latter –- a nut, that is. This was shortly after California decided to recognize same sex marriages.
Some reporter was interviewing a Man on the Street and asked this man’s opinion of the new action by the State of California that now recognizes same-sex marriages. He replied, (and I’m not making this up), “God doesn’t like it and he will punish us. He’s already started by sending jobs overseas.”

To be honest, I thought that was about as off-center a comment as I could imagine. I was wrong. Today I imagined one that might be is even nuttier.
I pictured God sitting up there. He might have turned to whoever sitteth next to him and said something like, “Those Californians just don’t get it and it’s beginning to really annoy me. They did that same sex marriage thing so I sent some of their jobs overseas. That didn’t slow them down at all so I raised the cost of their gasoline. Still nothing. I think I’ll try fire and see if they get the idea then. If that doesn’t do it I’ll be forced to go to the brimstone. I hate to do it but fire and brimstone always works.”

Now please note, I did not say this did happen but it is possible. Anything’s possible.

The Old Professor
Carmel, CA
July 10, 2008

PS Ordinarily the current weather condition here can be seen by scrolling to the bottom of the column at the right. Usually it's a beautiful view from the veranda of a restaurant about 20 miles south of here -- very near the fires. Today -- not so pretty. Click here if you are interested in seeing smoke.


7/03/2008

FIRES IN CALIFORNIA

Very uncharacteristically I feel no joy with my blog today. We have fires. Newspapers report as many as 1500 fires have been burning in California.

Approximately 25 miles south of here there is a gorgeous scenic area called Big Sur. (Click on map to enlarge) It’s a National Forest area but also many beautiful homes have been built there and residents are being forced to evacuate.

Today they say there are about 19,000 firefighters from all over the country trying to contain the fire that has been burning there for about 2 weeks now. We are in a very dry season and it seems as soon as they contain the fire in one area it will jump the lines and start again.

This is a typical Big Sur view.













This is what it looks like at 8:45 this morning:














If you are interested, the picture is from The Nepenthe Restaurant and it can be viewed live. Hopefully it will improve soon.

Very sad.

The Old Professor
Carmel, CA
July 3, 2008

7/02/2008

HANGING IN MIDAIR

This is the story of an incident that took place one day in December of 1947. It tells how I came to be alone, 5000 feet over Indiana and hanging from a seat belt in the open cockpit of a biplane, which was flying upside down. It might teach someone a lesson. It certainly did me.
The book told me how to execute a loop.
Dive down a little to pick up speed. Then pull the joystick back to climb up and keep climbing until you have made a complete loop.

Simple enough. Instructors told us not to try it but how difficult could it be?
I was alone in a practice area and no one was watching.
Just remember the book said, ‘Not too tight’.
Diving down.
Climbing up and up.
Too tight?
Maybe.
Push stick forward. Slow the climb down.
Too much!
Plane stops climbing and I am at the top of the loop and the plane is inverted.
Centrifugal force had been holding me to my seat but it was gone.
No one had mentioned having a tight seat belt so I was dangling about 2 inches off the seat.
I had never been that frightened before. Or since, for that matter.
I started pushing things and kicking pedals in all directions until somehow the plane was right side up and I headed back to the base.
I landed and told no one of my adventure.
Subsequently I spent much time flying in inverted position but I always had my seat belt tightened and was firmly attached to the seat. I think, even today, if my car were to suddenly be in an inverted position I would still be firmly attached to the seat.

The Old Professor
Carmel, CA
July 2, 2008


6/25/2008

OOPS!!!

Dear Friends and the rest of you too,

The other day I posted a notice here letting you know that I am now an official published author by means of having won a special contest sponsored by our local newspaper.

Well, I offer abject apologies. (Published writers, or PWs as we in the business call ourselves, are allowed to use words like “abject”. It’s not necessary for me to know what it means and, now that I think of it, it’s not important for you to know either.)

Anyway, when I made the announcement I provided a link to the newspaper so you would be able to read the story – stories, actually. There were two.

How was I to know that apparently the paper only made them available for a couple of days? After that it’s possible to search the archives but I don’t want you to go to that trouble.

Additionally, they now charge a fee to see the whole story.

Here is the good news. I have posted both stories and you can read, copy it or do anything you would like to it. To see the winning story just click here and the honorable mention story click here.

I’m sorry if I caused you any difficulty. It wasn’t my fault and if my memory serves me, Mark Twain had a similar problem. Or maybe it was someone else.

The Old Professor
Carmel, CA
June 25, 2008

6/22/2008

I GET PUBLISHED!!

Well, my friends, I want you to be the very first to know that The Old Professor has finally been properly recognized in print. I’ve had a short story published -- a very short story.

The circumstances leading to this are a little bit different. A couple of months ago our daily, local newspaper, The Monterey County Herald by name, sponsored a rather unusual writing competition. Writers were invited to submit a short story exactly 299 words long. Not 300 or 298 but exactly 299.

