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.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

A Memory of Transformation

Although many of you, my regular readers, may find it surprising, for a good portion of my life, I was a painfully shy and socially awkward young man. From roughly the age of 12 to 21, I was extraordinairly shy and reclusive. Trust me when I say that discomfort with social contact is definetly a difficult thing to overcome. For me it was exceptionally difficult as I yearned to be gregarious, I yearned for social contact and interaction. I literally hated my gripping and overwhelming fear and anxiety, and hence I began to hate myself. Fortunately, I was exceptionally lucky to have found a way out of this pit, the hellacious and overwhelming and oppressing weight of shy despair that I felt anchored to. What follows is an abbreviated version of the story of how I was able to pull myself out of the horrors of this debilitating condition of near phobic shyness. I am not sure if this little story will help anyone else or not, but I am hoping it may help other very shy people to see that there can sometimes be solutions to that fear:

So, again, even though you may find it hard to believe, at an earlier time in my life, I was extraordinairly shy and reserved. I did not feel comfortable in anything other than one-on-one conversation, I felt that people were talking about my inadequacies behind my back, and the thought of going through a crowd of people was daunting. I was a social hermit, afraid to meet and mingle with people, afraid of them knowing me and knowing about me. I feared the pain of rejection too greatly. It is difficult to try to put into words the pure fear and utter stress I felt if I were to have to go into a crowd, if I were to need to speak to a few people at the same time, if I were required to socialize in any form.

Oddly enough, for me, however, I also had a dream tucked away back in a deep, heavily protected place in my brain. Though my whole life I had (oddly perhaps) been enthused about and desiring to become a professor, a science professor to be exact... and to study life and to seek new answers to questions. As I grew and matured, that dream never left, but neither did my overwhelming shyness. It was not until my first semester in graduate school that I found MY key for letting loose those fears, those worries that would keep me from living.... In the graduate school I attended, a part of my scholarship for study involved participating in the teaching of certain courses. I was both in sheer panic and in utter fascination about the prospects. I worried and fussed about the impending class I needed to teach all that summer. A few times I felt it was impossible.... impossible for me to go in front of a class of 25 freshmen, only two or three years younger than me, and talk to them let alone teach them anything of value.

I spent many, many sleepless nights during the summer prior to starting graduate school, and dramatically overindulged in my briars as that fearful day drew ever closer.

On that day, I walked into the class, my hands and arms trembling with fear, I could not look at anyone, but pretended to look at EVERYONE by gazing around the room, never letting my gaze stick long enough to see anyone clearly. I gripped the podium so strongly, my knuckles were visibly white. It took a few stumbles, a few "ahs", a few coughs. But I made it through. One student came up to me after class and told me I did a nice job. I thanked him profusely. It was the start of my teaching career.

How did I actually get the courage to go up before that class? Every cell in my visage was screaming in protest. I was literally so, so shy that I was nearly a hermit. I did it with two simple factors that I still use in many situations to this day:

1. I found something to care about, to yearn for, to desire SO MUCH that it would help to counteract the IMMENSE, DEBILITATING shyness. Wanting to be a professor was the desire that counterbalanced my fear in this case.

2. Perhaps the most important aspect was for me to adopt the notion of PRETENDING to be a successful version of your goal. In this case, I screwed up as much courage and conviction as I could to tell myself that I would simply PRETEND... pretend to be a knowledgable, commanding, thought-provoking professor... even though I KNEW deep inside it was a bunch of b*llsh*t... I was just a novice, young pup, still wet behind the ears. I was, in my own mind, a complete and utter failure and fraud... but I knew I could PRETEND to be that which I dreamed of.

Eventually, after many weeks and months of pretending, I began to see, feel and realize that instead of PRETENDING, I actually willed myself to BECOME that which I had so dreamed about. And in the process of pretending to NOT BE SHY AND RECLUSIVE, I became more and more outgoing and responsive to people.

For me, it literally was one of the most important transformations in my life. I now am a rather outgoing person. It has made a world of difference to me and I have adopted that strategy to overcome many other fears.


Monday, October 30, 2006

Just the Right Word, "Transparent"

Abbagirl74 suggested that I was feeling "transparent" and I think that her choice of words was quite accurate. Transparency can be a good thing in many ways, but for it to be the way one feels about one's self is not a positive. When I say I feel "transparent", I am saying that I feel lost in a quagmire of emotion where I do not feel I matter as an individual, I do not feel as if the "me" who is there is valued. Instead, I feel as if I am simply a tool to accomplish other's needs and wants. While I cherish that role 99+% of the time, when it becomes the total of what I do for an extended period of time, I become as stated.... "transparent".

I have to find a way to pull the "me" out of the shadows again. I am striving towards that goal again. What shall I do? I am not sure, but here are some of the options:

1. Hide more in my inner office to get away from students who simply come by to grouse about their grade and how the "are trying so hard". When you have a semester with around 200 students, that alone can be overwhelming.

2. Make some changes in home time tables... when I get up, when I leave, etc. If I can convince the family involved how important this is, perhaps they will not become aggrivated at my request to have them get rolling earlier in the day.

3. Have one final "big push" to get the house ready for Winter so I can forget about doing that tiresome sorting and organizing and trying to find ways to squeeze summer things into non-existant spaces.

4. Purchase a pocket digital camera so I can find an easier creative outlet for me to be "me".

5. Instead of grafting everyone else's needs upon my schedule, I will attempt to make a schedule that is more focused on my needs and ask for some bending and flexing by those involved so I may have a bit of shoulder room in my day-to-day routine.

