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, December 31, 2003

Today is Wednesday, and again I feel sad and lonely. I feel dull witted and lazy. I am feeling grouchy and out-of-sorts. I do not want to do anything. My pipe sometimes seems like my only true friend..... it does not demand of me more than I can give. So many people seem to demand more of me than I can possibly give. I feel at times like I am losing the sense of who *I* am anymore. I have so many commitments and hassels with those I love. No one seems to be concerned with *my* well being, *my* wholeness, *my* mind. I feel as if it has been *so, so, so very long since I have had the free, unadulterated ability to simply *explore* thoughts in my mind, to *think* of new ideas. Instead, I spend virtually all my time troubleshooting other people's problems, try to solve others problems and help them meet their needs. And, a very large, and very taxing part of my life is now devoted to helping the emotionally distraught to cope.

Unfortunately, however, what I *do* now is far more taxing and debilitating on my soul than is what I have worked to *have* as my career. I feel much like an empty hollow shell.

Pipe Tobacco

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Tuesday is a bit better. Life is not so dull and uninspiried. My beautiful briar pipe is still a wonderful source of comfort to me, but I have caught a glimpse of happier times as well. I am hopeful that life is on the upswing.

My lovely pipe was far more enjoyable a pursuit today in my office/laboratory than the work I *planned* and *should* have done in preperation for next semester. I did not accomplish much other than to look a bit at updating my syllabi. At this rate I will start the semester in a hurried, unprepared state. Yet, today, exploring the nuances of my new Christmas pipe proved more interesting. The beast is very large-bowled and this cavernous bowl, having been virginal until my deflowering of her held an enormous quantity of leaf. For the inaugural effort I chose a very heavy burley leaf that is especially pleasing for the rather sharp kick in the head it provides. Nurturing flame into leaf was, as always, a magical moment. The peace and tranquility that ensued was soothing to my mind, body and soul.

Perhaps tommorrow I shall be more responsible about work. It is my holiday as well, so I suppose I can get away with a bit of lax behavior. I think I shall now go to the barber to get a haircut and a beard and moustache trim in case I wish to look a bit spruced up for a New Year's celebration.

Pipe Tobacco

Monday, December 29, 2003

It is now Monday and life seems dull and uninspired. The only solace I receive is from my tobacco and pipe and even that comfort is fleeting at best. At least the warmth of the bowl of the pipe as I hold it in my hands gives me the sense of being present in the world. The strong, rich pipe smoke tickles my neurons and gives them a bit of merriment as well.

Why is life so meloncholy? It is hard to say. It is mostly the disconnect between your hopes and dreams for a given day and the reality of that same said day. Today has been horrid and the prospects are good that tommorrow will likewise be so. I shall attempt to awaken with a fresh mood and an energetic spirit in the morning, but the fates may be against me. Let us hope they are not.

Tommorrow I plan to go exercise in the morning. After exercising, I plan to spend a few hours at work, where I hope to accomplish good things. After that, my day *should* be free for reading, relaxing, going shopping, sight seeing, the library, or museums etc.

Tommorrow I *expect* to have people I love continue to be cranky at me, and I *expect* people to not feel well, and I *expect* that things that I do will be misconstrued.

What I wish for tommorrow, and what I expect for tommorrow are virtual mirror images of what I wished for today and what I received today. That is life.

I shall leave now to travel home. On the route home, I will indulge in my pipe, the comrade that rarely is not pleasant. The pipe, right now, seems nearly my only friend.

Pipe Tobacco

Saturday, December 27, 2003

Tommorrow I want to tell you about my beautiful new shinny pipe I received for a holiday gift, but today's entry has a different focus. I wish to talk about my plans for 2004.

