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.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Hot Damn!

Grades are done and turned in! I am going to go have some fun with my elderly father-in-law, a good bottle and some new pipe tobacco.


Thursday, April 27, 2006

What Is It?

I am not sure why this is, but I want people to read and comment on my dream I wrote about in Wednesday's post. If you have not done so, please scroll down and read it.

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I am feeling a bit manical today. I am filled with excess energy. I have been inspired by thoughts of grant writing and new research possibilities. It is rare indeed for me to feel that way about writing grants, but with the Winter semester ending, and Spring/Summer beginning, it seems that all can be possible again!


Wednesday, April 26, 2006

It Is All Over

I was so exhausted when I went to sleep last night...

The clock on my dresser said it was 3:35 am, so I had only been to bed roughly an hour and a half, but now I could no longer sleep. My body ached from tiredness, but all I could feel was anger and frustration at the world. It seemed as if everything were going wrong, my students were being pushy about grades, they were suggesting I was too "hard" on them, an idiotic co-worker had just enacted a Departmental policy that meant a sh*tload more paperwork for me every damn week. Add to this my wife was ticked off at me about some minor indiscretion, a couple of my kids were being loud and foul-mouthed, and the cable television had gone out. Even the dog was contributing to my sour mood by being ill and vomiting great chunks of foul-smelling meat byproducts all over the carpets, the beds, and nearly every damn place I walked as I got up out of bed and went downstairs to my study.

I thought that maybe a good stiff drink would help me relax so I could go back to sleep. Because of the end of the semester flurry of activity, I had not kept the bar area in my study well stocked... supplies had dwindled to damn near zero. In fact, the lone bottle left, a fifth of Chivas Regal (not even my preferred whiskey) had at most only a shot or two left in the bottle. As I walked over and sat the bottle down on my desk, my foot must have caught the tip of the end of the tail of one of our cats that was sleeping under my desk and he let out a loud caterwall that startled me causing my hand glance slightly against the neck of the bottle. This caused the bottle to tip off the edge of the desk and it went crashing to the floor with a carcophony of shattering glass. More anger and rage began to well up in me. I let the moist glass fragments lay in their splayed pattern across the hard travertine flooring and I walked to the other side of my desk and sat down hard in my big leather office chair. I glowered, looking at my pipe rack. I reached over the front row to the back and selected one of the pipes I had inherited from my father after he had passed away. I needed to feel a bond with him now, his memory would help me to relax. Having the tactile memory by holding his beautiful pipe would sooth my raw soul.

As I filled the bowl of the pipe, I did start to feel some of the harsh emotion subside. Unfortunately, I realized, I had left my lighter upstairs on my dresser. Luckily however, I had a few utility lighters in a drawer of storage at opposite side of my study, by the bookshelves. So I slid the lovely pipe into the pocket of my robe and was just starting to stand to walk over to the drawer, when the cat whose tail I accidently stepped on came out and rubbed against my leg. Instinctively, I leaned over to pet him and scratch his cheeks.


I both heard and felt the noise in my pocket and knew immediately what had occurred. I reached into my robe pocket and pulled out the pieces of the pipe, the shank had snapped clear from the bowl in a splinter of briarwood. My rage at the world then exponetially elevated in my mind and I suspect my blood pressure shot up at least 30 points, and became so enraged again that I grabbed a whole stack of student work I had been grading and flung it violently across the room. Pages flew in every direction. As I threw the papers I happened to glance out the window and remembered that I had left my truck parked at the curb because some friends of my wife had their vehicles parked in the driveway when I had arrived home. More anger, more rage as I stomped out of the study down the hall, through the kitchen and out the back door. Once there, I continued to move with heavy footfalls, move across the yard to the street. Halfway across the yard, I put up my hands in a sign of further aggravation as I had not picked up the damn keys. Curse words of a variety I typically do not use, began to be uttered under my breath as I walked back to the house. I grabbed the keys off the counter, and headed back to my vehicle.

As I approached the front of the vehicle, I saw, from a bit of residual light from the moon, a small rectangle of paper apparently attached to my windshield. A damnable parking ticket!