* * * * *

I used to be a very gun-ho person about politics. I used to love debating political ideas and thoughts for hours upon hours. As of late, however, I find that most every politician and most every political cause is mostly a bunch of b*llsh*t. There is one organization, however, that I still have a modicum (meaning some, but limited) of respect for as it tends to focus more on issues. Therefore I have included a link to this place here:

Call For Change

My secondary reason for including this is that it has given me the HTML code so that I may know how in the future to insert images into my blog to liven this place up a bit.


Sunday, October 29, 2006

What Is There?

I am in a meloncholoy mood and do not feel much like anything. I am frustrated at many different things in my life today and feel unable to put the frustrations into words. I should be so happy, yet I do not seem to exist in many ways anymore. I simply travel from one requirement to the next, not really making any of my own decisions, not getting to do a helluva lot.

I get tired of people either not hearing me or ignoring me. It has been happening a lot lately. At work, at home, at the store. I am tired of everyone else having needs and I have none (apparently).

I am tired of not having a moment to myself.


Saturday, October 28, 2006


"Bush Inherited A Recession"???????

My mother seems to be doing adequately today.

* * * * *

Orwellian double speak is rearing its ugly head again, 22 years after the title of the work, "1984".

I was half watching/listening to CNN this morning as I half read the newspaper when a statement from a member of the Bush administration scrolled across the screen. Unfortunately I was too flabbergasted by the statement and did not catch who it was a quote from, but the statement was...

"President Bush has inherited a recession from the Clinton administration."

If this isn't a classic example of trying to rewrite history through Orwellian double-speak, then I will eat my hat, and my pipe and my shoe. The economy and the nation and the world was far, far, far better off during the Clinton years than during the current administration. For the most part, Clinton got it right, other than the stupidity of NAFTA and GATT. Before some of your more conservative sorts howl about his illicit affair(s)... I do not care particularly about that sort of thing. For me, the affair(s) fall into personal business and have nothing to do with his governing ability. I suspect that a very high percentage of presidents have had mistresses and/or affairs.


Friday, October 27, 2006

The Waiting Game

My mother's legs were edemic (swollen) last night. I am not sure what to do at the moment. I would like her to have additional Bumetadine (a diuretic) but must wait for the doctor's approval. I hope things go well and that this is not the first indication of a new downturn.

* * * * *

Below is an interesting article from the "The Age (Australia)":

Climate an Economic Time Bomb

James Button, Jewel Topsfield and Katharine Murphy

CLIMATE change could push the world into the worst recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s, with many countries facing economic ruin, a comprehensive British report on the effects of global warming will warn next week.

The report, written by former World Bank chief economist Sir Nicholas Stern and commissioned by the British Treasury, seeks to overturn conventional wisdom by insisting that fighting climate change will save, not cost, governments money.

The report's contents have been kept secret, but Sir Nicholas briefed environment and energy ministers from the world's top 20 greenhouse gas-emitting nations, including Industry, Tourism and Resources Minister Ian McFarlane, in Mexico this month.

Britain's chief scientist, Sir David King, told The Guardian the report indicated "that if we don't take global action … we will be faced with the kind of downturn that has not been seen since the Great Depression and the two world wars.

"If you look at sea level rises alone and the impact that will have on global economies where cities are becoming inundated by flooding … this will cause the displacement of hundreds of millions of people."

Sir David described the Stern report as the most detailed economic analysis yet conducted and said it would "surprise many people in terms of the relatively small cost of action".

However, he told a climate change conference in Birmingham that achieving global consensus would be very hard.

"In my view this is the biggest challenge our global political system has ever been faced with. We've never been faced with a decision where collective decision making is required by all major countries … around risks to their populations that are well outside the time period of any electoral process."

The United States and Australia have refused to join the Kyoto Protocol — the international agreement on greenhouse gas emissions — because US President George Bush and Prime Minister John Howard have argued that it would harm their countries' economies.

The Stern report comes as the Howard Government is signalling a shift in its attitude to climate change. Environment Minister Ian Campbell told The Age yesterday governments needed to invest more in emission reduction technologies such as carbon capture and storage.

"Some of these technologies do need to be fast-tracked and there needs to be higher levels of public sector investment to achieve that," he said.

Treasurer Peter Costello moved yesterday to guarantee that Canberra would continue to offer Australian households a rebate if they installed solar power panels, after concerns the program would be discontinued.

He said the Government was also examining ways to make solar power less expensive.

"We can make solar power; the problem is the price at which we can make it is too high for households generally at the moment, and it is a question of bringing that price down."

But the chief economist of the British Government-backed Carbon Trust, Michael Grubb, yesterday slammed Canberra's policy response on climate change as "unrealistic" and "hard to understand, because it is so clearly not a position which can lead to any credible solutions".

Professor Grubb questioned the Federal Government's continuing opposition to carbon pricing and trading schemes, which would reward businesses that switched to lower carbon-emission operations.

"I must say, coming to Australia, in terms of (inaction) … at the federal level, it feels like going back in time because so little generally seems to have been done on the ground here," he said.

Sir Nicholas will argue that tackling climate change may not prove as economically painful as some predict. Investment in low-carbon technologies could stimulate the global economy.

* * * * *

So, wish me well. I do not know what my day will now entail. Please hope and pray for my mother.


