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, October 31, 2005

Divisive Government

It is galling to me that people in politics are so utterly polarized currently. You either have to be EXTREME in terms of being an idiot conservative....short term profit is more important than economic stablity, everyone should be carrying firearms to protect themselves, and the poor should fend for themselves or die off. Or, you have the assinine EXTREME left wing (I do not use liberal because I think they are more extreme... liberal should not be a bad word) that wants perferential treatment for some because of their skin color and wants everyone to have free access to abortions because they feel people should not be responsible for their action.

Where is a true moderate, sensible political candidate? "W" sure as hell is not one... he is simply a dull-witted puppet. Clinton proclaimed to be one, but more often than not he was ultraconservative on issues that hurt people (NAFTA & GATT for two), and was ultraliberal about stupid things that really did not matter (perhaps his free love ideology was inadvertently a case in point).

Where is a candidate who expresses my beliefs.... 1) we need to live conservatively as individuals, 2) we need to behave as liberals in terms of social policy? Very simply put here is my political platform:

a. We need universal health care in this country. It should be EQUAL FOR ALL, and no other bullsh*t policies can be added by the rich.

b. We need to offer more and better educational opportunities for our poor.

c. We need to have a true mindset of equality... one that is colorblind, where sex doesn't matter, sexual orientation neutral, religon-neutral, etc.

d. We need to squash the wildfire use of credit.

e. We need a minimum wage where one breadwinner can earn enough from a 40 hour-a-week job to support a family of four at 10% above the poverty line.

f. We need a national mandate that pays for 2 years of college education for every qualified (scholastically) student.

g. We need a flat rate income tax FOR ALL... individuals and businesses.

h. We need to support a mindset of good jobs and good wages for ALL in this nation... and squash the "WalMartization" of our economy.

That is it for the moment. I will likely think of more later.


Friday, October 28, 2005


Unfortunately, today I have a headache and am not feeling overly creative. Some of you who read the Grumpy Old Man may be thinking my headache may be the result of a hangover, but that is definetly not the case. While I did have a pleasant evening of several gin & tonic libations yesterday evening, the quantity was not of the hangover level but instead simply to the pleasantly relaxed level.

My headache today is of a more seasonal nature. In the Fall and in the Spring, I have a long history of having transiet issues with my sinuses especially those in the region of the mouth and also with imflamations that occur in the jawline due to teeth movement. It is a very common, inherited (genetic) malady that I share with one brother and at least 2 of my sisters. Usually the gnawing, aggrivating headache that radiates from my jawline up through my ears last between 7-10 days and then I am free of issues until the Spring thaw when it happens again but in reverse.

I will plan to head out from work early and take a nap.


Thursday, October 27, 2005


Most of my students find it odd that I, a frumpy, bearded, tweed-jacket wearing, pipe-smoking, wire rimmed eye-glass wearing fellow watch three rather non-professorial programs on the Discovery Channel.... American Chopper, American Hot Rod, and Southern Steel. None-the-less, watch them I do, and I enjoy all three greatly.

However, it is sad now for two great people from the above three shows have passed away in the last month. On American Hot Rod, Roy, the older fabricator has passed away, and on Southern Steel, Gary, the older fabricator, has also passed away.

They will be missed.


Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The Gift of Rosa Parks

As many of you should be aware, Rosa Parks, the civil rights leader has passed away. While her passing is sad, she lived to a very good age (in her mid-90s). I am of the belief that Ms. Parks is a true gift to us and her legacy shall remain and grow.

Equality for all on the basis of skin tone, genetic sex, sexual orientation, religion, etc. is a monumental hallmark of the last century. While we still have to continue to work hard to acheive that color-blind, gender neutral society, we also need to celebrate the acheivements we do have. Below is an interview with Ms. Parks that I find espeically beneficial. Please read and comment.

An Interview With Greatness

by Kira Albin, interview conducted in 1996

When Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white man forty years ago on December 1, 1955, she was tired and weary from a long day of work.

At least that's how the event has been retold countless times and recorded in our history books. But, there's a misconception here that does not do justice to the woman whose act of courage began turning the wheels of the civil rights movement on that fateful day.

Rosa Parks was physically tired, but no more than you or I after a long day's work. In fact, under other circumstances, she would have probably given up her seat willingly to a child or elderly person. But this time Parks was tired of the treatment she and other African Americans received every day of their lives, what with the racism, segregation, and Jim Crow laws of the time.

