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.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Gift for My Baby Brother

It was with love, but with some trepidation that I gave my baby brother his primary Christmas Gift this year. Because this gift was of no cost, my wife also found him a nice sweater vest of the style he prefers to wear under a sport coat/jacket when he lectures. The sweater vest is a unique color of brown and olive and should mix with a variety of his brownish sport jackets.

But it is the other gift that I purposefully gave to my baby brother that has both made me feel happiness and yet at the same time feel worry. In order to help you to understand why I have these two emotions, I must first fill in some of the backstory leading up to this gift.

As many of my long-time readers know, I have numerous siblings, including two brothers (one I call the middle brother and the other I call my baby brother). When my beloved father passed away in 1994, my mother asked me to help to sort and distribute some of his more prized personal items to we eight siblings. As all three of us brothers were pipe smokers, I sorted through my father's various pipes (after my mother had selected two for her own memories to keep), and divided them equally according to quality and quantity. In my father's collection of pipes were a few from his own father (my grandfather) and two from his grandfather (my great-grandfather). Some of my father's own pipes were quite old and/or special dating back from his own youth, others were simply work horse pipes not particularly old, noteworthy, or interesting. These latter pipes were often the ones he would pick up at a local pharmacy or pipe shop for a few dollars to use for heavy day-to-day smoking.

So, my first action was to divide up the pipes with special meanings (pipes with special significance to my father, pipes from my grandfather & greatgrandfather, pipes that were particularly old, stylish, or unusual, and then the remainder of the work hourse pipes). I asked each of my sisters if they were interested in having a pipe or pipes as a momento of my father. Four of my five sisters did select a pipe that they have kept. Those four choices actually came out entirely from the "work horse" pipe as each sister seemed to choose one they remember him with later in life. My other sister that did not choose a pipe did not select one because she lives in New York, and her lifestyle is such that it is extremely mimimalistic due to space limitations.

The remaining pipes were to be divided between myself and my two brothers. I divided them evenly into three categories, trying to blend a mixture of old, special, and meaningful pipes with work horse pipes. It was fairly easy to do other than for the two pipes from my great-grandfather. But even that worked out well. As I gave my two brothers their portions of the pipes, I asked what we should do about the two from great-grandfather, we left to think about the issue. My middle brother (who is not sentimental) came to me said that he was ok about not receiving one of our great grandfather's pipes, and he would even be willing to trade back all of the "special" category pipes he received in exchange for more "work horse" pipes. Not being sentimental, he thought it would be best for me and our baby brother (both of us are very sentimental) to divide those. So that is what we did. And in this way, my baby brother received one of our great grandfather's pipes and so did I.

The whole process worked well and I felt I was able to help everyone have momentos from dad and from even grandpa and great grandpa if they wanted. For me, I have the very special pipes of my father, grandfather, and great-grandfather in a special display frame I made with a hinged door that I hang in my den. With each of them, I have a special day each year that I will take them and smoke a bowl of pipe tobacco im them. It is a very spiritual time. For example, I have one pipe that was one my father had since he was a relatively young man. He bought it while on his way to a deer hunt. I take this same pipe with me when I go to deer camp and out in the woods I will fill and smoke this pipe one time, while thinking of him. It is a small way in which I can still feel a connection to my father. I have various times for all the special pipes to be used in a special, more ceremonial manner.

Well, my baby brother too had a significant collection of special pipes as well... notice I said "HAD". It was roughly 4 years ago now that, in a fevered pitch of angst, my baby brother decided that he would cese and desist smoking in any form, and to "reform" each and every aspect of his life (he gave up coffee, became a macrobiotic vegan, and a whole host of other things). In order to help himself (or so he thought) resist the call of the pipes, he very late on that first evening following his declaration went to his garage with all of his pipes in a box and a hammer in his hand and smashed them all to bits.... even the historic pipe from my great-grandfather, the pipes from my grandfather, and some very special pipes of my father! I did not find out about this for several days. I was truly and utterly heartsick when he told me. By this time, he, himself had begun to feel significant remorse over the act as well. It was devestating.