I roared! Every neuron in my superego and ego must have shut down at that very moment as my id-fueled rage exploded from me with such vehemence and rancor that I was not fully aware of what I was doing anymore. Without any conscious decision making, I was uttering explicatives at the top of my lungs, and I had reached into the cab area of my pickup truck and went under the seats and pulled out the Ruger revolver I had and gripped it tightly pointing it at the sky while hollering such foul language as had never been uttered from my mouth before. I aimed at the moon and shot four times at it, brass bullet casings expelled after each shot. Suddenly something snapped back into place and I realized how out-of-control I had been, and I quickly started my truck, moved it back into the driveway, and ran inside back up to my bedroom. I quietly undressed and slid back into bed without waking my wife. Of course I did not sleep, but I pretended like I did.

At daybreak, I was nervous as hell about all the crap that had transpired only a few hours before. Did anyone see me? Did any of the neighbors awaken and report the gunshots? Was I safe, or would the police be arriving at any moment?

As I glanced out the window of my bedroom, I could see my neighbor, Margaret, standing in her yard and peering into the roadway, where my truck had been the evening before. She walked over and picked up two of the spent casings and carefully put them in a small plastic bag.

Sh*t! My body began to shudder from fear. I was now positive she would be reporting the incident to the authorities. Even if she didn't know it was me, the reported gunshots would lead to an investigation and it was pretty damn likely that my fingerprints were on those casings from when I had loaded the revolver! My mind raced again and I ran off and threw on some work clothes and headed downstairs without talking or eating and got into my truck and sped to the University.

Quickly I got to my office and closed the door behind me. I sat down and the tears welled up in my eyes. I sobbed such deep, gasping sobs, that for part of the time I was worried I could not breathe would cause myself to have a heartattack.

It must have been at least an hour that I sat there and sobbed, but eventually my sobs gave way to short gasps and then finally to a quiet of sorts for my body. There was a knock on my door, which of course sent my heart racing as I feared it was the authorities, but when I opened the door, I saw it was only my work/study student, Lori. Her eyes were bloodshot and it looked as if she had been crying. In the back of my mind, I simply said "Sh*t, how the hell do I look?!?"

Lori didn't do much except to sit down at the extra chair in my office.

"I'm so sorry!" she wailed, the tears beginning to flow down her cheeks again. "I have to tell you..."

It literally felt as if my blood had ran cold in my veins. I was afraid she was pregnant.

Damn, damn, damn, damn!! I started to curse in my mind. I had only been intimate with her ONE time! The affair with her was perhaps four, no, actually it was now fully five weeks ago. It was a single time. I regretted it then and the level of regret was now reaching even greater heights.

I stammered out, "Are you pregnant?"

She looked at me and started to utter this unearthly wail, more tears streaming down her face.

It took several minutes, but then she was able to utter, "No! I'm not pregnant.... I am HIV positive!"

I grew weak in the knees and the room seemed to spin about me. Even though I could not see it, I could sense that I was fainting and could feel my legs and lower body buckle under me as I fell to the floor.

|Beep|, |Beep|, |Beep|, |Beep|, |Beep|

... and I did not feel refreshed when my alarm clock went off and I awoke this morning.

The above is a literal and true retelling of the dream (nightmare) I had last night. It is as factual and detailed as I can recall. This dream (nightmare) was one of those types where everything seems so utterly real that you have a hard time discerning *if* it *was* real or if it was a dream. It took me probably a good 10 minutes before I was calmed down enough to evaluate how preposterous the feelings I was experiencing were. Here are the facts of my life in comparison to the above dream (nightmare):

1. Yes, I was exhausted.
2. No, I did not awaken at 3:35.
3. No, I did not shoot at the moon.
4. I do not own a revolver or any handguns (I only have two hunting rifles, for deer season).
5. I have never had an affair on my wife, nor would I ever.
6. I do not have a work/study student named Lori (I have one named Melinda).

So, although I am relieved none of the things I wrote about were real, my physical body felt all that emotion and stress during the dream and I am utterly exhausted and beyond tired today.

What do I attribute this rather atypical dream event to? I am not exactly sure, but I have a sneaking suspicion that part of it is due to the sloppy, foot-long turkey, ham, and pastrami sub I ate when I arrived home last night at around 10:30pm from my spring class. The fact that I also lathered on a very heavy layer of garlic and red pepper humus across the entire sandwich probably did not help either, and the half of a full-sized bag of BBQ potato chips may also contributed to my general malaise. I also had a huge piece of my wife's chocolate cake just before I went to bed at roughly 2am.

And.... what the hell does this dream mean?


Tuesday, April 25, 2006


I am sorry, but I am too damn tired to write at the moment. I have the end of Winter Semester overlaping with the start of Spring Semester today. I am scheduled for a 14 hour day. I will write tommorrow.


