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Do you think professors should take a more active role in lowering textbook prices?

Asked at Massachusetts Street on March 29, 2007

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Photo of Riley Parker

“Yeah, definitely. It think it’s unfair that students have to pay such outrageous prices. They should ask themselves if we always need to buy the newest version of the book or if they can put more of the reference materials online.”

Photo of John Flaherty

“Definitely. I have plenty of books that I’ve never even used or the teacher only referenced them once or twice. I could’ve easily gotten the information another way, and I can’t return it for the full refund because I already opened them.”

Photo of Molly McHenry

“I think they should. Our biology professor lowered the cost of our book by a ton. So thumbs up to Craig Martin. I think other professors should try to do so as well.”

Photo of Stephanie Cullinane

“Sure. It’s expensive enough to go to school here. The cheaper the books are, the better.”

Comments

spacehog 7 years ago

I think all professors should concentrate on having sex with their students.

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sgtwolverine 7 years ago

Sue, I shot soccer for the first time today. When I shoot a sport for the first time, part of me often feels like I'm sucking pretty badly. I'm hoping to stop immediately. And I hope not to start again when I shoot water polo in a couple weeks.

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sunflower_sue 7 years ago

sgt, that's perhaps some of your best work yet! Seriously consider taking it to print. :D

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sgtwolverine 7 years ago

Sue, clarification for point 4:

Don't suck. Unless you are actually taking a picture of a big fuzzy blob, your pictures should not feature big fuzzy blobs. Unless you are actually taking a picture of the sun, your pictures should not be completely white. Unless you are actually taking a picture of an empty unlit closet with black walls, your pictures should not be completely black. If they do feature large fuzzy blobs or are completely white or black, you are sucking. Stop immediately.

Also, if you live in an empty unlit closet with black walls and you are married to a big fuzzy blob, I beg you: please do not take pictures.

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beatrice 7 years ago

BOE -- no wonder I didn't get it, I never thought Dana Carver was that funny.

Just a day of mistakes on my end. I'll try harder to be on the ball tomorrow.

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southerngirl 7 years ago

My dad never made a dime from the textbooks that he selected for his classes. ARe you saying that some profs make money off of books that they DIDN'T write, or just the ones they authored?

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Gootsie 7 years ago

Thanks Katie! I'll get below ground and put football helmets on my kids and be sure I have enough food and bathtubs full of water to last me the night and I will duct tape my windows in case the rain and tornados cause radioactive fallout.

Katie Horner for President!!!

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Katie_Horner 7 years ago

Gootsie, Get your affairs in order; the rain should be here anytime now.

I wish I'd been working in OK. today; I would have saved everyone. I've always said, "It's better to be scared to death than to be killed by a tornado."

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GSWtotheheart 7 years ago

Again, the profs do profit off their books even when they are selling their self-authored books to students they teach at KU. I'm sure the bookstore gets a cut for handling the sales but the rest of the money still goes to the profs. I know this for a fact because I work at KU and am in a dept that has some prolific textbook writers. One of those profs had Printing Svcs print his textbook for his large class (around 1000 students) and the bookstore sold it for him. He then received the lion's portion of the proceeds. Actually, this same prof's textbook(s) have been sold on the KU campus, all across the country, and it has been translated into other languages. That is how he makes over $100,000 each time he writes or revises his textbooks.

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Silence_Dogood 7 years ago

None of you know jack diddly about the lives of academics. Your job turns off at 5PM. Ours continues late into the night. Simpletons!!

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southerngirl 7 years ago

My father is a retired University professor. I know he spent a great deal of time looking at his curriculum and deciding which text would be most appropriate or if a textbook was even necessary. My primary professor in my Master's program not at KU) created her own textbooks from papers, exerpts and writings from other authors (cited and used with permission) that were relevant to her curriculum. We rented them directly from her for something like $20 and if we returned them, we got all of our money back. I actually kept several of her "textbooks" because they were more useful and practical than many of my textbooks from other classes. Like those mentioned above I had many bad experiences, but just wanted to note that there are a few good professors out there! d

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Tony Kisner 7 years ago

OTS - Do you think professors should take a more active role in lowering textbook prices?

