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.

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Disappointed in Myself

I disappointed myself today. I broke the major life rule I had been trying to keep at the forefront of my mind... "I can only change myself, not others." It is the same sort of story you may recall earlier:

My wife and I had difficulty in communicating effectively today. In a nutshell, I said something to my wife that she took as criticism (was not meant to be) and snapped at me. I have an extraordinairly difficult time dealing with people (especially those I love) when they snap at me. So we had a fair amount of negative words.

It was all pointless and all due to our not listening to each other. And I failed at my vow to only change myself. It took most of the day to work through the feelings and emotions.

It was a rough day.


Saturday, December 30, 2006

Saddam Hussein

Many of you may disagree, but in my opinion, it was very WRONG to execute Saddam Hussein. I think it is inappropriate for any individual, community, or nation to have the "right" to put another human being to death. And, I do not believe two wrongs make a right, and I do not believe in an "eye-for-an-eye". Yes, Saddam did some horrible, horrible things in his lifetime. Yet, we, the people who support his execution are not any different.

Justice is never served by one person killing another. It would have been far, far better for Saddam Hussein to have been imprisioned and left there for the remainder of his natural life. I also think that it would have been very useful to attempt to have psychologists study him to learn better how he became the man he became, so as to help other people avoid similar traits.


Friday, December 29, 2006


Thank you all for your response to my "Death Weighs Heavy" post. My mother has stabalized her weight currently. It is not as good as it could be, but it has not progressed to an emergency level yet. I have the following comments for those of you who were kind enough to comment to that post:

Andrew: Thank you sir, for your message. I appreciate it greatly. Please tell more about the cigars.... brand/quantity, etc. I do enjoy a cigar on occasion (perhaps 2-3 a week). I have been especially partial to Arango Sportsman 350s of late.

Proxima: Also, a very heartfelt thank you. I honestly do appreciate what you are saying. And from an intellectual level, I can see the beauty, grace, and charm in what you have written. The mix of faith and philosophy is very wonderful and important to have. And, believe me when I say that I do hold similar views about LIFE in terms of my faith and philosophy. Yet, there is something so vastly different for my mind to attempt to put the same ideas atop of death. I have never been able to go beyond viewing death as the ultimate loss and ultimate betrayal. I am at a loss on how to change that idea, which seems so truly innate in my soul.

SimplyTim: Wise words sir. I had not visited your site in a very long time. I shall again bookmark you.

Abbagirl47: Unfortunately, both you and I seem to share some similarities in our perceptions on death and dying. I thank you for your post, but wish you and I both felt differently. Deep in the recesses of my mind I am always fearful of the permanence of death, and my most recurrent nightmare is that I am seated in some poorly lit, stark, bare place and I continually witness the last moments of life and the death of each and every person I know, and love and care about. Each in turn, each in sequence. I witness and watch their pain as their life leaves them. I am somehow belted to a chair and cannot move, but am forced to watch these scenes play again and again like an unending reel of film. In my dream, I cannot do anything but watch these scenes for all of eternity. All I feel is the pain and loss of each and every person I know and love. I sob and weep and curse and cry out, for eternity.

The day after experiencing that nightmare, I am almost non-functional, for I am so utterly spent and exhausted when I awaken. If it is a work day, I have a horrid time giving a coherent lecture.


Thursday, December 28, 2006

Death Weighs Heavy

Today has been a hard day. I have felt like crying and have done little but sleep. Thoughts of death loom around me. My elderly mother has been having more difficulty with her edema from congestive heart failure. She slept most of the day on Wednesday. I am very fearful that we may be heading again to the hospital again.

* * * * *

Looking back on life today, I see very little joy. All I can see is a struggle that inevitably leads to our death. There are several famous and not-so-famous people I have been thinking about of late, and they have all been people I admired. They are all dead:

Nigel Bruce - the quintessential Dr. Watson, who passed away in 1953. I remember hearing of his death when I was a youngster. It was very sad.

Ernest Hemingway
- his suicide in 1961 was harsh and traumatic to me.

William Faulkner - his death in 1962 so shortly following Hemingway was another blow to my psyche.

John Steinbeck - completed the third of the trio of hugely important American writer deaths when he died in 1968. His work "Travels With Charlie" was especially moving to me.

Sebastian Cabot - a character actor who passed away in 1977.

Victor French - a strangely charismatic character actor who passed away in 1989.

My own beloved father in 1994.

* * * * *

There are countless others of course. Yet the above list highlights the thoughts of death I was reliving yesterday as I worked through my worry and grief. The list itself likely has no meaning other than those individuals were the ones I was thinking about as opposed to others I could have thought about.

I do not know where I am going with this damn post anyhow. I think I shall just stop it here for now. Perhaps a good nights rest will change my outlook.