Thursday, October 26, 2006

It Works if You Work "It"

There have been a few instances where I have had to catch myself in terms of my reaction to other people's moods... both at home and at work. Even though my transition in my thought process in many of the instances was as halting as a manual transmission car in need of a new clutch, in each case I was able to stop myself before things became too rocky and remember the mantra:

"You cannot change others, you can only change yourself (or your response to others)."

I am very pleased with the results. I feel more calm, more serene, and more myself. It is absolutely wonderful to know it is POSSIBLE for me to CHOOSE to not buy in to other's emotional outbursts.

The case in point today happened just a little while ago where a colleague (who is renowned for having poor to no communication skills or tact) sent me an e-mail that was a) very sharply worded, b) nonsensical in its intent, and c) not sent to the appropriate party. Basically it involved this fellow's demand that I assure him that a particular piece of equipment that is to be used in next week's teaching laboratory (that we both teach sections of) is fully functional. This is because this person is unable to troubleshoot and/or set up anything equipment-wise himself. However... THIS IS NOT MY PROBLEM OR ROLE. If he would have asked nicely, I would have been willing to help. However, instead, I simply sent the e-mail to our Department's Laboratory Technician and allowed HIM to deal with the issue... and the fellow's belligerence.

Even though my first inclination was to get irate back at this fellow and to send him a scathing e-mail... I sat back and thought to myself, just because this fellow is rude and angry, does not mean I need to reply in kind. His problem IS NOT my problem, and I do not have to alter the course of my day for HIM.

It took a few minutes, but it did happen, and I feel a helluva lot better because of it. I changed MYSELF and now I can relish and bask in the calm serenity and happiness that is the rest of my day.

I am also contemplating an adventure with my elderly father-in-law tomorrow.


Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Sorting "Out of Sorts"

Last week's lab exam threw both my outer office (the "public" one) and my back office (the quiet, private one at the back of my lab) into chaos. I spent a large part of this evening sorting through an enormous box (36 by 18 by 18 inch) of paper I picked up off the floors and off my desks. At home tonight, I sat in the middle of the floor of the family room while my wife, my mother and I watched an episode of "House" we had taped from when my mother was still hospitalized. It was the second episode of the season and revolved around a story of a six year old boy who had a chimeric cell lineage in his body because he absorbed his twin during embryological development. Usually "House" is extraordinairly well done. While this episode was better than just about any other drama on television, it was a bit off and of a lower quality than other episodes. The side story about House's recovery (lack of recovery) was far more interesting and well done.


Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Sneaky Student

As a professor for decades now, I have been privilidged to not have had more than a handful of cases of cheating in my courses. This is due to several factors, I believe:

1. My courses do not typically lend themselves to cheating as I make significant efforts to keep my classes current and up-to-date. I also have ample material to talk about so that none of the courses is the same from semester to semester (anatomy & physiology, endocrinology, neurobiology).

2. My types of classes do not typically attract "slacker" types of students who may be more prone to cheat.

However, last week, an obnoxious, rude, and generally nasty student in my anatomy & physiology class (her initials are BAS, by the way) did something that shocked even me. Last week, as you may have read, was the midterm when I gave students in anatomy & physiology a laboratory practical examination. This particularly bratty and unbelievably disrespectful student sat in the back of my lecture last week with a copy of a previous year's exam and was chatting and talking and waving the exam around like it was a beacon.

This behavior struck me exceptionally badly, and as I meandered around the room, when I came upon her general vacinity, she tried to quietly hide the materials she was waving about and became as quiet as a mouse. However, I was rather too upset to let her behavior slide, and I simply reached onto the desk before her, and under the book she had laid atop of the materials and removed them.

I told her that if she wanted the materials back, that she would need to come and see me during my office hours.

This little, obnoxious witch has never shown up.

I just do not understand this student's mentality. All she wants is a damn grade. My courses are designed VERY carefully by me to guide students to become better, clearer, and deeper thinkers... because damn near all of them are going to go into a health related career (doctor, dentist, nurse, occupational therapist, physical therapist, etc), or an educator. The obnoxious student (again, who has the intials BAS), is attempting to become a nurse. Yet, her attitude suggests a person who would definetly be best outside of any decision making processes let alone those in health care.

Her boorish and stupid attitude appalled me.

* * * * *

Abbagirl74 suggested I write a bit more about campus again. Today was briskly cold, but in the L-shapped alcove near the enterance I used to get to my lab, there was nary a breeze so I could sit and relax and gaze out onto campus. As I indulged in my pipe (today, a spice textured cavendish I have blended with a powerful burley) during a break from working with the rodents, I was able to gaze out upon campus and see more of its natural glory. While many trees have lost there leaves, the snow we had several days ago eventually did melt and the few trees that retain their leaves at the moment (other that the deciduous of course that keep their leaves year round) are more vivid yellow and red that before. With a heavier jacket, it is still quite comfortable to sit out on the bench in the alcove for a spell.


Monday, October 23, 2006

A New Week

Now that mid-term week has passed, I can again focus on returning to every day postings.

* * * * *

At Mass on Sunday, the first reading caused me to think quite philosophically about our role in life. In a round-about way, the notion was simply that our life is about trying to do good for people, about working hard to make our community and world a better place. We all have faults, but we can, if we strive to, have a positive impact during our time here on Earth.

In many ways, the above philosophical construct has shaped my own vision of life. It is important for me to try to have a positive effect on those around me, on my family, on my students, on my community. Unfortunately, almost every day I feel I come short in terms of the amount of impact I should have. I rarely feel I have utilized my day as effectively as I could have.