Hmmm. Let's see I'm a book seller, got a new edition of a book with little changes and I am paid on commission. - Dear Prof, Even if you didn't author this book I can assure you a royalty for each one sold - No questions asked.

Maybe the question should have been - Take a LESS active role in the textbook process.

What accountability does the Prof have? - None.

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bevy 7 years ago

Me too! Will Ferrell needs to quit while he's behind.

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The_Original_Bob 7 years ago

WW II came out in what? The early 90s? He was done by then. The malpractice thing wasn't till the late 90s I believe. Either way, he'd already gone the way of most great SNL actors. (Yet, Will Ferrel still gets movie parts. Shoot me.).

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sunflower_sue 7 years ago

I'm clearly out of the college book loop (been a few years), but what with internet and all, isn't there someplace on the net to trade or sell books locally?

Did anyone notice or mention that San Francisco has banned plastic grocery bags and that there is even a school in SF that has banned homework? (And we thought Lawrence was ban happy!)

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bevy 7 years ago

TOB - you know that Dana Carvey had a serious heart condition and surgery a few years back, dontcha? That's why his career dwindled. He nearly died.

I never sold any of my books back, except the one for EVIL ALGEBRA. I figure if I ever want to know anything about Chaucer, or the Civil War, or Child Psychology, I have the resources. But mostly because I thought it was stupid to give up a $60.00 book for 2 bucks.

Oh, and having attended Washburn University (Go BODS!) I never had a GTA. I had full professors teaching my classes, and fortunately, they seemed to love doing so. My brother went to KU for a while. His biggest horror story - a calculus class that met in Hoch Auditorium. Over 400 students. Taught by a GTA - he never mentioned a language barrier. Just said that it was impossible to learn anything that way. He transferred to WSU.

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The_Original_Bob 7 years ago

BOE - I got what you said. It was familiar but I couldn't place it. Been awhile since Carvey had a career, er... I mean was on SNL.

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BOE 7 years ago

beatrice 9:35 a.m.

" For you to go on and on about how old people are unhappy today... "

===

:)

It was just an old SNL transcript I'd recently found with one of my favorite Dana Carvey characters, "Grumpy Old Man" ... I just assumed that most we're familiar with it, but probably should have credited it anyway. At any rate, it wasn't intended as levity at the expense of the elderly.

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sunflower_sue 7 years ago

sgt, I think you would have to clarify point #4. I'm already intrigued!

snap, sounds like your book is worth about $87.35. If you team up w/ sgt to add some photos, you'll double that. Don't let the publishers undercut you. I expect a free copy from you, also, 'cause I'm all about free!

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Jace 7 years ago

The whole "excessively-priced college text book thing"....and the whole "mere pennies on the dollar buy back program" that book stores employ at the end of each semester has been--and continues to be--a scam!

One thing's for sure....this topic sure ain't new!

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sgtwolverine 7 years ago

Sue, that book would consist of four points: 1)Buy fancy gear 2)Aim camera 3)Press button 4)Don't suck

A second edition could include a fifth point: 5)Use Adobe Lightroom

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Flap Doodle 7 years ago

The 2007 revised edition of "Snaps's 100 Ways to Cook Cane Toads" contains one new sentence in the introduction. "These things are poison & can kill you dead!"

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beatrice 7 years ago

Thanks dulcinea -- I stand corrected.

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Adrienne Sanders 7 years ago

http://www.hreo.ku.edu/policies_procedures/index.shtml

click on "intellectual property policy for the Lawrence campus." GSW is correct, royalties are paid to profs for textbooks.

The weird thing is, I was in school over ten years ago, and the average bill for textbooks now seems about the same as it was then. At least where I went to school. (not KU)

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sunflower_sue 7 years ago

sgt, maybe you should write a book on what you've learned about photography. I'd buy it...but since I suggested it, I'd expect a signed first edition for free. :) (and a very small % of the royalties for being cited in your "thanks to" paragraph.)

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beatrice 7 years ago

Looking back, I guess did say that -- I just meant something slightly different. see above

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beatrice 7 years ago

GSW -- I didn't say they can't profit from their textbooks. It was my understanding that they just can't profit from the ones that are actually sold at the university in which they work, and that any of that money actually does go back to the university. This is usually a small fraction of the total royalties derived from textbooks -- a prof would need a LOT of students to make $100K off of the students they actually teach directly. I remember a case where a prof I knew was inadvertantly questioned about this very thing, despite the fact that she contributed many times that amount every year.