"Our mistreatment was just not right, and I was tired of it," writes Parks in her recent book, Quiet Strength, (ZondervanPublishingHouse, 1994). "I kept thinking about my mother and my grandparents, and how strong they were. I knew there was a possibility of being mistreated, but an opportunity was being given to me to do what I had asked of others."

The rest of Parks' story is American history...her arrest and trial, a 381-day Montgomery bus boycott, and, finally, the Supreme Court's ruling in November 1956 that segregation on transportation is unconstitutional.

But Parks' personal history has been lost in the retelling. Prior to her arrest, Mrs. Parks had a firm and quiet strength to change things that were unjust. She served as secretary of the NAACP and later Adviser to the NAACP Youth Council, and tried to register to vote on several occasions when it was still nearly impossible to do so. She had run-ins with bus drivers and was evicted from buses. Parks recalls the humiliation: "I didn't want to pay my fare and then go around the back door, because many times, even if you did that, you might not get on the bus at all. They'd probably shut the door, drive off, and leave you standing there."

Forty years later, despite some tremendous gains, Parks feels, "we still have a long way to go in improving the race relations in this country."

Rosa Parks spends most of her year in Detroit but winters in Los Angeles. Her day is filled with reading mail,-"from students, politicians, and just regular people"-preparing meals, going to church, and visiting people in hospitals. She is still active in fighting racial injustices, now standing up for what she believes in and sharing her message with others. She and other members of the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self-Development have a special program called Pathways to Freedom, for young people age 11-18. Children in the program travel across the country tracing the Underground Railroad, visiting the scenes of critical events in the civil rights movement and learning aspects of America's history.

Says Elaine Steele, Parks' close friend and cofounder of the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self-Development, "Mrs. Parks is a role model that these students look up to, and they feel very honored and privileged to be in her company. And she's very gracious to accompany the students to these activities."

February, Black History Month, seemed a relevant time to evaluate youth and their sense of history. But Parks thinks bigger and broader. "We don't have enough young people who are concerned and who are exposed to the civil rights movement, and I would like to see more exposure and get their interest," she says, pausing to reflect, "but I think it should just be history, period, and not thinking in terms of only Black History Month."

Parks is quiet, soft-spoken, and diplomatic. But she is firm in her belief that enough people will have the courage and dedication to make this country better than it is. "And this young man that's taking over the NAACP, Kweisi Mfume, I admire him a great deal," she adds. About Louis Farrakhan, the leader of the Black Muslims, she says, "Well, I don't know him personally, but I think it was great that he spearheaded the million man march."

Parks has met many renowned leaders and has traveled throughout the world receiving honors and awards for her efforts toward racial harmony. She is appreciative and honored by them but exhibits little emotion over whom she has met or what she has done. Her response to being called "the Mother of the Civil Rights Movement" is modest. "If people think of me in that way, I just accept the honor and appreciate it," she says. In Quiet Strength, however, Parks is careful to explain that she did not change things alone. "Four decades later I am still uncomfortable with the credit given to me for starting the bus boycott. I would like [people] to know I was not the only person involved. I was just one of many who fought for freedom."

In August 1994, Parks was attacked in her home by a young man who wanted money from her. Of the event, she writes, "I pray for this young man and the conditions in our country that have made him this way. Despite the violence and crime in our society, we should not let fear overwhelm us. We must remain strong."

Parks' belief in God and her religious convictions are at the core of everything she does. It is the overriding theme in her book and the message she hopes to impart: "I'd like for [readers] to know that I had a very spiritual background and that I believe in church and my faith and that has helped to give me the strength and courage to live as I did."

Strength in Numbers
Donations to help support and expand Pathways to Freedom, are welcomed. Send a check or money order to: Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self-Development, 65 Cadillac Square, Suite 2200, Detroit, MI 48226.

Ms. Parks was an amazing woman. I am so happy she moved up to the north country. She has worked behind the scenes here in the north to acheive further equality.


Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Back in the Saddle

After a hectic week of helping my baby brother (I am hopeful he will post soon.) following the birth of his second child (a son), I am finally feeling life settle back into a good routine. During the last 10 days or so, I have had ample travel time as I drove the few hours each day back and forth between my familial home and his. Other than teaching classes, the whole of the rest of my life was temporairly put on hiatus as he and his wife and young daughter needed extra help and assistance to help with the addition to their family.