Today is the start of a brand new day for me (ta-dah!). Or so I hope. As a professor, I have a relatively sedentary lifestyle most of the time. Now, I do move around a great deal while teaching, and lecturing. But, I do not have a very consistent aerobic exercise schedule. My hope is to change that this coming new year. I officially started the routine after a few false fits-and-starts yesterday. I will describe the activities and goals of the exercise routine in a few paragraphs. First, an assessment of my current status:

My weight is slightly overweight, which is a grand improvement over my weight about 6 years ago. When I am stressed, I will immediately want to eat rich (aka unhealthy) food, and that is exactly what I did during a *very * stressful time in my life. However, I was successful in taking the reigns back on my eating and lost roughly 75 pounds six years ago. I have fully adopted and embraced my new relationship with food and have had relatively little fluctuation over the years. The weakness I had in my past effort was that I did not successfully incorporate *consistent* aerobic exercise in my activities. Without the aerobic conditioning, I stayed a bit shy of my true desired weight and body tone.

I am making a vow to myself to now incorporate an enjoyable aerobic and an enjoyable toning workout into my routine 5-6 days each week. I am going to keep the activities variable so that I keep interest, but the general plan is to have one type of toning exercise and one type of aerobic excercise each day (with 1-2 days per week off). The toning exercises I find enjoyable thus far include:

weight training
intensive stretching and flexing

The aerobic exercises I tend to find most enjoyable include:

brisk walking
ice skating
roller blading

Now, I have done all of the above NUMEROUS times in the past several years, but the crux of the issue is HOW DO I MAINTAIN CONSISTENT levels of activity week in and week out. There have been more times than I can count where I will engage in these activities very faithfully for a week or two or sometimes even three, but then these periods are followed by days, weeks or months where life is "too hectic" to exercise. I KNOW this is a load of bullsh*t in reality, and that my goal of this year is to make the exercise as important and mandatory to me as is my time with family, my teaching, my research, my formal writing, or any of the other myriad of activities I engage in.

How do I accomplish this change in heart about the mandatory nature of exercise? I am not 100% sure at the moment, but it is the focus of my semester break this holiday season. As I develop the details over the next week or so, I will bring my insight back to this blog and let you see my findings. In the meantime, I am happy to receive any comments you may have.

I will, though, focus on telling you about my beautiful new pipe my wife purchased for me. It is a true, artistic beauty, and It is such a grand beast that it deserves its own day's entry.

Pipe Tobacco

Friday, December 26, 2003

Hello Friends:

It has been over TEN days since I have written in my blog, and I must apologize for my absence. It was not intentional, but instead was situational. Numerous family illnesses threw a proverbial monkeywrench into the plans I had laid out for me and the last ten days were primairly chaos.

Not that the whole time was bad, mind you, for there were numerous instances of gentle family times, and peaceful, tranquil moments of contemplation, and of course time was spent exploring the magical meanings found in the glowing ember found in the bowl of my pipe. Yet, the times were never predictable, nor were they usually long enough.

Fortunately, through all the turmoil, the holiday season proved still to be a mostly pleasant experience. Being with family (even in the midst of family crisis) was comforting and rewarding.

My goals now are to get back on track and re-incorporate my blog into my hoped and yearned for routine of life once again.

"Knock on wood" I will talk more with you tommorrow!

Pipe Tobacco

Monday, December 15, 2003

A new work week, and a new attempt to have ambition!

Of course, I often try to be ambitious in my efforts, but this time of year is especially hard, I think, due in large part to the lack of sunlight. Notice, I say I often *TRY* to be ambitious, and I do, for I think that being ambitious is the only way I will ever have of accomplishing anything. Reality is unfortunately a very different story, for my actions are not in any way, shape or form what I would term ambitious.

What I have *ambitions* (of grandure?) to accomplish today:

complete grades and turn them in

get syllabi and other known course materials into our media (photocopying) center for next semester


put up both Christmas trees at home

repair the outdoor lights so that the burnt out section is on again

go shopping for my wife's Christmas presents

restart my aerobic excercise/ weight training routine

stop at the pipe tobacco shop and create a "wish list" in case my wife needs suggestions

play at the orchestra's concert tonight

address and mail out Christmas cards

I suppose the above would constitute what I would consider a "casual" ambitious day. It does not include any of the flights of fancy I often have (about writing great tomes, about creating new experiments, about being utterly creative in many different artistic senses). Someday I will talk about those ambitions as well, but suffice it to say one of the current most-often-thought about artistic ambitions revolve around developing (pun intended) into a photographer instead of merely a picture-taker.

