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.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

I Am Off!

I shall be leaving early tommorrow morning for the trip to hookah-land! Yes, there is a conference I shall be attending and it shall be enjoyable. Yes, I will be spending time learning and I will be spending time talking with old friends. However, I shall be spending a helluva lot of time in the hookah house... the nargile coffeehouse and saturating my very being with the rich, romantic, aromatic tobacco smoke from these waterpipes. It shall be a childhood/adulthood dream come true!

As you may be able to tell, I am delighted and excited!

If, by chance, I find Internet access and it does not infringe upon the already limited hookah time, I may be able to post while away.


Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Love Is All You Need

I believe it was John Lennon who coined the title of this passage that I have borrowed. I do so because it is true on so many different levels. There are the obvious:

1. Love of family (wife, kids, parents, friends, relatives, etc.)
2. Love of self
3. Love of community
4. Physical love (copulation)
5. Mental love (desire)
6. Emotional love (caring)

But in addition, and in some ways just as important are other forms of love that are critical to attain a full, rich life:

7. Love of work (for me my research and teaching)
8. Love of routine (life is usually reasonably predictable, and embracing that can be wonderful)
9. Love of humanity (individual and global)
10. Love of learning
11. Love of creativity (passion)
12. Love of love

It is truly LOVE that is all we need... to have success in life. Think of whomever you consider to be your heros.... and if you examine them closely, you will find that they surround themselves with love of at least several of the 12 categories above.

A few of my heros (not in rank order):

Ernest Hemingway
Konrad Lorenz
William Faulkner
my own father
Louis Pasteur
Santiago Y Cagal
Herman Melville
Gunter Grass
Theodore Roosevelt
John Steinbeck
Samuel Clemens
Karl von Frisch
Charles Darwin
Gregor Mendel

Each of the above easily embraced a variety of different forms of love that enriched them and allowed them to become the great men they were.


Monday, July 25, 2005

An Image From Long Ago

As I mentioned yesterday, trying the nargile/hookah was something I have always been curious about from when I was just a kid. My first recollection of this manner of smoking was from a photograph in one of the books in my father's den/library. Someday I need to write more about the beauty of his den/library and the wonderful treasures I found in it while growing up. However, for today, I think I shall post an old image of a man indulging in the hookah. While this is not exactly the image I remember as a kid... I should try to find that book and have my secretary scan it for me, this image is very similar to the one I remember: Man Smoking Hookah

While searching for this image, I came across this image, one that reminded me of myself. While I have typically worn a full beard and moustache (and not a Van Dyke (or a "goatee" as the younger crowd would say)), and I do not have a hat of that style (I prefer this style of hat), this image does remind me of myself somehow.

I am terribly excited about this trip.


Sunday, July 24, 2005

Kahve Turkish Coffee Shop

When I go to Lincoln, Nebraska a week from today for a conference, I shall be enjoying the research conference, but I shall also be relishing the delight of the Kahve Turkish Coffee Shop. Although I am not of Middle Eastern descent, the nargile/hookah have always been something that has caught my attention and has been a passion to indulge in. I remember a variety of images in films, cartoons, newspapers, etc over the decades that show contented Middle Eastern gentlemen indulging in this form of tobacco in coffee houses and cafes and homes. I remember those images well and eagerly await the experience.

My only prior trial of the nargile/hookah was in a very rushed experience while traveling in a conference in India. I was much younger then and was very cognizant of my two presentations that I was to make at this international conference. I was so focused (being young and a bit naieve) on having these presentations go well, I did not find as much time as I could have to explore the beautiful country of India. Do not get me wrong, I did have some pleasant experiences.... went on a safari, had some amazing food, etc... but I did not get the chance to experience fully the nargile/hookah indulgence. My very brief foray was on the taxi ride back to the airport when I was scheduled to leave where I happened to spot a hookah coffee shop and asked the driver to stop. Unfortunately time was short and the time of set-up was long at this establishment, so when my hookah arrived I was already nervous about making my flight and did not get to stay.

This experience shall be different. I have located the site, and shall puruse their menu and offerings and indulge deeply in this experience. It shall be the fullfillment of a nearly lifelong wish. From what I have gathered over the years, the tobacco is exceptionally powerful and has a harsh quality to it... though the harshness is dimished by the hookah itself. It should be absolutely wonderful.