Now, it seems, both parents, the young (~3 year old) daughter and new baby boy are doing well and are beginning to have their own managable routine in place. It is a delight to see the beauty of a new life and the expansion of a good family. Even though I sometimes talk about my baby brother being a bit timid at times, he is a damn good fellow and he has a wonderful wife and now two delightful children. It is a joy to see.

As for me, I am happy to be back into the reformation of my routine. My own herd of a family is well, I was able to eat a beautiful, home-cooked meal by my wife for the first time in over a week, I pleasantly vegetated in front of the television last night. Also, I was able to get back to my research yesterday and today. And, perhaps the most significant signal of the return of routine for me is that I had the (delightful as always) opportunity to bed my wife properly yesterday evening. After a long drought of nearly ten days, it was a true gift to me, and I am thankful to my lovely wife for her willingness and I hope my service was as much a gift for her. She made me fresh squeezed grapefruit juice this morning (instead of the typical bottled variety), so I believe I was successful in that venture.

Life seems wonderful. Let us hope the routine can again settle into this nice pace. Today, I shall attempt to return to my 5 mile walk as well (again, a 10 day absence) even though it is going to be cold with highs only in the 40s.


Saturday, October 22, 2005

Have A Cigar!

As you have perhaps noticed, I have been away from the blog for roughly a week. This absence was not through any fault of my own, but was my baby brother's fault [grin]. He and his wife had experienced the birth of their second child this past week, and I have been spending much of my time in transit on the couple of hour drive to his town to take care of their first child as part of the group of relatives and friends enlisted to help while she (and indirectly he) are in the hospital following the birth.

More details to follow.


Friday, October 14, 2005

The Award

I am just leaving the annual "Fall Faculty Festivity" our faculty hold each year. It is a good time for us... free food, ample beverages, and laughter and merriment that pokes gentle fun at the foibles of the administration. After several gin and tonics, I am definetly feeling the festivity myself. [grin].

The students also get the fun of seeing better than half of their professors trapse across campus half schnockered.


Thursday, October 13, 2005

A Questionaire for Those Fond of Nicotine

As all my readers are aware, I relish smoking a pipe and find nicotine nutritious to my mind, spirit, and soul.... akin to a mental vitamin. I am considering offering a survey here to allow people to contribute their impressions about a variety of issues related to tobacco, pipes in particular and all manner of ingestion of beloved nicotine. Please let me see a show of hands (via the number of comments I receive) on whether or not this would be a good idea and if you would participate.


Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Idiotic Behavior the Lesser of Two Evils

Many of us have seen the horrid video footage of Robert Davis being beaten by police officers in New Orleans. Mr. Davis, stepped outside of a resturant to smoke a cigarette and was attacked by police officers. You can hear an actual interview with Mr. Davis that was conducted by Ross Sneyd of the Associate Press here

Below is an article that FORTUNATELY suggests that Mr. Davis believes the attack was not racially motivated and it instead the idiotic behavior of a few police who have been under far too much stress following the disaster in New Orleans. I am glad to hear Mr. Davis does not believe racism was a motive, for it is so damn foolish, intollerable, and assinine for people to believe that the density of melanin pigment in epidermis of your integumentary system makes you distinctly different from others with different melanin levels. Pure stupidity... and not scientific at all.

Man Beaten in New Orleans Arrest Says Racism NOT An Issue

By Tom Vanden Brook, USA TODAY

NEW ORLEANS — Robert Davis, a retired black schoolteacher whose violent arrest by white New Orleans police officers was videotaped by news crews, believes the incident says more about post-Katrina chaos than it does about racism.

Robert Davis shows some of his scrapes Monday near the site where New Orleans police arrested him Saturday.
By Mel Evans, AP

"Some people want to make it a race thing," Davis said in an interview Tuesday. "I don't. That's demeaning to me."

Davis, 64, was to be in municipal court today to face charges of public intoxication and resisting arrest. The officers have pleaded not guilty to charges of simple battery. They were suspended without pay. The Justice Department is investigating whether Davis' civil rights were violated.

Davis said the officers should be fired. "They don't need to be on the force," he said. "It's not good for the city."

