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.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

It seems that my sociological postings are not overly stimulating to my few readers. Well, perhaps this topic will garner a few comments....

A recurring nightmare I have had most of my life, consists of 3-4 variations on the theme of being alone. In the most common and most painful of these nightmares I will sit and watch as one by one all the people I know and care about die. The death continues until I am utterly alone, with no one left to be with me. A variant on that type of nightmare, I find myself in a nebulous space with no tangible objects in any direction. It is as if I am in a horrible void with nothing to sense, nor anything to do, and the isolation is unbearable. A third variation of this same morbid theme is where I find I must run to some distant, nebulous place to get something to save a friend or member of my family. In the panic to get to the destination I lose any ability to see or sense anyone around me and feel lost.

While these brief synopses are able to give you a picture of my fears, I must also state that in my waking hours, I also can easily slip into a mindset where I focus on the horrid truths of our life. For example, for much of our lives, we grow and develop and learn how to love and accept love from those we know and care about, but the later parts of our lives are spent learning how to cope with those beautiful connections and that caring and love being harshly severed as those we love die.

It is hard to stay away from that harsh reality, but I try during my life to focus on the positive, but the reality of the deaths of those we care about sometimes makes my soul feel wilted and incapable of caring.

Monday, November 24, 2003

A few days ago, Kevin "aka The Homeless Guy" at had an article about people making choices to treat others kindly, and I thought it was very interesting. I commented to his article, but thought I would further elaborate on my thoughts here today.

My original post to Kevin:


Very nice article. I would say the idea of "not creating adversity" for others is one of the key aspects we, as a complex animal do to maintain any framework of a society. And that is a key point.... society. One of the things that seperates us somewhat from other animal species is the DEGREE to which we interdepend upon each other and how intrenched our SOCIETY is for us in terms of day-to-day survival.

Part of the problem I see now (and for perhaps the last 30 years or so)is this switch in the typical adult's mindset..... for most, life has become ME, ME, ME oriented as Quail said above.... the ideas of and promotion of community support and sponsorship are sorely lacking in our current society. Today, instead of the average person donating to a civic group or community playhouse, or museum, most folks say... "I need all my money, let the rich folk or the rich corporations pay for it all." Unfortunately I think this mindset if left unchecked will be the real reason we may have a total collapse of our society in the future.... people are losing the sense of community.

I feel this is one of several reasons for the rise in homelessness in the last 30 years as well. Now, do not get me wrong... most areas still *do* have some community spirit and ties.... but it seems many times it is only during periods of "crisis" that the community spirit is active. I think this ME, ME, ME mentality is a direct result of the suburbanization of America that occurred in the 50s and 60s. Suburbs were designed to distant people from eachother..... (they were needed due to the housing crunch for the families of the WWII veterans, but they could have been designed in a manner to foster greater community involvement instead of isloation).... and hence the Me, Me, Me mindset is very common for the children reared in that environment.

It is sad, for in many ways each of us is far more alone than we would have been if we lived in the same region only 60 years ago. The isolation is self-imposed but is due to how most of us were brought up.


Now, in a nutshell, what does this suggest to me? Well, I feel the suburbanization of America did not in itself cause the decline of most metropolitan areas, but I feel that the ME, ME, ME attitude that became so strong through living in the suburbs DID cause the decline of most metropolitan areas. It is sad, and enormously damaging to the fabric of our society.

In hindsight, what do I think should have been done? Well, many people suggest the building of the suburbs was a bad, horrible, nasty thing. I disagree... I think the returning veterans and their new families NEEDED new housing for the dramatic rise in the population at that time. What I wish, however, is that the suburbs would have been developed in such a way so as they would have fully integrated with the existing urban areas they surround, and that the suburbs would have been built with a mindset that strove to develop and broaden the sense of community.

My pipe is cold now, the tobacco been spent. I think I will leave my writings as is for now, and get ready for class.