However, I must state that the strategy of "I can only change myself and my own thoughts and reactions" is still being adhered to and has been an enormously helpful policy to me. There was one minor episode where I did not follow this advice and became quite angry and frustrated at first... this was last Wednesday. However, the difficulty was short lived... for after only a very brief time (a few minutes), I was able to recognize and convert my anger into changing myself and then the hurt and disgruntled feelings dissapated. I was very happy that I was able to turn around this situation that could easily have accelerated into something far more difficult.

I am hoping to have a happy, hopeful, productive, and helpful week for myself and those around me.


Friday, October 20, 2006

A List of Sorts

I the life of most of us profs who teach Anatomy & Physiology, there are two points in the semester that have the workload increase exponentially. One time is at the midterm, and the other is the week prior to final exam week. Well, this past week has been midterm.

What is it that makes the week so hectic? It is not really about traditonal written exams. I learned long ago to not schedule these sorts of exams during this week for with the other form of exam I am going to tell you about I would go insane. Additionally, it is this week that most other non-A&P profs schedule exams, so it is too much to expect of students in my opinion to have both a lecture and a laboratory examination from me.

That is what makes this week so heavy in terms of work load, however, the laboratory practical examination. For those of you who have not experienced a university level laboratory practical examination, it is a rather stressful experience for the undergraduate science student. In my case, this class is in human anatomy and physiology. The exam consists of 100 different questions that are scattered through 25 different stations in the laboratory. Each station has between three and six questions at it..... and these questions are related to various bones, muscles, brains, eyes, hearts, lungs, etc that I can pin numbers into, tape numbers onto, or simply ask about in some other way. The examination is timed and students receive 1.5 minutes per station. Every 1.5 minutes, students must move en masse to a new position in the room to view the next station's questions. The exam takes roughly 50 minutes total and when students have made their way around the room once, they are done with the exam. Their test booklet consists of two pieces of paper stapled together with 100 numbered, blank lines upon it in which they must WRITE out each and every answer for this exam. No multiple choice, no word lists, nothing but their MEMORY.

This exam is obviously very taxing on the students. On average by this time of the semester, the students have been exposed to roughly 750 different scientific names (usually originating in Latin or Greek) they are expected to know. The following listsa few examples from the 750+ they are responsible for at this halfway mark of midterm:

fovea centralis
(in the eye)
infundibulum (in the ovary and also betwen the hypotalamus and pituitary)
acetabulum (at the junction of the illieum, ishium, and pubis in the coxal bone group)
sternocleidomastoid (a muscle in the neck)
fovea capitus (on the femur)
corpus callosum (a ridge seperating the midbrain from the cerebrum)
obicularis oris (circular muscles around the mouth and lips)

Students do not receive enough time to debate or hem-and-haw about the answers. In order to do well, they must truly KNOW the parts of the human body completely.

Setting up an exam such as this is very tough as well. It typically takes me roughly 5 hours to set up the exam each time during the start of the week. Usually it takes about 2 hours to put everything away, but this has to be done a few times a week as other courses need the space for other times during the week as well.

Students can react explosivelyl as well. Over the years, I have had students who begin to cry hysterically, students faint, and others walk out in a huff part way through. While in total there have only been a handful of these sorts, their buffoonery is what keeps me feeling sane in comparison.

To show you another measure of how arduous this task is... my pipe consumption has dropped to less than one third of its typical during this week. This additional testing proceedure is enormous when you consideer I have to have maintain the remainder of my normal teaching load, my research, and my committee service as well.

I am bushed, but now that the week is done, I do not want to go to bed yet. I am savoring fully saturating my soul with back-to-back-to back bowls of various leaves in my pipe.

But at the same time, my head is heavy and my eyes are drooping fast.



Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Not Sure Why

I am not sure why, but I feel like:


Yes, the above is it.


Monday, October 16, 2006

Apologies for Not Posting

It has been a very long time since I have missed a day's posting. I apologize. Two things were weighing on my mind:

1. My mother's rapid weight gain (fluid retention), which seems to have been addressed adequately thus far. It was quite troublesome all weekend and helped to put me into a poor mood.


2. My baby brother whom I wish would write more (perhaps some cajoling comments from you, my readers would help), called me this weekend and was sad and crying.... because his oldest daughter (she is now 3) moved from her crib to a small child's bed. I both chuckled and was also sympathetic, because I responded very similarly myself long ago. It made me think of this long ago displaced story:

As is typical for any good father, his love of his kids is enormous. This was especially true with my own first child, my beloved daughter Marie. She did and still does always have a wonderful glint and sparkle in her eye, and she is such a good, good daughter.

As with my brother, Konrad, I too remember that day when I took down her little crib, dismantling each piece so as to be able to move it out of her room and on upstairs so our very small son (Michael) could begin to use it. It had already been a rough day that morning... I felt out of sorts and very unfocused. It wasn't until early afternoon that I actually began the process of dismantling the crib. Each part of the crib that I removed made the room look more and more barren. Each piece I carried upstairs made me realize that my own little, precious daughter was growing up, growing older. And even though I knew even then that it was simply a part of the process of life... I was extremely overcome with emotion. I remember driving with the family out to a birthday party for some cousins, my wife actually drove, and the kids had quickly fallen asleep in the back seat. I sat there staring out the window, and I could not help myself, but warm, salty tears began to fall from my eyes onto my cheeks and into my beard and moustache. Trying to supress the emotion proved fruitless, although I was able to keep my sobs silent (so as to not wake the children). I had never before felt such wringing saddness for something that in effect was actually good. I just felt so very sad and dejected for my baby girl had become a little girl.

