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, February 16, 2005

Forgiveness Isn't For Wimps

To truly forgive is a gift in itself, and is indeed much harder to accomplish that one may suspect. It is often easy to presume to forgive however it is common for old resentments and angers to creep back into our thoughts. Today I am trying hard to become more aware of and better to able to fully forgive. It is a gift I wish to experience for those I love, but in reality there are a few that I dispise that I should figure out how to forgive as well.


Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Smearing of Blood

Today is the day of Passover. In ancient times Jewish people were instructed to slaughter a lamb and paint the transom above their doors with the animal's blood to keep them safe from slaughter of their first born son.

In this same vein, I believe I should adopt a symbol that will be my own indication of my hope and prayers for protection of my loved ones. Even though my research involves animal surgeries and I could access blood, I do not feel it is a necessary part of the symbol for me. Instead, for my own personal marking of passover, I shall afix a broad band of red tape to the transom of my door. In this way I symbolically embrace the notion of accepting that the safety of my family, those that I love is only to a very limited extent in my own hands.


Monday, February 14, 2005

St. Valentine

It is believed that there are two different St. Valentines. One was a priest/physician who sent letters of love and encouragement those suffering persecution in the Roman Empire. The other was a bishop who had exceptional faith.

As today is the day of love, please take the time to embrace mentally, emotionally and also physically those in your heart and give them an extra dose of your love and committment to them.


Sunday, February 13, 2005


To begin, it was a wonderful evening of imbibing, pipe smoking, animated discussion and debate, and peaceful, boozy snoozing last night. My father-in-law and I both had a helluva good time. The shared bottle of Wild Turkey was empty at our feet as I walked out the door with my wife as we went home after her gathering.

* * * * *

At mass this morning, a very critical idea was brought to my attention though the homily given by our priest. In a very unique way he brought to my attention the following concept:

"We will be most tempted in life through that which we are most accomplished (that which is our greatest gift)."

What is meant here is that if you are wonderful and skilled at say, being a builder/carpenter, it is far more likely that your temptation to sin will NOT be in something you know little about (say for example, in the stock market) but instead will be in the urge to skimp on or cut corners in the items you build.

I think this is suprisingly profound and likely true. It *is* where we are most skilled that we could most easily sin and be successful at being so without immediate consequence.

For me, as a professor, I need to contemplate on this idea today. What is my greatest gift? It is likely my knowledge of science. I hope that I do not use my knowledge in a hurtful way for others, and I believe it will be good for me to think through to see if I can find any aspects of where I use my knowledge to hurt others. I sincerely hope not.


Saturday, February 12, 2005

Operation Rice Bowl

Started by Catholic Relief Services in 1975, the concept of "Operation Rice Bowl" was to keep a small container (aka the rice bowl) in the home where a family would put the money saved from fasting for later donation to the hungry.

On this day, I renew my effort at almsgiving to help make the world a better place for us all. I need to be more aware of my place in this world. I need to find more and better ways of helping others.

* * * * *

I am fortunate tonight in that my wife and her mother wish to attend a girl's only social function. Because my mother-in-law worries about my father-in-law being alone for long periods of time at his age, I have been invited to spend the evening with him. I have just talked to him on the phone and asked him which liquor of choice he would like to consume this evening ("Wild Turkey, very nice!") and if he would like me to pick him up any new or different pipe tobacco for our festivities ("No, not necessary.").

Therefore, I should keep the post short today so I may go get a fifth of Wild Turkey before my wife is ready to go. It should be a damn fun evening!


Friday, February 11, 2005

World Day of the Sick

The Roman Catholic Church celebrates the world day of the sick every February 11th. It is a celebration of the appararition of Mary to St. Bernadette Soubirous in France.

On this day, I feel it is important for me to be thankful for the health that my family is currently experiencing. Worries about health abound for many in my family and it is a situation that is a major part of my stress and anxiety. I love my family members so greatly and fear their loss.


Thursday, February 10, 2005

Extravegant Giving

On this day after Ash Wednesday, I am called to reflect on the following question:

Shall I be small-minded or large-minded in my giving this Lent?