* * * * *

A brief P.S. to G@P... I am sorry sir, I was not up to posting about my gifts today. I shall try to do so tomorrow.


Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Tobacco & Tomatoes

G@P asked what I received for Christmas this year. I think I will use that inquiry as the focus for my post tommorrow (Thursday) so that I may be able to show images (if I can figure out the process to do so again).

I would be willing to wager that many reading my title for today would be scratching their head in wonder.... "What the hell is he thinking, today?!?" is what I presume many of you are thinking.

Yet, there is a method to my madness. Unless you are a biologist, it is extremely unlikely that you would know that the beloved tobacco plant and the equally beloved tomato plant are closely related. Both plants belong to the same family - Solanaceae. This is more commonly refered to as the "Nightshade" family of plants. I have read that some cultures in South America would smoke tomato leaves. I have never tried it myself, but it is an interesting idea.

There are several varieties of tobacco as well. Most pipe tobacco is made from Nicotiana tabacum, but in certain regions of the world, most notably in areas of Russia, a tobacco called Nicotiana rustica is grown. This species of the leaf is very robust and potent and enjoyable. It is popular in Russia, Poland, Hungary, and in much of Germany where people like their indulgences strong. I have had the pleasure of sampling this leaf and it is indeed a joy. There are another two species of tobacco commonly used for smoking. One, the common turkish tobacco is harsh, but not particularly powerful. The other is one I do not know well.

Smoking pipe tobacco is a great joy in my life. I am not sure, but I would likely find smoking tomato leaves could also be enjoyable. The only thing I have smoked other than tobacco, is catnip. I indulge in catnip in my pipe every once in a while to combat upper respiratory infections.


Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Why Service?

A student I had last semester, and who knew of this site, wrote to me:

"Dr. [PipeTobacco], can you send me my final exam grade score and my lab[oratory practical] exam grade score so I can figure out how come you gave me a C. I thought i was doing alot better then that. Also, on your blog you talk about service being important. Why?"

To which I replied:

Ninety-nine times out of 100, if you were to ask a professor the above question, sir, you would receive a reply about a) it being Christmas, or b) you think I have my gradebook at home with me? But you actually are in luck, and I do have my gradbook in my briefcase. You earned a 63 on your final examination, and you earned a 59 on the second laboratory practical examination. These two scores combined with the other scores you earned in the semester gave you a percentage of points possible of 68%. Since 73% is the lowest percentage I have listed on my syllabus as is acceptable for a grade of "C", you can also see that your grade of "C" includes a rather hefty curve as well. Merry Christmas!

Now, onto your more valuable question... concerning service. I do not really know of any way in which our time here on this planet nor in this life can be lived more successfully. Even though I am not as successful as I would like to be, nor as successful as I think I should be... I do know for a fact, that I know of no more satisfying and pleasant feeling in life than to truly help another person or living thing. To serve others is to contribute to the greater good of what the potential is for life. Try giving of yourself in service, even if for a short while. I think you will quickly see what I mean.


Monday, December 25, 2006

Jolly Bearded Fellow

"The stem of a pipe, he held tight in his teeth,
and the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath"

As you celebrate your holiday festivities this year, please keep in mind that what is most important for us all is the idea of service to others. I am vowing to renew my committment to service and to work hard to make this world a place of joy and contentment. I vow to work harder to assist others in need. We are here for only a short time on this Earth. What better can we do, than to work to make things better?

The next time you see a gentleman smoking a pipe, be it me, or someone else, or even the jolly fellow in a red suit, think gentle, happy thoughts, and smile at the man. It is a small, but meaningful act of kindness.


Friday, December 22, 2006

"Rub of the Brush"

One of the few pastimes I still am able to pursue with any regularity is to watch old films on Turner Classic Movies. I often stay up until 2-3am watching an old movie or two. While his habit may wreck havoc with my sleep, it does give me one way to garner a sense of normalcy during times of stress.

A film I had not seen for probably 20-25 years, and did not really watch that closely then, was "The Westerner". This 1940 epic staring Gary Cooper and Walter Brennan was a fairly standard cowboy film on the surface, but actually displayed surprising depth of character (especially for a 1940 film).

Brennan played an old reprobate, judge/bartender in a small Western town. His character was the infamous Judge Roy Bean. It was a wonderful film. An espeically intriguing aspect of the film was a "slang" expression that was used in the film, which apparently was a term of the mid 1800s and is authentic. In the film, Bean, in his bartender duds, is serving a drink to Cooper. Originally they start out in a more antagonistic role with each other, but over time become more friendly. As a means of celebrating the newly developed friendship, Bean offers Cooper a different drink, which he then says is a "rub of the brush". They both nod and proceed to drink (an enormous quantity for a movie... perhaps half of a fifth each.

