The Thoughts of a Frumpy Professor

............................................ ............................................ A blog devoted to the ramblings of a small town, middle aged college professor as he experiences life and all its strange variances.

Friday, March 01, 2024

A Mind of Hidden Ideas

I am too embroiled in the coaxing and cajoling phase for my undergraduate researchers in the moment to actually expound on the myriad of thoughts I have been having since receiving my notification about my grant being approved. 

But, I can say I have many exciting (to me) ideas about how I may be able to utilize these funds to do all sorts of wonderfully intriguing things.  And, one of these things, that my be only a pipe dream, but also may be able to BECOME reality.... is that I may have enough focus from this grant to actually write a damn BOOK!  Not an article (they will come), not a chapter (yawn), but a whole damn book!  Again, it may be a pipe dream, but right now it feels do-able.  

It will take a lot of work, of course, but also a lot of organization.  So, we will see.  

I was reaching in my pocket for my keys to get back into my office earlier.  There was a student out front waiting for me to "talk" about his grade.  I reached into my pocket and as I drew out my keys, part of the chain holding some of my many, many keys in a somewhat unified mass must have caught on the Zippo lighter in my pocket, and the lighter popped out onto the floor and clanged around a fair amount.  The kid looked down to the floor due to the noise, and then he asked with an odd hint of surprise in his voice, "You, have a lighter?"  

Not being quite sure which direction he was coming from with that question, as he could have been meaning the question/statement from a host of different angles (he could have been anti-smoking, pro-smoking, pro-camping, hell, perhaps pro-marijuana, or who knows what the inflection in his voice was about)..... I did not know how to frame my response.  As I ushered him through my outer office door, I simply said, "Yes, and perhaps another 5 of them at home." 

The POTENTIAL for a visit to the pipe shop on my way back from this regional meeting next week is still a possibility!  No research kids have thus far asked me for a ride.  Other aspects of the meeting still seem "ok" for this pipe shop possibility as well!  


Thursday, February 29, 2024

A Potential Week of Running OUTSIDE


Oh!  My friend Pat also commented on my post from Tuesday, and I unfortunately did not see it until later in the day on Wednesday!  Pat added insight into my pipe deciding process.  I can admit I am no closer to any sort of decision at the moment.  But, Pat's reminding me of Dr. Bruner and his psychological theories stirred pleasant memories.  It may surprise some, but as a biologist who is focused on endocrine and neural physiology, I have a deep appreciation of much psychology research and theory.  Bruner's ideas are very creative and strong.  And, I do, of course attribute that at least IN PART to his being a pipe smoker.  And, as Pat mentioned, Bruner did smoke his pipe his entire life..... which was a THREE DIGIT lifespan.  It is food for me to think about, for certain.  

We have had an awfully damn surprising surge in temperatures for this latter part of February.  ALL of this week has been mostly above freezing, except today.  But, tomorrow we will again be experiencing robustly warm weather.  For most of the week, we have had temperatures in the 50s and even 60s!  It is amazing and not NORMAL February weather.  

I can say that as of this morning, ALL THE SNOW we had is MELTED and GONE!  Good riddance!

There is a potential that I may actually be able to venture out of doors for my runs again.... perhaps I may even attempt it tomorrow.  It will probably be only ~35-38 degrees (2-3 C) at that time when I run in the early morning, but it is not FREEZING and there will be no ice!!!!!

Transitioning from track (and when unavoidable, treadmill) running to outdoor running actually has some challenges.  I can and do run more "freely" when outside.  By this I mean, my gait is a bit longer.  This leads to some muscle soreness for a few days.  Also, I do not have to pay as absolute close attention because MOST of the time I am running in a straight line.  On the track, I am having to turn every 15-20 seconds, and I have to have a beady eye on the other folks on the track as well.  Most everyone EXCEPT ME is there to walk.  And, a sizable number of the folks DO NOT read the signage that states rather clearly that runners should use the OUTSIDE lane and walkers should use the INSIDE lane.  This sizable number of folks just kind of meander every which way between the lanes depending apparently on only a whim.  So, I have also be extremely alert and focused to continually dodge around and between those folks who do not believe in signs. Outside, there are so many fewer folks and there is no circular track... just a path.... that I can run miles in basically a straight line.... and I can drift into my thoughts and imagination better, with a far less "focused" eye and mind on dodging around and turning every damn moment.  