The obvious answer is, of course, to be large-minded. To me, this has resulted in the following as the foci of my Lenten efforts this year:

The Three Types of Fasting I Select:

1. To fast from giving mean and negative thoughts about others.
2. To fast from receiving mean and negative thoughts from others.
3. To fast from becoming frustrated or angry and ignoring the love of family.

The Three Types of Prayer I Select:

1. Prayer to God et. al. about more than simply my fears about family and keeping family safe and healthy.
2. Prayer (discussion) with others about deeper issues beyond what is a part of the typical day-to-day work conversation
3. Prayer in my own mind in a way to be more meditative and soothing as opposed to being drastic and desperate and fearful.

The Three Types of Almsgiving I Select:

1. Devoting more time to work at a soup kitchen.
2. Identifying a series of various regional volunteer opportunities and having the five-ten minutes prior to my starting lecture in a class (the time when students filter into class) be devoted to encouraging a spirit of volunteerism.
3. Identifying new ways to be of service to my comunity.

Wish me luck, friends.


Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Ash Wednesday

A short post for today, in keeping with the solemnity of the day. On Ash Wednesday, we have the ashes of palm fronds rubbed onto our forehead as a penitential custom. The ashes were choosen to remind us of our mortality. From dust we came and into dust we shall return.

A small comic that was pulished in an old Roman Catholic magazine that has stuck with me through the years revolves around a group of children who in their playing out-of-doors, will re-enact various aspects of the mass. The comic was meant to be touching and grin inducing, not "ha-ha, hillarious" in terms of its impact. In the most memorable of these various comics from this artist was one that re-enacted Ash Wednesday. In the yard was the young kid who was pretending to be the priest... one of his father's ties draped over his shoulders to give the image of a vestment, and he held one of his father's cold pipes in his hands and was using the pipe ashes as a mimic for the palm ashes that are the symbol of this day. Every time I think of this comic, I grin.


Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Shrove Tuesday

Today is the day prior to lent that most folks refer to as "Fat Tuesday". In my neck of the woods that usually involves eating plenty of paczki (sometimes spelled more phonetically: pounchki, punchki) and vowing to sacrifice ourselves by swearing off all sorts of the simple pleasures in life (for alot of the men in my region, favorites to give up are beer, or whiskey, or tobacco). It is typically a fun day that is slightly tinged (and rightly so) with the knowledge that we are about to embark on a journey of struggle.

However, less commonly mentioned is that today is also Shrove Tuesday. In this traditional day before Lent activity (which originally dates to the middle ages), people were urged to confess their sins in order to be absolved from them (shriven from them). In addition they would prepare for even deeper self-examination and attempts to grow.

Therefore, below I shall list what I consider to be the most agregious of my many sins. As I believe all of us sin, and likely sin more often than we may even be aware of, I list those that I am most aware of and most ashamed of:

1. I have sinned in becoming angry and aggrivated at family members that I love so dearly.

2. I have sinned in being impatient with family members who need my patience.

3. I have sinned in talking negatively about others at work, even if what I said may be true... it is wrong for me to do this.

4. I have sinned in hurting the feelings of family and friends.

5. I have sinned in wearing a condom during a session of physical love (This is a sin for me as a Roman Catholic because it goes against our philosophical teachings. It is not sinful for those of other faiths or philosophies.).

The above are those actions I am most displeased with in myself and seek absolution for. However, I realize that true absolution will only occur for me philosophically if I make the effort and acheive success in changing those actions in the future.

Comments are appreciated, as always.


Monday, February 07, 2005

What These 40 Days May Mean

"Do people weigh you down?
Don't carry them on your shoulders.
[Instead] take them into your heart."

. Dom Helder Camara (1962)

I believe that this quote from Dom Helder Camara (a Brazilian Bishop) is very significant for the journey I wish to take. His words speak of a purpose beyond only reacting to the actions of others. In my "Ignore the Insanity (ItI)" approach to living, I believe I have take that first step.... I am not carrying those that weigh me down upon my shoulders. There is more to do, of course, but currently I am trying to have the "Ignore the Insanity (ItI)" stick in my mind and personality so as to clear it for thought and creativity. Taking others (even the "weighty") into my heart will be harder, but also very important to learn after I have a firmly established ItI routine.