Just because this is to be only a "casual" ambitious day, does not mean I have any greater chance of accomplishing damn near any of it. What is the likely reality of the above happening?

complete grades and turn them in (50%)

get syllabi and other known course materials into our media (photocopying) center for next semester (30%)

IGNORE THE INSANITY! (50%... only because many faculty have already "hit the road" and will not be in until January)

put up both Christmas trees at home (50%)

repair the outdoor lights so that the burnt out section is on again (50%... that high a percentage only because it is a relatively nice day outside)

go shopping for my wife's Christmas presents (25%... I hate shopping malls)

restart my aerobic excercise/ weight training routine (20%... I usually have to be pretty damn disgusted with myself to drive myself to start again.... and then am usually good for about a month)

stop at the pipe tobacco shop and create a "wish list" in case my wife needs suggestions (75%.... I am unfortunately quite hedonistic)

play at the orchestra's concert tonight (95%.... I enjoy this activity greatly, and feel it does perform a public service)

address and mail out Christmas cards (10% ... the idea makes me cringe)

Therefore, you can see that my own self assessment is indeed poor for my being ambitious today. Let us hope that this will not be the case and I will become a whirlwind of activity and energy.


I shall finish this last morning pipe and head off to work.

Friday, December 12, 2003

Although I did not rest and refrain from work for the past two days as was suggested by my physician, the antibiotics and the expectorant seem to have directed the charge of troops in my immune system and focused their attention appropriately against the damnable foe bacteria that have attempted to take over. I am tired as hell, but am hopeful for a peaceful and quiet weekend.

As if the week was not hectic enough within our Department and University (final exam week.... with all the last minute scurrying typical of any place of academia), the "UnGrand Poobah" (aka Department Chair) of our Department decides to wield more of his mighty Napoleanesque nonleadership upon us with the chore of whittling down the 120 prospective applicants down to 5 possibilities for our new position. With tempers already near boliing, and moods as frayed as the arms of a Lazy-Boy rocker in a home with four cats, the thought of this horrible task appealed to no one (other than the UnGrand Poobah).

This leads me to the main thrust for today's entry.... I wish to publish a mantra that I keep trying to hold dear to my heart in times such as these. It is a true challenge for me to do so, but I *DO* firmly believe that if I could fully adopt this mantra, my life would be far more content:


For some the ideas of the mantra are self-intiuitive.... their personality and make-up precludes them from having that be a difficult idea to remember. However, for those of us in the "nurturing & caregiving" professions (which damn near are all health care workers, and virtually all teachers (K-12 especially but also many, many of us old duffer profs in higher ed too). Those of us who by nature or training adopt a work ethos of "trying to help", "trying to guide", "trying to instruct" are at grave risk for not being able to "ignore the insanity" for we feel it is our mission to try to fix what is wrong, to help others understand, etc.

The truth, however, is that outside of (in my case) my classroom or laboratory, I *DO NOT NEED* to concern myself with the bickering and arguing and sheer utter nonsense that ends up being damn near 50% of my time budget and likely around 75% of my physical and emotional energy budget each day. The unfortunate reality is that it is *EXTREMELY DIFFICULT* for people in the "nuturing & caregiving" professions to ignore conflict, to avoid those situations which are pointless to participate in. However, when I do ignore the insanity of the petty bullsh*t around in my Department every day, my life starts to become much more the Nirvana-like image I have always had for life.

More later, I feel I need a final pipe before I take a last dose of the expectorant tonight and head to bed. Perhaps if people are interested, I can try to be a bit more concrete and a little less obtuse in my meanings for the phrase "ignore the insanity".

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Well, I am now taking an antibiotic for my illness.

When I went to the physician yesterday, he correctly guessed my symptoms before I even opened my mouth, the phlegm, the sore throat, the red, watery eyes, the extreme tiredness, the chills, the bowel disturbances, etc. and told me I very likely caught this bacteria from one of my many students, most likely from one of the several who work and/or volunteer at the hospitals in our region.