So, I can understand why my baby brother was so sad. I guess some of his emotionalness may be genetic after all. I am not as gruff and tough as I try to have people believe either. Just remembering that story itself, was bringing tears to my eyes, even after all this time. I am a bit of a sentimental old fool it seems.


Saturday, October 14, 2006

Long Day

My mother noticed some unexpected weight gain late this morning. She had gained roughly 5 pounds. This could only mean she was retaining fluid, a possible indication of heart issues. Calls all around to nurses and physicians all lead to the same conclusion I knew was coming... it being Friday... she was instructed to take additional diuretic and additonal potassium and see how it goes over the weekend.

Thus far she seems to be holding her own well. Yet, even with this being so, I feel edgy and all out of sorts because I know how perilous that stability can be. I had fooled myself into anticipating consistant, day-to-day routine.

I am still trying to work the idea of "I can only change myself.", but today has been a hard one to have success with on that score. Over the course of the day, I was gruff with a handful of different people. For that I am sorry.

I am going to force myself to read at least a few chapters in a long languished detective novel. Then, I am going to stand outside in my pajamas in the snow and smoke my pipe.


Friday, October 13, 2006

Advice to G@P and Animal Crackers

My friend G@P asked me the following in a comment:

"Being a pipe-smoker-in-training, I'm curious...What do fellow pipe-smokers bond over? Various tobaccos? Types or makes of favored pipes? Anecdotes of same? Having read your essay of your first experience with the pipe, how would you suggest a novice begin who hasn't had the benefit of a revered dad's guidance? If you had to do it all over again, would you begin with a cheap, store-bought pipe and tobacco and experiment from there? I seek the benefit of your experience and insight, sir..."

The "bond" of pipe-smokers is simply that we share something that is a) created of a long, noble, but simple history, b) practiced usually by those that have a logical, thoughtful demeanor, c) participated in by people who tend to be more kind-hearted than not, d) typically indulged in by those with democratic or libertarian political leanings (or the equivalent in other countries), and e) a far too rare hobby in this harried, rushed, and chaotic society.

Therefore, when one pipe smoker sees another, he already has significant knowledge of that fellow and feels friendly towards him.

As for the question about what the novice should do.... find other pipe smokers.... sample all sorts of tobacco to find what you like, and just practice.

The pipe, be it cheap or expensive, can be a beautiful, artistic tool for you... if it is one you like and find attractive. Therefore, if you find one you like, whether it is cheap or expensive, it is the right one for you and will serve you well.

Also, G@P, feel free to ask further questions anytime. I enjoy talking pipes with anyone who shares the interest.

* * * * *

I have been feeling quite nervous and edgy all evening. It had been a very nice day at work, but I am not feeling quite up to snuff emotionally at home tonight. Part of me is worried my mother may be starting to get a cold (and with her physical nature, even a cold can be serious). Also, I seem to not have been able to connect very well in an emotional sense with my wife today (It has been a busy day for both of us.), and therefore I do not have a thorough read on her feelings and needs tonight. Also, the abrupt drop in temperatures in the last 24 hours is a rather shocking and starkly rapid change (We have an inch of snow on the ground now.). I am going to go now and lay in front of the television in just a few moments to watch the classic Marx Brother's "Animal Crackers" film. It is being broadcast on Turner Classic Movies. I hope to see if it can help me feel more content and less nervous.


Thursday, October 12, 2006

Electric Sun

The results of the "experiment" yesterday (basically having my wife turn on all the lamps in the bedroom when she arises (about 1.5 hours before I do on Wednesday) have been very positive. I am a very heavy sleeper and do not even remember my wife turning on the lights (total wattage of 300, from a total of three lamps). When my alarm went off at 6:30, I was able to ease much more easily into wakefulness than I had for several days previous. Although one day is not definitive proof, I am anticipating similar results as I continue the practice.

I am also fairly comfortable that my theory about the light and the pineal glad is correct. Even though the light I am exposed to is incandescent, enough of the light energy reaches through my eyelids to send signals down my optic nerve to stimulate the pineal gland. This in tern regulates my wake cycle so that my body prepares for a new day. The current opinion for treatment of seasonal affective disorder suggests you need far higher wattage (in the neighborhood of 1000 watts or more and the light source needs to be the more penetrating flourescent variety to have effect. I think I will continue to have a positive effect. It does make me wonder, however, if my outcome WOULD be further enhanced if I were to create one of the typical 1000 watt light banks? It will be worth pondering as it is a long winter coming.

Additinally, I met a fellow at the U today whom I have known for several years, and only today did I learn that he too was a pipe smoker. It was interesting to discover and chat with him the mutually enjoyed hobby.


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Tonight - Full Blown Test

After a few experiments during the evening, tonight I am going to experience my first full pineal glad stimulation test. I have it set so that when my wife arises on Wednesday morning (on this day of the week, she typically arises around 5:00am) she will simply flip a wall switch that will turn on three different 100 watt lamps throughout the bedroom. I suspect that when my alarm goes off, I will awaken in a much less groggy, irratble state, and may even awaken with a fair amount of energy and vitality as is typical for me in the summer.

I am crossing my fingers! Details in the next essay.


Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Proud of Myself

On Monday, I got up on "the wrong side of the bed" and felt irritable much of the day. I am proud of two items:

One, I very carefully kept following the "I can only change myself" mantra, and every time I felt my irritable rancor coming to the surface, I thought through my emotions and my feelings and compared them to the reality of the day... it was a nice day... I need not let my emotions get the best of me... and I wanted to treat those I loved in a way that let them know I loved them. It took a fair amount of time to work though the thoughts and feelings several times through the day, but I *DID* have the success I wanted. I was able to successfully turn my feelings around several times and focus on things that were good and grand about the day, and also work on nourishing my love for my family.