As is often the case with my brother, he exhibits tremendous furvor and passion when he starts a new endeavor, but within a matter of a month or so, most of the hobbies he had sworn off had gradually returned, even the pipe smoking returned roughly 6 weeks after the smashing incident.

Well, in my long-winded fashion, I am trying to get to the point, which is I gave my baby brother one of the beloved special pipes I have from my dear father. I shall miss it greatly as it is one less way for me to be able to establish a connection of sorts with my father. However, I know my baby brother has been hurting and misses him and has been having a rough time himself. When he opened it, he was genuinely touched, and he even cried some, his young (toddler) daughter came up to him and asked why he was crying, causing even more tears.

My concern is he may go through another phase like previous and this historical link to my father is destroyed.

However, I must try to not concern myself with this, as I am hopeful he will not.


Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Saturating My Mind and Soul

I am working feverishly in my back office today writing syllabi for my Winter courses. I can see the bright early morning sunlight shine across the snowy field outside my office window. Two cardinals, one male and one female are singing outside the window.

As I sit here at the computer working on these syllabi and other course materials, I am saturating my mind and soul with two nectars of life that while unnecessary, help us mere mortals glimpse Nirvana:

1. In my new Peterson, I have a rich and beautifully potent blend of rugged, robust, shaggy burley leaf mixed with just a bit of blackberry & boysenberry tinctured cavendish. With each deep lungful I can feel the lovely lady nicotine course through my arteries to massage the receptors of the neurons in my frontal cortex. As I slowly exhale the rich grey smoke , the room develops a gentle haze that gives a softer focus to the surroundings, which contrasts beautifully with the crisp views outside the window. After the anticipated multiple bowls of this fine leaf, I am sure to feel even more vividly its joy.

2. I stopped at a local coffee house and ordered a "extra grande" (36 ounce) cup of hazlenut tictured Robusto Blend coffee. At only 1/4 through this rich blend, I can already feel the beautiful kinesis of the caffeine stimulate the neuromuscular junctions between my peripheral nerves and the muscles of my fingertips. It is a bold feeling and I anticipate even grander presence by the time I finish the whole container.

It shall be a grand morning.


Monday, December 26, 2005

Holiday Play

So, what did all of you receive for Christmas? I must have been a damn good guy this past year as I received a lot of very beautiful presents. The highlights include:

1. My wife bought me a simply beautiful Peterson, full-bent brair pipe that has an ENORMOUS sized bowl. The color of the briar is a very unique, yet beautiful walnut color with a yellow-golden cast. I tried it out for the first time yesterday evening at it works even better than its artistry.

2. From one of my kids I received another beautiful pipe, this one is a Dublin shaped (the shape much like is the image on my blog site) that was hand made here in the upper mid-west, and is a very unique dark brown/grey color. I am looking forward to trying out this beast later today.

3. From some of my other kids, I received a plethora of grand reading materials including books on photography, novels by several of my favorite authors, and a wonderful book on prize-winning vegetarian foods.

4. From my middle brother, I received an absolutely beautiful bottle of Russian vodka that he smuggled back from a trip last month. I have yet to discern the brand or what the bottle says, but it is ornate and beautiful. It is slightly larger than a fifth. I am eager to sample said.

Add to these gifts several pair of pajamas, a handsome corduroy sport jacket, and various other items, and I can tell you that my family has been very, very kind to me. They needed not go to such extravagence with me, for they already give me bountiful love, but I do relish and appreciate the beautiful gifts as well. I am hopeful that my gifts to my various relatives were able to please them in ways that help them to realize how much I cherish them as well.

I hope your holidays were grand as well!


Friday, December 23, 2005


I have hit the 25,000 mark on my counter. I am pleased to have had you visit.


Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Not Sure

I feel my extended family has yet to fully recover from the death of my niece eleven years ago. As I alluded to yesterday, she committed suicide on December 20, 1994. Here are some facts about the incident:

1. She was seventeen years old and was stupid.

2. She was a senior in high school and was at the top of her class.

3. She was accepted to the college of her choice and received substantial scholarships with more likely to have been given.

4. She wanted to become a high school teacher.

5. If she had lived, she would be 28 years old currently.

6. She, of course, will never be 28 years old.

7. She killed herself by overdosing on calcium channel blockers used to treat hypertension.

8. She was very artistic and creative.

9. She was moved by the rock singer, Kurt Cobain, and may have been influenced somewhat by his own suicide a few months earlier.

10. There was no note.

11. After she took the pills in her bedroom upstairs, her friend (with whom she was talking on the phone) hung up and called a neighbor friend to run over to tell her mother (my sister).

12. She then was woken up and walked downstairs and was driven to the hospital.

13. The people at the hospital induced vomiting by giving her charcoal to drink and also a syrup to encourage vomiting. She did this fully concious.

14. The doctors thought all was ok (stupid idiots) and decided to not give a blood transfusion. She talked with us and was in good spirits and was apologetic and actually even laughed a bit.

15. Apparently she either did not vomit out all of the medication and enough remained that it kept increasing in her bloodstream.

16. The medication then became toxic and caused her heart to fail.

17. She was unable to be revived because there was no way to reduce the amount of this medication in her bloodstream.

18. She died 15 hours after taking the medication.

It has been an incredibly devestating event in our family, and I do not think we have recovered. I am not sure if it is possible to recover. We have moved on, but each of us has a different burden, scar, or issue from this event. It was the culmnation of a very rough year in which 7 major relatives or friends of the family died.

I think we have all been changed by this event. I believe I am more callous and hardened because of this. I think my sister (the girl's mother) lives in the past primairly now. My youngest brother has been partially broke by this tragedy (he was away finishing his post-doc training when it happened). Other of my siblings have been affected in various other ways as well. My sister's other three children have had a variety of issues since the event.

It is so sad. Suicide, or the thought of suicide is NEVER the answer.


Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Prepare the Way

Hello Friends:

I apologize again for the lack of posts. It has been a draining time for my extended family, with an elderly member of the family having an illness. For the most part, however, I believe we are through all the difficult "stuff" until after the holidays, so I am hopeful I can return to a more normal routine. I wanted to thank the many of you who commented and/or sent me an e-mail offering encouragement. All the comments and e-letters were greatly appreciated.

I shall close for today with two brief notes:

One, my baby brother posted again (click here) and I would encourage you to read his essay for several reasons: a) he needs to develop a readership that comments to encourage him to write more, b) he too has been having to deal with the same family issues I have, c) he often has a harder time coping with these harsh issues than do I, and d) I *think* he may actually be realizing that there is so much more to life than the fears he seems nearly incapable of ignoring.

Two, as my baby brother wrote about yesterday, today is a difficult day in our extended family. A beloved niece (daughter of one of my sisters) committed suicide many years ago on this date. It was a tragic waste of a life and of a precious mind.


Sunday, December 18, 2005


Lack of Posts...Why?

I apologize for the lack of posts. My elderly relative will go in for her surgery tommorrow. We are still in a relatively good state, for the news has been relatively good (surgery is never good). Please keep my relative and my family in your thoughts and prayers. I am hopeful I shall resume a normal posting schedule on Tuesday.


Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Brief But Relatively Positive

It has been rough the last few days and hence no posts. The relative who has been undergoing the tests for the possible return for cancer has been on my and my family's minds these last several days.

It has been a time of frustration and fear. The frustration is from the lack of information or results from the doctor. We should have had results available for us on Friday, but the doctor said to be safe to call on Monday. We did. No results. We call back Tuesday, no results... but they say to call back right before close (4:30pm) to see if there is any news.

We sit and wait and the ill relative is nervous and scared. We are all nervous and scared. I felt more tense and uptight, and my muscles were clenched tighter than is healthy the whole while.