The city attorney and a spokesman for the police department did not return calls seeking comment on Tuesday.

Davis, who said he hasn't had a drink in 25 years, wants the charges dropped. His lawyer, Joseph Bruno, plans to seek a financial settlement. "He needs to be compensated, but that's not what this is all about." The issue, he said, is reforming the department "from the top to the bottom. Put some competent people in charge."

By and large, police have responded well to the devastation of Katrina, Bruno said. But a department that allows a "couple bad eggs" needs to be reformed, he said.

Saturday night's incident began when Davis left a restaurant in the city's French Quarter to smoke a cigarette, Davis said. He said he asked an officer about the city's curfew when he was interrupted by another. He said he was offended and told the officer so. That's when the scuffle, in which Davis was struck in the face and wrestled to the sidewalk by four officers, was captured by an Associated Press TV camera. Davis said his attire — shorts, T-shirt and sandals — might have been a factor. "This individual assumed I was one of the derelicts on Bourbon Street," he said.

Two officers have pleaded innocent to misdemeanor battery in Davis' beating. Their attorney has said Davis struck first.

The incident happened in one of the few parts of the city to survive Katrina relatively unscathed. Narrow, bawdy Bourbon Street is lined with bars, most of which have reopened. People may drink on the sidewalks if they use plastic cups. On Saturday night, Bourbon Street teemed with relief workers, soldiers and police officers.

"New Orleans is a place that has an open invitation to visitors," Bruno said. "And they should know that they're not putting themselves at risk when they come here."

Let us hope that people do not try to make this issue racial. Let us instead bring the parties responsible to the courts, put them through a trial and if found guilty (which seems likely), have these officers spend time in jail.


Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Not A Helluva Lot To Say

I am still angry (perhaps at God, perhaps at life) because of the uncertainties about the health of an elderly loved one. Yes, I know that is how life is, and I am damn old enough to have gotten used to it ( I have seen it far, far more times than I would like ) but it still hurts, it is not something I *want* to get used to, nor is it somthing that I think is particularly *healthy* to get used to.

So, I ruminate, feeling angry, disjointed at the world, and wait to see the resolution of the illness and its effects.


Monday, October 10, 2005

What I Am Feeling

Below is an excerpt from an article by C. George Boeree of Shippensburg University where he does a spledid job of describing anger. I have placed his writing in italics and will have my comments about my own emotional state intersperced in "non-italic" letters. I am emotionally distraught at the moment because an elderly loved-one is quite sick. This person is sick but because of tests the "doctors" want this person to have, they are refusing to offer any treatment to alleviate discomfort, pain, or suffering until after the tests. And yet, the tests themselves would in no way be altered by the administration of antibiotics and pain-relieving medication. It angers me.

Anger: A Phenomenological Sketch
By C. George Boeree, Ph.D.
Shippensburg University

The following phenomenological sketch is based on the work of several Qualitative Methods classes, using self-generated protocols and analyzed by means of the "workshop" method.
Precursors of anger.

It is common for us to be in some sort of "bad mood" prior to getting angry. Often, we have had a bad day, have been overworked or are overtired. Perhaps we aren't feeling well physically. Quite commonly, we have been drinking -- it seems clear that alcohol somehow opens us up to anger and other emotions, perhaps by loosening our usual control over ourselves.

My thoughts: All true, all true. But in case and point for today, the anger that I feel is due to fear and dread. A dear, dear relative is quite sick currently and I feel like hell because there isn't a damn thing I can do about it and the physicians who CAN do something about it are taking a "wait-and-see" attitude. It frustrates the living hell out of me.

Another thing that can set us up for anger is our personalities or temperaments. Some people are predisposed towards dealing with all problems with anger. I find that people who are relatively self-centered (as opposed to "other-centered") fall into an emotional response to problems more easily than others.

My thoughts: I do not think I am self-centered, and I hope that I am not. I do feel predisposed towards anger at times but it seems to be when I feel I cannot control or help in a situation. I am saying I am damn angry at the moment, but I am only writing it here and feeling these emtions internally. I am not lashing out at others (although it is tempting to do so at the assinine doctors). I am simply angry and trying to cope with the helplessness I feel in not being able to help a loved one.