I have plenty of dreams that are both aural and visual.  But, do you ever have a dream that is olfactory or gustatory?  I have, though not all that often.  But, last night, I had an extremely vivid gustatory olfactory dream where I was smoking a beautifully thick and chalky bowlful of Iwan Ries "Three Star Blue" and in the dream, I was tasting and smelling the beautiful nuttiness of the burley, and the fruit essences, which have aspects of melon and citrus.  Purely olfactory I was also experiencing the hint of the flowery essence of what is almost close to a hint of lilac.  In my dream, the pipe tobacco also had just a hint of the flavor of latakia as well, which I do not remember noting with the bowlful in Chicago, so that may be a bit of flight of fancy in my dream.  This dream had rather minimal visual or auditory components, but was almost exclusively olfactory and gustatory.  It was an oddly satisfying dream, and one that would be fun to have on occasion.  I only wish I could steer dreams towards a goal type.  


Wednesday, February 28, 2024

"Bad Boy"


Hah!  Josh, in a comment yesterday, suggested I should "be a bad boy sometimes". And, the very thought of it tickled me so much so that I grinned ruefully.  I do think there is some sort of mystique that is a truism where everyone at different times would like to be a "bad boy" (or girl) in terms of having a persona where they didn't really "give a damn" about what others thought and just become a wild, ornery sort.  I have often imagined being a rough-and-tumble biker sort of fellow, muscling my motorcycle across the country, stopping into every small town, and partying up a storm in various dives.... generally causing a ruckus of sorts with the town folks with my demeanor and attitude and devil-may-care attitude.  

The idea of a pipe smoker, like myself (er, I guess my FORMER (sigh) self), being considered a "bad boy" also was wonderfully fun to imagine.  For the many decades of my life, pipe smokers were generally thought of as the antithesis of a "bad boy", rather being a calming, thoughtful, "insightful" sort.  

In all my years as a rather frumpy, dare-I-say "nerdy" professorial sort, there has always been an admiration for the rougher personality types that are not a natural part of my own visage, nor demeanor.  Although, I can say it would be fun as hell to be able to be THAT for at least a period of time.  

Last night, I allowed myself the luxury as I nodded off to sleep, to imagine myself as burly, muscled, pipe-smoking biker "dude" just drifting across the landscape, taking and seeking pleasures and adventures as they came to me.  It was a very fun mental exercise.  I am not really sure if my wife would handle needing to become my "biker chick" or not, though.  :) 

* * * * *

Margaret and AC both also have given insightful comments regarding my post yesterday.  It does seem like I need to be making some sort of decisions in the matter.  I am very, very appreciative for all of the comments as I try to better figure this out.    


Tuesday, February 27, 2024

The Truth


After six years of not smoking my pipes and pipe tobaccos (except the two glorious exceptions of the Chicago trip and on my father's 100th birthday), I guess I can say I have gotten "used" to being without them.   BUT, being USED to that lack of companionship is NOT the same as feeling happy or upbeat in that lack of companionship I am now USED to.

When I was a younger man, the IDEA of being away from my pipes and pipe tobaccos was not a thought that ever crossed my mind.  I had always assumed they would be companions on my journey.  

It feels like I am in a conundrum not of my own choosing.  It feels very odd to think about how so many facets of life are vastly different in 2024 than they were in my younger days.  Change of course happens, but I, perhaps naively in my youth, thought that history suggested change would drive in a positive direction by-and-large.  

These were the thoughts I experienced while running this morning on the track.  I had awoken from a delightfully pleasant "historical" dream and reliving of a memory from far ago of my reading an engrossing textbook as an undergraduate.  I was sitting under a newly budding tree in the early Spring, smoking my pipe while being fascinated at the ideas of life awakening in me as I read this biology textbook.