I call at 4:30. The results are relatively positive. There does not seem to be any cancer migrating from one tissue to another (the worst case scenerio and fear). Instead, there is simply only a single polyp, which may or may not be cancerous. The polyp is scheduled to be surgically removed on Monday.

So, while we are not yet out of the woods, the direction we are traveling gives some hope. Keep us in your thoughts and prayers. My muscles started to relax last evening, and I am literally sore as hell today. I do not handle stress well physiologically. I wish I knew how to change that.


Friday, December 09, 2005

Give Them What They Want

Of course there is still nothing new to report about my relative. Please keep her in your thoughts and prayers however. Monday is likely the day we will learn the results of the tests. I so hope and pray for a good outcome.

As I am not in much of a mood to write, I thought I would post below a modified version of a comment I posted on Unconventional Ideas, the grand blog by "Grumpy Old Man". In his blog he comments on the idea posted by Kevin the "Homeless Guy" about giving homeless people care packages... of things that basically are what we feel would be good for them. The Grumpy Old Man correctly postulates that what we should give instead is something of what the homeless INDIVIDUALS would enjoy. Here is my response (slightly modified for readability here:

Hello Sir!

I believe you are right on the money with your comments about Kevin's "gift bags" and what homeless people may really want. A case in point can be seen at any good sized college campus as there are often people who mill around campus asking for loose change. Some of these people may be homeless, and some have a home but cannot or do not work in the traditional sense ( do not get me wrong.... begging for change is work, however).

Over the years, I had formed a casual friendship with several of these individuals. In my experience, all of the individuals have been male, so do not feel I have been biased with the following, I simply have not had opportunity to meet change seeking females in my region:

Many, many years ago while I was in graduate school, the handful of people seeking loose change were all indulgers in tobacco, and I would often bring extra cigars with me and give them cigars to brighten their day (pipe tobacco, which of course was and still is my prefered method 90%+ of the time was not easily used by them, so my cigar stash was far easier to share). Being a poor graduate student at the time, it was not too often, but when finances would permit, I would buy these fellows a pint of somthing they liked to drink (all of them enjoyed alcohol too).

Today, there aren't nearly as many folks looking for change at the campus where I am employed as a professor, but over the years there have been typically 2-3 a year that I become acquainted with. The friendship I have with them is similar to those friendships I formed at the university I completed my graduate training. Most of these fellows enjoy the cigars I bring, and I have gradually learned what type of liquor each person prefers. Since professorial finances allow me more financial freedom than finances were when in graduate school, the fellows I know receive a fifth instead of a pint, and receive the gifts more frequently as well.

The one individual "change seeker" on our campus who deoes not share the joys of tobacco or alcohol is a different case. Instead of cigars and a fifth of something, he likes to receive books and food, which I am also happy to help out in. This indivudal is very interesting as he is perhaps 3-4 years older than I am, and I suspect he was a venerate "hippie" back in the day, for even in his difficult circumstances, he will only eat vegetarian food, and has told me several times when I originally offered him a cigar, that he did not smoke tobacco, but would enjoy "grass" [an old 60s term for marijuana] (which unfortunately I could not provide for him).

The take home message is simply this... if you want to help those who are homeless or indigent or whatever label you may wish to use, unless you are a social worker, or a community health director, the best way you can help them to be happier is to meet an immediate want or need of theirs. They are individuals and each will have his or her own need, be it food, or help finding shelter, or alcohol, or tobacco, or whatever it is. Do not put your philosohpical/moral beliefs above the needs of the individual. If the individual would most like a drink, even if you are an prohibitionist type, it would do you well to consider providing him with a drink, etc.


Thursday, December 08, 2005

Little to Say

I took our relative to her catscan yesterday and the test was conducted quickly and smoothly. Now begins the period of waiting, for now we must wait until the doctor decides to examine the results prior to giving us a prognosis. It likely will not be until Monday we were told. The wait is bittersweet, for not knowing the results if they are poor will give us the weekend to maintain a sense of normalcy, yet bitter because not knowing creates in us a fearful undertone to normal routine.