My plan is to experience the place by myself the first evening, getting advice about the most traditional and strongest tobacco to try. Then on other evenings, I am hoping to convince some of my friends that I believe are going to the meeting to also indulge in the hookah cafe with me... perhaps after partaking in libations prior to the experience.

It should be grand.


Saturday, July 23, 2005

The Nargile or "Hookah"?

Details are a bit scant at the moment, but I am very excited to say that I will be going to a conference in roughly a week and that in addition to the research conference itself... which should be enjoyable, I believe that there is a nargile or hookah coffeehouse there. In addition, from what I have heard, it is an old-world, traditional nargile/hookah coffee house. I am terribly excited.

The nargile (sometimes called a "hookah" or a "hubble-bubble") is a large water-pipe that has been a traditional smoking device for gentlemen in India and the Middle-East for centuries. The pipe tobacco used in the nargile is exceptionally strong, powerful, and beautiful.

I shall hopefully know more details by Monday or Tuesday if I am correct in that there is a nargile coffeehouse in the area I am traveling to or if it is simply a pipe dream. If it is true, you can bet that this grey-bearded fellow will be parking himself in that hookah house for a few hours each evening during his stay!


Wednesday, July 20, 2005


I feel ornery and grouchy today. I am not sure what if any root cause is at work in causing my mood. Here has been my day:

1. Woke up, right arm stiff and sore as hell and shoulder likewise because I slept on it with my arm under my pillow and head and apparently did not move all night long. It is a nagging and aggrivating pain.

2. Went to a boring as hell committee meeting by the Dean about what our various areas are doing. A snoozer if ever there was one, and yet you had to stay awake.

3. I started a refinishing project I had been meaning to start for quite a while. The piece of furniture I am refurbishing is a favorite of my wife.

4. I drove to the local damn giant hardware store (Lowes this time) and meandered around for what seemed like 72 days looking for the items I needed.

5. I am now at work to help some research students conduct a few surgeries.

I wish I could shake the onery/angry mindset but cannot find a way yet.


Monday, July 18, 2005

Field Trip of the Mind

[It is my hope that if you have not done so, you may wish to read my seven part essay entitled "The Grand Day!" The seven essays are in reverse order. Comments on the essay or any of my writings are always greatly appreciated and welcome.]

I am reasonably content with my essay "The Grand Day!" Even though it has taken me longer than I had originally intended, it was an effort I had been meaning to put to paper in some form for many, many years. It may not have the graceful style I would like it to have yet, but it is a start and I will likely continue to tinker with it for some time to help smooth it a bit.

Being able to return to more free-form writing (unlike the purposeful essay) is a pleasant change. While I find the essay very meaningful to me, I did miss simply writing thoughts on anything as they flowed from my head to my fingertips. A few questions that have been in my mind lately that I would like to hear any comments on:

1. I have always tried to figure out a physiological reason for why people with hair that tends to naturally curl will have their hair curl more when it is humid rather than when it is dry? A case in point is my own hair/beard/moustache... I have a strong tendency for curl to arise in my hair follicles. In the winter (which is dry here because of the cold)my hair/beard/moustache can tend to look almost straight in texture. In the summer (which is very, very humid most years in my region), my hair/moustache/beard develops a distinct and more pronounced curl as the humidity increases.

2. Does anyone in the readership ever watch a show called "American Hotrod" on the Discovery Channel? I am a recent convert to the show... initially because it was something to watch late at night on Fridays (1am here) and because I enjoy old automobiles. But I have become more engrossed by watching the characters in the show go about their daily lives. It is fascinating.

Enough for now. I shall venture home for the evening.


Sunday, July 17, 2005

A Grand Day! (Part 7... The Last Post on this Subject)

[Please note, if you have not done so, and wish to read earlier parts of this essay, please scroll down to the May 25th entry where the essay begins. Subsequent parts occur in reverse order.]

It was disheartening to me to find the pipe so very dull. To me, at that age, I called things "dull" when they were boring, unexciting, and very different from what I had hoped. And this certainly qualified. There had been no amazement, no feelings of relaxation, no vibrant flavors, no anything of merit to the activity. I could not understand why it was so clear that my father relished this activity and yet for me it was nothing but DULL.

