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, June 30, 2006

The Struggle

More illness has brought its evil strength upon the household. Now, medication induced nausea is rampant. The medication though, is for the rather mild illness.... but if she throws up it will mean all her heart/hypertension medications will too go out of whack (homeostasis). I am annoyed and angry and have basically wanted to say "to hell with" all the things I vowed yesterday. I am angry because I want a day or two of normalcy which never seems to happen.

However, I am struggling to keep my vows to you, my readers, so at least a brief post at the moment. Hopefully I can write more later about the details.


Thursday, June 29, 2006

Renewal & Living "Large"

As many of you who cared enough to send me an e-mail have realized, my postings tend to plummet during times of stress and/or anxiety. Such has been the case the last few weeks. Family health issues have been very troublesome and debilitating to my soul. The one thing I have been able to do during this time is to return to "getting inside" my own mind to allow myself to think more broadly. This has been the relatively positive aspect of my life these past few weeks. The remainder of the time has been spent in worry, fear, and utter saddness.... huge torrents of tears streaming down my cheeks and into my beard and moustache.

I have decided enough is enough.

I am going to desperately try to climb back to where I once was... out of this pit of sorrow and grief... to a point once again where I can live "large" as the kids these days so like to say. The methods I shall employ in my struggle to get back to my old way of life (a life I am missing) is the following (not listed in any particular order):

1. I WILL begin to post daily essays again! To write my thoughts in this medium is good for my life. Whether it is to praise, or to rant and rave, the quick burst of writing I do not only helps my friends and students keep abreast of my life, but also helps me to clear my head a bit so new thoughts can permeate through. I SHALL even vow to attempt at least a short post each day during the WEEKENDS too!

2. I will once again explore the beauty if life through through my pipes. During the last several weeks as I lost my foothold on happiness and joy in life my pipe remained a friend, yet I diminished her range of friendship for me. During these last several weeks I lost the will to survey all she can offer... and only actually smoked one particiular pipe, and only smoked the rather plain and very simple Prince Albert brand of pipe tobacco. No flavored leaves, no robust Sir Walter Raleigh, no anything to let me explore away from my mind of sorrow.

3. I will once again, starting Friday morning, take up my old habit of walking a minimum of 5 miles each day. I believe I last walked in this manner roughly at the middle of May and I can feel the effects of giving up on that hobby. The walking helps me to shed stress hormones, tones my musculature, and helps me feel content and happy. Since mid-May, the struggles of life caused me to believe the activity was superfulous and selfish. It is not, for it is to me like food or a vitamin.

4. Likewise, I plan to renew with vigor the times I spend with my elderly father-in-law, and may also branch out to finding new pals at a local watering hole or two. The comaraderie and kindred spirits brighten my life.

5. I plan to "bed" my wife again as often as she will permit. During the last several weeks, our copulatory frequency has dwindled significantly... not due to a decreased interest on her part.... but due to my own mental/emotional anguish.

6. I plan to take to reading novels again. I let that slide in my life about a year ago, and I find that I miss it enormously. Sometimes it will be a "great book" by a master like Steinbeck or Hemingway, but just as often it may be a "trashy" sort of crime novel such as by Lawrence and others. It is wonderful to get caught up in the story.

7. I am gong to work to make my research again a time of play for me. Usually it is... for I get to study and play with various beasts (rats, mice, fish etc), but lately I have only been going through the motions.

That is it in a nutshell. I hope that I have not destroyed my readership, but fear I may have. Please give me a chance and watch me work out of this hole I have dug myself into. To help in this matter, I have two favors I am asking of you, my readers:

A. Please come back and continue to read here. I vow to post often and interestingly.

B. If you can manage it, please let others know of my site and encourage them to give me a try. Perhaps you can mention me on your own blog, or perhaps in talking or commenting with other blog friends.

Thank you. I hope to be back up to snuff with these changes.