Saturday, November 22, 2003

A few days ago, Kevin "aka The Homeless Guy" at < > had an article about people not "getting" what homelessness was about. I thought the article was very interesting and commented there about how people do not "get" a lot of things in life. I thought I would elaborate on my thoughts here.

Here is what I said in response to Kevin's article:

Hello Kevin:

In your "I've Learned Things" article, you talk about how most
people do not `get it.` Unfortunately, I think your comment has
broader implications than just for understanding about the
homeless. I believe the vast majority of people (including
myself and you and nearly anyone we can think of) do not
`get` MOST of what is going on around us. With the way
society is, it is enormously difficult to try to maintain or
become a broadly based person. The society in which we live
is continually guiding us to narrow our focus. I think this is a
very interesting notion.... and I think I will have it be the topic
of my blog entry tonight.

Thanks for the inspiration!


I think this idea is very important. Where has the well rounded person gone? Is it impossible to be a person widely knowledgeable about most topics (sort of a "Renissance Man" [excuse the spelling])? It seems that the focus on our society has become one of narrowing of focus, where many of us do not know what is going on around us other than what directly affects our own life... our own bottom line so to speak. I wish our society were different in that way.

How do some of us attempt to be widely knowledgeable? For some, the library is definetly the answer. I know my own time growing up and in adulthood has been widely influenced by having access to a reasonably good public library system. It has opened doors for me that I could never have experienced otherwise. Additionally, in my adulthood, the growth of the Internet has been a wonderful way for me to access other thoughts and ideas. In my early adulthood, I pursued and obtained a Ph.D. in a biological science as a means to attempt to broaden my understanding of the world. In many ways it has helped me as well, even though much of graduate education today is geared towards developing an extremely narrow focus. Obviously, a Ph.D. is not needed to be a well rounded person, but for me it did help. I hope I am reasonably well rounded and reasonably knowledgeable about many topics. If I am not, I am at least trying hard to be as open as possible to other ideas and insight. I am glad that I try hard to "get" the perspectives of others, and that my attempts have helped me be a happier person.

I think I have a bit of time left before my favorite tobacconist closes today.... I am going to stop here for now, and go to my own version of a "kid in a candy shop" adventure. I think it is likely that my tobacconist may have begun to bring out new lines of pipe tobaccos for the holidays and I am eager to see what he has come up with this year!

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

The joys of deer camp are immense. I had not laughed with abandon, nor have I not planned and not carefully though about things for such a long time. In fact, it was likely a year ago, at the last deer camp that I had that wonderful release from responsibilities.... albeit for only a few, brief ephemeral hours.

My drinking was at an above average level at deer camp, yet it was wonderful and I did not awaken with even a little hangover. It was an odd mix of alcohols that were entered into my body. Glenlivets single malt scotch whiskey was plentiful as was the classic, though often maligned Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer in the stubby brown bottles. Additionally, one friend brought with him a fifth of peach schnapps which we passed around (it is rather sickeningly sweet). A few gentle sloshes of vodka, and a few more of vermouth, and a partial bottle of Wild Turkey whiskey were also sampled.

I wish I had poker buddies back at home like I do at deer camp. The only place I ever play poker is at camp, and it is a wonderful time. I did not do quite as well as last year, but I still came out in the black with roughly $10 more than when I started.

When I finally went out to hunt at 5:30am, I stumbled across the field (it was dark, with very little moon) and found a place to sit quietly staring into a fairly open field. It was cold.... roughly only 25 degrees (Farenheit.... for you International readers.... it was roughly -3 Celcius). As the sun started to peak out from under the horizon, I could see in the early light that frost had formed across my rifle, and over my shoulders on my hunter orange jacket. I filled another bowl of tobacco into my pipe and quietly sat watching the beauty as the illumination of a new day occurred.

I ended up seeing NO deer that morning, but it did not matter. After a brief snooze, I headed back to camp and started another wonderful day.

Perhaps I should talk about my hunting vehicle next. I will think about that.