On another note, Dean wrote in my comments a suggestion that it needs to be my pipe and tobacco that I fast from during Lent. I believe I understand his reasoning, and it is valid. However, it is also a traditional sort of reasoning that he uses. I am not yet decided which approach to fasting I shall take. It may be that sort of traditional approach or if instead I need to take a more global approach. Comments are of course greatly appreciated.


Sunday, February 06, 2005

My Lenten Plans

In order to begin my journey this upcoming Lenten season, I wish to devote my energies to a series of three items... Fasting, Praying, Almsgiving. The following lists are some of the ideas I am considering for each category. I will be narrowing down the focus as the next few days pass until I am ready for my focus to start fully on Wednesday.


To fast is to refrain from something. Most people assume this should be something you cherish and select to deny yourself, and yes, this is one way to look at fasting. I, however, think that fasting can also be a way to try to distance yourself from aspects of your life that may keep you from fulling realizing the joy each of us seek. From that perspective, I have the following list of candidates for me to fast from during lent:

1. my beloved briar pipes and pipe tobaccos
2. intoxicating beverages
3. deserts
4. snacks
5. cuss words
6. mean and negative thoughts about others
7. mean and negative thoughts from others
8. becoming frustrated or angry and ignoring the love of family
9. being worried, scared, and emotionally disabled by family illness

The first five of this list are traditional things many people refrain from for Lent. However, for me it is far more likely some of the items in items 6-9 will be my focus for this Lenten fast. I truly do not take issue with my indulgences in items 1-5. But, perhaps, I shall think about it further and consider all of the above more deeply.


To me, prayer is multi-faceted. The common notion is to talk with God about life. But I feel prayer can also be more universal... it can be talking to one's self in our mind, and can also be our heartfelt communication about life with others. From this perspective, I have another list of prayer items I am considering foci on during this Lenten season:

1. Prayer to God et. al. about more than simply my fears about family and keeping family safe and healthy.
2. Prayer (discussion) with others about deeper issues beyond what is a part of the typical day-to-day work conversation
3. Prayer in my own mind in a way to be more meditative and soothing as opposed to being drastic and desperate and fearful.

I am unsure of the above three. There may be additions, but I would like all three to be a part of my Lenten efforts. However, it may be much more successful to limit the focus to one or two.


Almsgiving (acts of Chairty) can occur in numerous ways. Monetairly, temporally, emotionally, and physically are a few of many different ways to be charitable to others. In this vein, I am considering the following:

1. Devoting more time to work at a soup kitchen.
2. Donating funds to a variety of local and regional charities.
3. Identifying a series of various regional volunteer opportunities and having the five-ten minutes prior to my starting lecture in a class (the time when students filter into class) be devoted to encouraging a spirit of volunteerism.
4. Identifying new ways to be of service to my comunity.

Again, all of the above are items I would like to explore further. But I think narrowing my focus may be most successful.

That is it for today, I shall continue to mull over these ideas and flesh them out more. It is my hope to have a firmer idea of my foals during Lent by Tuesday and to being their implementation on Wednesday.


Saturday, February 05, 2005

"Philosophy of Life"

The IGNORE THE INSANITY message was important for me to recall. I am very happy I have remembered that mantra that I had created a while back to help me cope with some utter mean, nasty behavior and stupidity that is occasionally in the periphery in my life. To ignore this aspect of life helps me to be stronger and happier and more content.

As we approach Lent, I think I may talk a bit more my philosophy on life. I am hopeful you will find this enjoyable and interesting. Please know that in addition to this aspect of my "philosophy", I will continue to post traditional updates as well.

For the record, I am a practicing Roman Catholic. For ME, the ideas and philosophies of the Roman Catholic faith are very, very much in keeping with how I wish to live my life and how I strive to be in this world of ours. Sometimes people think it is odd that a scientist such as myself is also religious. This is unfortunately a byproduct of the idea common to many today that to be "religious" is to give up any sense of normalcy about logic and reason. This idea about being religious is in my opinion due to the rather extreme behavior and extreme actions of who I call the "extreme fundies".... those who do not have an inkling of understanding about what the words faith, know, and prove mean. I shall leave to your own imaginations which religious factions I am refering to.

