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, March 28, 2005


Grumpy Old Man, aka Jonathon, has decided to return to blogging. I am pleased.

I am embarking on a new adventure of sorts for me. I have been lazy as hell most of the past year and have gained a bit of weight and lost some energy. My goal is to turn this around and get back to my healthier self. How shall I do this, you ask? Well, let me tell you:

1. A reduction in the food I eat. Not drastically, but aiming towards eating only when hungry.

2. Eating more akin to the recomendtations of the USDA Food Pyramid. This means a tremendous reduction in fats (in my case most fats come from chocolates, nuts, ice cream, and desserts). Carbohydrates will remain the staple of my food intake, but I am also planning to emphasize more the whole food carbohydrates and less of the processed food carbohydrates. Protein levels will likely stay the same, or perhaps increase slightly (I typically eat turkey and chicken for meat, and lots of beans as my sources of protein.... I am not fond of red meat and dislike pork immensely).

3. Eating more fiber. I usually try to eat fiber rich foods, but in the last year, I have slid away from this goal. My body feels more lethargic and so do my intestines.

4. Consuming coffee only up to 11am... no later. I am not a fan of hot beverages all that much, but I drink coffee at work because it is free (I am somewhat of a cheapskate at times). Otherwise, I drink on a daily basis water, iced tea, and occasionally diet colas. I am not really limiting my caffeine intake through this measure, as I enjoy the "kick" of caffeine. But, I have always noticed that there is something extra in coffee that seems to affect me a bit negatively if I drink the stuff all day long. It is a challenge to describe, but it is somewhat akin to aggrivation. I think it may have something to do with the negative net water balance coffee has when you drink it.

5. A return to DAILY walks. I have grown lazy as hell during the last year and lost my habit of DAILY walks. I am making a committment to regaining that activity. Prior to this lackadasical last year, I would walk between 4 and 5 miles each day. During the past year, I have averaged perhaps once a week or twice a week at most.

6. A new, and unpleasant sounding, but physically beneficial activity is weight training. As an older fellow, I know that I shall not become Arnold Schwartzenhanger (spelling), but I also know that regular weight training for tone can be very, very helpful for energy and ambition. I am going to work on incorporating 3 such sessions each week.

That said.... the following health related activities shall not change:

7. My affair with my pipe tobacco. Though some of you may cringe and get aggitated, I do not plan to change my indulgence with my pipes and pipe tobaccos. Even though it is not a popular hobby at this time, I enjoy it beyond measure. It reminds me of my past, it reminds me of my grandfather and father, it invigorates my soul, mind, and spirit. I feel a kinship with the historical context of gentlemen scholars and hope that in my own manner I can help this gentle activity continue on beyond this rough political period for the hobby. Perhaps if there is any interest, I can begin a draft of some of my most cherished pipe related stories (how I began, how I was caught indulging as a kid, the association of the pipe with the birth of my children, etc). For me, I firmly believe that my pipes and pipe tobacco are akin to a natural, non-perscription, mental-health vitamin.

8. The sporadic indulgences in fermented beverages. Many folks, especially in this day-and-age of intolerance and polarization of thought feel that taking a drink is akin to sin of the most vile kind. I find this thought preposterous. I think drinking is a joy in which we can partake as the mood strikes. I greatly enjoy the two or three times a month where I indulge in the fermented fruit. It is a pleasant way to create a new mindset through which you can perceive the world with a different eye. I cannot understand the extremes at either side of the spectrum... the rabid tee-totalers who deny themselves this interesting perspective into their own thoughts either from a rabid religious perspective or through a rabid health perspective.... or the prepetual drinkers who drink to stay in the altered state for as much of the whole of their lives as they can muster. Again, these folks deny themselves the interesting perspective of the sober mind and therefore miss out as well. For me, and I suspect for most, life as a mix of sober and not so sober perspectives is the right blend.

Finally, one added activity that may not change my physical health, but will affect my mental health is that I plan to:

9. Redevote myself to finding at least 30 minutes a day to read FOR PLEASURE... this will mean for me the reading of fiction or biographies. I read a helluva lot of technical science and teaching materials each and every day, but I miss the pleasure reading which has slowly drifted away from my life this past year.

Those are my thoughts and plans. Please comment if possible. My comments sections are lonely as hell.


