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, April 30, 2004

When you are tired and figety, your productivity goes down to damn near zero. That is how I feel today. Oddly enough, even my beautiful morning pipe seemed dull and uninspiring. I should be grading papers and essays at the moment but do not wish to do that. I *could* go play hooky and enjoy gentle intoxication and ample robust tobacco leaf with my father-in-law but the thought of such pleasure does not rev up my spirits either. Do not get me wrong... I am not sad or depressed... I am just feeling listless and bored....and unmotivated to change these feelings.

It is akin to being MENTALLY quadraplegic.... I cannot move my soul, my psyche, my spirit, nor my intellect at the moment, so that I can improve my lot. I am immobile. Fortunately, mental quadraplegia is not permanent. How this gray, blah, indeterminate fog will lift will be anyone's guess.


Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Am I accomplishing 'a lot' of work this week? [DEEP SIGH] Unfortunately, no, I am not. As final exams have gotten ever so much closer for my cadre of students, the frequency, intensity, and gravity of their visits to my office have risen dramatically. I am not sure if students realize that professors also feel the stress of final exam week and the end of the semester every much as students do? In our department (as well as other departments on campus) and in universities across the nation, the end of the semester is followed by "raucous" celebrations of the completion of the semester. This "partying" is of course well know for the student population, but is a surprise to many in that it also is tremendously common in the professoriate.

On my campus, festivities start in the afternoon on the last official day of the semester and start with several large pot-luck style food fests in virtually all departments. This portion usually starts by around 2pm and proceeds until everyone leaves. However, a very important second aspect also begins at precisely 5pm (the offical close of the semester) where various alcoholic libations are brought forth and consumed as well. Due to official University policy, the consumption of alcohol is regulated in that manner, and so that aspect of the celebration does not begin until 5pm.

Many students do not realize these festivities take place, and occasionally a few straggle back onto campus after 5pm to see if they can find their grade from their "prof". The look of surprise on their face(s) as I talk to them a bit fuzzy-headed, with boozy breath, and a beer in my hand is priceless. They are not upset, but very taken aback.... almost as if they did not know that professors were normal people and do normal (relatively speaking) things like everyone else. It is a good learning experience for them. I am looking forward to helping them learn this lesson. [grin]


Monday, April 26, 2004

I am committed (in all senses of that word... including the negative [grin]) to accomplishing a lot of work this week. It is my hope to ease in to a productive, yet casual, hassle-free (or at least minor hassle) summer. I am a fellow who enjoys family, and work, and play, and routine. I do not excel at times of chaos or major deviations from routines. I can handle these atypical events, usually with grace, external calmness, and resolve..... but inside, these aberrations are the bane of my existence... . they exhaust me and cause me to lose focus. My goal for this summer is simply this.... work hard, enjoy live, and embrace the utter beauty of routine. My psyche will thank me if I can pull this off.

As I type here this morning, I am enjoying a new treat I picked up on Friday with my elderly father-in-law at the the tobacconist.... but first a recap of Friday:

On Friday he and I schemed to have a helluva good time (and we succeeded) in celebrating his 83rd birthday prior to this Sunday's party. The festivities for us included raiding the tobacconist and my buying for him several ounces of different leaf for him to indulge in. Of course, a few caught my own eye as well [grin]. When we returned to his home, we were both thirsty and worked our way through the better part of an iced bottle of gin he had put into the freezer the evening before. Because our palates were focusing on the flavor of juniper and our minds wandered pleasantly through the afternoon, neither of us indulged in the new leaves but instead indulged heavily in our tried-and-true robust favorites... me, my Sir Walter Raleigh, and he, his Edgeworth. Much laughter, debate, slightly blue jokes, and dozing in the chairs ensued to while away a very pleasant afternoon.

So, to conclude, this morning I am sampling a very fine, gentle leaf... it is a mild burley/Cavendish mixture that has infused in it a bit of sage and celery leaf. It has a wonderful aroma and flavor, and the smoke feels pleasantly creamy in my lungs. It is quite mild however, and is simply nudging me awake as I sit in my office with a mug of coffee. It does not jostle my mind into an awake state like my typical morning leaf. It is very good, though, and I am enjoying it greatly.


