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, January 22, 2021


 Yesterday, with my anxiety levels up, I was really trying to figure out ways to dissipate my stress.  In the early morning (around 5:30am) I ended up running a bit more than usual and ran a full 10 miles (16.1km) on the damn treadmill.  As my post yesterday around lunch showed.... it didn't really do much good to alleviate my stress.  

So, then late in the afternoon, with a surprising "heat wave" where temperatures were a degree or so above freezing, I saw that the trail appeared to be clear.  So, I decided to try to pound out some more of my stress, and ran 5 additional miles (~8km) outside.  Being outside, and running outside seemed to help a little more than it had in the morning on the treadmill.   

By the way... the image I used today is of a fellow from the theatrical production, "Stomp".  As I was on the treadmill THIS morning (only 9 miles (14.5km) this morning) I was thinking about that group.  I have seen performances by the traveling group three times over the years.  Always wonderful, entertaining, and actually thought provoking.  It had me thinking how much I miss performances, plays, symphonic orchestras, musicals, and movies.  I am hoping that all of the above can return relatively swiftly once the minimum needed percentage of folks get vaccinated occurs.  


Thursday, January 21, 2021

Nervous & Worried

I am feeling a significant amount of stress about Covid-19 at the moment.  I am again having to meet with students for a percentage of my classes in face-to-face mode and it is having me feel quite a bit of anxiety.  I have been as careful and consistent in following all the rules/regulations for best safety practice with masks, washing of hands, social distancing, etc.  However, I also *do* know that is not a fail-safe method... it is simply the best that I can currently do.  

I so want to receive my vaccination (or at least the first injection if I were to receive the dual dose form).  But, I have no idea when I will be a) considered eligible and b) have no idea when vaccines will be available in my region FOR my eligibility status.  

The categories in the US and in my state are so chaotic.  In THEORY I should be pretty close to being able to qualify according to the original timetable.  My wife, with her underlying health conditions *should* already be eligible.  Yet, all available information I can find by phone, or online or in the news suggests that there is still a huge struggle and backlog in terms of getting just the first group... the health care workers vaccinated in my region.  And, that was supposed to have been available and accomplished several weeks ago. 

If they are still struggling to acquire enough vaccines to try to vaccinate the health care workers, that likely means my wife's potential vaccination may be up to two months away, and mine probably at least three months away.... regardless of what the "timeline" was/is suggesting.  

I had a nightmare two days ago where I was hospitalized for having extremely severe Covid-19 symptoms and ended up dying.  I saw that my family received the magic phone call that I could get my vaccination.... three days after I had died.  I woke up in terror.


Monday, January 18, 2021

Lunch Break

I am trying a new pattern today.  Because I am cyborging away most of the day, I figured I should plan a time to try to write here each day.  My thought was that I could try to expel my thoughts quickly onto the page while taking a brief work break to eat lunch.  I will see how this goes this week.  '

Basic Stats:

1.  Weighed 162 pounds (73.5kg) when I weighed in on Sunday morning.  I weigh in once a week to help me to see if I am maintaining consistency.  It is far too easy for a hefty guy like I used to be to move up the scale quickly.  I have stayed at a normal BMI now for a little over a dozen years.  In terms of consistency that is pretty damn good.  Especially for a fellow who once weighed very close to 300 pounds (~135 kg).

2.  I have ran between ~52-55 miles (~80-90 km) each week now for 10 straight months.  Before that I was in the 30 or so mile (~50 km) a week range. 

* * * * *

We ran out of coffee, so I did not have my usual three cups over ice this morning.  I miss its bitter flavor.  We did not have any interesting tea either.... just Green Tea, which I was not really in the mood for.  As I have alluded to in the past, I do not like hot beverages, so I always drink my beverages cold... and that includes coffee and tea.  And, while I very much like Green Tea over ice on a hot summer day, it just did not sound interesting this morning.  We had no orange pekoe or black teas around either and very sadly, no more "exotic" teas I occasionally indulge in that are more enjoyable either.  Just the Green Tea.  

My  wife does not like coffee or tea, so unless I am careful to put it on the "list" to buy, it is never thought of.   