Saturday, March 26, 2005

A Sad Day

It seems that The Grumpy "Old" Man may be finished. Jonathon, the author of the GOM blog has removed the site. It is a sad day. I hope he reconsiders.


Friday, March 25, 2005

A Day of Quiet Reflection

There is not much for me to say today. Today is best spent in quite reflection about life and our role in it.

Therefore, after I finish grading these exams, I think I shall take a gentle amble through the local park/woods with pipe in hand and and think about the multifaceted nature of life. It is in the 40s here today... a veritable heatwave! Everyone is beginning to sense the flavor of the future spring.


Thursday, March 24, 2005

To Atone

Today is a day I am planning to focus on forgiveness and atonement. There are many people I need to forgive and there are many people I hope to be forgiven by. This shall be my thoughts for today.


Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Worthy Excerpts

Today, in an effort to sooth my bruised ego, I have decided to spend most of the non-classroom hours I have in play. One way in which I am doing that is by visiting more of my favorite blogs. Paula's House of Toast is one such blog. The author has an amazingly refreshing and vivid stance on life that runs quite similar to my own. The following are some excerpts from her recent column:


Written in Paula's House of Toast

Excerpt #1:

..... As the snow melts at the river, the first thing to emerge is the trash. There was so dishearteningly much of it today that I could hardly stand it. Once I noticed it, I could not block it out. It was like the moment when the muzak in the store breaks through one's defenses: it's all over -- there's nothing to do but flee. I thought of the April river clean-up and felt daunted. How will we ever clean up this mess ?

I peered over the footbridge into the cove. The water had receeded a little and the riverbottom junkfield was more apparant. Tires, shopping carts, a bicycle, metal and plastic crates, athletic shoes, plastic bags and other unidentifiable detritus, some submerged, some breaking the surface. And the water, today, had a subtle sheen. A vague iridescent scintillation. At first I thought it was ocular. But the breeze brought the answer to my nose: oil. From the culvert behind the trestle bridge.

Then, in the woods, in the muck, the bottles: booze, springwater, juice, soda -- every species of drink more than doubly represented, from nip to jug-sized. Plus coffee cups and lids, cardboard, plastic, styrofoam. And snack bags, lunch containers, sweets packets. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst! .....

Excerpt #2

..... I thought of someone getting drunk by the river. Getting relief from pain with a cocktail of alcohol and the sound of the waterfall. Booze and white noise, to drown sorrow. What sorrow ? Unemployment, immigration problems, housing woes, domestic strife, illness, no insurance, bill collectors, addiction -- it's not hard to speculate. A packet of oreos does help take the edge off: lard and sugar from tongue straight to the endorphin centers of the brain. Better than Valium. (Am I allowed to say that ? Is there some drug disparagement law I've violating ?) Almost as good as xanax, possibly the most diabolically named drug in the pharmacopaeia. Try writing it. Go ahead. Notice how easily it flows across the paper ? The prescription practically writes itself. And it's such a cute little palindrome, to boot ! Not to mention those potent, scientific, punchy pair of x's. And it's easy to spell, too ! Not like that pesky penicillin (is that a double n or a double L ? Is it -in or -en ?) Christ ! It makes me wanna pop one even as we speak !

Al-praz-o-lam. Shazaam.

Then I saw the beer truck pulling up to the package store. Its rear door was open and I could see the towering stacks of cases. Food, booze, TV: cheap diversions from despair. Crowd control. Throw in religion and you have the perfect -- what's the opposite of storm ?

I was finding it hard to get all totally pissed off and self-righteous at the guy who chucks the empty pint into the thicket. A little bit, maybe, but in the criminal underworld of litter he's just a street thug. Mr. Big is elsewhere. Not Waltham. Belmont, maybe. Washington, certainly. And he's got a whole staff to clean up after him. And his messes are, trust me, way bigger than a few bottles on the river bank. What about the affluent jogger who chucks her Poland Springs empty into the viburnum ? Or the office worker who flings his styrofoam lunch container into the witch hazel ? They're harder to forgive.


A wonderful read! Please consider visiting her site often!


Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Tired & Grumpy

Yesterday I received the news that I was not awarded the Fimera Award for Teaching Excellence at my university. I feel sad, tired, and grumpy about this notification.