Two, I spent some time analyzing why I felt so "irratable". After examining several different causes, many of which were red herrings, I came to the conclusion that my grouchy state was a result of a combination of a) having sore muscles from some physical exhertion the day before that was not a part of my normal routine and more importantly b) the shortening lenght of daylight had started to have its effect upon me. I already have known about myself for many, many years, that I have a hellacious time awakening in the morning when there is not natural light. As we work our way into fall and winter, the normal time when I want to arise (roughly 6am or 6:30am) is now dark, whereas in the spring and summer it is often very bright. This difficulty is perhaps a minor rendition of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and I suspect many in my region suffer from this malady. The way I fix this and have done so for at least a decade or more is that I turn on all the lights in the bedroom roughly 1-2 hours before I get up. You might find this odd, that this artificial sunlight would make any difference, but it does. And this effect is rooted in very sound science... namely that light will stimulate the pineal gland in the brain.... the gland that is a part of the control system for the sleep cycle.

I am going to figure out the best and least intrusive way to accomplish the necessary additional light that I can.


Monday, October 09, 2006


A person's mood is set through two very different set of criteria.... one part is determined by external forces, the way people treat you, the weather, etc. The other part is determined from within.... the internal mood is one that we often can choose.

Sunday was a lively day, physically and emotionally. Physically, I DID finally work on the garage. I had also filed and sorted damn near one whole file cabinet of journal articles. People around me were both in grand moods and in poor moods. I was able to successfully navigate these varying ranges of moods, emotions, and excitements well... and kept my own self on an emotional even keel. If I were to rank my own mood and feelings on a scale of 1-10 (with 5 being average), I would be glad to report my own emotional state stayed a steady 7. Not damn bad at all!

I am feeling good about the inclusion of the philosophy of "I cannot change others, but I can change myself." Neither my gut nor my psyche were on a roller coaster ride today. It has been good.


Sunday, October 08, 2006

Danger Will Robinson!

Today was a more hectic day that I had originally anticipated. Instead of cleaning the garage, I went on several errands for items for members of the family:

1. My mother needed to have her social security and pension checks deposited and the money withdrawn for her.

2. I needed to run to the store to pick up a few items for my wife.

3. I ran to the post office.

4. I set up my mothers medication for the week and also worked through numerous pages of paperwork to get her perscriptions adjusted by her insurance agent so as to be covered.

When I finished the chores, I quickly prepared a "Southwestern" Macaroni & Cheese casserole we planned to bring to her brother's annual rivalvry bash... his favorite football team is playing his arch rival team.

Unfortunately, (American) football holds about as much interest and excitedness for me as watching paint dry. Fortunately, though, my wife's family is fun to hang around with even though football is duller than aluminum.

Sadly, something (that I do not understand or know about... and I do not believe I caused) has angered my wife considerably. She spoke barely 5 words to me after we arrived home. My gut is feeling anger and frustration.... I did not do anything. Yet, I AM TRYING to stay focused on the motto of "I cannot change others, but I can change myself." This may be the first MAJOR trial of this concept.

Please wish me luck.


Saturday, October 07, 2006

The Garish Garage

With things being stable in my life right now, I thought I would take the opportunity of the pleasant weather (high today of almost 60!) to putter around the yard and clean the garage. The physical exhertion should help me feel good.


Friday, October 06, 2006

Amber Crayola Wax

Life at work was wholly average and predictable in all regards. I spent time in my back office with my pipe and my thoughts. I taught in two different courses. I worked on research with a few students. I ate lunch. I meandered around a bit on the Internet. A wholly average and predictable day. It was DAMN BEAUTIFUL! I loved the sense of normalcy.

My mother is doing well, and she seems to be gaining strength.

My father-in-law is also doing well. Keeping my fingers crossed, I am hopeful I shall be able to visit with him in the afternoon. I do not want to hope too greatlly for it, as it was a tremendous letdown last Friday when that did not transpire.

My work and effort on my new mantra of "I cannot change others, but I CAN CHANGE myself." seems to be a positive effort. There have been a few times where I caught myself feeling low, feeling misunderstood, feeling the weight of life crushing me.... and made a purposeful, concious decision to try to steer my perspective in such a way that I could a) feel better, b) attempt to more fully absorb the INTENT of other people's words as opposed to the LITERAL meaning of their words, and c) work hard to not allow my own hurts and blows from others transmit into sour or dour feelings emminating from me. I have liked the net effect of my "CHANGE MYSELF" efforts, that I plan to continue them next week and then write about these efforts again. For me, however, I must currently keep focus several times daily on this "CHANGE MYSELF" behavior because it has not yet become an ingrained response in me. Thus far, however, it shows promise.

After I left work for the day, I decided at the last moment to head to the local express medical center because of discomfort I was feeling in my ear. Since Sunday evening, my ear has felt blocked and I had lost roughly 75% - 80% of my hearing in that ear. I had presumed it was due to a plug of earwax... something I have never had before, but it seemed reasonable. I purchased a container of Murine Ear Wax Remover and tried it out Monday through Thursday morning. Unfortunately, it never seemed effective, and my hearing was not showing signs of returning. The bottle of ear wax remover said it could take up to three days to see results, so I was patient.