Monday, April 24, 2006


Not too damn bad for a frumpy old professor.... I have had over 30,000 visitors! The milestone occurred sometime this weekend.

Thank you!


Friday, April 21, 2006

Important To Read For All

While I would like for you to read my more personal essays (see Thursday and Wednesday), I thought the following from was too important for you to not be exposed to. Please read the following... it will likely affect us all if congress enacts this b*llsh*t:

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copied from

Do you buy books online, use Google, or download to an Ipod? These activities, plus MoveOn's online organizing ability, will be hurt if Congress passes a radical law that gives giant corporations more control over the Internet.

Internet providers like AT&T and Verizon are lobbying Congress hard to gut Network Neutrality, the Internet's First Amendment. Net Neutrality prevents AT&T from choosing which websites open most easily for you based on which site pays AT&T more. Amazon doesn't have to outbid Barnes & Noble for the right to work more properly on your computer.

If Net Neutrality is gutted, MoveOn either pays protection money to dominant Internet providers or risks that online activism tools don't work for members. Amazon and Google either pay protection money or risk that their websites process slowly on your computer. That why these high-tech pioneers are joining the fight to protect Network Neutrality[1]--and you can do your part today.

The free and open Internet is under seige--can you sign this petition letting your member of Congress know you support preserving Network Neutrality? Click here:

Then, please forward this to 3 friends. Protecting the free and open Internet is fundamental--it affects everything. When you sign this petition, you'll be kept informed of the next steps we can take to keep the heat on Congress. Votes begin in a House committee next week.

MoveOn has already seen what happens when the Internet's gatekeepers get too much control. Just last week, AOL blocked any email mentioning a coalition that MoveOn is a part of, which opposes AOL's proposed "email tax."[2] And last year, Canada's version of AT&T--Telus--blocked their Internet customers from visiting a website sympathetic to workers with whom Telus was negotiating.[3]

Politicians don't think we are paying attention to this issue. Many of them take campaign checks from big telecom companies and are on the verge of selling out to people like AT&T's CEO, who openly says, "The internet can't be free."[4]

Together, we can let Congress know we are paying attention. We can make sure they listen to our voices and the voices of people like Vint Cerf, a father of the Internet and Google's "Chief Internet Evangelist," who recently wrote this to Congress in support of preserving Network Neutrality:

My fear is that, as written, this bill would do great damage to the Internet as we know it. Enshrining a rule that broadly permits network operators to discriminate in favor of certain kinds of services and to potentially interfere with others would place broadband operators in control of online activity...Telephone companies cannot tell consumers who they can call; network operators should not dictate what people can do online.[4]

The essence of the Internet is at risk--can you sign this petition letting your member of Congress know you support preserving Network Neutrality? Click here:

Please forward to 3 others who care about this issue. Thanks for all you do.

--Eli Pariser, Adam Green, Noah T. Winer, and the Civic Action team
Thursday, April 20th, 2006

P.S. If Congress abandons Network Neutrality, who will be affected?
Advocacy groups like MoveOn--Political organizing could be slowed by a handful of dominant Internet providers who ask advocacy groups to pay "protection money" for their websites and online features to work correctly.
Nonprofits--A charity's website could open at snail-speed, and online contributions could grind to a halt, if nonprofits can't pay dominant Internet providers for access to "the fast lane" of Internet service.
Google users--Another search engine could pay dominant Internet providers like AT&T to guarantee the competing search engine opens faster than Google on your computer.
Innovators with the "next big idea"--Startups and entrepreneurs will be muscled out of the marketplace by big corporations that pay Internet providers for dominant placing on the Web. The little guy will be left in the "slow lane" with inferior Internet service, unable to compete.
Ipod listeners--A company like Comcast could slow access to iTunes, steering you to a higher-priced music service that it owned.
Online purchasers--Companies could pay Internet providers to guarantee their online sales process faster than competitors with lower prices--distorting your choice as a consumer.
Small businesses and tele-commuters--When Internet companies like AT&T favor their own services, you won't be able to choose more affordable providers for online video, teleconferencing, Internet phone calls, and software that connects your home computer to your office.
Parents and retirees--Your choices as a consumer could be controlled by your Internet provider, steering you to their preferred services for online banking, health care information, sending photos, planning vacations, etc.
Bloggers--Costs will skyrocket to post and share video and audio clips--silencing citizen journalists and putting more power in the hands of a few corporate-owned media outlets.
To sign the petition to Congress supporting "network neutrality," click here:

P.P.S. This excerpt from the New Yorker really sums up this issue well.