Monday, February 26, 2024



As I ran around the track doing all my damnable loops to get to my usual ~10 miles (~16km), I began to think about, "How long will I try to keep this up?"  Some days it is enjoyable.  But, some days it really is rather exhausting and I would rather remain in bed longer.  

I always feel good when I am FINISHED running for the day.  Sometimes I feel good because I showed myself I could do it.  Sometimes I feel good because the damn task is DONE for the day.  And, on days when I am not really wanting to run, I will feel "good" afterwards because I can finally STOP running.

Part of the issue I think, though, is that I am currently, and  have been for months now, stuck running INSIDE on a damn oval track (or occasionally a treadmill, which is a whole helluva lot worse).  Running on a treadmills is shear tedium.  Running on a track is better, but only marginally so.  I am hopeful that once I can again venture outside daily, my mood about running will improve. 

The consistency is important, however.  Besides the (obvious) fact that some aspect of my personality CRAVES consistency, running consistently is the only way I can hope to maintain the ability to "Run the Year" again.  If I do so this year, it will be the fifth year in a row.  For a grey, old, wrinkly, codger, that is decent accomplishment of sorts.  I think if I were to suspend running (take a break) in any appreciable sense, I likely would never again get back to the 50 mile/week (~80km/week) average.  My allowing myself to nudge down from 53 miles/week (~85km/week) down to 50 miles/week at the start of 2023 has shown me that it is a risk to become lax.  I have NEVER had a week of 53 miles since that time.  None in 2023 nor any this year in 2024. I feel chagrined about this.  

I do not know if I can muster the energy to complete this year's "Run the Year".... but I hope so.  I am not sure, but I have been thinking that perhaps this will be my last year trying to do this.  I do not know.  It makes me nervous.  

I had a beautifully odd, but pleasant dream last evening.  It was only a snippet, but it seems like I experienced this snippet in many different replicates and from many different "camera angles".  The focus in this repetitious dream, was my opening of a brand new, pound-can, of Sir Walter Raleigh pipe tobacco.  Of course I had this action be reality many, many times across the years.  But, in the dream, especially vivid was with each instance of opening the can, I experienced the delightful, classic "hiss" sound as the vacuum seal was disrupted by my using the pull tab on the metal lid and air rushed in.  Also vivid was the uniquely beautiful aroma of a full pound can of the beautiful cube-cut burley leaf that is Sir Walter Raleigh. Also, the small "clink" sound that would always occur as the last small part of the metal lid pulled away from the can was like a melody.  Then I would fluff-up the top layer of the pipe tobacco a bit, before putting a handful or two into my zippered, leather tobacco pouch.  It seems like in this dream I repeated the same above pattern a good dozen times, each beautiful, each flooding so many of my senses with beauty.


Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Rough Day

I am stupid.

You may remember a while back, perhaps a few months ago, where I talked about my dog, and her behavior that arose of her getting off the bed during the night and attempting to drink the glass of water I had on the floor by my side of the bed. 

After following through with my plan for a few weeks of putting my glass of water on the bathroom counter with the bathroom door closed, I drifted back into bring my water to the floor by my bed.  I do not even remember NOTICING I had reverted back to this behavior.  I believe I sort of forgot about what the dog had been doing because she stopped jumping off the bed during the middle of the night.  

So, for at least a month if not longer, the glass has been again by my bedside on the floor.  

You can see where this is going.  At ~2:30am this morning, my dog again decided to jump off the bed and apparently was drinking from my glass when she knocked it over.  

The noise woke me up and unfortunately I had to spend the next 30 minutes or so, wiping and cleaning up the mess.  The way that the glass tipped over had the water flow under the bed, and unfortunately, besides dust bunnies, I had several books, a few errant bite socks under the bed.  The biggest concern was trying to take care of and save the books.  

I can attest that I was quite angry and very, very frustrated.  I was cussing under my breath the entire time, and by the time I was done, I was wide awake and still rather angry.  

I desperately need the sleep I get.  So, this disruption at 2:30am was not appreciated and was not helpful in any capacity.  I TRIED to relax and TRIED to fall back asleep from ~3:00am to 5:00 when my damn alarm began to bleat at me. 