I guess, I should get back to work.  I will conclude with a strange "pipe dream" I had last night:

My wife abhors motorcycles.  I actually think they are kind of cool... but I am too damn much of  a klutz to ever drive one, myself....... I know it would end badly.  In my dream, my wife decided to sell her van, and bought herself... get this.... a fully decked out Harley Davidson motorcycle, with flames on the gas tank.... and get this..... a BOAT MOTOR on the back..... for what reason.... who the hell knows.  I assure you I did not eat any really weird stuff before bed last night.   

Well, my wife parks this huge bike (with a boat motor) in the garage, but she is not particularly careful and the bike rolls slightly towards the garage door.  I am in the garage, smoking my pipe and fussing around with some small piece of lumber and  I am trying to use my jig saw on the material to make it into some doo-dad for one of the behavior chambers in my lab.  I decide to open the garage door to let in some more light and air.  Somehow the edge of the motorcyles fender catches on the lip of the garage door and as the door goes up it pulls the motorcycle and boat motor up into the air.  When I look back, I see the motorcycle hanging from the lip of the garage door.  Surprisingly, I am unperturbed, and just shake my head a bit, draw on the stem of my pipe and go back to working with the jig saw.  


Friday, January 15, 2021

I Miss That

Pipes used to be fairly ubiquitous.  A large enough percentage of the male population indulged, that it was commonplace.   A significantly larger than average percentage of the male population in my profession indulged, so that made it even more commonplace.  I liked that.  I miss that.   

I hate it when the "rules" change.  It is inevitable that they do.... but that doesn't mean I cannot be damn angry about it.  


Thursday, January 14, 2021

Emotions All Over the Map

 My emotions are all over the map this week.  A good friend has decided to retire at the end of this academic year at the U, and it left me feeling isolated and alone.  I know it is stupid to feel that way.  But, I also know it is how I feel.  

I am glad my friend is able to retire and have more flexibility and freedom. But, I am still sad about how it will reduce my day-to-day work experience because the person is not there.

I am trying to be nice.... but, I would much rather the two people who have been a consistent thorn in my side retire, than have this very nice person leave.

Cyborging is intense.  Not much else to say about it.  I am just busy typing and mousing all the day long.  The one positive.... I ordered myself a new keyboard and mouse because the one that my home computer had was glitchy.  The new keyboard is wonderful.  The keys have LONG travel distances and the keyboard has very nice legs that allow the keyboard to be angled so that the upper keys are pleasantly higher than the lower rows of keys.  For me, this position (more of an old-school typewriter key position) is a helluva lot more enjoyable to type on than the flat, barely move keys that are much more common today.

Running.... the treadmill is good and bad.  Good, because it gives me an option for running that is safer, but bad.... because it is enormously boring.... and yet it also requires so much concentration to keep on the belt that I do not get to "relax" my body as much as I am used to from running outside.  

Pipes... pipe tobaccos.... I am having a lot of intensive yearnings for them both again this week.  This is one of those weeks where I do so very deeply feel the struggle. It is such a conflict.... I could so very easily pick up one of my beautiful pipes, and fill it with exquisite  aromatic leaf , and nurture flame into the bowl.  It would be joy.  But, at the same time, I do not know if that is a cowardly way "out" to just simply fall back into the charms of this hobby simply because I WANT to do so?  Am I not a man of my word?  Am I not supposed to try to become a better, kinder, wiser person?  


Thursday, January 07, 2021

Cyborging Away the Day

In preparation for the start of the new semester, I have again become a cyborg.  However, I am *hoping* this cyborg effort is really just through this week, as my goal/plan/hope/aspiration is that *IF* I can get all the LMS's (Learning Management Systems.... the gizmo-ey phrase for the electronic classrooms) up to snuff through damn-dogged determination and hard-as-hell work this week through Saturday, I should be able to open the classrooms to students on Sunday, so they have a chance to explore for the start next week.  

And, if I can muster up the stamina to keep at it through Saturday, I *believe* I may be in a position thereafter where I can work at cyborging in a much more "normal" only eight hour-a-day of work format for the remainder of the semester.  Even though part of me worries my aspiration here may only be a pipe dream, it is a pipe dream that is keeping me going at the moment.  

Wish me luck!  