My last automotive post went over about as well as a lead baloon, so there is no point in my writing anymore such pieces. Still, I found them enjoyable. Please keep us in your thoughts during this time of worry. My little brother actually got the tone right in his most recent essay on the same subject. All of us in the family feel worry right now.


Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Weird, Wacky, or Wretched?

Again, please note... There is no news as yet about the relative I and everyone in our family is worried about. I shall be taking her to have a CAT scan later today. Again, please keep her in your thoughts and/or prayers. I again post something a bit "fluffy" to simply occupy my mind. I do feel sad and apprehensive. Perhaps you will enjoy this essay and offer me comments to read:

Yesterday's post about the vehicles I have owned had me think about the many different vehicles that I did not own that have caught my attention over the years.... today I shall focus on the odd or ugly, or if they were unique in some way that made them interesting to me. Here is a brief list:

Ford Edsel - perhaps the first mass-marketed "dud" with the public. I think the Edsel was doomed not because it was not a good car... it was, nor because it was considered "ugly" by many... it was marginal, but its looks have grown more appealing over the years. What I think made this automobile a dud was that it was launched during an economic downturn... and it was bigger, and more expensive than other models on the market at the time.

BMW Isetta - a true oddity. I have loved this little sardine can of a car ever since I first saw one promoted as a "special giveaway" if you bought a real car from this fellow's car dealership. I went with my father when he went to look at possible automobiles and although intrigued by the beast, he would not participate in the promotion. All across the US, car dealerships would offer the Isetta as a bonus. With looks only a mother could love, with seating for two, and a motor hardly bigger than many lawn mowers of the time, the US public thought of the Isetta as a toy. It would be fun to have one though.

Citeron C2 - a car with origins from before WWII. This Citeron (called various names, but undoubtedly the most recognizable Citeron in the US) is the French equivalent to the Volkswagen Beetle. And, like a comparison between the Germans and the French, whereas the Beetle was rock solid and dependable, the Citeron was quirky and stubborn. As is common in French culture, style won out over substance... but it is a damn beautiful beast of a car.

Volkswagen Karmann Ghia - Volkswagen's "sports car" in the 50's, 60's and into the early 70's. I loved the looks of this car, and so did virtually everyone. I remember humorous ads that Volkswagen put on television playing off the fact that while this car looked like a sports car, it was a bit "timid" where horsepower was concerned. In the day, many sports car commercials would feature a sports car breaking through a paper wall to "burst" into view for the camera. In the Volkswagen ad, the little Karmann Ghia tried to break through the paper wall, but all you could see was the nose of the car behind the paper trying to nudge it open.

Renault Dauphine - another French monster/beauty chimera. Designed for reliable transportation with style for the masses... this beast was interesting and reasonably attractive, but it had mechanics and electrical components that made the worst of the British automotive scene seem as reliable as hell. I remember a neighbor who had this car and recall his cursing at it very faithfully many, many mornings.

Citeron - another French beauty... but with the same flaws as all French vehicles of the time... as cantankerous as a wet cat with fleas. What is especially noteworthy, though is the beautiful and unique style of this vehicle compared to other cars of the time. The neighbor who owned the Dauphine (mentioned above) also ended up purchasing one of these beasts... although he was a dignified, gentle professor during most of his life, this car continued to allow him to hone his "angry sailor" vocabulary of cursing.

The next several automobiles feature primarily vehicles from the US produced in the early 1970s. These vehicles are so odd in appearance and such a departure from previous efforts by the four US automobile manufacturers that my secret suspicion is that virtually all the automotive designers and engineers of this time period were deeply immersed in the "marijuana scene" so prevalent in the late 60s and early 70s. I also hypothesize that the ample consumption of said marijuana helped these automotive types design cars that defied convention (and usually logic as well). But, I still find all of the following beasts interesting for many reasons:

AMC Gremlin - what can be said about this beast? Is it a regular car with the back chopped off, or is it a unique variation on the station wagon, only smaller? You be the judge. Still for all its ungangly appearance, it somehow is an appealing little car.