When he examined my throat, he said it was noticably reddened, and then he looked into my ear canal and saw an even greater amount of redness and swelling. He took my blood pressure, which was at its usual average of 110/70. Looking into my nasal passages he noted that they were extremely swollen. I did not have a fever, but he said that was not unusual given the strain he felt I had invading my body. Then he felt the glands in my neck region, noting that they were warm and swollen.

Then as has been his practice for the last decade or so, he reached into my shirt pocket and extracted out my briar pipe. The one I had been using that day actually is the same one pictured on the blog. As befitting his role as care-giver, he as usual admonished me for my indulgence in the pipe..... "You know, you really ought to quit smoking." he would say, continuing "not only is it a dangerous activity for your health, but also stains the tips of your moustache and the beard around your mouth." Both my beard and moustache are grey (salt-and-pepper) and he is correct, the tips of the hairs of my moustache and the hairs of my beard around my mouth do have a slight reddish-brown tinge of color to them. Yet, is that such a horror? I do not think so.

As is befitting *my* role in this miniature melodrama, I nod my head and grin a sheepish sort of grin saying that his words and intentions are correct, but that his philosophical/metaphysical stance is immature. The doctor grins, for we have had this discussion several times in the past. He again, looks more closely at the pipe, and gazes into the bowl. Then he brings the bowl to his nose and smells the spent leaf that is still in the bowl.

The doctor then says, "You know, it has now been nearly 25 years since I put down my own pipes, and I still find that I miss them." A brief look of nostalgia floods across his eyes. He gently hands me back my pipe and I slide the bowl end into my shirt pocket.

I thank him and wish him a happy holiday season, and tell him my usual prattle about liking to talk with him, but hoping I do not see him for a long time. He grins, and says hopefully we will not meet again until in the spring, and this time it would be on the golf course. He is a very good golfer, whereas for me, golf is more of a social activity, and my scores are quite variable but usually poor. In the K of C league I play for, I often have the good doctor as my partner. He is a nice fellow, and I do enjoy his company... outside of his office.

Now, I will try to grade papers until my stamina is gone and then go home to sleep.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

A grumpy afternoon.

I am AGAIN grouchy and out of sorts... this time because I believe I may be coming down with a cold. I am going to fight it off as best as I can. It is aggrivating and annoying at any time of the year, but during final exam week it is especially so.

I think the idea here is that this pre-cold is telling me to slow down and take it easy. I am a person who typically is very active and reactive.... sometimes to my benefit for I am able to get a great deal of work done, but sometimes it works against me for I am always running up upon deadlines, not really getting a chance to sit back and enjoy life. The only times I frequently feel I am able to relax and step back a bit (and this is perhaps only 50-60% of the time even then) is when I am take time to enjoy my pipe. I do also get to relax when I drink, but unfortunately I do not drink often (though in my world of my mind's eye, I do). There is a brief relaxation associated with the beauty of intercourse with my wife, but again the effects are relatively transitory.

How do we strike a balance between trying to acheive and trying to enjoy life at a lesiurely pace? It is hard to get any sort of balance, since either mode tends to hoist upon you more of the same..... if you try to acheive you get more and more and more to do..... if you try to stop and enjoy, you miss out of opportunities and eventually fall out of the loop.

Maybe tonight I will salve my soul again with the beautiful gin "snow cones" again. They are an asset to me and I think they may be helpful. I will now leave my office and building to head to my car to have a few moments with my beautiful briar pipe.

Everyone, try to relax.... I think it is worth it, even if it is hard to do.

Thursday, December 04, 2003

A grumpy morning.

I am grouchy and out of sorts this morning and I am not finding it pleasant. I dislike mornings when I wake up tired, and then the day starts to grind you down immediately. I am not sure even why I am writing a blog entry today, as hardly a soul seems to read or know about the blog. I wish I knew how to drum up large volumes of traffic.

Because I was in a bad mood this morning, I stepped onto the front porch to smoke my pipe and to try to shake off the mood with the frigid morning air. I purposefully did not wear a jacket, and instead sat in the old wicker chair in my pajamas and slippers. I spent roughly 20 minutes there, slowly nurturing and smoking my pipe, getting colder every minute (intentionally) and watching the earliest sliver of the sunrise peak over the horizon.