The Fimera Award is given out once each year by a selection committee and recipients are considered to be extraordinary professors of excellence. Basically, it is our University's "Teacher of the Year" award. Yes, I realize that being one of the four finalists for this award is an honor in itself, and yes, I realize that being selected as a finalist in a pool of over 600 faculty is also in itself an honor, and yes, I also realize that an award should not shape my own feelings of worth. Yet, it has affected me more than I had anticipated.

I am sad. I feel cruddy as hell. In some ways at the moment, I wish I had not been selected as a finalist for I knew that there was only a 1 in 4 chance of being the selected individual. Yet, at the same time, I am glad I became a finalist. But it still hurts.

I am not trying to be like a pouting infant, I truly am not. I know at some level it very likely appears that way, but my intention here is simply to express my sorrow for this loss. I am not sure why it has affected me so. I know in my mind that I should shrug it off like the finalists, but non-winners do at the Oscars, etc. But my heart is heavy and sad. It is stupid of me to feel this way. Yet I do.

I know it should not matter. What matters is the effect I have on students. I do a good job at guiding students into being thoughtful scientists. I know deep inside that I am successful at helping them. To have been nominated and to have been selected as a finalist was a very nice feeling. I was caught off guard, though, on how sad the "runner-up" status has made me feel. It is enormously stupid to feel this way, I know, but none-the-less I feel like weeping. I shall not weep, and I shall figure out a way to pull myself back up by my bootstraps, and I shall struggle through these emotions. But, all I can say now is that I am sad. Tired and sad.


Monday, March 21, 2005

Life Can Be Shitty At Times

Life is not pleasant at the moment. I am not hopeful about the prospects for the future either.


Sunday, March 20, 2005

It Seems You Have Forsaken Me

Why is my life such a damn drama? I sure as hell wish I knew. One of the females in my life has gone on another bout of what seems to be hormone rage again. She has been rude, curt, and impolite to relatives, and cannot fathom why they are giving her the silent treatment. When I try to explain how I see the interactions between she and the relatives, she altenately bites my head off or wails such deep sobs that they would make the wailing wall itself look like an amusement park.

What is so hard to understand about a) if you are terse or curt with people it will make people not want to be around you, b) if you are terse and curt to people who are simply showing concern about you, IT IS YOUR FAULT that they are not speaking with you, c) when you hurt people by being terse and curt (yes, even relatives) it takes quite a while sometimes, for the feelings to be smoothed over, especially by the person who was treated meanly?

Of course, all the tension and drama in my household has made it one helluva enjoyable, relaxing weekend. Sheesh.


Friday, March 18, 2005

Back to Work

I'll be damned, but it seems as if I have eliminated the trojan horse from my machine even if for some unknown reason the reformatting of the C: drive did not erase my .wpd, .doc, or .jpg files. I am keeping my fingers crossed, my pipe near, and am hoping the damn viscious beast of a virus is not simply snoozing and will pounce from my gentle unsuspecting hard drive once again.

So, now that life seems back in order, let me try to get my blog back in order as well:

Being Forsaken

In life it is all too common to feel abandoned, be it by those you love, or by your co-workers, or even by your own mind. To have that wretched feeling of chaos and loss that results from being abandoned is one of life's harshest emotions. However, the initial sting of this emotion is (fortunately) often far worse than the long-term reality. Most times, what feels like being forsaken or abandoned is simply a gentle nudge we receive that is meant to tell us we need to re-examine some aspect of our life.

During this Lenten season, one of the gifts I have worked on for my family, friends, and for myself is to become more tolerant and less frustrated with the incongruencies in the behavior of others. My mind is organized in such a way that I find comfort, deep comfort in patterns and predictability. I think of most aspects of life in that frame of seeing, identifying, and anticipating patterns. The pattern can be the simple ritual of filling, firing and enjoying my pipe, or it can be more complex... such as the way I walk to class, the materials I bring, the seating arrangement of the students, or it can be enormously complex... the emotional responses of the one's I love in various situations.

I have always had the tendency throughout life to feel comfort when I recognize those patterns, and varying degrees of discomfort when those patterns are disrupted or broken. Mentally, I would know and understand that these deviations from expected patterns are perfectly normal and wholly acceptable, but in my emotional mind, the changing or breaking of these patterns would feel like I was abandoned.... forsaken. And, if the emotions were strong enough, I would often become frustrated, grumpy, and even sarcastic towards those who were breaking the patterns of the fabric of life.