I have had an open pouch of my Sir Walter Raleigh cube-cut pipe tobacco open on my desk by my office rack of pipes to give me a pleasant aroma while I work. The smell is enticing even without smoking. But, smoking it *would* be even better, of course.  

Besides cyborging, the only other things I have done are a) I ran 9 miles on the damn treadmill this morning at 4:45am (dull as hell to run on a treadmill, but I am glad I have it), and because I saw that the trail had melted and did not have any slippery spots by late afternoon, I also ran an additional 4 miles OUTSIDE!!!!  Running outside is so much nicer.  And, that means I will have fewer additional treadmill miles to reach my weekly goal of a minimum of 52 miles (~84 km) a week.

So, other than the two runs and eating food while I worked, I have just been cyborging away.


Wednesday, January 06, 2021

The Party


I went to the party against my better judgement.  

I really did not want to attend.  My nerves were already fairly frayed, but I felt "obligated" to go. 

It was at the house of a faculty member, and looking at the card with the address, I was surprised that the house was actually fairly close to my own abode.  I had not realized it was only a few short blocks away.  So I decided to walk there. Slowly. I took my time.... stalling truthfully.  I patted the pocket of my coat.  Yes, I could feel my pipe, my pouch of pipe tobacco, and my lighter there.  That felt a bit comforting to me. 

I really WANTED to wear a mask.  It would have been a wonderful shield.  But, it was not that "sort" of party.  It would have only drawn more attention to myself, because I knew I would be the only one who wore one in this crowd.  

I climbed the steps and was up on the porch, and I could already hear the chatter, the noise, the music coming from inside.  I knocked perfunctorily, and then stepped inside.  The place was already crowded and a bit raucous.  Even though the lighting was dim, the central object in the living room was a keg sitting in a big washtub filled with ice.  To me, this was rather surprising to see.  The keg seemed more the type of "centerpiece" for a college dorm party, not one hosted by a faculty member.  Not really meaning to communicate my feelings, I inadvertently shrugged my shoulders as I thought to myself, "Oh well, what the hell.... I am here now.... when in Rome...".

I picked up one of the disposable glasses, and proceeded to use the tap to fill it with beer from the keg. Taking my first sip from the glass, I was surprised at the HOW especially COLD the beer was.... almost icy.... very refreshing.  I began to drink a bit more robustly as I merged myself into a circle of folks who were chatting in a very animated fashion.  This was done very purposefully, as I knew from experience that being rather quiet myself, immersing myself into a gaggle of FAR chattier folks made these sorts of situations a bit easier.... I would not have to talk much myself, and yet the conversation would still swirl around me so that my listening, watching, and observing would be perceived as still being "in a group".  I quickly finished the first glass of beer and briefly stepped out of the circle to get a refill from the keg, then proceeded back to my position in the circle. 

I kept this up, moving back-and-forth between the keg and the chatty circle, nodding my head, grinning at the jokes that were told, sporadically adding a brief word or two, here-and-there in the circle's conversation when it seemed expected of me.  After finishing my fifth glass, I glanced at my watch... it had been only a little over an hour since I had arrived.  Even though it was still early in the evening, that felt like enough time for me to be able to comfortably disengage from this noisy circle. Onto a bit more quiet, I thought to myself.  

I filled my glass again from the keg, and then meandered around a bit until I found the kitchen.  There, I saw there what I had hoped to find, the door that lead out to the backyard.  I also found amongst the folks in the kitchen was a cooler that was filled with ice and BOTTLES of beer.  I nodded at the two ladies who were talking together and sampling from the wide array of hors d'oeuvres spanning across the countertop.  I reached down, and collected one of the bottles of beer, and used the bottle opener attached on the wall to gently nudge the bottle cap off the bottle while still holding onto my cup of beer.  I grinned at the ladies as I gingerly slid the bottle into my right-side coat pocket, with the neck of the bottle standing upright out of my pocket.  I then stepped out onto the back porch.

From the porch, I could see out into the yard, and there were a few groups of people, mostly students, milling about and talking.  I walked down the steps into the patio section of the yard.  It was much more quiet outside.  The talking going on around me felt more muted, although it may simply have been due to the distance between groups, or the fact that we were not in a confined space.  But, it was nicer.  Much of the yard was lit up with lighting of various sorts.... the porch lights, an electric line ran out to a small pavilion with lighting hung in the rafters, and at several tables there were kerosene fueled lanterns glowing gently.  