The environment or setting may play part as well. Certain settings are more conducive to anger than others: If things are noisy, confusing, or exiting in general; if you are a witness to anger or aggression; if you're in a place even associated with anger or aggression; if anger is in some way encouraged....

Mood, personality, and setting, while important variables, are not essential to anger. However, a mood based on internal problems or other problems can become anger when triggered by some small but immediate problem. When this happens, we often notice that "that's not what you're really angry about," i.e. the small problem isn't the real one.


Words used to describe the "triggers" of anger include being wronged, lack of justice, betrayal, mistreatment, resentment, being dumped on, having one's space or person invaded, having social norms violated, reputation hurt, being made to feel helpless, frustration, blocking of goals, lack of control, and so on.

My thoughts: Yes... I have experienced all those triggers today - being wronged... it ticks me off that I cannot get a doctor to resolve this medical issue now before it becomes life threatening, a severe lack of justice... I feel the injustice is in not being able to get a doctor to listen, betrayal... doctors are supposed to care, mistreatment... my elderly relative should not have to go through this pain because of a doctor not giving appropriate treatment, resentment... at medical personell, being dumped upon... resenting that I am the one who must always work through this person's many illnesses, but feeling guilty for feeling that emotion, but also being angry that other family members do not help enough, having one's personal space invaded.... it effects my every waking moment, having social norms violated... the normal routine is destroyed until the problem is resolved, reputation hurt.... I cannot concentrate on work or anything other than my worries and concerns about my elderly relative, made to feel helpless... pretty obviously my whole state of being at the moment, frustration.... again, ditto.... my whole state of being, blocking of goals... what, goals are a thing of the past it seems, lack of control... yes, 100%.

The commonality (essence) among all these events is that there has been a violation of expectations, of the order of your reality, especially in reference to one's personal order, i.e. one's identity. In other words, we respond to a situation with a sense that this shouldn't be happening, especially not to me. There is a certain way things should be: I have rights, I have my pride, my reputation; what I do is my business, I should be able to complete it, it should work out as I expected it would; this is the way things are done in this society, and certain variations introduce chaos and cannot be permitted; the world has a certain lawfulness to it, including perhaps a justice that is above any merely social law, and you or this event violates that lawfulness.

My thoughts: I cannot state my own emotional construct any better than that above. I want to run, kicking and hollering. I want to punch my fist through walls, I want to take a hammer and destroy something. I will not do any of these things, but it is how I feel at the moment.

It is clear, though, that not everyone responds to these situations with anger. We might also feel fear, and run away, or sadness and make an effort at adjusting ourselves to the violation.

My thoughts: Yes, I feel all of those things. I feel the fear, the desire to run away, the anger, the saddness.... the violation... I feel them all simultaneously.

There is good reason to believe that, if we look carefully, anger is not the first feeling we have, that some other feelings come before it. First comes a distressed awareness of things being out-of-joint. Anxiety might be a good word for it. It is also a possibility that anger comes before sadness, that even those of us who readily accept things and learn to live with them have some experience of anger before we accept. So, one thing that distinguishes anger from other responses to problems might be its position, i.e. second.

More concretely, anger involves an active response to the problem. Anger sees the problem as "out there" rather than "in here," and it sees it as something to be confronted, rather than run away from.

Although most of our anger comes from people, we can become angry at just about anything. We can become angry at things, such as when we have a flat tire. It prevents us from doing what we want, it takes away our control of our own lives, and therefore makes us angry.

We can also become angry at ourselves, as when we do something stupid. You can only do this when you can separate yourself as victim from yourself as cause, i.e. if you can "externalize" one part of you, so that you can blame "it" without acknowledging your own need to adapt. It's always a "stupid mistake." If you push someone who is angry at themselves, they will quickly become angry at you. If it is fully accepted, it becomes sadness instead.

We also experience vicarious anger, that is, we get angry at things that happen to others, even when these things don't impact on us. This may be just a matter of, again our own sense of justice being violated; it may also be due to our ability to put ourselves in someone else's shoes (sympathy, empathy, compassion...).

One person put it nicely: He said that anger comes from your soul, i.e. from your identity, from who you are. Despite all the physical and behavioral effects so easily associated with anger, it is basically "from your soul."