Thursday, April 22, 2004

As an academic by trade, I know that many feel our lives are rather soft. There are some WONDERFUL benefits of a life of academia, do not get me wrong.... a) you can make your day-to-day work different and new very easily, b) you have greater than normal flexibility for your working hours, and c) you get to work with young, *usually* interested people most every day. But today, I must say that my job *sometimes* is so damn hard I cannot bare to do anything after arriving home but become a veritable vegetable. Today, without any coaxing on my part, I was inundated EVERY minute of the day with students who were needy, worried, or seeking advice about their careers, schedules, or courses. The emotions and the urgency of their requests make it very difficult to ignore them, so I do not do so. But those same emotions and urgency they hoist into our meeting is so utterly draining to deal with.

For example, a pleasant young lady.... but one not exactly a high wattage bulb, came into my office today (mind you it is 3 weeks prior to the end of the semester) and wanted to talk about her grade. She has told me several times in the semester that she was "pre-med" and that she *LOVES* anatomy and physiology (the course of mine she is in). She said she wanted to determine her grade to this point. Now, instead of pulling out my grade book, I always have the students tell me their scores.... specifically so they can work thorough figuring it out themselves.... something any college student should be able to do.

The young lady told me the scores on her first five of six exams were: 42%, 47%, 55%, 41% and 54%. With only one 100pt test left and one 200pt final examination, I helped her compute her current score...... roughly 48% which is an "F". In our university, a "C" is the minimum acceptable grade for a major class, and that is set to be 73%. She did not need to be a rocket scientist to figure that out.... it is all clearly labeled in the syllabus. Then I had her mathematically determine what would happen to her grade if she received 100% on the sixth exam and if she received all 200 points on the final examination. Her scores would then be: 42%, 47%, 55%, 41%, 54%, 100% and 200pts for the final (100%). When she mathematically determined her score with that very unlikely scenario would be 67%...... a "D". She was devastated.... she cried, big, dramatic tears.... and sobbed about how she never got "nothing but "A"'s before." In my mind I kept thinking ...... HOW COULD YOU POSSIBLY NOT KNOW HOW POORLY YOU WERE DOING? AND HOW COME YOU START TO SEEK HELP THIS DAMN LATE IN THE SEMESTER? However, instead I talked to her about how she could retake the course, and that she should stick through it at this late date (at our school it is too late to withdraw from a course at this point in the semester) so that she can gain the experience so repeating the course will be easier. She then started to cry harder and sobbed "cant I do some extra credit?!?" Argh... I felt like hollering at her "NO!!!!! Do you not realize you are at a University, trying to earn a degree?!?! This isn't a high school!!!" But instead I simply said "No, we do not have extra credit for this course." She left my office with tears in her eyes.

It is so frustrating sometimes, bringing this reality to students. I resent the way many high schools coddle many students so that they do not feel the need to, nor do they know how to work hard for a goal. The above student was not dumb.... but she has yet to learn how to focus and how to learn. She is used to being spoon fed information that she then thinks she can simply regurgitate back on a test. THAT IS NOT REAL LIFE! WHY DO MANY (not all) HIGH SCHOOLS DO THIS GRAVE DISSERVICE TO KIDS?!?!?!?!

Enough for now. I need the deep, harsh comfort of my largest bowled briar pipe. I shall fill it with the strongest leaf I have and inhale as deeply as I can the rich draughts of the chalky smooth, harsh, yet soothing tobacco smoke.


Saturday, April 17, 2004

What is life? Sometimes I truly wonder. But other times I simply decide to enjoy. There is a term for a person who lives for pleasures.... hedonist. I am not sure if I would fit the typical definition or not, for it usually insinuates a lack of sense and a lack of moral fiber... the person lives simply for seeking pleasure. But, hell, is that such a bad thing? The stereotypical hedonist is one who usually is deeply into a life of debauchery of excesses of sex, or chemicals, or monetary rewards.