During this Lent, one of the things I have strived to learn AND implement in my life is to become more tolerant of change and to quell my frustration, grouchiness and rancor towards change. It is not easy. However, I can report that I have made progress. I have strived to keep at the front of my mind, the idea of squelching my trigger-like response of becoming aggitated, and instead, when confronted with the breaking of a pattern, I search as well as I can for something positive from that change. Some times I find the positive aspect, other times I do not.... but even when I do not find something positive, I have diffused my immediate response of rancor, and instead have in the majority of cases, found a way to relax and not be a slave to that emotional response.


Thursday, March 17, 2005


Well, I THINK I have reformatted my hard drive... at least I did what I thought WOULD reformat my hard drive. We shall have to wait and see if it works.

In reality, I do not think I reformatted it correctly. I selected complete install from the WindowsXP CD, and it ran and ran and ran. Most all of my original settings were destroyed as I would have expected.... BUT.... many of my original documents (Word, Word Perfect, and also .jpg files) remain! I do not know how the damn disk saved these files but none of my program files, but it did somehow. That makes me think that I did something wrong.

Now, I reloaded the programs I needed, and I did connect to the Internet for roughly 30 minutes last night. There were NO PROBLEMS that arose... no damnable trojan horse crap. But, still, I am very concerned that I did not do this reformat correctly and its ugly trojan head (geez, sounds like a condom commercial) will rear its ugly head again.

Any advice is greatly appreciated.


Wednesday, March 16, 2005

The Apocolypse

The damn hard drive on my home computer is currently being reformated. I started this process at 2am last night after a near record number of bowls of pipe tobacco in a single evening filled with ample fretting and fussing. When I awoke at 5am I had presumed it would all be accomplished, but alas, no. The damnable program wanted my input on several items including area code and other items. Hopefully, it is churning away and nearing completion.

We shall see. It is a long day of teaching today and I will hope and pray for the best for when I return home.

My pipe is a true friend in these matters.


Tuesday, March 15, 2005


For all of you who are much more computer savvy than I, my slow pace and my indecision must seem quite humerous. I feel as if I am on the edge of a great canyon, hanging on using the last ounce of strength before I fall deep into the cavernous mouth of this canyon, never to be the same again.... If and when I let go and actually try to reformat my hard drive.... it will either be agony or ecstacy. Will I [you may wish to insert a coarse word for copulatory behavior here] it up or will it work? Have I gotten every precious file off the machine or will there be some gem that will be lost for all eternity?

Currently when I am at home, I sit in my office and keep searching the hard drive to see if there are any errant files I wish to keep, then I look at the machine, and light my pipe, then I shuffle around and read the WindowsXP upgrade documentation again (perhaps the 7th time now). Then I go back and gaze at the wiring on the back of the machine, then I take a deep draw from the stem of my pipe and inhale the rich smoke deeply. Slowly I exhale the stream of rich pipe smoke towards the box, and then decide to look through the hard drive some more. I recheck all the connections, inhale another plume of rich pipe smoke, then begin to sort files on the hard drive again.

The state I am can be thought of as being akin to a LP record on a turntable. If you have the right kind of scratch on the surface of the LP, then you can have a repeat of the same phrase of music again, and again and again. Well, for me, the scratch on the LP of my computer life is my fear of destroying something valuable in the hard drive or not being able to get the thing going again. My phrase of music that repeats over and over and over again (basically every evening for the past week) is to: light pipe, gaze at monitor, inhale pipe, type a bit on the keyboard, inhale pipe, look at files, inhale pipe, etc... on and on and on.

I am pretty damn indecisive. I know it, you know it, we all know it. How the hell do I go beyond this and take the damn plunge? Your guess is as good as mine.

I had better run, I have only about a half hour before my endocrinology lecture. I need to give an article to a workstudy student to make copies of for my class, and I need some time with my pipe prior to lecture.


Sunday, March 13, 2005

Still Lost and Forsaken

My computer problems persist, but there seems to be progress. I have been able to get my computer to copy files from the C drive onto CDs again. With that in mind, I am thinking I will try to wipe away the entire hard drive once I am sure all the files I would like to save are on CD. Here is my course of execution, and if there are problems with my line of thinking, PLEASE let me know:

1. I presume I should when I am ready, simply go and reformat the entire hard drive. My understanding is I can do this via:

C: format

If not, some other idea should work that I will have to figure out.

2. I am assuming that once I have reformatted the drive, the damn trojan horse will be gone and that what I will do next is to insert the WindowsXP CD into the drive and download it into the computer.