Ford Maverick - Ford wanted a small car, and it made this beast with a 6 cylinder engine or an 8 cylinder engine (small eh?). Strangely enough, I went back a few years ago and found a Maverick brochure that listed body dimensions. This "little" car for the 1970s was virtually identical in length, width, and tire stance to that of the "big" 1988 Buick LeSabre my father purchased as his last vehicle.

Chevrolet Vega
- another oddity, but somehow every appealing in looks. The Vega is arguably in the top 5 of all automotive lists of the worst cars of all time. But, it looks pretty damn nice. The problem is that its execution was horrid.... not only did it have a body that would often show rust BEFORE YOU LEFT THE DEALERSHIP, its body would be dangerously degraded within only 2-3 years of being in the salty roads of the Northern US. Additionally, this beast had lower than average ground clearance, so it would bottom out frequently and rocks and road debris would often scrape and damage the undercarriage. Add to this GM's first "attempt" at an aluminum engine.... which began to warp and seize with as little as 30,000 miles, and you get the picture. Still, the cars were pretty to look at. I think huge amounts of marijuana were smoked by the people who designed this car. I think it could have been a damn good car if after the doped up design and engineering teams created their image for the beast, they had found a sober team to execute the plans.

Ford Pinto - what can be said about this beast? Ugly and ungangly, with an odd triangular shape, the car was virtually without a trunk (the trunk was smaller than some glove boxes in other cars). The angles on the sheet metal, especially around the tire wells was such that they would hold water (and salt) much more easily than other designs and would rust very quickly. Not to mention the infamous "drop in gas tank" Ford used (and if you did not know, also used in the Ford Maverick and the Ford Mustang of the same era) that became the subject of lawsuits after several deaths attributable to this horrid design. I believe the designers were similarly doped up like with the Vega. And, even with all these NUMEROUS faults, the car still has some slight appeal in its looks. Not that I would have wanted one, however.

Honda 600 - lest you think I have ignored the Japanese here, I put forth the especially odd Honda 600. This automobile, which had seating for four was much, much smaller than Honda Civic that replaced it.... and the Honda Civic in 1973 (the Honda 600 was sold from 1970 - 1972) was the smallest car that could be purchased in the US. What was unique about the 600 were two features I found intriguing.... one, the manual transmission DID NOT erupt out of the floor like in most vehicles, nor did it jut off the steering column like many US cars to give the "appearance" they were automatics. Instead, the 600 had its manual transmission emerge from the front of the dashboard! Also unique and odd is that the 600 was named such because its motor was identical to the air-cooled motor Honda used in its 600cc motorcycle!

Volkswagen Thing - I think even the Germans must have indulged in a different leaf for their pipes when they came up with the idea for the "Thing". Basically it is the body of the military vehicle VW produced in WWII resurrected and modified a bit and painted one of several garish colors. Odd to see, odd to drive, and with no windows (yes, the last couple of years of its production had windows, but they leaked and were not particularly helpful), useless in the North.

Now as we enter into another decade (the 80s), cars become less wacky, but many are still HORRID:

Renault Le Car - the French return with this cute little car. So quirky, and so strange, and so much plastic everywhere.

Chevrolet Citation - this receives my vote for the UGLIEST automobile of all times. The design of this beast was basically to take a Chevette, put it on steroids, and neutralize any minor appeal the Chevette had to make the Citation even uglier. Not only was this car hideous to look at, it ran like sh*t and had brakes that would freeze up and not function. Pure crap that GM should be ashamed of.

Yugo - a communist variation on an Italian Fiat. Fiats are Italian, but share many attributes and failings with French cars... they are often attractive to look at and interesting to examine, but their reliability makes you want to keep a horse in your backyard. So, the communist country (at the time) Yugoslavia makes a counterfeit version of this Fiat, strips off much of its "prettiness" and cheapens its components (for example, you know how there is a rubber area by the pedals that is stitched into or fused with the carpeting.... well in the Yugo, it was put in place with water based glue! When the carpeting became moist, the rubber area would come loose).