In the first decades of the twentieth century, as a national telephone network spread across the United States, A.T. & T. adopted a policy of "tiered access" for businesses. Companies that paid an extra fee got better service: their customers' calls went through immediately, were rarely disconnected, and sounded crystal-clear. Those who didn't pony up had a harder time making calls out, and people calling them sometimes got an "all circuits busy" response. Over time, customers gravitated toward the higher-tier companies and away from the ones that were more difficult to reach. In effect, A.T. & T.'s policy turned it into a corporate kingmaker.

If you've never heard about this bit of business history, there's a good reason: it never happened. Instead, A.T. & T. had to abide by a "common carriage" rule: it provided the same quality of service to all, and could not favor one customer over another. But, while "tiered access" never influenced the spread of the telephone network, it is becoming a major issue in the evolution of the Internet.

Until recently, companies that provided Internet access followed a de-facto commoncarriage rule, usually called "network neutrality," which meant that all Web sites got equal treatment. Network neutrality was considered so fundamental to the success of the Net that Michael Powell, when he was chairman of the F.C.C., described it as one of the basic rules of "Internet freedom." In the past few months, though, companies like A.T. & T. and BellSouth have been trying to scuttle it. In the future, Web sites that pay extra to providers could receive what BellSouth recently called "special treatment," and those that don't could end up in the slow lane. One day, BellSouth customers may find that, say, loads a lot faster than, and that the sites BellSouth favors just seem to run more smoothly. Tiered access will turn the providers into Internet gatekeepers.[4]


1. "Telecommunication Policy Proposed by Congress Must Recognize Internet Neutrality," Letter to Senate leaders, March 23, 2006

2. "AOL Blocks Critics' E-Mails," Los Angeles Times, April 14, 2006

3. "B.C. Civil Liberties Association Denounces Blocking of Website by Telus," British Columbia Civil Liberties Association Statement, July 27, 2005

4. "At SBC, It's All About 'Scale and Scope," BusinessWeek, November 7, 2002

5. "Net Losses," New Yorker, March 20, 2006

6. "Don't undercut Internet access," San Francisco Chronicle editorial, April 17, 2006

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Thursday, April 20, 2006

Professor Kinbote... I presume? Or is it Professor Pnin?

Thank you, Guy, for your wonderful comment comparing my blog to Pale Fire! It caused me to roar with laughter and delight! I was glad I was in my back office when I read your comments, for I could not contain myself and being back there, did not attract any unwanted attention.

A perfect comment, I must add, for it not only tickled my funnybone, but at the same time gave me pause and the impetus to step back a bit to examine my writings here in a different light. You may be right and are very astute to suggest my efforts here align with Professor Kinbote. Perhaps the self analysis route of my writings has created in me a rather self-flagellating, Dr. Phil-esque sort of mindset?

While I can truly see how I may be compared to Professor, Kinbote, I think perhaps I see my own self, when I peer deep within, to more akin to Professor Pnin, in the Nabokov work of the same title. Professor Pnin, is to me a rather "George Castanzea-esque" sort of bumbling everyman... a man who has big dreams, hopes, and aspirations, but basically is little more than a pitiful bum slaving away at life, always alternating beliefs of grandeur with despair.

Thank you again, Guy, and also thank all of you for your comments to me about whether or not I am condescending. A special note for Shaded... in case he did not see my reply to him in the comments section:

I actually did not mean my post to sound condescending toward my students. On the contrary, I actually myself find "American Idol" to be mildly entertaining and watch the program semi-regularly when I am not preoccupied with other matters.

I would hope that my general tone and demeanor is not condescending, but you have been the second person to suggest that in the last few months. It is indeed interesting to gain new insight into myself by your and other's comments. I think I shall make a post about this today actually.


Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Am I Condescending?

Over the past two months or so, two different people have suggested I am condescending. One situation was said by a very good Internet friend of mine when I modeled an aspect of my blog after his in a way I thought fun. His feelings of my being condescending took me off-guard and I apologized and removed the offending part of my blog. The second time was more recent... yesterday in fact, where a new Internet friend and commenter suggested I had a condescending attitude toward my students. This again caught me off guard for I did not mean my essay in a condescending manner.