In my own philosophical construct on life, it is understandable that the word FAITH means to believe in something that is not provable. By not being provable does not mean it is not true, but in the same vein if something is NOT provable, it can and could well be false. For me that is how I view my religious faith/convictions.... I believe in God, but I nor anyone on the planet can PROVE God exists, for NONE OF US CAN KNOW with certainty that God exists. It is IMPOSSIBLE TO KNOW if God exists and it is IMPOSSIBLE TO PROVE God exists. That is the magic and the beauty of FAITH. I can believe in something (in this case, God) without proof.

Just because I believe in God, does not mean that I am at odds with people who do not. In my own beliefs, if I were to not be able to be Roman Catholic, the next faith I would select would be to become Jewish, and if that were not possible for me to select, I would be most comfortable with the agnostic or atheistic mindset. Some may find the above odd, but it is very much true for me. My FAITH allows me to believe in God, but I could easily be wholly wrong. Whether I am right or wrong has no real bearing on my life here on Earth, for my belief in the Roman Catholic Faith is simply a skeletal framework upon which I build my day-to-day life. The doctrines and dogma of the Roman Catholic Faith are a philosophical framework upon which I view how I am and how I should strive to be as a person.

As a philosophy of life, the doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church is essential to me. And even if it is actually false about God, it does not matter, for even lacking God, I would wish to behave in the same manner in which I strive to now.... basically being a deeply thinking man, who attempts to enjoy life in a way that involves service to others. Life is meant to be enjoyed and one of the biggest ways to enjoy life is to try to make a difference... to make our world a better place. Social justice is a significant aspect to my philosophy on life.

So, in a nutshell, I am going to begin my philosohpical writings here in this blog as a manner for me to discuss and describe my feelings about the events of Lent that eventually will culmunate as Easter Sunday.


Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Ignore the Insanity

It is often easy for me to get pulled into the drama of University politics. God knows there is a helluva lot of it at any institution. After being grumpy as hell yesterday (and reporting it in the blog), I have again decided (or to put it better... I have become recognizant of) the Zen-like, philosophical construct I have labeled "Ignore the Insanity!"

I have decided to remove myself as much as is possible from the assinine political bullsh*t that swirls around me, for the reality is that there very little if any impact I can have on the issues because the foolish people involved can neither a) be made to understand logic, nor b) be over-ridden by faculty input. It is not WORTH my time to get upset in this case, even if being upset and frustrated is appropriate, correct, and wholly justified. All that my anger will do is hurt and frustrate me, and diminish the amount of time I have in life for love, friendship, frivolity, and fun.

In the same way, I am thinking about trying the "Ignore the Insanity!" approach when I have the occasional frustrations with a loved one as well. It will be much more difficult with a loved one, but if I can figure out how to incorporate this ideal, it may just prove fruitful.

Therefore.... I am not in the midst of an "IGNORE THE INSANITY" mindset. I feel somewhat better already for it.


Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Big Heads - Small Brains

It is galling how sometimes administrative types believe that they are the only people of importance at a university. For the most part, adminstration.... deans, vice presidents, presidents, the registrar, and technology services people are simply bags of hot air. The purpose of a university is simple.... education: to allow professors/teachers/instructors to teach students information on a variety of topics. The university provides the skeleton, the framework to allow the professors/teachers/instructors to do their job.

Unfortunately in this era of "W", the administrators have their big heads butting into each and every part of education, and even though their gaseous heads take up a helluva lot of space, their miniscule brain capacity makes their presence utterly anti-education oriented.

We have a registrar here that feels he has the right to tell us the best way (actually the ONLY way) we can have students take our courses. He has absolutely no understanding of science, the process of science, nor the needs of our students. He is so blatently assinine that if I were portraying this on television or on film, people would boo and yell at the screen saying the story-writer/producer is a fool for making a character so utterly unbelievable and ficticious and a characature. "Certainly there is no way in hell anyone would be like that fool who is being portrayed on the screen!" they would holler.

But, no, as God is my wittness, I speak the truth and state categorically that our registrar is a pure, blooming, assinine, idiot.