I hope this is a correct assumption, although it worries me somewhat to think of my hard drive as having no operating system at all after the reformat. How will my computer be able to read the WindowsXP CD?

3. Another worry I have is that my CD is an upgrade CD. I hope that is enough for I do not know where the hell the Windows Me software is... if damnable Dell even sent it to me... it came preloaded.

4. Another worry... if WindowsXP loads, will it have the networking software to be able to get back on-line?

If the above four items work as hoped, I could start off with a fresh machine.

Let us all pray.

Again, advice is greatly appreciated.


Sunday, March 06, 2005

Hello Friends:

I apologize for the lack of posts recently. There are three issues that have been preventing me from posting:

1. Grant and research deadlines at work have prevented me from having time during work hours to post.

2. Family illnesses (including four doctors appointments, one hospitalization and two emergency room visits) for three members of my family have kept me very stressed and very short of time.

3. A damnable "trojan horse" that has invaded my home computer and prevents me from accessing the internet (it uses all of the available bandwith of my dial-up connection other than roughly 50bps (yes, not kilobytes, 50 bytes) which prevents me from accessing anything on the Internet from home.

That said, there is hope....

1. The grant/research crunch has come to a plateau this past Thursday, Friday, & Saturday. I anticipate relaxation and contentment shall be able to return to my mind on this score beginning Monday evening as I shall have passed the last major deadline I have currently for grant/research activity.

2. My family members have weathered the bouts of illnesses and illness scares successfully and are now all feeling in reasonably good form.

3. Beginning on Tuesday evening, I shall begin in earnest to figure out how to fix my damnable computer. The Grumpy Old Man (GOM) has been a true friend in offering advice on how to repair my damnable machine, but I am feeling quite timid about attempting the fix. The issues I have to deal with are as follows:

a. My home machine is a damn DELL that received the even more damnable Windows Me as its operating system the few months that it was offered in 2000. I was able to upgrade approximetly one month ago to Windows XP, but have done so via an upgrade CD.

b. GOM tells me the best bet I have of getting rid of the damnable trojan horse is to reformat my hard drive. This makes sense, but I am concerned I cannot reinstall Windows XP on a reformatted drive as I only have the upgrade CD. The original Windows Me was installed directly on my machine and either 1) I did not receive a Windows Me disk or 2) I do not know where the damnable disk is.

c. To take my computer to a repair shop and have them reformat the disk would cost between $100 & $150 and seems an awfully foolish amount of money to spend on such an old computer.

d. Regardless of which method I use to reformat my hard drive, I am fearful of losing many programs and files I have ammassed on my machine. The reason I am fearful is that the CD writer that was installed on my machine (remember I had Windows Me) was incompatable with Windows XP and I cannot make backup files on CD from my computer. The files are especially troublesome, but even many of the programs are problematic as well as I do not know where the hell the original disks are.

e. I cannot download any possible upgrades (if they even exist) for my CD Writer program for my computer because I cannot access the damn Internet from it.

So I am stymied. I am frustrated with the machine. Part of me would like to take the whole system outside and stomp on it and then douse it with Zippo Lighter Fluid (although it more valuable for my lighter) and ignight the damn thing.... and then go out and buy a new computer. However, my wife and I have agreed that we are going to wait to buy a new computer until summer AFTER I renovate the home office (aka, my den). I do not want to rush into buying a new machine if I can at all avoid it.

There is my life in a nutshell at the moment. Wish me luck and I hope to be able to start posting more regularly again in a couple of days.

One final thought... I doubt I shall ever buy another Dell computer. I have never had so many frustrating and annoying things happen with a computer since I have began to own computers at home in 1989. I am seriously thinking of going back to Gateway the next go around. Dell customer service is horrid and they have shipped out all support to India and have employed people with very poor English skills and at the same time have them talk over some sort of hackneyed phone line that is even worse than a damnable cell phone. Gateway has outsourced some (but not as much) of their customer support it seems as well, but at least they seem to have people with stronger English skills and better phone lines.

If all goes well, I think this upcoming Friday afternoon will be hopefully spent with my elderly father-in-law at the tobacconist sampling and buying some of the Spring series of tobaccos and then going back to his wood shop and building things, drinking ourselves silly, and smoking our briar pipes heavily and strongly. Wish me luck on this dream to look forward to.