Therefore, my question to those of you who have read my writings often, do I give off the impression of being a condescending person through my writing? If you feel "yes" I do act in a condescending manner, please elaborate on why you feel so, in order that I may learn from the examples how to modify my behavior. And for those who answer "no" I am NOT condescending, I sure as hell hope you will also elaborate on why YOU feel I am not... because I will need some moral support.

I am hopeful this will prove an interesting exercise, and if it is indeed the case that I am perceived in this negative manner by many, I DO hope to modify my behavior in such a way so as to not give off that impression.

I do not see myself as a condescending person... and I would like to fix that impression if I do project that.


Tuesday, April 18, 2006

A Wonderful Day

I am not sure what caused it, be it the new vanilla-tinctured burley in my pipe, the 4th cup of hazlenut coffee I have drank, the actual sunshine that I can feel on my face and beard as I sit before my office window (sun is a pretty damn rare commodity in these parts), or simply the realization that we are close to the end of the semester, but most all of the thoughts I have had outside of lecturing have been focused on ideas of new research I want to start this spring and summer.

All sorts of beautiful possibilities exist for my new strand of research this summer. Of course, as always the research will have a close tie to endocrinology, neurobiology and physiology, but the actual model system and the goals and objectives are yet still aloft in the jungle of ideas in my mind. It is a wonderful feeling to explore those ideas, feeling the thoughts emerge, develop and compete with each other for prominence and a shot at being the research I will focus upon. For those of you students of mine who may be reading this (instead of studying I may add), I suspect it is akin to the pleasure you obtain watching the "American Idol" television show and seeing the drama unfold as each week passes and more and more good singers (aka ideas in my thought process) fall by the wayside.

Beautiful, simply beautiful!


Monday, April 17, 2006

Busy Beaver

Today has been a source of great activity on my part... mental activity that is. I have written and set up a laboratory practical exam for my anatomy & physiology students, written a laboratory examination for my neurobiology students, and written and submitted to the photocopy center the final examinations for both of those courses. Additionally, I have written and photocopied review sheets for the anatomy & physiology students and even started to work on a Spring Semester syllabus.

Easter was a busy day as well, with travel to and fro, visiting with all sorts of relatives and kin.

The first line in my post reminded me of a snippet of a lyric. The first person to correctly name the origin and derivation of the lyric will win a cigar:

"Oil that is, black gold, Texas tea."


Friday, April 14, 2006

Sleepy as Hell

Today is one of those days where I feel more tired when I got up this morning than I did when I went to bed. I have no known reason why.

1. I think I had restful sleep (I had a bit of insomnia early on, but I know I was asleep by 1:30am at the very latest latest (I usually go to bed around 1 am on most nights and usually fall asleep immediately.

2. I got up at my usual time of 5:30am. It was uneventful.

3. I did not eat, drink, or smoke my pipe in any abnormal manner yesterday or this morning.

4. I felt an extra burst of energy last night.

Any theories?


Thursday, April 13, 2006

Neurobiology News Flash

The article below is a very exciting new discovery about the organization of brain tissue that was recently reported on in the news:

Brain's Darwin Machine: Scientists find evidence of a perpetual evolutionary battle in the mind. The process, they suspect, is the key to individuality.

By Robert Lee Hotz, LA Times Staff Writer

April 11, 2006

LA JOLLA, Calif. — Alysson Muotri was looking for brain cells that glow in the dark.

With growing frustration, the 31-year-old Brazilian cancer biologist stared through his microscope at slides of brain tissue for any evidence his experiment had succeeded. His eyes ached.

Maria Marchetto, 28, took pity on her husband. Let me look, she said. In a darkened room at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies here, she began to scrutinize the tissue samples for firefly flecks of fluorescent light.

Together, the couple stalked an elusive sequence of DNA hidden in the heredity of every human cell. The wayward strand appeared to seek out developing brain cells and, like a virus, arbitrarily alter their genetic makeup.

In this way, it might be partly responsible for the infinite variety of the mind.

In debates over creationist doctrines, evolutionary biologists often are hard-pressed to explain how nature could make something as intricate as the human brain. Even Alfred Wallace, the 19th century biologist who discovered natural selection with Charles Darwin, could not accept that such a flexible organ of learning and thought could emerge by trial and error.

No two brains are exactly alike, despite their overall anatomical similarity. Each brain changes throughout a lifetime, altered by experience and aging. Even the simplest mental activities, such as watching a moving dot, can involve slightly different areas in different people's brains, studies show.

Underlying every personal difference in thought, attitude and ability is an astonishing variety of brain cells, scientists have discovered.