I am feeling so groggy, unfocused, and aggravated STILL.  I did run my damn miles.  But, I did not want to.  I did get to work on time, but I damn well did not want to go. 

I am just trying to figure out a way to ease myself out of this mood, so the rest of the day can be better.  But, I have so damn many things to do, that I cannot just stop and take a nap.  

What I would like to do:

1.  Grab one of my largest bowled pipes and very slowly smoke a bowlful of Prince Albert in it as I close my eyes purposefully lift up my eyebrows (scrunching my forehead) to relax the sleep-deprived "squinty-eyed" feeling my eyes have at the moment, and work to stretch and relax my neck and my shoulder muscles in a similar fashion,  all the while mentally trying  to disengage from the frustration.

2.  Have an iced glass of (diet) 7-Up with a shot or two of whisky in it (this was one of the preferred drink of my FIL)

3.  Lay down on the bed and sleep for a few hours. 

But, since the above 1-3 sequence is not possible, instead I will be:

1.  Doing more damnable writing of some of the background for the errant group's upcoming talk

2.  Waiting for my last class of the day to start (I have already lectured two classes).  

3.  Doing more writing after the class.  

I am tired.  I am just tired of working so damn much.



Tuesday, February 20, 2024



I am feeling a bit ornery.  I have felt this way for the last few days.  I am aggravated at one cadre of my undergraduate research students who are dawdling at working on getting needed data for talks they are scheduled to be giving soon at a regional research meeting.  

What I want to do is to put the "fear of hell" in them about their sloth-like progression. Way back in the "ice age" when I was a college student, this is exactly what a lot of professors did.  They would yell and holler, cuss at and denigrate folks who were not up to snuff. I had this happen to me ONE time way-back when.  After the dressing down I received, I never did it again.... which of course was the "goal".  

But, it left a bad taste in my mouth.  And, I actually resented the fellow for doing this.  

So, even though I am annoyed at this cadre, I do not want to treat this group in a way similar to what I experienced.  And, over the many years, I have NEVER done this.  But, it is a thought that keeps occurring from frustration.  Instead, however, what I am going to do is to try to goad them more gently into realizing how damn stressful they are making things..... for themselves AND for me as well.  I am hoping to get them to step up to the challenge and push through.  

Undergraduate students can often be a bit "flaky" at times.  It is somewhat understandable, as being a full-time undergraduate student has you pulled in a helluva lot of different directions.  But, it is making things more and more stressful for me as well.  I have been trying to work with them in developing their talk, but without the damn data being complete and collected, it is difficult to SHAPE a talk.  What I dread, which is likely to occur, is that I will end up having to pull a few "all-nighters" with this cadre once they get their damn data, so that they can finalize, practice, shape, and polish their talk in the day or two before they have to head to the damn conference.  And, I hate "all nighters" at my age.  They are no damn fun, especially when I have so many other things to do as well.

I am sending four different groups to this regional meeting.  I am also a section leader at this meeting and on the society's Executive Board.  So, it is a pretty busy time that is fast approaching.  This sloth-like condition has only happened to one of my groups two other times across the many decades.  But, when it does occur it is annoying as hell.  

There is one POTENTIAL bright spot to this regional meeting.  I MIGHT (might being the definitive word), if I can get out of the meeting early enough on the end day, be potentially able to stop at a pipe shop I know in that region, and enjoy a pipe before I drive home.  The "potential" is dependent upon many ambiguous factors at the moment:

1.  Will I get done EARLY enough on the last day to leave towards heading home with appropriate time to enjoy a bowlful before they close for the day (they do not stay open particularly late).

2.  Will I get to drive to (and back) from the conference SOLO, meaning I will not need (usually at the last minute) to give a ride to one or more of the undergrads who likely did not fully conceptualize their travel needs until the last minute.  The idea of trying to stop "frivolously" for a pipe while traveling with a non-pipe smoking person does not work well.  

3.  Will I have enough fortitude and stamina at the end of the conference which is a very busy one for me from an "administrative" position, to do anything but drive home and immediately fall in a heap on the bed?     

Not really sure how it will go.  I have my wishes and dreams, but I cannot predict reality.