I’ve participated on similar contests and find it fun to try to make the word count come out exactly. A word processor counts the total words and the total can be manipulated by changing things such as, “such as” to “like”, for instance.

This contest had an extra rule. The story must contain the word “jump” and the word “otter”.

There was a prize for the winner, which was a $50 certificate at a local bookstore.

I managed to write and submit three stories. The results were announced in the paper this morning and lo and behold, one of my stories was the winner and another was printed as an Honorable Mention.

This is not the first time I’ve been paid for writing a fictional story. I don’t know exactly how many stories I need to have published to qualify me to be called a professional writer but previously, in Springfield, Massachusetts, I also a wrote a fictional story and it was published in the Springfield Daily News. That was on the Childrens Page and I got paid $1 for it. That was in 1939 and $1 was worth a lot more then. In fact, I’d guess that $1 would buy as much then as the $50 buys today.

Copies of this latest masterpiece, signed by the prize-wining author, will be available for a price as yet undetermined but certain to be in the outrageous category.

If you are interested in reading the prizewinner and some of the competition you can click here or go to:
http://www.oldprof.com/Winner.htm

It won’t take long. It’s only 299 words.

Oops! I find the newspaper showed a definite lack of cultural appreciation by making the the free viewing of the story available for only 2 days. So I have copies at my web site that you can reach as above. Additionally, the Honorable Mention story is there in its proper form. That you can see by clicking here.

The Old Professor (aka Paul Henry, PA)
Carmel, CA
June 22, 2008
(PA = Published Author)

6/21/2008

ANOTHER LESSON IN LIFE

Recently I was reminded of a minor adventure I experienced in a Japanese restaurant several years ago. I don’t recall the name of this restaurant but I often went there for lunch and no matter what was ordered it came with a small salad consisting of shredded cabbage with a few sliced carrots on top.
It was the carrots that intrigued me. They were crosscut and the disks were an almost translucent, shiny, bright, orange color. The consistency told me they had been cooked in some fashion but I had no idea how they got them to look that way.
At that time I fancied myself as sort of an amateur gourmet cook and decide to find out how these carrots were made.
I tried every way I could think of with no success. I boiled them. I boiled them with oil in the water. I cooked them in a skillet with oil. I must have tried a dozen different ways to cook carrots but no way I tried came even close.
I finally did what I should have done in the first place. I decided to ask someone who knew.
The next time I was at that restaurant for lunch a lovely Japanese girl, wearing a kimono, was our waitress. After the food arrived I called her attention to the carrots and asked if she knew how they got them to look like that.
With a delightful Japanese accent she replied, “Ah dunno. Ah ask chef.”
Some time later she came back to the table. She said, “Chef say he dunno. Ay com fum can at way.
That shot that dream down but I did learn a good lesson in life. Here I had assumed there was something very special and it really was something very simple.
Many things in life are like that and if you ask in the right place you often can save hours of wasted effort trying to reinvent the wheel.
Of course the secret is knowing where the “right place” is.

The Old Professor
Carmel, CA
June 21, 2008

6/20/2008

UNPLEASANT DAY IN CARMEL, CALIFORNIA

Okay, already.

For all you people who have envied living in Carmel for the wonderful weather we have – forget it. I have lived here 6 point 5 years and I have never seen it this hot. We often jest that people who live here run around with their tongues hanging out and panting if the temperature reaches 80 degrees. That’s Fahrenheit.

This afternoon it is over 102 – that’s one hundred and two. And this isn’t any thermometer that happens to be in the sun. It’s a well-shaded, digital thermometer and it says it’s hot, as if we couldn’t figure that out for ourselves.

An additional factor is that air-conditioning is very rare here. As I've often said, "We never need it." Wrong!

I’m left wondering if this has anything to do with that recent court ruling making same-sex marriages legal in California.

Probably.

The Old Professor
Carmel, CA
June 20, 2008

6/18/2008

I ACTUALLY HEARD THIS

Sometimes I get thinking about numbers even though it takes me to situations I can do nothing about. I was thinking about the population of the United States, which is now said to be around 300 million people. By definition, half of those people are below average intelligence. That’s 150 million people! Usually these people are not too obvious and we see them all the time and think nothing of it.

But what about the bottom half of that group? That’s still is some 75 million people. You probably run into them every day so that’s not too frightening. Even if we take out the very young and the mentally disabled and only consider half of that group we are still left with some 20 million, or so, adults who are way down on the intelligence scale.

In other words, this may come as a surprise to you but there are a lot of people out there who aren’t too bright. (I even had one as my boss at one time.) Yesterday I heard one person I think was very near to the bottom of even that group.

There was a news report on National Public Radio. Some reporter was interviewing a Man on the Street and asked this man’s opinion of the new action by the State of California that now recognizes same-sex marriages. He replied, (and I’m not making this up), “God doesn’t like it and he will punish us. He’s already started by sending jobs overseas.”

Uh -- All right.

The Old Professor
Carmel, CA
June 18, 2008