Some neurons fire only when they perceive a straight vertical line, others when they are exposed to a right angle. Some respond to the emotions in a facial expression or to social cues. Others retain a memory long after conscious recollection has faded.

To respond so selectively to experience, each of these cells must vary incrementally from its neighbors, as singular as a face in a crowd.

Yet what could generate such diversity?

If Muotri's suspicion was correct, a peculiar string of biochemicals caused the billions of neurons in each person's brain to develop in distinctly different ways, so that even identical twins could develop minds of their own.

Muotri and Marchetto searched hundreds of slides for any sign that the DNA sequence had altered brain cells. Each tissue sample took an hour to analyze under ultraviolet light.

When Marchetto closed her eyes, she could see the glowing afterimage of neurons.

The spidery cells, she would say later, crawled through her sleep.

In every human brain, there are as many neurons as there are galaxies in the known universe — about 100 billion, drawn from 10,000 different cell types and woven into a three-dimensional tapestry, with threads of neural interconnections that number in the trillions.

Each one is tinder for the spark-of-life experience.

Memories are made of this gray matter. So are inspiration and imagination.

Electrochemical currents of intellect and emotion race though living labyrinths of neurons at 200 mph. When they are blocked, diverted or damaged, abilities atrophy. Personality disintegrates.

By exploring the life and death of these cells, researchers hope to learn how biochemistry becomes thought.

Among the molecules of mental life, they are finding signs of an evolutionary struggle for survival.

In the womb, brain cells increase at a rate of 250,000 a minute. The total doubles after birth. By age 3, a child's brain, on average, has twice as many neurons and neural connections, and is twice as energetic, as an adult's.

Already, a ruthless competition is underway.

Throughout developing brain circuits, neurons and synapses vie for sensory stimulation — the electricity of touch, vision, taste, hearing and smell. Some thrive, while others atrophy for want of exposure to life's raw experience, to be eliminated at a rate of thousands per second.

By adulthood, more than half the neurons a brain possessed in early childhood will have died.

For many years, scientists were convinced that the brain quickly lost its ability to produce new neurons. But in the last decade, independent research teams at the Salk Institute led by Fred W. Gage and at Princeton University by Elizabeth Gould showed that even middle-aged minds generated thousands of new neurons every day in areas crucial to learning and memory.

Inside the Darwin machine of the brain, therefore, the survival struggle of neurons and synapses lasts a lifetime.

In this competition, the forces of variation and selection that shape a species also sculpt each brain, neuron by neuron, creating the biological truth of individuality.

"The neurons are never identical," Muotri would say. "They are all slightly different."

Not so long ago, scientists were certain that genes dictated everything about the brain. But when researchers successfully analyzed the complete human genome three years ago, they discovered that it contained only 25,000 genes — not the 100,000 they had predicted.

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This news is profound because if we have now unlocked a key to understanding the mechanisms of how unique brain development can be explained using arguments similar to that of the theory of evolution... and apply them at the competitive level of the cells in a single brain... the possibilities are endless.


Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Talkin' to the Prez

Unfortunately another short note. I received an "invitation" to attend a dinner with the President of the University this evening, and so I must. We shall see what the hell it is all about.


Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Light Writing

Busy times are these. I have read and graded 25 senior level essays today, and during the latter part of last week, I read through 75 sophomore level papers. I am tired of reading such work because unfortunately over 3/4 of the sophomore papers and even more unfortunately 1/4 of the senior level essays are so dull and insipid because the authors do not give a damn.

It is such a treat to read my favorite blog writers/artists to be refreshed in spirit and mind. Such greats as Paula's House of Toast, Plark, Noli Irritare Leones, and the now defunct Unconventional Ideas. Each of these blogs had a unique style and a voice all their own. They make the world grand!

Thank you.


Monday, April 10, 2006


Thank you, all of you who wrote concerning the passing of my family pet. He was truly a gift to us and the loss my family is feeling is still very heavy. But as in all aspects of life, each day, the hardship grows more bearable, and we grow in ways to accomodate that new burden.

Today has been a day of rather limited focus. I strived to get a great deal of work done, and only had 5-6 students stop by. However, I spent much of my day in idle daydreams and meanderings that can easily envelope a whole day.