However, I could be mistaken. Any profs who write textbooks out there to help clarify?

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Pywacket 7 years ago

LittleMissFlea~ In answer to your second paragraph:

And that is why Al Gore invented the internet. ;-)

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GSWtotheheart 7 years ago

Beatrice-your information is NOT correct in relation to profs at KU not being able to profit from self-authored books. That is flat wrong and I don't know who feeds you your info. I work at KU. I work in a dept. with professors that author their own textbooks. Textbooks are written and sold, then three years later, they are revised, and more are sold. Off the top of my head, I can think of at least 4 profs in my dept. who write their own textbooks and make over $100,000 each time. NONE of that money goes back to KU or the Dept. NONE. Why? Because a textbook is not the intellectual property of the university, it belongs to the prof who wrote the book. Any money they make is their income and they have to pay taxes on it because of that. This may not apply to other schools but I know for a fact that this is how it is at KU.

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blue73harley 7 years ago

Trinity, "bumbershoot", huh? Makes me long for some of that magical Whizzo dust.

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sgtwolverine 7 years ago

"Teaching is too often considered a necessary evil for Profs and it shows."

Why don't we free them from that evil and introduce some honesty into the system? Let's not require professors to teach at all. Let's have all the classes taught entirely by GTAs, and let the professors do whatever it is they do when they're not distracted by classes.

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trinity 7 years ago

ss if the one book was by HALL instead of thurber i'd be your huckleberry-then i'd have a set of HALL&OATES!!!

or as we like to call 'em down south, here-haulin' oats. ;)

katie tornadie needs her bumbershoot today! it's gonna rain&rain&rain&rain&well-you get the picture.

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lmm 7 years ago

Truly, an investigation should be made into the benefit for the professor for a text book they are involved in producing....conflict of interest.

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The_Original_Bob 7 years ago

Gootsie - I was watching that last night. Supposedly, they may refire this pm from a Hays to Coldwater line, but they aren't going to be like yesterday's storms.

Generally, I liked GTA's better than Profs. I had a couple of language issues but nothing too bad. A GTA is just as capable, and probably better at, teaching lower level classes. Teaching is too often considered a necessary evil for Profs and it shows.

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sunflower_sue 7 years ago

I found a book by Thurber and one by Oates lying around my house that undoubtedly some crazed non-professor foisted on me. Anybody know where I can sell them cheap?

If I mow the lawn today will I blow away?

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consumer1 7 years ago

David Holmes who teaches abnormal Psychology required new books when I was at KU in the late 90's. I had a copy of the "old book" asked him what changes were made and he pointed out a little over a paragraph in the new book. I think the book cost over $130.00. And as far at the GTA's are concerned. I agree with most. They are young, work too hard for the money they recieve, and get very very little credit for what they do. I am glas to hear that english proficiecy has increased. I took an algebra class and had no idea at all what the GTA was saying. Fortunately, I dropped the class rather than failing due to the language problem. The mistake most people make when they look at the realationships between KU and the GTA's is they see the university as a teaching institution rather than big business. If we learned anything from Heminway being here, it is KU is big business, hiding under the umbrella of higher education.

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Gootsie 7 years ago

I am behind! I didn't know you were promoted to Katie's little helper! Congratulations!

TOB, the tornado that killed the couple near Beaver, OK, went right by where my brother works at Northern Natural Gas. I called him this morning and he was standing on the road looking at what was left of the people's trailer. Pictures show the tornado passing 1/2 mile from the NNG plant.

So far, and yet so close. I guess there were tornadoes in Meade and Montezuma. Ashland and Greensburg are alive and well.

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LittleMissFlea 7 years ago

Funny thing about Craig Martin-he actually costs students more money then he saves. An $80 textbook that's used around the country (and by the other professor who teaches it in the spring) has buyback value. His textbook is worthless the second the class is over. When I took his class, he just told us to return the book because the tests were from lecture only.

Pywacket-Used book dealers won't buy copies of books that have new editions out, so the only buyback available is on that campus only. Not every student sells their books back to a campus bookstore, so the number of books available quickly dwindles.