Often such a ritual will make me feel more centered and content. Today it did not. Oh well, such is life I guess.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Just a short note this morning as I drink my 5th cup of coffee. The "snow cones" were very well received last evening. As usual, I waited until the kids were in bed before indulging. My wife was not interested in joining me in my quest to consume numerous snow cones, and instead sipped some rather pretty smelling, but bland herbal tea. We talked and fretted, and eventually cajoled ourselves into laughter even in the midst of our sorrows. It was a good evening. The gin, while not necessary, was definetly enjoyable for me, and helped me shed a bit more easily the tensions and stresses I had been feeling the last week or so.

Gin, the beautiful liquor that makes me feel as if I am walking through a pine forrest, is arguably my favorite liquor. It has a crisp, slightly harsh feel in the mouth and feels cleansing (unlike other alcohols that often are too sweet or too harsh) to the palate.

The 5th cup of coffee is to help banish the slightly bleary-eyed countenance I have this morning.

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

As you may have noticed from my earlier post a few moments ago, I am rather frustrated at many things (specifically health care) at the moment. So, in order to quell the fires of rage that lurk deep inside my gut at the moment, I have instead decided to contemplate and imagine my future nirvana via my own weak brand of "transendental meditation" for a bit:

I am imagining the moment when my last class is finished for the day, and as I pack up papers to read and score this evening, I realize the evening is mine for my own choosing. First, once I am able to get into my beast of burden to travel the distance between work and home, I shall fill with gusto (yet the gentle care and touch of professional of this art) my briar pipe and allow the gentle burley leaf smoke envelop me and adorn my body, mind, and spirit much like the incense at mass. This drive home will serve as a type of "washing clean" my mind and spirit to strive for peace in my heart.

Next, it feels as if I likely will desire a deeper cleansing of my corporal body as well. I envision filling a stubby, yet large volumed tumbler with shards of shattered ice (snow cone sized) and filling the glass with a hefty portion of gin and a bit of tonic to add the gentle bitterness that helps me renew my palate to indulge in the first of several "adult snow cones" for the evening. This cleansing will further temper the beast of frustration and aggrivation I now feel.

I cannot wait for the end of the workday today, which is a bit abnormal, as I enjoy my work.

Still no word about my mother's illness. Because it occurred during a holiday, the reality of medicine is that she has simply been shuttled into a state of limbo.... no tests, little examination, fewer answers. It is understandable of course, the members of the medical community want, need, and deserve holiday relief like everyone else. But, the reality is that with the assinine way our medical system is today, the health care workers (all of them... nurses, doctors, PAs, respiratory therapists, etc) have adopted (understandably) a "bunker mentality". Instead of having dedication and pride in their work being at the forefront of what they do each day, they instead need to build a shell around themselves to insulate them from the corporate management that simply lives by the motto..... BETTER (in terms of profits), CHEAPER (in terms of profits, and FASTER (in terms of profits). Hell be damned if nurturing, or caring, or quality of life were ever an issue in the minds of any hospital/medical facility or corporation. The all might dollar is driving every damn thing that happens in a hospital today.

In my utopian vision, I believe we should have nurses and doctors paid for their efforts in a manner that is a reward for their high quality care and skill. I also feel that health care should be a national program for ALL of our citizens. People often point to Canada (both in a positive and a negative sense) and its health care system. I think Canada does a good job, but I think if WE WANTED to as a society, and if we could stop having half of our population be brainwashed by corporations to believe that we should bow down and worship the ground Corporate America uses, we COULD develop a full, affordable, comprehensive national health care system in the US.

That we have a large very large population of the US that act simply as corporate mouthpieces and schills should not stop us that do not want to be rear-ended by corporations from deciding and demanding that national health care be a priority.

Monday, December 01, 2003

Well, perhaps it is premonition, perhaps it is simply chance, but the damnably poor mood I have been in preceeded two very harsh events during the holiday weekend. First, my elderly mother, who is 78 became very ill and has been hospiltalized. No word yet on the verdict from the physicians. And then on Thanksgiving itself, my wife found our dog in the midst of a seziure. She had to be rushed to the Veterinary Emergency Room. It was a wonderful weekend to turn 59.