Yet, the day was still young, and I wanted to explore the fields for new creatures. I left the platform of the treehouse and went toward the creek. Very quickly I spotted a very large walking stick (insect) and a praying mantis. I was already fairly eagle-eyed about seeing these creatures in the woods and saw them more readily than others in my family. Since they were not new creatures to me, I did not bother to collect them, but instead went to the edge of the creek to look for any salamanders and amphibians that I could find. Although I worked for probably two hours or so, I only found two yellow spotted salamanders and a bunch of bullfrogs... nothing new, as these were the most common varieties in our area. Likewise I did not find any amphibian eggs (they are a helluva lot of fun to watch develop, and even to this day I enjoy watching the process and have included it as part of the work my students study in lab).

Without much success in finding anything new to examine, and having left my insect net back at the tree house (platform). And also being that I was hot and muddy from all my efforts, I decided to head back to the tree house and eat and read for a while before returning with my insect net later in the afternoon.

By the time I walked back to the tree house, I was powerfully thirsty... but then I remembered that I had left the sodapop in the creek to cool off. I raced back to the water, scooped out the bottles and raced back to the tree house. This added activity only exacerbated my thirst, and when I finally got back up on the platform of the tree house I immediately opened one bottle and gulped it down in less than 30 seconds. I didn't even bother to open my sandwich, and opened another bottle of sodapop and drank half of it at an equally fast rate.

I had just unwrapped my sandwich when (as my mother had warned me about), I started to have strong hiccups from having consumed the drink too rapidly. Even to this day, if I "guzzle" any carbonated beverage (sodapop, beer, etc) too quickly, it will cause me to have hiccups. These hiccups are very strong and usually last 20-30 minutes. It was very hard to eat when having a strong hiccup every 15 seconds or so, I knew I needed to postpone my sandwich and decided to pick up my book to read (hiccup). The book layed next to (hiccup) my father's pipe that I had "borrowed" and again I remembered how dull the experience was and felt somewhat sad. Why was it that my father found pipe smoking so enjoyable (hiccup) and yet I could not find anything exciting about the activity? I decided to try it one more time, to see if I could figure it out.

Striking the match (hiccup) was a little bit easier this time around. Fairly quickly I was able to draw little puffs of smoke from the stem. Again, nothing very interesting about the activity. "Perhaps," I wondered in my mind, "I needed to take lots and lots of puffs quickly to make it more fun?" I decided to try this, even though in the back of my mind I did not anticipate much as this was not a behavior I had seen my father engage in while he smoked his pipe.... his manner and behavior was always very methodical and patterned when he smoked his pipe. But, by this time, I figured I might as well try.

Puffing more rapidly on the stem (hiccup) did little to improve the experience. I did notice, however, that I was able to pull thicker, denser clouds of the smoke from the stem. The rapid puffs had apparently pulled the ember deeper into the leaf, ignighting more of the bowlful of tobacco. I had just drawn another large puff of the smoke into my mouth when I hiccuped again... (hiccup)... the hiccup caused me to involuntairily breath the puff of smoke into my lungs, which felt an odd thing to do, but not unpleasant. Suddenly, I started to feel quite different. There was a tingly sensation that began to spread throughout my body. My mind also felt this tingle, but also I started to feel a bit dizzy... not unpleasantly so... in fact it was rather pleasant. It took me a few moments to realize what I had done... I had inhaled the smoke into my lungs. All of the time I had spent observing my father, and yet I had not quite realized the mechanics of what he was actually doing when he smoked his pipe. It was more than just puffing the smoke out of your mouth, you also would inhale the smoke.

Now, I deliberately tried to inhale another puff of the smoke, and more of those feeling washed over my body. The additive effect was a bit strong for me, and I layed back on the platform of the treehouse and stared up into the leaves and sky. The dizziness was a bit stronger, and yet it was very pleasant as long as I layed down. I set the pipe aside and simply continued to experience those feelings throughout my body as I layed there. It was truly beautiful. As I looked up through the leaves of the trees towards the sky, the colors seemed more vibrant and vivid than they had only a few moments before. I felt much more aware of and more a part of my surroundings. My body felt both stimulated and relaxed simultaneously. This was what my father felt! I knew this was the magic, and I could imagine that my face must have held a similar relaxed expression on it as I had seen in his eyes and face so many times. The total even was blissful, and peaceful, and exciting all at the same time.