Monday, November 17, 2003

I am back from deer camp for another workweek. But come Friday, I will be back up north again. What is the allure? It is the fresh perspective a man gets from deer camp. The typical scenerio for most fellows who head to deer camp is as follows:

1. Get up early and drive to an isolated, rather desolate, run-down shack of some sort... the deer camp.

2. Meet up with other like-minded friends and relatives and friend's and relative's older sons at the deer camp.

3. Leave behind the typical day-to-day responsibilities, grumblings, and tasks.

4. Focus on camaraderie, and memorable times.

5. Play poker, eat massive amounts of unhealthy but delicious food, smoke without the "evil eye" of others being focused upon you, drink till you feel just right.... then drink a little more.

6. Talk until wee hours of the morning, being careful to not tip over the empty fifths of scotch and whisky when you finally get up from sitting at the kitchen table with the others.

7. Sleep on a rickety cot for an hour or two before suiting up in hunter orange and taking to the field with a thermos of coffee and your tobacco of choice (pipe for me of course)..... and don't forget your rifle and deer hunting liscense.

8. Sit out in the brisk 25 degree air, waiting for the sun to peak over the horizon, drink coffee, smoke your pipe, see the sunrise. Take a brief snooze.

9. Unless you REALLY, REALLY like venison, pretend like you don't see the spikehorn buck a few hundred yards away in your peripherial vision.

10. Enjoy the next few hours until you feel too cold. Then return to deer camp and repeat starting with step 2.

It is a beautiful experience. It helps me to find my philosophical center, and feel a part of a much larger and more profound world than I am typically.

Friday, November 14, 2003

Well, this is the evening before the morning I leave to head north to deer camp. I am looking forward to it greatly. Although I am not fond of venison, I feel it is appropriate to hunt deer as a means of experiencing the full effect of my omnivorus diet.... I occasionally eat chicken, turkey, and beef. If I do "bag a buck" I have a homeless shelter lined up that is very interested in having the venison, but to be honest I am not overly adamant about the hunting aspect. For me the ritual of deer hunting is the enjoyment of deer camp.... the drinking, the smoking, the cards, the bullshit stories, and the crassness. It is a refreshing change from daily life.

Thursday, November 13, 2003

It seems as if is much harder to accomplish anything after we revert back to normal time (from daylight savings time). I am sure it is mostly due to the damably short number of hours of daylight we have from November through March here in the Northern Midwest. I get up usually when it is dark, and arrive home from work when it is dark, and often will not see much in the way of natural light. I am not sure if forcing myself to spend lunch outside (even if it is very cold) would help me get enough natural light or not, but I am considering trying it to see.

Right now, I can already see my briar indulgences increasing like they seem to at this time every year. It seems the rich nourishment I obtain from my pipe is even more helpful in having me become alert in the morning than it is in the Summer months.

I need to think more about this as I get ready to spend the weekend at deer camp.

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

I have been thinking about how to make my blog something that will be relevant enough to attract readers yet also personal enough to be entertaining for me. Sometimes the day is so busy with work, though, that not much creative energy can flow. In days like this (like today) I will tend to watch television quite intently. Instead of having to imagine my own story or outcomes, I can have a story be told to me... actually unfold before me without any need for me to think beyond simple observation.

The two television shows I watched this evening are a true contrast: "Joe Average" and "Third Watch". The first show, "Joe Average" is about as senseless as it comes. A rather conceited young lady is on her fantasy mission to find her true love. Little does she realize though, that her future suitors are simply regular guys.... no glamorous goons in the bunch. The show is a favorite of several members of my family, so I end up watching it. The show is really basically an ethology experiment gone horribly wrong, and therefore I find it somewhat captivating to watch. Yet, the overall message is that this rather conceited, materialistic, surface oriented young woman is likely too shallow to see much good in any of her suitors.