The physician examined me and heard my recent history (the extended hospital stay for my mother, the amoxicillin that proved uneffective for my chest cold, and the Zithromax that seemed to help greatly). He examined my ears, and then asked me if I had experienced very harsh bouts of coughing during recovery. I found that interesting, for my cough following the chest cold had seemed VERY, VERY MUCH harsher, and EXTREMELY different from my typical run-of-the-mill chest cold. I, of course, told the fellow, "Yes, my cough was harsher when compared to other colds.

He then told me I had a severe middle ear infection. Before he told me his reasons for his conclusion.... I myself had a realization.... I most likley (through the heavy coughing & sneezing of the last few weeks) had caused infection to penetrate and invade my middle ear via my Eustacian tubes. In case you were not aware, the Eustacian tube connects to an area within the medial end of the nasal cavity (and quite close to the oral cavity as well). This connection helps the middle ear regulate pressures induced due to elevation changes.

He prescribed a very strong oral dose of Cipro, a solution of liquid Cipro to place in the outer-ear region, and a perscription for Vicodin.

I have taken the doses of the oral and topically applied Cipro, and am planning upon taking the vicodin medication before bed. I have never had this pain reliever previously. However, from the few people I mentioned it to, and from what I have read on-line.... vicodin may prove to be very entertaining tonight. I am looking forward to feeling the effect and discerning its beauty and charms as I sleep.


Thursday, October 05, 2006


Trying to extend the birthday festivities for my wife, I arranged to have both of my sisters come stay with my mother (I made dinner for the three of them of spaghetti & meatballs, green beans, salad, and garlic bread (the spaghetti was cooked and drained, and the sause and meatballs were hot in the crockpot)). I then took my wife out to dinner and to a film.

I let my wife choose the resturant and of the myriad of choices we had, she selected the "Olive Garden". She had a chicken fettucinni and broccoli main course. I ordered something new which was made with small pieces of chicken, several different vegetables (peas, carrots, green beans, asparagus, carrots, broccoli and tomatoes served on a bed of bowtie noodles with a light sause that was wonderfully rich in a variety of spices including basil, rosemary, oregeno, and garlic). Of course, as anyone who knows this resturant, we also had salad and breadsticks, and we shared an appetizer of fresh bruschetta on toasted bread. My wife had some sort of fruity drink that had a small amount of champaign in it, and I had two glasses of wine.

I had scanned the newspaper earlier in the day and had copied synopses of all the likely films that were available to us in the time frame we had. Happily, my wife agreed to see the film called "The Illusionist". This is a newer film and features Ed Norton, Paul Giamatti, and Jessica Biel. The film is set in turn-of-the-century Vienna (roughly 1902) and is about a magician who uses his abilities to secure the love of a woman far above his social standing.

The film was universally praised by both of us. It was a delightful mix of drama, intrigue, excitement, and romance. The "magic" was handled in a pleasantly realistic manner as well. In many films today where "fantasy" is a part, the director takes far too many liberties using the CGI capabilities to create NONSENSE that does not conform to any realistic expectation of anything. The special effects here were not like that... they were subtle and ADDED to the story. A special treat was in Paul Giamatti's character, an officer of the law... an inspector/future police chief who was a pipe smoker. His pipe was a very nice looking dublin shaped briar with an amber stem.

It was a very pleasant evening.


Wednesday, October 04, 2006

The Event

Yesterday was a very long day of effort, but I believe it was a fruitful effort.

Yesterday was the day I put together the plan for a surprise birthday party for my wife after having planned, purchased, and plotted this event for several weeks.

This birthday was a special birthday where the second digit in her age was "O". Therefore, the day and the event needed to be special. I invited all the relatives from both sides of the family, swore them to secrecy. My wife had decided to take the afternoon off and scheduled a facial, manicure and a pedicure (three hours of some stranger touching and massaging all matter of parts of your body... not my idea of a good time, but she likes that sort of thing). T

his gave me the opportunity to enact my plan. Immediately after my afternoon class eneded, I scooted out the door (instead of eating lunch or doing research or reading), hopped into my trusty steed (my truck), and cavorted all over the town getting the various items I had pre-ordered.... roses, a specially decorated cake, ice cream, a platter of sub sandwiches, and bags of ice. I then raced home. I ran the platter into the refrigerator, the cake onto the counter, the ice cream into the freezer, and dropped the bags of ice several times each to shatter the cubes and then poured them into a waiting cooler I had hidden in a corner of the garage that was filled a variety of pop and beer.

I then ran into the basement where I had hidden all sorts of decorations and doo-dads and then I raced back upstairs and began to decorate the kitchen with festive banners, signs, ornaments, napkins, plates etc all in a festive range of hues of orange, yellow, and pink.

After I decorated, I ran to my den and carried out the numerous presents I had wrapped late last night. These two were wrapped in a range of hues of yellow, orange, and pink and I placed them all around the room.

I opened the windows to let in the extremely surprising and unexpected warm temperatures (we had a high of 70 today, and it was actually sunny!). I went back down in the basement to check out the seating (a table with chairs, a sofa, and a few smaller chairs). I ran back upstairs to check seating options there.... seats around the kitchen table, several more seats in the family room, and still several more seats in the living room. I then ran out into the back yard and (happily) assessed that the outdoor seating would also be perfectly usable even at this late time of the year due to the extreme warmth. This added 5-6 seats on the deck and another 4-5 in the cobble-pavered area I had erected a gazebo upon this past spring. Everything looked good.

I then ran back in and did a quick vacume and then put the vacume cleaner away. During this time, my mother kept getting antsy, but luckily she did not get overly aggitated or stressed.