I layed there for a while and I eventually dozed off for almost an hour. When I awoke, the feelings were (sadly) gone, yet their beautiful memory remained. I looked around for a while, ate my sandwich, and drank the last of my sodapop. Then I struck another match and tried the pipe again. This time, I inhaled one of the puffs shortly after I had the pipe lit. Once again, the beauty of the leaf did not disappoint me... I felt that utter magic, that blissful relaxation that I had wondered about for all those many weeks after becoming aware of the expressions on my father's face as he indulged in his briar pipes. The day, the experience, the whole series of moments are seared indelibly into my neurons, and it was a beautiful, wonderful, life changing experience. From that moment on, I knew in my heart, my mind and my soul, that I was a pipe smoker, and from that moment on, I was.

Today, the 17th of July, is the anniversary of that vividly magical experience for me. All those decades ago, when I was but a kid, and yet, at the same time, I was finding one aspect of my destiny. I cherish the memories.


Tuesday, July 05, 2005

A Grand Day! (Part 6... Second to Last Post on this Subject)

[Please note, if you have not done so, and wish to read earlier parts of this essay, please scroll down to the May 25th entry where the essay begins. Subsequent parts occur in reverse order.]

I awoke at my usual time the next day, roughly 6am. I could already hear the hustling and bustling in the kitchen. Because it had been warm the previous evening, I had left my bedroom door open just a crack so there could be an exchange of air. I could see my parents through the slight opening of my door. My father had just sat down at the table, his fresh, clean work clothes... especially the vividly white, starched shirt and his richly-colored, dark brown patterned necktie, made him appear even more awe inspiring and worthy of my respect. My mother displayed her typical serene beauty in her simple white smock and beige, ladies pants. My mother had made the two of them breakfast. It was their typical toast and very strong coffee for. Additionally, my mother had opened one of her home grown and canned jars of peaches and placed a peach half in a small bowl for each of them.

My parents both enjoyed and relished each other's company, and they quietly chatted about their goals for the day as the consumed breakfast.

As for me, as it was still early, I decided to plan out my day. First and foremost, I would need to pack some essential items for the day. I brought along a book I had been reading and several jars in case I found some interesting specimens in the woods. I also dug out my insect net from the closet and placed next to my russack. I made a mental note, to ask my mother to make me a sandwich and also to ask for two or three orange and grape sodas to tak along with me for the adventure. Of course, I also had my small handful of matches with me, wrapped in paper and placed deep in my pack.

My father finished his breakfast and proceeded to gather the accoutrements he needed for the workday. As he started to check to see if he had everything, my mother stood up... and with her hand reached up to my father's face. She gently brushed off a few toast crumbs that were clinging to my father's moustache and beard. My father grinned, and thanked her by kissing her hand. He then proceeded to gather his briefcase of papers and books, his pipe, pouch, and matches and lighter, and finally the lunch my mother had packed. After another brief kiss (this time on the lips), and wishes to have a great day, my father was off to work. My mother started humming quietly to herself as she tidied up the kitchen. I finished straightening my room and then went out into the kitchen.

My mother had warming on the stove the oatmeal we older kids were going to eat for breakfast that day. As my parents were not particularly strict about timetables for us children during the summer, I was the only one awake, and hence I was the first one up and out. My other siblings were still sleeping. My mother and I chatted a bit while she prepared a bowl of oatmeal for me, putting raisins and slices of the canned peaches on top along with a large spoonful of brown sugar. Then she poured a little bit of milk onto the oatmeal and also poured me a glass of milk as well. She sat these before me with a spoon.

I heartily began to eat the oatmeal, it being one of my favorite foods. My mother came and sat beside me and we talked. I told her I had planned to spend time out in the woods today searching for things and asked if she would make me a sandwich that I could take with me. My mother, who also tended to naturally awaken very early had already made sandwiches for me and for my siblings that day and simply gathered one and wrapped it individually in waxed paper for me. I also asked if I could take one orange and one grape sodapop with me, and she smiled and said yes. She reminded me that I should drink the sodapop slowly as it often gave me hiccups if I drank it too rapidly. I promised her I would. With that I finished my breakfast and finished getting ready for the day of exploration. I waved to her as I left and she smiled and waved back at me.