For some reason, one of the thoughts I had waft in and out of my conciousness all day was based upon a old advertisement for cigars entitled Habanas Quality Cigars by Steve Forney. In my manner of belief and philosophy of life, his image captures just the perfect image of the cigar. Beholden in a dashing fashion in a white gloved hand, this image all at once brings to mind gentlemen in the late 1800s who would wear stiff, black suits with tails and top hats, white gloves and would carry around pocket watches with chains attached to fobs. To me this is the primary positive image I have of the cigar and this advertisment art work is a perfect image to recall those ideas for me.

As everyone knows, I am primairly a pipe smoker (probably 95% of the time these days), but I will typically have one or two cigars a week. Unfortunately, I never feel so gussied up as the above image suggests I should. My normal garb of wool or corduroy jackets and kakhis is much more befitting the image of the pipe, so it is good that the briar pipe is my primary medium.


Friday, April 07, 2006

Goodbye to a Wonderful Friend

Unfortunately, the illness that befell our eighteen year old cat was not simply a minor reaction to his insulin. In my mind, I knew this on Wednesday evening, but I tried to help him with those techniques. It was simply that he was at such an advanced age, and having been diabetic for seven years (nearly eight years), that his body had become worn out.

On Thursday I knew that things were bad when he could not jump onto the couch to lay with me as he has done nearly every evening since he was young. I picked him up last night and positioned him so he could lay there as he always had. I stroked his cheeks, and scratched his chest just like always. It took almost 10 minutes, but even in his weakened condition he grew comfortable enough to purr very quietly. Until Wednesday, he had a purr of contentment that was enormous and could be heard clear across the room. His great size and rangy frame was now thin and his muscles had grown weak. He laid there, against my chest, seemingly comfortable enough until I went to bed.

On Friday (today), it was ever more apparent that the end was near. He had great difficulty walking, and would fall over onto his side after only a few steps. I laid there on the floor with him, holding him close to me and petting him and scratching his cheeks. He was no longer able to offer any sort of purr, but I could sense he was glad I was near. I laid with him for three hours, and he grew weaker and weaker still. He no longer seemed aware of my presence as I pet him. Tears started to well from my eyes.

I picked up his limp body, his breathing very shallow, wrapped him in a large, soft bath towel and placed him into the pet carrier. The drive to the veterinarian was horrible. The sky was a dark grey and a mix of sleet and snow made visibility poor. The tears that were now a torrent from my eyes further obscured my vision and dampened my beard and moustache. My own quiet sobs were the only sounds to be heard.

As I walked in with him to the veterinarian's office, I was crying and grimacing, attempting to regain some sort of composure, but to no avail. I told the receptionist what needed to be done, and she escorted me to one of the small rooms used by the veterinarian for proceedures. She closed the door behind me and I took him out and laid him on the examination table, the towel between him and the hard, cold stainless-steel countertop. I stroked his sides and petted his arms, which were now quite cold. He did not move at first, but after a minute or so, he briefly raised his head perhaps half and inch off the towel and looked at me more aware than he had been for over an hour. The energy it took for him to do this was enormous and after that brief moment, his head went limp and the awareness was once again gone. He laid there breathing very shallow breaths while we waited for the veterinarian to enter.

The door opened and the vet and his assistant came in. They carried a syringe of a pink fluid (pentobarbital or metafane, I suspect) and an animal shaver. In a matter of moments, they had shaved the fur away from his left front forearm and were set to give the injection. Through this whole peroceedure, I had tears streaming off my face and into my lap, my beard and moustache wet and unable to absorb any of the additional tears. I was able to stay fairly quiet with my sobs, so as to not further disturb their work. Then the injection was administered. It took only a few moments for the minimial amount of life left in him to be exstinguished. They left me alone with him afterwards.

I would not have guessed that I coulc still further have even more tears stream from my eyes. After they closed the door, I let my pent up emotion loosen a bit and deep, rough sobs eminated from the very pit of my soul. I stayed with his body for roughly 20 more minutes, stroking his fur, feeling his body grow cold each passing moment.

I then left quietly and paid the bill to the veterinarian for his services. They will cremate his body.

Goodbye my loving friend. I shall not find such unselfish love as you gave to me again. You were a gift to me and to my family and we are all deeply sad at your passing, but we also would not have traded anything for the wonderful gift of your companionship.


Thursday, April 06, 2006

Some Improvement

The family has an 18 year old cat that has had required insulin injections for 7 years now (it is diabetic). In those seven years, it has had a bad reaction to insulin only 3 times. Yesterday, the cat was acting very odd, and so I went through the old treatment regeime to treat this possible insulin reaction.