Friday, June 23, 2006

Illnesses Abound (Again)

Illnesses are again running rampant through the family and I am at a loss on how to deal with it. My elderly mother has an upper respiratory infection that is very rough, my wife has a severe nasal infection and upper respiratory infection and a fever of 103. I am the only one in my household that is healthy and full of vitality at the moment. One of my kids is also suffering some similar sort of ailment. It has become necessary for me to travel to three different households now to supply nutrients, company, and companionship... as well as to make damn sure each one is taking their medicine (they each tend to be awfully lax in that regard). This is on top of teaching two accelerated courses (each in just a 7 1/2 week time span) which would technically mean I am at an "overload" course load at the moment, and next week is final exam week for both classes and I have to turn in grades one week from today... and besides the essay exam finals for each course, I have two research papers coming in from one course next week and one research paper due in the other course.

Even though this mental and emotional strain is weighing heavily upon me, it is my lot in life I believe. As a man who tries hard as hell to be kind, forthright and even (if I can muster it) noble for my family, my friends, my students, and my community... it seems often as if I am being tested to near the breaking point of my mettle. I truly do not understand why this sort of obscene level of work and stress seems to be a near continual lot in my life, but sometimes I believe it is a test, and I am not sure of my grade. I would relish an "A", but may only be able to acheive a "C" if I work my fingers to the bone, and perhaps even that modicum of achievement is impossible and I am doomed to receive an "F" for the failure of my efforts.

I am not sure what is keeping me going at the moment, but I believe my internal drive is love, fueled by the highest octane coffee and most powerful pipe tobacco I can find.


Monday, June 19, 2006

Gerald McRaney

The most intriguing thing I can think about to write today is about a comment my baby brother said to me yesterday as he and I were working on the car we are restoring. As any of you regular readers know, my brother is a bit of a worrywort about nearly all things in life. His morose nature makes me seem like a jolly elf in comparison.

Well, as we worked, and both of us had had a few beers each and a few pipes (he was surprisingly not in one of his "filled with shame for smoking a pipe" modes) and we started to talk about old songs, old friends, old television shows, etc. He is only 41, so he is 17 years younger than me, but still, having grown up together, we have many common experiences. He remarked that I was a brother to him in much the same vein as "Rick Simon" was to "AJ Simon" from the television show "Simon & Simon".

I found this comment rather interesting. We both watched the show, albeit I was married and he was probably still in college or graduate school. But it was a show we both enjoyed greatly. "Rick" was an older brother character played by the actor Gerald McRaney, and "AJ" was played by Jameson Parker. Rick was somewhat of a gruff, "bad" seed/rebel character that contrasted sharply with AJ's prim image. The characterizations however, were only surface attributes for both were very good people who cared deeply for their families and each other.

Therefore, I found my brother's comment surprising, yet somehow fitting and actually a bit pleasant.


Sunday, June 18, 2006

Not Much to Write For Some Reason

Not sure why I feel a great deal of malaise. It is actually in all aspects of life. Here is a brief rundown of what has happened lately:

1. Went to the meeting, had a decent time, presented my research adequately, drank with old friends, smoked many pipes.

2. Came home. Continued with yard work.

3. Taught, the same as always.

4. Pretty much everything else has been the same as always.

That is it in a nutshell. I am not sure what else to say. If I perhaps had some extra time to sit and think or sit and read, or sit and contemplate... then perhaps I would have something interesting to write about. But as it stands at the moment, I am very simply feeling like a hamster running on a wheel (treadmill).


Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Tired Tuesday

I feel rather tired today and am not motivated at all. I think it is likely due to the fact that tonight is the day I have my late evening class, so I am here until roughly 10pm. Additionally, on Tuesday I start teaching at 10am and go virtually non-stop (I am on a brief 10 minute break and thought I would come talk with you my friends).

Again, today is actually a day of fasting from my pipe as well, for these very brief breaks do not lend themselves to proper pipe smoking. Each lungful of the rich smoke should be savored and slowly exhaled. In 10 minutes, one can barely gather all the tools necessary, let alone light the pipe. Hence, I wait today until 10pm to savor that pleasure.

Be prepared friends, my trip will begin after my Wendesday post. If I have access to a computer on Friday while at the conference, I will attempt to write. If not, you may not hear from me until Monday. Besides having fun giving my research talk, and having an enjoyable time learning about and debating other researchers work, I am also planning to have one helluva good time.... drinking and eating to excess every evening, staying out to all hours, listening to some good, local music, smoking more than my fair share of pipe tobacco at every opportunity, etc etc. Basically I will be living like a typical graduate student (grin, just kidding). But, it should be fun.