The bodily correlates of anger are clear, even when we are only a little angry. The heart rate changes, predominantly upwards, and the heartbeat seems louder. Breathing is labored and faster. The hairs on the body often stand up, giving us "gooseflesh." The body, and especially the face, tend to feel hot, flushed, and we may redden. We may feel light-headed, or that our blood has collected in our heads. Our skin, especially the hands, can become clammy. Our eyes may tear. We tend to get a light (and sometimes severe) stomach upset,olften described as "a sinking feeling." Our mouths and throats often seem dry, and our throats feel constricted.

Our muscles become tensed. This is often felt as a build-up of pressure, a feeling like we are about to explode. We may become "hyperactive," pacing, touching and handling objects restlessly, grinding our teeth, clenching our fists, tapping our feet. Our speech tends to become louder and faster.

All this tension can make us tired, give us headaches, neckaches, backaches, and the like, especially if we are "holding it in." But generally, we feel as if we have a great abundance of physical energy, as if we were stronger than usual.


We also become hyperalert, at least to events relevant to our anger. That is, we are ready, or set, to perceive some things and not others. Our attention is, of course, focussed on the object of our anger, as if it were likely to be a source of further trouble. It has become dangerous.

We also focus on the anger itself, dwelling on it. Our thoughts spin, "feeding" it by recalling other injustices. It has a "snowballing" aspect to it, with a real sense of loss of control. The anger runs us, not the other way around. We are "consumed" by it, it "eats" at us.

There is a sense of the animal in us when we are angry. It has an reflexive or instinctive quality to it, which we expect others to understand. If someone were to ask us, especially while we were angry, why we were angry, we tend to be put off: Wouldn't anyone get angry in this circumstance? The anger is felt as a violation of a universal rule, not just our own particular need or desire. (Hence, it is very hard to reason with an angry person!)

Our focus is narrowed, like tunnel vision. The rest of the world "vanishes" or at least becomes insignificant. If the world -- especially other people, even friends -- forces itself on us, we address our anger at it as well. For example, if a friend tries to calm us down, we may push them away or tell them to shut up. We are not terribly tolerant. And we can't seem to find pleasure in anything.

We lose our perspective -- precisely what we need to regain control -- and begin to see the world as a hostile place, and life as intrinsically unfair. We may become paranoid and interpret all things through the anger. We "see red," see things as if they were too close, intruding on us.

With effort, we may gain some control, but it is difficult, and the anger is always underneath the control ("seething"). Any lapse of attention, and we are angry again. Sadly, at this time when we need our "coping strategies" the most, they are least available to us.

The essence of all this is that we feel as if a certain way of looking at things has been forced on us, that we must see things in this angry way. Anything that might lead us out of the anger is ignored or reinterpreted. We are not ourselves when we are angry.


There is a goal through all this: We desire to return a situation prior to the event that triggered our anger. Basically, this translates into an effort at removing or destroying the person, thing, or event, or anything that approximates removing or destroying, such as diminishing ("cutting him down to size," for example). But anything else is just a substitute. This desire is hard to satisfy: You just can't reverse time.

My thoughts: Yes. All of the above is true. I thought getting this down on paper might help. Thus far it has not. I am still angry as hell, scared as hell, and frustrated as hell. I truthfully hate everything at the moment.


Thursday, October 06, 2005

Beautiful Words from the Master Wordsmith... Mr. Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain)

Nicotine Nannies

I don't want any of your statistics; I took your whole batch and lit my
pipe with it.

I hate your kind of people. You are always ciphering out how much a man's
health is injured, and how much his intellect is impaired, and how many
pitiful dollars and cents he wastes in the course of ninety-two years'
indulgence in the fatal practice of smoking; and in the equally fatal
practice of drinking coffee; and in playing billiards occasionally; and in
taking a glass of wine at dinner, etc. etc. And you are always figuring out
how many women have been burned to death because of the dangerous fashion
of wearing expansive hoops, etc. etc. You never see more than one side of
the question.

You are blind to the fact that most old men in America smoke and drink
coffee, although, according to your theory, they ought to have died young;
and that hearty old Englishmen drink wine and survive it, and portly old
Dutchmen both drink and smoke freely, and yet grow older and fatter all the
time. And you never try to find out how much solid comfort, relaxation, and
enjoyment a man derives from smoking in the course of a lifetime (which is
worth ten times the money he would save by letting it alone), nor the
appalling aggregate of happiness lost in a lifetime by your kind of people
from not smoking. Of course you can save money by denying yourself all
those little vicious enjoyments for fifty years; but then what can you do
with it? What use can you put it to? Money can't save your infinitesimal
soul. All the use that money can be put to is to purchase comfort and
enjoyment in this life; therefore, as you are an enemy to comfort and
enjoyment where is the use of accumulating cash?