I really had had enough conversation for a bit, so I saw a small bench over to the side of the yard where there weren't any clusters of people at the moment, and I walked over there and sat down.  I took my bottle of beer out of my pocket and sat it next to me as I also did with my glass of beer.  Across the way, I could see in a few of the groups of students, the glow that would occasionally occur as two or three of the kids were smoking cigarettes.

Reaching into my left coat pocket, I withdrew my pipe, pouch and lighter.  Even with my sloshy, beer-infused mind, the patterns and movements of my hands as I fussed with the pouch and filled the bowl of my pipe with crumbles of pipe tobacco was smooth, coordinated, and natural.  Only one brief spin of the flint wheel was needed on my trusty Zippo before the golden yellow flame erupted. Eagerly, I brought the flame to the bowl of my pipe and drew the flame deeply into the leaf, merging the two into a beautiful ember glowing red in the bowl.  

I drew deeply on the stem of my pipe, and after a moment or so, slowly exhaled the aromatic smoke from my nostrils.  Bliss.  I looked up into the clear sky and in the starlight, and identified a few of the constellations I knew while I continued to smoke my pipe.  

As I sat smoking my pipe in the pleasant quiet, having first finished the cup of beer and now more slowly working through the bottle of beer as well, one of the students over on the other side of the yard began to walk towards me.  We said hello, and he sat on a nearby bench perpendicular to the one I was sitting on.  He was one of the smokers from that group, and now I realized he and probably a few of the others were over there smoking marijuana.  He looked at me and offered his joint to me.  I admit I was curious, but I grinned, and gently shook my head and waved my hand, pointing to my pipe, and said, "Nah, I'm ok right now."  

We sat there for a while, and talked.  Then a few other students meandered over and we started talking as a group, me still being mostly quiet.  One girl had brought over a few more bottles of beer and offered me one of them as my own bottle had been emptied a bit before.  I mostly listened to the conversation, but did contribute some as well for the next two hours or so.  

Finally, it felt like it was probably the right time to leave for me.  I stood up, and I was admittedly more than a bit wobbly on my feet.  I guess some of the kids could see how I was less than appropriately stable of gait at the moment, and one asked me where I lived.  I told them (luckily I remembered, hah!). One girl said that she walked past that area on her way to her apartment, and she said she would walk with me to help steer me to my house. And, she did.  

* * * * *

Addendum:  The above memory was brought to my thoughts because of the New Years Eve party I did not attend this year that I am regularly invited to by a Chemist at my U.  Most chemists I know are staunchly Republican in outlook, and this fellow is no exception.  With the Covid-19 situation, I know gatherings of such as a party are unsafe, and I also know he is (although good natured and  entertaining) a person who scoffs at the safety of wearing masks and social distancing.  I have enjoyed a few of his parties in the past, but this year was a definite no-go.  

The above recollection, however, was my experience at my start of graduate school so very many decades ago.  I had only moved into my room in the house I shared with others two days prior to this party.  I was quite on edge too as classes hadn't started, and I was really unsure if I would be able to fit in.  As I was only 21 at the time, and was never much of a "partier" I had only a few drinks prior to this point and never of that quantity before.  It was very much my first time getting rather "sloshed".  It was probably not the wisest time to do so, and it was not really my intent, but it did happen that day.  

The young lady who walked me home was a second year graduate student at the time.  I am very thankful for her walking me home.  The house I lived in was amongst a large series of nearly identical homes in "student row" and having only been there for two days, and being "sloshed" I really did not know which house was really the exact one I lived in.  She helped me figure it out by finding my car parked in the back of the house, so I made it home successfully.  She was a great friend of mine throughout all of graduate school.  After graduation, she eventually moved to Northern Minnesota and I believe she is still teaching at a small, community college somewhere there. The fellow who offered me his joint was a third year graduate student at the time, and he bounced around for many years teaching and doing research at a variety of places.  Eventually, I heard he moved out to California in the 1990s when the state legalized medical marijuana.  I believe he is working for some biotech firm out there, unless he has already retired.