Monday, June 05, 2006

Monday Morning and Coffee

It is Monday and I have a helluva lot of work to do prior to my meeting. Actually, I have too damn much to do and little motivation to do it. "Unfortunately, the planned "sloshiness" for Friday did not pan out as my father-in-law had a late afternoon doctor's appointment. My wife and I simply contined to work on the yard.

Yard work is both a chore but a theraputic agent as well. The sweat and the toil help put you in a different frame of mind. The repetitive monotony of the yard work is a time I have grow fond of looking forward to as it is a time where I can think more openly and wildy. Some of my most creative thoughts occur during those times.

My wife was very kind to me this weekend and bought me a pound of freshly ground hazlenut coffee beans. I am currently on cup (mug) #4 of the first double-strength pot this morning. Coffee is especially enjoyable on Monday morning as I often do not drink coffee during the weekend and I have elimiated the caffeine from my metabolism. I feel the elevated alertness and the pleasant firing in my neurons.

If I get all my necessary work done for my talk at the endocrine meeting done early enough today, I think I will spend some long-needed time grooming some of my pipes for the trip. As a pipe smoker of long standing, I know the value of cleaning a pipe and dressing it to keep its appearance up and its condition fresh. However, like most pipe smokers I know, the task is one that is often neglected far longer than it should be. I attribute this to two factors:

1. Virtually all pipe smokers I know (myself included) are very active sorts... be it mental or physical or both. They tend to be the sort of individual who spends a large amount of time going from task to task to task... and minor details can sometimes be neglected in the rush to begin another task. This may seem to "fly in the face" of the "contemplative" pipe smoker, but I think it really does not. Contemplation can (and is if a person is active) be a very mentally focused effort. The stereotype that has evolved is that of a person basically wasting time in a torpor-like daydream state where damn little gets done. However, for most real-life pipe smokers contemplation is a time of real deep, robust thought and requires a great deal of mental energy and resources to accomplish. The befuddled, pipe-smoking nit who has his heads in the clouds and accomplishes damn little is pretty much a fallicy (except perhaps when I or any pipe smoker has downed a few stiff drinks).

2. The ritual of cleaning a pipe is one that for me tends to induce in me feelings of meloncholy. The ritual itself is pretty straight forward... you need pipe cleaners, a short, sharp knife (I use one of the blades from my Swiss Army Knife), a bottle of some sort of spirits (for me, I have taken to using a cheeap whiskey lately), a soft brush (I use an old toothbrush), a small bottle of lemon oil, and a soft towel (chamois is my towel of choice for this task). The meloncholy comes from the ritual itself. This task above most other tasks is one that I so vividly associate with my own, dearly departed father. He, being a far more meticulous man than I have ever been, scheduled a full cleaning of all his pipes on the first Saturday of each month during the very early hours of the morning. I do not know how many times I would sit there as a child, watching him clean and groom his entire collection of pipes with gentle determination. Then as an older child, I would help him in this process, and eventually during my teen years into adulthood, we would often work together on this task for our respective pipes. Since his passing, the ritual, just as important as ever, now gives me a chance to recall our times together and typically this induces a saddness because I miss him.

So, if and when I get the work done for the meeting, I shall sit here at my inner office table behind my lab, and go through the ritual of cleaning for at least four of my pipes (I shall take four with me to the meeting... one "dressy" pipe for use during the formal dinners and other occasions where I wear formal clothes, one nice looking pipe for when I am wearing a casually dressy attire (sport coat, for example), and two of my "work horse" pipes for regular smoking during the "off" times.

First, I will take my pocketknife and gently scrape away the built up deposits of charr that form inside the bowls, reaming the bowls back to their full inner dimensions. Next I shall gently guide a pipe cleaner through each stem and shank to remove any deposits that have built up. Third, I will brush the inside of each bowl gently with the dry toothbrush to remove any dust created through the reaming process and to spruce up the top of the bowl that often becomes charred during lighting. Fourth, I will take the chamois and gently rub the exterior of the pipe, stem-to-stern, using a drop or two of lemon oil (if needed) to improve the shine of the bowl. Then finally I will take and old pencil holder I have had for at least 15 years, pour a shot of whiskey down the length of the compartment and put a few pipe cleaners into this fluid. Then using a few of the pipe holders I have and place each pipe onto one of the spots on the holder, take out a whiskey infused pipe cleaner and gently insert it from the stem through the shank and into the bowl of each pipe. Then I will fill each bowl to near the brim with the whiskey and let them sit for an hour or two. Afterwards, I will then pour the whiskey out into the sink, remove the pipe cleaners, and let the pipes air dry for a few hours. The pipes are then ready for service and are fresh, clean and will be ready for my trip.