It won't do for you to say that you can use it to better purpose in
furnishing a good table, and in charities, and in supporting tract
societies, because you know yourself that you people who have no petty
vices are never known to give away a cent, and that you stint yourselves so
in the matter of food that you are always feeble and hungry. And you never
dare to laugh in the daytime for fear some poor wretch, seeing you in a
good humor, will try to borrow a dollar of you; and in church you are
always down on your knees, with your ears buried in the cushion, when the
contribution-box comes around; and you never give the revenue officers a
full statement of your income.

Now you know all these things yourself, don't you? Very well, then, what is
the use of your stringing out your miserable lives to a lean and withered
old age? What is the use of your saving money that is so utterly worthless
to you? In a word, why don't you go off somewhere and die, and not be
always trying to seduce people into becoming as ornery and unlovable as you
are yourselves, by your villainous "moral statistics"?

Now, I don't approve of dissipation, and I don't indulge in it either; but
I haven't a particle of confidence in a man who has no redeeming petty
vices. And so I don't want to hear from you any more. I think you are the
very same man who read me a long lecture last week about the degrading vice
of smoking cigars, and then came back, in my absence, with your
reprehensible fire-proof gloves on, and carried off my beautiful parlor

There isn't a helluva lot I can add to this. It is pure truth. I think I will e-mail a copy of this post to my baby brother. He needs to wisen up some.


Wednesday, October 05, 2005

The Beauty of the Neuron

Sometimes I forget how fortunate I am to be able to be a university professor.... and especially a science professor. For those of you who may not know, I am a biology professor, more specifically my fields of specialization are in endocrinology and neurobiology... basically I am a scientist who studies the "communication" systems of animals (including humans... and humans are animals... but I will leave that go for a future discussion about the theory of evolution). The nervous system is an electrical communication system whereas the endocrine system is a chemical communication system. These simple definitions are adequate in a very simple sense.

For a large multicellular animal to survive, it must be able to successfully coordinate all of its cells towards a unified goal. The nervous system (the brain, spinal cord and the peripheral nerves) acts as an electrical (actually electrochemical is more apt) system to conduct messages throughout the body. We can think of this communication system as being akin to the wires in the telephones we have in our homes. These wires carry a small electrical current that actually will allow a facsimile of our voices to be conducted along them over vast distances. In the same vein, the neuron is basically a "wire" that will conduct an electrical impulse from one cell in one region of the body to another cell or cells in a seperate region of the body.

The neuron is a truly remarkable cell. And there are literally billions of these cells organized excrutiatingly well in order for us to function. It is amazing how we as humans somehow as a species had the innate understanding of circuitry like is seen in the neuron and devised a grandly macroscopic version of this in our electrical system we have globally. I wonder if our structural design influenced the external creativity we expressed in our inventions?


Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Asked in the Nicest Way Possible

What in the hell are RSS feeds, and do I need one? After seeing the little RSS symbols over most of my favorite blog and photoblog sites, I am beginning to feel severely underendowed and in need of a blog remedy akin to viagra. So, here are my specific questions:

1. What the hell is an RSS feed?

2. Do I need one of the damn things to increase traffic to my blog? Or is it actually just a bunch of bullsh*t and I do not need one? If I need one, how in the living hell do I do this?

3. From the small amount of research I have done, it appears there are about a dozen different versions of the damnable RSS feed (such as ATOM, XML and others). Which one is best, or which one is going to be better for me (such as being able to attract more viewers, or being a helluva lot easier to use or some such other valuable criteria)?

4. It seems like a helluva lot of people have these RSS feeds.... and some of them even seem to be less capable at computer gizmos than I am (and I am a veritable dullwit about computer issues)! If they can do it, and knew to create these feeds.... why the hell was I so out of the loop?

5. Even though I am not sure if this is true or not, it seems that RSS feeds may be important to attract viewers who want to read all of their blogs in "a single stream". Is this true? If so, does this mean they get some sort of little packet in their e-mail of the blogs they want to read? If so, does this remove the design of the blog itself and turn it into just text? If so, who the hell would want to read a blog without all the bells and whistles of how it looks?

