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


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



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



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



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



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



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