Friday, June 02, 2006

A Friday of Action

Special Note to My Anonymous Commenter from Yesterday: I would be more than willing to offer advice and insight into the beloved briar hobby (pipe smoking). I am not sure how to contact you, so if you would like, please feel free to ask questions here within my comments section and I will either reply within the comments section or if the question merits a longer essay, I will make said essay my daily post, or a portion of my daily post. I look forward to your questions.

Today shall be a day of rough and doggedly determined writing in preperation for my talk at the national endocrine meeting I am attending next week. In my typical fashion, my talks are relatively off the cuff... I have a few scribbles of notes to accompany me with my Power Point slides of images of my research, but at this particular conference, we also can produce a poster of the work written in a "brief summary" form. My goal today is to hammer out this poster before 10am to get it to the printer. In that way I can relax and anticipate its return by Tuesday... plenty of time prior to my departure. Therefore, today will be spent condensing my thoughts into a poster style document to highlight the key findings of my most recent work. It should be fun, yet I always fuss and fret when producing something of this sort... mostly because I procrastinate to the last minute.... or is it I procrastinate to the last minute because I do not want to get into the fussing and fretting mood? Either way, that is where my thoughts and mental energy are at the moment.

However, please note I said by 10am. I am forcing myself to write quickly and efficiently, so I can go play this afternoon! First a bit of yard work (we may hit 90 degrees today!) then a trip over to visit my elderly father-in-law, with plans to get a pleasant "sloshy" feeling my mind and gut. Then my wife will likely return from some shopping with my mother-in-law and we will traipse over to the local art fair this weekend. The art is striking and beautiful, and having a bit of "antiseptic" in my body to clean out the fuss and fret will only make the experience that much more enjoyable!


Thursday, June 01, 2006

The Tune of June

I have a bit of a headache this morning. From what, I haven't a clue, but all I know is I must have not slept too soundly as I awoke with one of those... "I feel just as tired as when I went to bed" nights. I wish there were something I could see as a pattern here, but alas if there is one it escapes me.

Therefore, I am sitting here in my inner office at the University, attempting to infuse some energy into myself. My wife toasted two bagels for my this morning (one is whole wheat, and I have peanut butter and honey on it, the other is blueberry and I have cream cheese and fresh strawberries on it). Of the four slices (two bagels, each cut in half), I have thus far consumed one slice (one with the peanut butter). Additionally, as I came in early, I made myself a double-strength pot of coffee... and thus far the empty 10-cup pot is beckoning for me to brew another as I have consumed the entire pot. To the right of my mousepad is my ceramic ashtray (the one made by my middle son when he was much younger) in which are three pipes. All three of them have been put into service this morning, and one has been called to serve twice already. My tobacco pouch is filled with a mix I threw together this morning.... 3/4 Sir Walter Raleigh and 1/4 of an aromatic my tobacconist euphamistically has named "Bulldog Blues". It is a gentle burley/cavendish blend with hints of blueberries, raspberries, and vanilla. Very pleasant aroma, and the Sir Walter Raleigh gives it a pleasant kick (the Bulldog Blues is too gentle and needs the raw, robust power of the Sir Walter Raleigh to liven things up a bit).

With the infusion from three of the four essential nutrient groups (food, caffeine, nicotine), I am perking up some and have plans to attack the day with gusto and verve.

My goal is rather mundane, but is important none-the-less. I am putting together a PowerPoint slide presentation for a talk I am going to give at a national research meeting late next week. It should be pretty fun, and if I get it done today, I will not have to fuss around with the damn thing anymore and can just enjoy the plans for travel! Of course, I also have to teach, so I will work the talk in around my breaks.