I truly do not understand this issue and would appreciate any advice given.

P.S. #1 - Please be sure to read yesterday's post, and please add comments on the new color scheme and look at some of the new links.

P.S. #2 - What the hell is "comment spam" ? It seems more and more of the blogs I enjoy are talking about this. It sounds bad, but why do I not receive any? Even if it is bad, it makes me think my blog must be pure horse sh*t because it does not even garner enough readership to attract the b*st*rd spammers.


Monday, October 03, 2005

A Slightly Different Look

In order to avoid research I was not excited about conducting this morning, I instead played. How did I play, you ask? Well, I decided to modify aspects of my blog. The following are the changes:

1. I have culled out links to blogs I no longer find appealing.

2. I have FINALLY added links to the numerous blogs I have found interesting to read that I had not added originally. Please look to my links section and give many of those sites a try.

3. I have decided to change colors of my blog for a while. I am not sure the current colors will be long term (unless I become more lazy), but I needed to see a very different set of colors for a while so that I could clear my mind of the previous pallet. Let me know what you think of the new color scheme and suggest alternatives (including the hexdigit codes if possible).

Those are the major changes. I look forward to comments, suggestions, etc.

P.S. It is so damn pleasasant having Sir Walter Raleigh in the bowl of my pipe again. I missed it during my cold.


Sunday, October 02, 2005

The True Deal

Although I enjoy a wide plethora of different tobaccos in my pipe, various flavored cavendishes, different burleys, viginian tobaccos and also latakia and perique on the occasional whim, and medicinally, I have occasionally mixed other leaf in the bowl as well (see the catnip notation below), there is one true leaf that signifies the 100% pure notion of the pipe. All of the other leaves have their appeal and are interesting from time-to-time, but for my neurons and synapses, it is the good, old-fashioned, cube-cut, powerful-as-hell, whisky-tinctured burley called "Sir Walter Raleigh" that finds its way into the bowl of my pipe at least 75% of the time.

Sir Walter Raleigh is the true deal. It is the primary pipe tobacco my own beloved father smoked. It is the leaf I first snuck a pinch of out into the woods that memorable day I wrote about when I first leanred the magic of the pipe. It is the the leaf I am pretty damn sure all of my younger brothers cut their smoking-teeth on as well.

It is rich, it is soothing, it is good right to the bottom of the bowl. It is Sir Walter Raleigh.

This morning is the first bowl of Sir Walter Raleigh I have had since Monday (I started feeling sick from the bronchitis Monday evening and switched what I was smoking to the recipie in the previous post). It is good to be back to the original, the true deal. Sir Walter Raleigh.


Saturday, October 01, 2005

Returning to Routine

After being way-layed by a horrible, horrible case of bronchitis this week, I am finally returning to the day-to-day world. This particular respiratory infection has swept across our campus and even though I had cancelled classes for three days, many students did not know of the cancellation. I had a total of 27 students leave me voice mail messages telling me they were not going to be in class due to what sounded exactly the same as what I have been suffering from.

This particular form of bronchitis was especially noteworthy due to the enormous amount of green mucous that one would cough out in a short period of time. In addition to the antibiotic prescribed by my doctor, I also used my own failsafe "herbal" rememdy to help me shed mucous quickly. When I am suffering from an illness such as this, I suspend my traditional pipe smoking in favor of smoking every 4-6 hours a bowlful of a concoction I first mixed together while in graduate school long, long ago. The mixture is not the pleasure my normal pipe tobacco indulgence is, but instead is designed for a specific purpose (I cannot recall exactly where I read this recipie, but I think it was a colonial biography of some sort I read). The mixture I indulge in consists of a very bland, tasteless, dull pipe tobacco (I typically use Prince Albert for this, as it is the most dull and boring pipe tobacco I know of commercially), to this leaf I add dried catnip and a small amount of sage. The ratio is roughly 2/3 Prince Albert, 1/3 catnip, and just a sprinkling of sage.

It does the trick... it is an excellent expectorant and I easily cough out copious quantities of mucous.

I believe tbat on Sunday I shall be able to return to my normal pipe tobacco... for pleasure activities.