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cyclelust 7 years ago

Yes- I had a biology professor who taught an intro class with 1000 students. He negotiated between two publishing companies and finally got what would be normally an $80+ textbook priced down to $45 for the students. They made a special book just for the class at half the price. Especially when a large quantity of books are guaranteed to be sold, publishers listen to the professor. Professors can make a difference, and should play a more proactive role in helping their students.

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Pywacket 7 years ago

Lorrah~ Obviously, the publishers are the ones "updating" or publishing a new edition each year... However, it is naive to think that the professors MUST buy into that mentality and have no say in keeping costs down.

If they stay with (for instance) the 7th edition for 3-4 years, augmenting it with other materials that cover new information, they can save students a BUNDLE. Each subsequent round of students after the year the 7th ed is published can buy the book used, instead of being forced to buy a NEW 8th ed this year, new 9th ed next year, new 10th ed the year after that, etc. There are very few fields for which the information is changing so rapidly that an entire new edition is absolutely essential each year.

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sgtwolverine 7 years ago

As others have noted, I think professors should take a more active role in teaching.

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The_Original_Bob 7 years ago

Gootsie -

Last night, Katie gave me a call and I put out the warning on yesterday's OTS thread. I hope it is not too late for you. Just finding out now? You are woefully unprepared.

Bea -

Give your sarcasmomemeter a good shake.

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beatrice 7 years ago

BOE: One of my favorite lines from David Lynch's Film "A Straight Story" is this -- young guy asks the elderly lead in the film "What's the worse part about being old," and the old guy retorts "Remembering when you were young."

For you to go on and on about how old people are unhappy today because as youths they didn't have all the electric destractions presently available is pretty silly. Not only do most appreciate the fact that they didn't have to endure the constant bombardment of noise and visual trash forced on people today, but you -- god willing -- will some day be an old fart yourself. And how sad will you be when your arthritic thumbs won't let you continue to work all the electronic stuff you have grown to rely on.

Oh, and sure, professors should be mindful of the costs of texts and make sure they are necessary before asking students to shell out the bucks. Also, at most colleges, including KU, all money earned from selling self-authored books to students must be returned to the school. The professors don't profit.

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Gootsie 7 years ago

Katie, are we all gonna die?

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badger 7 years ago

I had a professor in college who required us to buy a $120 cell biology book and a $35 cell biology book. He referenced the more expensive book twice, and we had less than thirty pages of reading assignments out of it, information he could just have given us in class. We used the less expensive book extensively.

The mystery was solved when an enterprising student checked the credits. Our professor was listed as a 'contributing author' in the more expensive, more specialized book, and when asked he admitted that he received 'a small royalty' for each book sold.

I understand that it's hard to teach without books, that copyright laws should be observed, and they don't set market prices, but I'd kind of like it if they didn't deliberately do things to increase the cost to students for their own gain.

Also, Ceallach, I agree that people don't realize how much of the teaching graduate students are doing, and that it's a problem.

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Pywacket 7 years ago

Ceal~ "except the undergrads"? When I was an undergrad, it was all too painfully obvious which classes were taught by GTAs. And in those times, the GTAs were fluent in Mandarin, but English? (Borat voice) Not so much.... At least they have hoisted the English proficiency requirements somewhat. However, those whippersnapper undergrads today may not notice whether the person in front of the class is a prof, a TA, or a puppet on a stick, so you may have a point.

Assigning the purchase of some new books is unavoidable, but I agree with the point that some textbooks are updated only superficially from one edition to the next (often the very next year), and that it might be possible to use one edition for several years if the prof does his/her homework and augments it with meaningful updated research results. Some profs really make an attempt to do just that.

Much of that updated info can be accessed and disseminated without violating copyright laws. Legislation has passed in recent years pertaining to free availability of medical studies and tech, which has been a great boon to practitioners as well as students in medical fields. Often, you need only register and log on to reputable med sites in order to access up-to-the-minute peer-researched articles and data.

I'm not sure whether other areas of study have benefited from similar legislation, but there is a lot of free (and reliable, if you know where to look) info out there. I would think a lot of profs could keep their students at the cutting edge without being part of the problem of making textbooks obsolete after one year--and in some cases after one semester.

