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.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Hello Friends:

I am taking a brief lunch break for a few moments while I grade exams. I have two courses complete and am trying to finish the advanced physiology multi-page essay exam. As is my normal practice, I have left my office and have holed up in a distant corner of my back laboratory so that the students who are milling about will not be able to find me (or at least I will not hear them as the front lab door is locked). I do not do this to be "mean" or "frustrating" to them. I simply need quiet and focus to grade these essays fairly and consistently. If I sat in my office, I would have students knocking on my door every 5 to 10 minutes... each student just stopping by to ask if grades were posted yet.

So, instead of being very slow at grading and frustrated at the pace of my progress, I make it seem as if I am not around.... so that I *can* do my work. My office is dark, as is my front lab. I do not have the lights on in the back lab either, for I am simply content with natural light coming in through the window. In front of me are the 25 multi-page cumulative essay exam, to the left of me are two of my pipes, my tobacco pouch, lighter, and a small bowl to knock ashes into. To my right is my lab's coffee pot with a pot of triple strength coffee, a beaker filled with ice, a bottle of Wild Turkey, and my coffee mug. When the mood strikes, I fill the mug with ice and pour strong coffee over the ice and add a few gurgles of Wild Turkey. As I mull over each question, and the wide range of student responses, I sip gently from the mug and draw in rich plumes of beautifully dense smoke from my pipe. They both help me to clarify the students writings and assist me in the grading consistency I strive for.

Not a bad way to spend a work day.


Thursday, December 16, 2004

Toil & Struggle

As we speak, I am administering the final examination in my advanced physiology course. The students have two hours to complete the examination. The examination is comprehensive and has a myriad of question types, but predominantly is an essay examination. There are nine pages to the final exam.

The student's hands shall be quite tired by the end of the exam due to all the writing they must do.

It is good for them to stretch their mind in this way. I would enjoy a pipe right now but unfortunately in this age it is not possible. Thirty years ago, it was the norm for we professors to smoke our pipes during the administration of exams. This aspect of the bygone era is missed and makes the college experience a bit more sterile and slightly less congenial.


Tuesday, December 14, 2004

The Artistry of the Pipe

Note: Unfortunately Haloscan seems to be having difficulties, so today's post is in part a reply to the comment from Nanoglitch.


Thank you for writing! It is always wonderful to hear from a fellow indulger in the art of the briar! In my opinion, it is terribly sad that our hobby/avocation has diminished in presence in current society. I personally think that pipe smokers tend to be more gentle, careful, and thoughtful people, and I think if more pipe smokers were found in our society, the world would be a happier, kinder place overall.

There are several pipe makers that I am very fond of. Most of my beautiful "art" pipes... the expensive ones I receive as giftsf from family/friends and use only occasionally are manufactured by Peterson, Barling, Comoy, Castello, and LaRocca. These pipes are truely beautiful and I can gaze at them for hours. They as are all pipes, are worthy of being displayed in an art museum.

My "heirloom" pipes... those I inherited from my father, grandfathers, and uncles run the gambit. There are a few Petersons, but most of them are nameless varieties. Each is richly beautiful in appearance. But their special qualities are in being tied to memories of loved ones who enjoyed them. Several times a year I will smoke one of my father's pipes, especially on special days relevant to him... his birthday, the first day of hunting season, the first day of each academic year, etc. On the occasions when I visit the cemetary where his body is buried, I will always have one of his pipes and as I sit and smoke by his gravesite, I can often feel his presence and feel comforted. Similar thoughts are invoked when I indulge in one of either of my grandfather's pipes or those of my uncles. The memories each pipe holds in its bowl is enormous, enriching and comforting. To have those pipes available to me, to help coax my brain into recalling those memories is very meaningful to me.

As for my five primary pipes... the ones I rely upon for the vast majority of my day-to-day indulgence:

I have two very larged bowled Petersons. One Peterson is a full bent and the other is quarter bent. As I do not find the traditional "P-bit" most Peterson's are manufactured with as comfortable a grip between my teeth, my Petersons have the more common style of pipe bit.

I have one no-named pipe I picked up on a trip to Washington, D.C. for a conference three years ago. It is a beautiful beast... the enormous bowl is of a blond colored wood as is the shank, but between the shank and the mouthpiece is a walnut colored segment with a ring of silver on either side of this region. The stem is also a favorite.... its bit is a bit wider than normal and a bit thicker and the draw hole is pleasantly large. This heavier stem is extremely comfortable between my teeth. Additionally, the shape of this pipe is that of a dublin quarter bent (the shape is nearly identical to the image on this blog).

The other two pipes, the ones that I leave in the two vehicles I drive daily (one is my wife's primary vehicle, but I leave a pipe in there for when I drive it) are both venerable Dr. Grabows. Although some elitist types say the Dr. Grabow company is a maker of inferior pipes, I feel that is simply not true. Dr. Grabow pipes are rugged, durable, simply (yet pleasantly) styled, and good day-to-day working pipes. The one I leave in my vehicle is perhaps the single most heavily used pipe I have. The first of these two is a modified Grand Duke... the style with the very large bowl, a 3/4 inch aluminum joiner between the shank and stem, and a 1/4 bent stem. The one I leave in my wife's vehicle is a full bent Savoy, walnut colored.

Each and every pipe I have is beautiful and pleasing in its own way. I can easily get lost in thoughts of beauty, artistry and joy by looking at the graceful curves of each of their respective bowls or stems. Also, I can often devle into my deepest philosophical and scientific thoughts while I peer into the beautiful red ember that is created by the melding of flame and leaf. The reddish glow is both comforting to the spirit and thought provoking to the mind.