Chevrolet Lumina Van - an imaginary quote by GM designers... "Hey, lets make our own version of the hottest new vehicle on the market (at the time the Chrysler Mini-Vans were a hot ticket item)! Lets make it look like the "Dust Buster" hand held vacuum cleaner!"

Pontiac Aztek - another imaginary quote from GM designers... "Hey, the "DustBuster" van didn't do so hot.... lets make a new one... this time, making it look like a frog!"

Of course, everyone will have his/her own list of vehicles to add. These just represent my own food for thought.


Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Anyone Remember?

Please note that the tests run yesterday were at best inconclusive. I do not have anything to report on that issue other than the family is nervous, and I need a diversion in order to not think about the harsh possibilities too much at this time. Therefore, in order to keep my mind from wallowing in the stress and worry, I post an unrelated, perhaps interesting to no one except me essay below:

I have not talked about automobiles before. I dare say I find automobiles enjoyable and interesting beasts to use and discuss. Here is a listing of automobiles I have had and my impressions of them (links show an example of the car, but are not actual photos of my beasts, nor of their color):

1963 Chevrolet Impala SS - beautiful car, wonderful looks, powerful as hell engine, beautiful chrome spinner hubcaps. I wish I had that car now. Cordovan Brown in color inside and out.

1971 Chevrolet Impala - an interesting car. The first car I had that did not come with the triangular vent windows (which I think was an effort by automobile manufacturers to force air conditioning upon us). This automobile was Burnt Orange in color with a black interior. I sometimes thought of it as a rolling pumpkin.

1973 Volkswagen Beetle - This automobile began my long love-affair with Volkswagen automobiles. A fun-to-drive classic the moment it was built. Cold as hell in the winter though. Brick Red in color, with a black interior.

1974 Plymouth Duster - A vehicle with a quirky personality. It was stylish enough for its time, but some of its features were archane even by 1970s standards (for example, the vents to allow air circulation were simply doors that opened near your feet... these doors connected directly to the outside. If used in the fall, leaves would flow in if you went over a leaf covered street, and in the winter, snow would enter. Hunter Green Metallic in color inside and out.

1979 Volkswagen Rabbit Diesel - My first diesel automobile and one of the most wonderful machines I have ever driven. My first front-wheel drive automobile as well. I truthfully would get between 50 and 54 miles per gallon of diesel fuel with this beast. It was dark sand/beige on the outside and dark brown on the inside.

1980 Chevrolet Chevette - A strange little car. Fun to drive, but when compared to the Rabbit, it felt like it was made of tin cans and aluminum foil. A rather odd color combination too... pale, milky grey on the outside, beige with orange accents on the inside. The gas milage of this beast was wretched in comparison to the Rabbit too, even though its engine was a four cylinder.... 18 mpg.

1984 Chevrolet Cavilier Station Wagon - a much more solid replacement for the Chevette. Fun and solid, and even though it was much larger and had a larger 4 cylinder engine, its gas milage was better too.... roughly 28 mpg. Dark brown exterior and grey interior.

1988 Mercury Topaz
- a damn nice looking automobile, but a veritable pile of horsesh*t. The car was utterly unreliable and would not start any day it was humid or between 20 and 45 degrees, and the dealer could not fix it even with numerous attempts. The car was black with dark grey upholstery and when waxed it was beautiful, especially the black constrasting with the significant chrome detailing. It also had those damnable motorized seatbelts because car companies were too damn chintzy to put in airbags until forced to.

1989 Ford Escort - a bland workhorse. As reliable as could be but as bland as toast. Again, another car with the damnable motorized seatbelts. Silver in color with a grey interior.