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Lorrah 7 years ago

While the cost of textbooks is ungodly, professors and book stores can not control for the prices which publishers charge for books. The next time you want to get your panties in a bunch, call the publishers to complain about the fact that they "update" books every year so they can charge more for them, and we can't buy used copies of the updated books.

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The_Original_Bob 7 years ago

Pioress hits it right on. I don't know how many times I bought books that were rarely used throughout the semester.

There are other ways to get around paying full price for textbooks. Most students nowadays should not have to buy brand new texts. There are minor differences between different printings. Well, unless you are a KS high school science student.

Get online. Buy used. Get on one of those student trading books websites. Look online at other university libraries. Like anything else, get creative and save some money.

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betti81 7 years ago

The cost of textbooks is outragous. By my junior year I stopped buying most of the books. Most of time I never read them anyway. I just went to class and the teacher lectured on a majority of the stuff anyway. Pointless for the most part. I loved the teachers that made the book they authored required reading for the course. Best marketing move ever!

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mom_of_three 7 years ago

My class is a discussion class on one topic, but there were several books we refer to constantly, and if I bought them new, it would be over $100. I found them used and saved me over 2/3. Of course, they're not textbooks and I am not looking forward to that purchase. One of my three will be going to college soon, and I am not looking forward to that, either

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prioress 7 years ago

They can't control the cost, but they could only ask you to buy books they will really use in the class.

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trinity 7 years ago

maybe instructors could be just a tad more discretionary when selecting texts. i remember having quite a few rarely used texts, i think my darling hawklet (KU student) is experiencing the same thing.

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Ceallach 7 years ago

a piece of well researched journalism about "just about anything" would be enlightening and refreshing :)

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Ceallach 7 years ago

Yes. They should only require students to purchase the cheap antiquated books and then violate copyright laws by putting current and cutting edge information online. Professors should also lower the cost of campus maintenance.

Another good question would be . . "Do you think the person teaching your class is a professor?" Odds are against it. Our graduate students carry the university's teaching load. Everyone seems to know that except the undergrads.

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tony88 7 years ago

consumer, of course everyone knows the answer, but nobody does anything about it... this question is a way of reinforcing the concern with the "free market" of textbook trading... although, a piece of well researched journalism about the scam would be more enlightening

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mick 7 years ago

Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear Zbigniew, happy birthday to you.

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consumer1 7 years ago

Is this a real question???? Duh??? Jeepers I like spending $100.00 for a book then letting the university book store buy it back for $3. 50 . LJW, you self proclaimed intellects are showing your real value. Doesn't it embarrass you to think other journalist might be reading this paper and laughing????

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RETICENT_IRREVERENT 7 years ago

Somewhat.

I think everyone should enjoy the the Festival of Smoke and Mirrors today!

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Flap Doodle 7 years ago

And more Chinese food with pork.

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blue73harley 7 years ago

Yes, and I think they should work on world peace as well.

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BOE 7 years ago

Harrumph. Quitcher complainin', it could be worse! ;)

====

Grumpy Old Man:

I'm old and I'm not happy. In my day, we didn't have video-games! We just sat around and watched a potata' bake!

Everything today is improved and I don't like it. I hate it!

In my day we didn't have hair dryers. If you wanted to blow dry your hair you stood outside during a hurricane. Your hair was dry but you had a sharp piece of wood driven clear through your skull and that's the way it was and you liked it!

You loved it.

Whoopee, I'm a human head-kabob!

We didn't have Manoxidol and Hair Wings, in my day if your hair started falling out when you were 16 by 19 you were a bald freak.

There was nothing you could do about it.

Children would spit at you and nobody would mate with you so you couldn't pass on your disgusting baldness genes. You were a public menace, a crome dome by age 20 and that's the way it was and we liked it!

We loved it! Hallelujiah look at me, I'm a bald freak oh happy day!

Not like today, everybody feeling good about themselves. I hate it!

In my day we didn't have these thin laytex condoms. So you could enjoy sexual pleasure. In my day there was only one kind of condom. You took a rabbit skin and wrapped around your privates and tied it off with a bungee cord and you couldn't feel nothing!

And half the time you didn't even know your partner was there. And we used the same one over and over again! 'Cause we were ignorant morons!

Just a bunch of hairless, head-kabobs standing around with rabbit skins on our dinks and that's the way we liked it!

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