The day itself was sunny, yet pleasantly cool and dry. It was perhaps 60 degrees and virtually no humidity marred the texture of the air. It was an unusually cool and dry morning for the start of July and I relished it greatly. Once out into the woods, I first ran to the edge of the stream and put my two glass bottles of sodapop into the water to get them cool, and the I immediately raced back to the platform of my developing fort. I climbed the latter and immediately sat down. I could hear many different, quite sounds from birds and insects as they too were starting their day. Forgetting for a second, I then raced down from the platform and went to the nook of the tree and reached inside and pulled out the bag with the pipe inside. Heading back up the ladder I sat down and opened my russack and pulled out the matches. I was terribly excited and nervous and anticipatory all at the same time. I gripped the stem of the pipe between my teeth and proceeded to strike the match against the rough surface of the rock. Again, just like in my initial attempt, the first match I tried broke off at the tip.

Fortunately, this time I had several matches. However, I could tell this lighting of a match was a more difficult task than I had first anticipated. I took the pipe out of my mouth and laid it on the plank floor, and proceeded to examine the match more closely. I kept trying to figure out what it was I did incorrectly. Thinking back to how my father lit matches, I kept looking back in my my memory at what he would do. I slowly recalled through deep thought about how my father held the match differently than I had been doing. He would hold the match between his thumb and index finger... near the head of the match, and then use the rest of his fingers to steady the back of the match. He then swiftly rubbed the head against a brick or a rock.

All right. "I can do this." I thought to myself, I slowly positioned the match between my index finger and my thumb. It felt very awkward. Then because my hand was so much smaller, I basically rested the stick end of the match in my palm. To me this seemed so strange and it did not feel natural. Previously I had simply grabbed the wooden end of the match with my fingers and rubbed it around on the rock. With the match in this new position, I tried again, but lost grip on it and it fell to the ground below. By this time I was very frustrated. I was bound and determined to do this correctly. Using a third match, I held it in position and rubbed it swiftly against the rock. Suddenly, the match flared into life! But at the same time, my fingers were VERY CLOSE to that flare! The heat seemed intense, and I involuntarily shook my hand and the match dropped again through a crack between the planks and fell to the ground below. I could not tell if the match was still lit or not, and I feared that it could cause the forrest to catch fire, so I quickly ran down the platform and looked at the spot until I found the match. Even though it WAS out and not lit, to be safe, I rubbed the ground and the match with the heel of my shoe to ensure it was safe.

Back on the platform, I positioned another match in my hand, this time not holding so close to the head of the match, and tried again. This time, while the flare startled me, my fingers were not too close and I did not drop it. I quickly repositioned my hand so that I held the wooden end of the match and reached for the pipe. Quickly, I put the stem of the pipe in my mouth and brought the flame of the match to the bowl. Pretending it was a drinking straw, I sucked on the stem and the flame was pulled into the bowl. It looked just like how my dad did it! I sucked in on the stem of the pipe a few more times and soon there was a little wispy smoke that was drawn into my mouth. It was not very flavorful, and did not taste as good as it had simply smelled when my father was smoking his pipes. Do not get me wrong.... it was not horrible, but it was not nearly as exciting as I had anticipated. I puffed on the pipe a few more times, but all I could think of was that this was.... DULL. Not only did the pipe not taste as amazing as I thought it would, but also, I did not feel any sense of relaxation from the pipe like my father did. What was going on?

I was discouraged and sad at my findings. The pipe, which seemed so utterly magical and beautiful for my father, seemed to be dull and even boring for me. I was completely disappointed.

I sat there for about 15 minutes wondering about why did not find the pipe as exciting as my father did, and feeling quite "gyped". I sat the pipe aside, and decided to go hunting for insects and amphibians for a while. I did not know what I was going to do about the pipe, but I did not feel like thinking about it anymore, it was so... DULL.

[Another good stopping point for now. Comments or suggestions are always appreciated. Next.... the ACTUAL conclusion to this long-winded story.]