Next, I jumped back into my truck and raced to pick up five pizzas and three dozen pieces of chicken and brought them back and placed them into the oven on low to stay warm. It was roughly 15 minutes to the start of the party.

My wife walked in and was pleased about the party.

Guests started arriving and a conjovial carcophony of sound began to permeate every nook and crany of our home. We ate and drank and talked and mused. People seemed relaxed and happy.

When the meal time had just about concluded (people continued to munch on odds and ends of salads and pizza and other things all night long), we had my wife begin to open gifts. All manner of very nice gifts were given by members of our family. When the time came for my wife to open the gifts from me, she started by opening several sets of clothes (with jewlery) I had picked for her. She seemed pleased. She also opened a gift containing a work of religious art work she wanted for her contemplation space. Again, she was pleased. Finally, she opened the final package I had and found a folder in it. When she opened it she saw my major gift for her to cherish and remember her "0" birthday... a romantic ride on a hot-air balloon for the two of us. We can plan a particular day for our ride and it should be very, very nice indeed. I think she was surprised, but I also think she liked the thought of the gift.

We then ate cake and ice cream, and people began to filter out to go home.

All and all, it seems like it was a successful effort on my part... and the party seemed to be enjoyed by all.


Tuesday, October 03, 2006

A Member of the Caste

Today will be spent working long and hard for something I hope is positive. I will be like a busy bee.


Monday, October 02, 2006


Becky, summer, austere, Laurent, and Abbagirl74.... I thank you for your kind words and advice. You help me greatly during the times of stress.

* * * * *

I feel I am at a crossroads in life. A midlife crisis of sorts, although it is a bit on the late side. I need to ruminate, contemplate, and elucidate my feelings and my emotions.

I do not know what I (meaning ME, meaning MYSELF, meaning my CORE BEING) have been put here on Earth for any longer. Previously it had seemed so obvious and so sure. My life as an academic seemed at once stimulating and rewarding, challenging and invigorating. To be a professor seemed a noble and just career to strive for, to aspire to climb through, to live as. Likewise, my life as a husband/father seemed tailor fit for me and for my personality. And, finally, my life as a caretaker seemed to utilize my strengths, and it gave me more ways to serve God, my Family, and my Community.

Yet, lately, the topsy-turvy landscape that has been my life makes me unsure about my performance in any of the above. I feel if I were to use criteria similar to what I use for my own courses, I would not score above a "D" in any category. That causes me saddness. I truely strive to do right by the people I care about... my wife my kids, my mother, my in-laws. They are all the people I love, yet nary a moment passes when I do not seem to disappoint one or several of them.

Yet, there seems to be little to no unity in how life is to be lived, and that causes me to feel as if I need to be the GLUE... this is my role in life. Yet, sadly, my adhesive properties are not of the strength needed.

Enough said, I suppose. All I know is that I continue to try to remember and live the idea of, "I cannot change others, but I can change myself." Perhaps when I learn this very straight-forward lesson, and implement it, perhaps then I will find peace and contenment.


Sunday, October 01, 2006

Update, Albeit Brief

Mom is getting stronger. It is wonderful to see.

My father-in-law is doing well. It is very much a relief.

My wife is herself and I have worked to put into action the notion I spoke of yesterday of "I can only change myself." It was a reasonably successful day.

* * * * *

I feel I am moping around, and I am not trying to do so. I have been feeling my way around life these last several weeks, and I thought once the crises abated, I would return to my generally congenial self. I have yet to do so. I feel paunchy and old... and I should return to exercise.... but I do not. I smoke my pipes more than I ever had... but enjoy each bowlful less and less. I am teaching the same number of students I always do in the Fall... and yet I do not feel that spark nor desire to strive to reach them... I feel nothing much at all. I have (had?) hopes and dreams... goals that I had planned to work on or work towards.... ideas on how to make more contributions to science... and yet they are now only distant memories... I sometimes think of them fondly as I drift off to sleep... but I have no energy, no real drive to try to accomplish them.

I can imagine you, my friends and readers, thinking to yourself... "Get OVER IT you idiot! You have nothing to complain about." Then I can see you grimmace and continue, "What is your problem? Stop complaining and kick yourself in the hind end!"

I can understand and I can even agree. I have never had this sort of feeling before... or at least not one where I did not pull myself up by my bootstraps and fix it. I do not see that I can do that yet... I do not see HOW I can do that this time. I cannot find anywhere within me, a spark, a drive, a desire. Yesterday's argument with my wife has only served to show me that there is little hope for any sort of meaningful change. It may seem to you, silly, but to me, being able to go visit my father-in-law was an important step, a chance to return something to its normal place again.... it would have felt good... it would have felt a real step back up the ladder to finding life again and finding the old me... the one I miss... the one that only seems alive in an historical context now. I can look back... through my mind, or through these essays... and see how vital and alive and vivid I have felt. That version of me is such an historical artifact now. I look back at me and see someone I miss, someone I can never be again. The argument yesterday just proved it.... not because of the words or the feelings or the emotions.... as I said, I have grown from that argument to know I can only work to CHANGE ME. The argument just proved.... by the very timing of it... which destroyed my visit to my father-in-law... it proved the end of who I was. I mourn that end. I liked who I was. I liked my life as it was. I liked my work as it was. But it is all dead. I am not sure what the new me shall be. I doubt I will have even a modicum of the joy I once had. I cannot sense that joy lurking anywhere within me anymore. It may be what is dead.