1995 Chevrolet S-10 Pickup
- my first truck and I will have to say I have been enamored with trucks ever since. They are so useful for the kind of nonsense I do.... including some aspects of my research (both lab and field work), home improvement projects my wife is pleased by my doing, and the volunteer work and other odd hobbies I work on. This beautiful beast was hunter green with a tan interior, but was totaled when not very old, when I was rear-ended at a stop light.

1996 Pontiac Grand Am - a reliable as hell, fun-to-drive vehicle that proved to be a strong workhorse for the family as well. You would be damn surprised at what you could fit in this small vehicle. Maroon exterior and grey interior.

1998 Cherolet S-10 Pick-Up Truck - the replacement I had for the beloved (but totaled) 1995 S-10. Equally valuable and dependable as the first. White exterior and grey interior.

2004 Dodge Dakota - beautiful and larger beast than the S-10 I had previously. Wonderful in all ways except gas milage. A current vehicle in our family. Red exterior and grey interior.

2004 Jeep Liberty - graceful but rugged looks, but also useful and fun to drive. A pleasure thus far. A current vehicle in our family. Dark blue exterior and grey interior.

That is it for me. What vehicles have you had? What do you think of the vehicles I have mentioned?


Monday, December 05, 2005

Worry & Concern

A elderly member of my family is ill and is going into the doctor's office for a test that could discern if the person simply has a stubborn infection or if the person could have cancer. This person had a bout of this form of cancer nearly seven years ago and went through chemotherapy and has been 100% fine in all checkups ever since, but there have been some severe infection issues that make all of us concerned and worried. I shall be taking her to the doctor for this test today and I am sick to my stomach with worry and my mind is angry with fear and stress.

Please offer thoughts and/or prayers for my elderly relative so that she may be well and have a great outcome for this visit.


Friday, December 02, 2005

Early to Arrive, Early to Leave!

Last evening when I went to bed at 2:30am, I decided I would make an earlier start of the day and get myself to work by 6:30am at the latest. And so I did, I set the alarm for 6am, and hustled myself quickly through a shower, into clothes and out the door to arrive here to accomplish more research (I am fortunate to not have courses to teach on Fridays this semester.). I am taking a brief pipe & coffee break as I write this, before I head back out into the lab to finish more surgeries.

The reason I decided to come in earlier than usual today, is that I have a mind to go pick up my elderly father-in-law and make a go of our usual pipe tobacco shop, liquor shop visits before we have a good old time of talk and friendhsip in the afternoon. I also am at a busy stage of the research, so in order to have a festive afternoon, I needed to arrive earlier than typical. Hence, this is why I arrived in my office at 6:30am.

The last time I was at the tobacco shop, I saw a new three-berry blend I am pretty sure both I and my father-in-law would greatly enjoy along with our drinks this afternoon. The berry mixture in the pipe tobacco is raspberry, cranberry, and blackberry. It should be damn good.

Have a grand weekend!


Thursday, December 01, 2005


Today is December 1st. And while we Catholics celebrated the first week of the Advent season at mass this past weekend, December 1st has always been when my own mind begins to feel the start of this new religious year. As a scientist and professor, people often find it surprising that I follow a religious paradigm. As for me, I see no conundrum in being of a scientific mindset and at the same time following a religious faith.

For me, the Roman Catholic faith offers me and my family a philosophical framework upon which to base our lives. Do we feel forced or compelled to uphold doctrinal issues of the Roman Catholic faith? No. Instead, what I and my wife feel and what I hope we have instilled in all of our children is the sense that there is a valuable reason, purpose, outcome and true logic in the philosophical teachings of our faith. By thinking about, reasoning through, and contemplating the pressing social and personal issues of the day from a standpoint of the philosophical framework of the Roman Catholic faith, our family can better acquire insight into their own individual decisions. For me, I cherish the philosohpies of my faith and find a true logic in them that is in true harmony with my understanding of our natural world through science.

Therefore, I have been quietly contemplating how I may work to become a better person in this upcoming year. As always, comments and suggestions are appreciated.