Monday, December 13, 2004

A Shiny New Pipe

Although I have several pipes, I generally have five that I smoke with regularity. The other pipes that I have are either:

a) heirloom pipes... that I inherited from my father, grandfathers, or uncles and keep polished and nice looking and smoke perhaps two to three times a year to aid in recalling those loved ones.

b) beautiful (and sometimes expensive) pipes that I have received as gifts from family that are too pricey to use daily. I smoke these pipes perhaps two or three times a year as well, and usually at special occasions where I am dressed more formally.

My five pipes that are my "daily drivers" so-to-speak, are simple beasts, and most all of them have a smooth, large-sized bowl and a simple black stem. They are all invariably walnut colored and two of them are full-bent billiard style, two are quarter bent Dublin style (much like the image on my blog, and one is a stub-nosed work horse, straight style pipe.

One of my long term habits has been to leave a pipe in the vehicles I drive so that I may indulge there even if I had forgotten one of my "home" pipes. Well, with the snow yesterday, I needed to move my vehicle (as well as my wife's) so that I could shovel the drive-way. When I did so, I accidently knocked out my full-bent, billiard bowled briar without noticing and ran over it with the vehicle's tire.

It was indeed sad to see this beautiful friend of mine destroyed and laying in the snowy roadway. I quietly picked up the pieces and wrapped them in newspaper and left them on the workbench in the garage. As in other situations where this has happened , I will often work to glue the pipe back together, not to smoke, but to hang on a plaque on a wall in my home office. If this pipe will fit together well and look nice, I may do that with this poor pipe.

However, in a nutshell, I need a new full-bent briar for one of my vehicles. I am going to leave campus a bit early and search for a low-priced, simple replacement.


Wednesday, December 08, 2004

The worm turns of course.

I am feeling utterly sad and exhausted. All the energy I had has been wrung out of my due to an argument my wife and I had this morning. I cannot reiterate all the details here because of a lack of energy. But a synopsis is that my wife was angry at me for talking to others on the phone for a longer period of time than I talked to her on the phone yesterday.

She is in fact, correct. Here is why I talked to others on the phone longer than I talked to her on the phone:

1. I *did* call her but she was not at home. She was shopping. Therefore I could not talk during that time.

2. I talked on the phone to my elderly mother for several reasons.... I was getting a household repair looked into for her, I was working on updating her perscriptions and getting the next 90-day supply ordered via the mail.

3. I talked with two collaborators of mine on the phone about research.

4. When I called her later on, the phone was busy.

As you can see, the behavioral response from my wife is overtly negative. The response is also illogical and irrational. But it sure *is* emotional.

I honestly do not know what to do. I am tired and anxious and stressed and angry about having to deal with such chaotic, illogical emotion. And to be perfectly frank, it is not the first time by any stretch of the imagination.

My wife is a truly loving, caring, wonderful human being. I love her to pieces and I relish when she is happy. But almost like clockwork, she will have these horrid, nasty, mean-spirited moods where she doesn't like anyone and thinks that I do not care about her. She also usually thinks during these times that everyone is against her or doesn't love her. And +99% of the time, these thoughts are illogical and irrational.

It is such a weight to bear during these times. I literally cannot stand it. I am exhaused and depressed and angry and frustrated. I do not need her to behave in this manner and I do not deserve for her to behave in this manner towards me. Yet, if I try to talk it through logically it will make her cry and sob. If I try to explain to her how this chaos feels to *my* emotions it makes her cry and sob. The only variations in her mood in the last 24 hours have been to move from being moody/angry to being crying/sobbing.

I do not feel like writing more right now. I would like to crawl in a hole and sleep away the winter.


Monday, December 06, 2004

It is snowing here, a beautiful, fluffy, moist snow that clings to the branches of the trees. Thus far we have roughly three inches. Unfortunately, just like the snow we had just prior to Thanksgiving, this snow will likely melt by the end of the day for it is still rather during parts of the day and will the weather will likely turn to rain.

My elderly father-in-law and I decided to have an afternoon of fun and frivolity on Friday as our favorite tobacco shop received their shipment of new leaf for the holidays. We purchased a few varieties, and stopped for a fifth of whiskey on the way home and enjoyed the afternoon in his woodworking shop making ornements and other decorations, drinking pleasantly robust seven-and-sevens, chatting, and smoking the new leaf we purchased for our pipes. It was very helpful in bringing my spirit back up to snuff. I was able to muster the energy to do all sorts of prepatory work for decorating the inside of the house with my wife this weekend and actually felt quite happy. This morning I also feel quite content and it appears perhaps the "storm-cloud" of saddness and gloom may have lifted.

Here is to clear skies!


Thursday, December 02, 2004

Hello Everyone:

Lately as many of you have noted, my posts have revolved around my feeling of frustration, and feelings of despair about my lackluster mood and feelings of purposelessness. Added to this feeling has been the thoughts of being somewhat of a superfulous character... meaning that perhaps I do not have any inherent purose or worth in my life and you can see that I feel rather depressed. A very good and kind-hearted Internet friend, Phil, has suggested to me that I may wish to read the following book:

The Meaning of Life by Dalai Lama

The paperback style and edition I am ordering can be found here at

I thank Phil for the idea and think I will take him up on his suggestion. Then... I began to think more broadly.... perhaps others might find this an interesting book to read as well. So, here is my suggestion.... if you think this might be an intersting book for you to also read, please let me know. I would like to organize and host a blog-style "book club" where we can on a weekly or bimonthly or monthly basis read and discuss this particular book. If this works out, I'd really like to continue it to other books as well.

Please let me know what you think and if you will participate.