"Third Watch" was on tape from Friday, and I finally had a chance to watch. It is a bit melodramatic at times, but a few of the characters are interesting and entertaining. I especially like Bosco and his ex-partner (played by Lindsay Price). Overall a good show, but sometimes too over-the-top.

Characters I find especially amazing from television (a first list... I shall flesh out futher later) include: Rick Simon, Cannon, and Marlo Thomas. It may seem an odd list (and it is) but I can further elaborate in a future message.

The draining hurried pace of the day has kept me farther away from my beloved pipe than I would like. I have only enjoyed her company one time thus far today. I think I shall now go out and meld that beautiful leaf with flame so as to sooth my thoughts and calm the turmoil within.

Thursday, November 06, 2003

The beautiful "beast" shown to the right is an image of one of my very favorite pipes. In my mind, the shape and color are of a caliber that make the pipe a true work of art. It is sad to think about how uncommon my hobby of the pipe has become.

While I understand how the health issues that can surround tobacco use are a a major reason for the rapid decline in smoking in the last 20 years, I think that the issue is a bit off the mark. Yes, tobacco use can be damaging to one's health, but so can many other things. A person must evaluate the cost/benefit of the behavior and make decisions based upon these ideas. It is rare when ANYTHING is wholly bad or wholly good in life. Nearly everything is a shade of grey.

For me personally, I think the villification of tobacco usage is a result of OVERINDULGENCE that is possible and encouraged by the use of cigarettes. I am personally not fond of cigarettes for a variety of reasons, and therefore do not indulge in them. Later I shall talk more about why I think that the rise in use of cigarettes is directly attributable to the current decline in use of what I like to refer to as the more "gentlemanly" forms of tobacco.... cigars and especially pipes.

I think I have figured out how to post images. Let me see how it works. Please give comments on the image.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

It is almost time! Time for the beautiful, end of the day briar. Some days I will purposefully not have my morning pipe in order to help make the pipe during the drive home that much more beautiful. Today is one of those days.

I felt wonderfully energetic this morning and decided to forgo my morning pipe in order to get to school to work on my grant. The drive in proved calming and I was able to complete my daily rosary during the drive.

On Wednesdays this semester, I try to leave as close to 4pm as possible for parental responsibilities.

Maybe I will spend time in a future entry on the beauty and artistry I find in the briar hobby. Right now, I wish to instead immerse myself deeply in that art as I travel home.

If you read this blog, please consider adding a link to it from your own blog. If you would like to have your blog listed here, let me know. As soon as I figure out how to do so, you will be up.

Here I go, to enjoy my pipe!

Monday, November 03, 2003

What a weekend. I mostly wish to sigh.... but do I sigh from frustration or from contentment? Both, and more it seems. Life never seems to follow a predictable pattern any more. When I hope to relax, I become busy. When I seek activity, I find boredom. Halloween was additionally a yin-yang sort of day. THe weather was nice, the kids were cute in their costumes, yet the meloncholy of the eve of All Saints Day made thoughts turn to the sad reality of those lost to death recently.

A new pattern I have noticed in my life.... I seem to be unable to adequately plan for how long somethiung will take to accomplish. I used to be quite good at these estimations.... and I would work hard to accomplish them. These days, invariably I presume I can accomplish something in a certain period of time, yet it takes roughly 3 times longer. Case in point.... I am writing a grant, and I estimated the grant would take 3 days to write. I am on day 8 now and not near finished. Sometimes I fear it is laziness, sometimes I fear I am getting more stupid every day, and still other times I believe I am simply inept. I hope I am not any of those things, but I think I may be.

I did not ever make it to the beloved pipe store this weekend.... no sampling of new leaf, no gentle conversation about life. And, on Saturday evening, without realizing it, I ran out of my beloved pipe tobacco. No suitable store was open and I thought I would be bored to tears without the companionship my briar provides until Sunday. However, I remembered a stowed away package of leaf received as a birthday gift some time ago. While not a stellar flavor.... it was better than being amputated from my briar on a Saturday evening.