But, when I am most happy, I feel like I am immersed into what I LOVE.... my family, my friends, my pipes, a good book, a few stiff drinks, hunting, fishing, outdoor activities, walking, writing, and the bedding of my wife (as often as I can convince her). I feel as if I am fully immersed into those pleasures of life, but I do not feel the stereotypical hedonist. Perhaps I am however. It is sometimes difficult to discern. I would value your opinions greatly.


Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Perhaps it is the lemming in me, or perhaps I feel a need to be one with others, or hell, perhaps it is because I am not in the mood for thinking, but I offer the following for my entry today.....

As an interesting experiment, please read and mimic the following set of instructions that I have seen on several sites thus far today. In case you wish to see the background to this project, follow this link:

1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open the book to page 23.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.

As directed, here are my findings:

1. The nearest book to me is "Endocrinology" by Hadley.
2. Page 23 discusses general classes of chemical messengers.
3. The fifth complete sentence is in a section subtitled "Steroid Hormones"
4. The fifth complete sentence reads:

"The adrenal steroidogenic tissue produces glucocorticoids (e.g., cortisol, corticosterone, and cortisone) and mineralcorticoids (e.g., aldosterone). "

It is rather interesting to see how and what others are reading (or at least have near them). It would be fun to see what sort of story could be created.


Saturday, April 10, 2004

Hello friends:

For today, I thought I would be a bit lazy and use as my post an excerpt from a comment I posted on "The Grumpy 'Old' Man" blog today. If you wish to check out his very high quality, insightful blog, please click on the link on the left hand column from this blog.

My elderly father-in-law and I made an afternoon out of it yesterday and we polished off a sizable part of a fifth of whisky... whisky & cokes tend to be his favorite. It was a helluva good time, and I am feeling the remnants of that celebration a bit this morning.

However, the reality is that it is all good! The harshness of the hangover is the yang to the pleasure of the previous drunk. I think only those people who can drink like fish and not have a hangover are at risk for alcoholism. If I (usually with my father-in-law) tie one on, we enjoy the hell out of that afternoon and evening, but the bill (of the hangover) that arrives in the morning keeps us both aware of the costs and hence we only indulge sporadically. It is a balance... as are all things in life, including physiology. Science gives a name to this balance.... homeostasis. Life is meant to be a homeostasis

In another of Jonathon's posts (he is the GOM from above), he spoke of the rough feeling he has from having smoked too many cigarettes while drinking. I never much took to cigarettes because of that exact feeling you describe.... the power is pleasant when you inhale, but cigarettes give you a cloudy, congested, rough feeling in your lungs.... I never much cared for that feeling. When I inhale pipe tobacco, I get an even more pleasant, sharper kick in the head, but my lungs continue to feel nice and clear. That is one of the primary reasons I smoke a pipe...and have done so since I was a young lad of eight.... it feels better in my lungs. Additionally, I like the flavors and odors more, and I like the history and image of smoking a pipe as well.

I am going to have to close here for today, I need to go and take my nearly daily 5 mile walk.... not bad for an old geezer, if I do say so. I am thinking of ramping it up to 10 miles a day after the semester ends, but I will see how that goes.


Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Well, hell.... I mean hello. It has been a while since I have posted. I tend to think my damnable period of atonement is ready to end. I am getting pretty tired of it finally and feel that even though I am still frustrated and upset about what happened, I am now ready to move on.

Here in a nutshell is what happened.....

On Monday, March 15th, I was very stupidly taking a drive to the store in the evening..... when I felt quite sick with a chest cold. I was not feeling the best, nor the most alert. A squirrel darted into my path and I swerved out slightly to avoid the squirrel.... and you can probably guess.... I had a small fender-bender with a parked vehicle. Now, mind you the road was one of those very, very narrow residential roads, and the vehicle that was parked in the street was a giant, damned road hog of a mammoth full-sized pick-up truck that took up half the road while being parked. But, none-the-less, it was my fault and I felt like a total idiot and felt like I did not deserve to enjoy life for a while. Hence my atonement from my pipe and the lack of postings.

I have decided enough is enough and I am going to get back to living with gusto and enjoyment again.

Wish me well! I think I will return to writing my story development tommorrow.