Bascially, I would drizzle a thick glucose mixture down the back of its throat every 30 minutes using an eyedropper. I did this through the entire night, stopping at 5am to allow myself two hours of sleep and a break for the cat (as those of you who have cats know, the proceedure outlined above is not to the cat's liking).

When I checked on the cat this morning, the cat seemed to have improved somewhat. Given the cat's advanced age and health status, I am sadly suspicious that we are not out of the woods. I am concerned that in the very near future euthanasia will be necessary.

I feel tired and sad.


Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Ill Pet

I am dealing with an ill pet today, so I am not able to write much. Sorry.


Tuesday, April 04, 2006

The Flood Continues

If I didn't know better, I'd think I was the newest fad on campus. I had 16 different students show up at my office today. Again, I enjoy helping them, and being a support... but hell... 16 of them, plus teaching a two hour lecture, and teaching a three hour laboratory? I am bushed.

I am seriously thinking of swapping the computers between my outer office (the one with the window into the hallway (which means students know when I am in there) and my back office (the smaller one, behind my research lab... no one knows when I am in there. My outer office computer is newer (perhaps 8 months old) whereas the one in my back office is roughly 4.5 years old. I would be able to spend more time in the back office working on grants and writing, and not be constantly visited by an unending stream of students.

Please do not get me wrong.... I truly find pleasure in working with students, but hell, I never see 16 different students visit any other biology faculty member in a whole semester let alone in one day! And, there are 18 of us professors in the department! And if I stay in the outer office, that is all I ever seem able to do. No grants, no journal articles, no research. I think I need to do the switch, and then stay for very limited hours in my outer office each day. The added benefit is of course that I can smoke my pipe in my back office.


Monday, April 03, 2006

Grey Skies, Grey Mood

Grey is usually a color I find attractive:

a) my wife's silvery hair still easily gets my loins feeling passion,
b) the beauty of the grey/beige color of my den, with its dark wood trim is very comforting,
c) the beauty of the grey washed out wood of the old barn down the road from me with the faded Mail Pouch chewing tobacco sign has an artistic beauty,
d) even my furry face, the salt-and-pepper of my beard and moustache seems somehow dashing and pleasant enough to look at each morning.

However, the beautiful warmth of this past weekend (high temperatures at one point reaching 51 degrees!) was unfortunately accompanied most of the weekend with the most dismal, suffocatingly dense, grey skies around. On Saturday morning we did have a few brief moments of sun and blue skies, but other than that the density of the grey was oppressive. It felt as if we were all being covered by the banting of an unfinished quilt.... nothing could penetrate the heavy grey that enveloped us. Even on Sunday, with the wonderful start of Daylight Savings Time, we did not really get to experience much of the joy of the additional hour, because the heavy layer of grey made even noon feel akin to dusk.

It is odd, I am not usually that unhappy with grey skies. However, this weekend, even I found them excessive and dreary. I wonder why?

Oh, by the way, it is now snowing outside my window [sigh].


Saturday, April 01, 2006

Saturday, Substituting for Friday

Hello friends! I am substituting a post on Saturday because I ran out of time to post on Friday. Friday, like the last several days before it were extraordinairly hectic and busy. Again, like the last few days the work was good, and appropriate, but exhausting.

I had planned on trying to make an early get-away to spend some time with my elderly father-in-law and have a bit of raucous fun. However, it was not quite what I had hoped for.

I was able to leave the U only in the very late afternoon. By the end of the day I was wiped out mentally, and decided to see if there was any way I could squeeze in some time with my father-in-law. When I get there, everything was grand, but we did not have much time, and unfortunately my elderly father-in-law was a little anxious because he and my mother-in-law were going to eat dinner at another one of their offspring's house. They were planning to leave roughly at 5:30, shortly after my mother-in-law planned to return from shopping.

To make a long story shorter, that meant that our afternoon, albeit fun, was not as raucous and care-free as it often is. And for me, the added timeline that was set for us made my afternoon seem more rushed... much like work was... and no where near as relaxing. Instead, we simply had 2-3 beers each and a pipe or two, and then it was time for him to get ready and time for me to head home. All and all, a very nice time, but it lacked some of the level of fun I had been hoping for and did not approach the level of relaxation I had been needing.

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A brief note especially for PLARK.... sir... if you end up reading this, I have tried SEVERAL times to comment on your blog and the comments never show up from me, nor anyone. I believe your comments site may be malfunctioning.

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Have a good weekend, friends!