When I heard the expression, I immediately presumed it was a variation on the "hair of the dog that bit you" sort of theme. But, because I thought the term sounded especially entertaining and a bit archaic and quaint, I decided to investigate further. What I found was interesting indeeed:

Rub of the Brush = A beverage made from the remains of drinks in a bar.

[grin] This made me smile enormously, for it fit so well into the Brennan character (Bean). Being a frugal bartender, when he would collect glasses to clean, he would pour the contents left behind into an empty bottle and then proceed to drink them himself when the bottle was full. Economy, frugality, conservation, all rolled into one, with drinking to boot! Quite a fun phrase, and one I shall remember from now on.

Perhaps some day, that novel I have always been meaning to write will come true. And, perhaps I shall strive to write a western, instead of a detective novel. If so, I want to be sure to have a character in it that would use the "rub of the brush" phrase as well.

* * * * *

We have been making some significant changes in my mother's medication to keep the fluid build up under control. I hope it works and I hope that we can keep her healthier during the holidays. We are playing it day-by-day, and hope simply for homeostasis.

Because of several difficult and impossible issues around the family, I am not going to the funeral with my wife. She is going instead with her brother and sister. She will not be home until likely around 11:30pm.


Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Saddness & Rage

I do not think it shall ever quit. Memories of a happy, carefree life seem like a fiction novel I only can read about but not experience.

I was sad today because my mother's weight keeps elevating again. I fear she will be back at the hospital before Christmas or worse.

We read in the newspaper that a favorite priest from many years ago passed away today. He will be greatly missed. My mother was very sad about this news as well.

My wife and I had difficulty communicating effectively with each other both yesterday and today. The lack of communication caused hurt feelings in both of us. It appears when we are under stress and especially when we are under time stress, we have difficulty getting our points across without them a) feeling hurtful, b) being misunderstood, or c) causing rancor.

An idiotic, rude, obnoxious, and I personally believe, fraudulant scientific supply company has tried to gouge me out of $1000 for *shipping* of a small piece of equipment no bigger than 24"x24" and weighing perhaps 35 pounds. It was indeed the icing on the cake of a very bad day.

I feel I have lost footing on what it means to have joy in life. I miss joy and happiness so very much.

Also, now, since it is past midnight. Today, the 20th is also the anniversary of the suicide death of a niece in my family. It is still a raw, open, gaping wound.


Sunday, December 17, 2006


My wife's aunt died on Saturday of congestive heart failure.

My mother has had weight gain and fluid retention the last two days. We have given her extra diuretic as the on-call physician recommended. It does not appear to be helping.

Please pray for my mother.


Friday, December 15, 2006


When two different things blend together into a permanent new item, it is called a chimera. Mythology is rich with chimeric imagery, such as the Sagittarian symbol, and chimeric cell lines abound in biological research.

Perhaps life is all about being a chimera with what is around us? Perhaps it is something to think about.


Thursday, December 14, 2006


As you can tell, yesterday was not a good day for me. I was upset about many, many things. I am not denying my anger at Blogger and Google and Internet Explorer, but I as everyone else, will simply have to deal with it. I will not take my site down because of these annoyances, even though they still frustrate.

I also presume I will simply remain a mute presence on Andrew's blog. I do not think he spends any time reading here anymore so, it is unlikely he would see comments I leave for him anyhow. I guess it does not really matter, as I think he is more involved with the many other, younger, friends he has acquired and my role has become rather superfulous anyhow. Therefore, no action is needed by me to fix that avenue either.

I am also sad and frustrated because I was very, very angry last night. Fortunately, my wife was very understanding and allowed me to talk (rant) it out. I was mad at numerous things at work, mad about students, mad about final exams, angry about my lack of time to do anything at work, frustrated at constraints on my day, angry and frustrated about virtually every aspect of my life. It helped to be able to express myself to my wife, yet I feel very sad, disappointed, and guilty that I could not figure out a way to hold it "together" and simply internalize those feelings of anger and frustration and deal with them myself. I yelled and cursed and cried and wept and fortunately my wife understood and helped me, but I still hate that I was that way. It is unfair and unjustified for me to express that sort of emotion around those that I love. It truly makes me fearful that now because I was so upset and did not appreciate all the good that I do have, now God or fate or circumstance will "teach me a lesson" and really make something horrid happen to me or my family. It makes me so very, very remorseful and sad.


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

A Rant and A Favor

I am so fed up with this damn beta blogger crap. Every time I go to post a big, glaring message states "Your New Version of Blogger is Ready!!!" like I should be happy and enthused about it. All I am is annoyed as hell. If you want to know why, read the next three posts below. I DO NOT WANT TO HAVE MORE LOGIN CRAP TO REMEMBER AND I AM NOT GOING TO ADOPT A NEW GOOGLE USERNAME!

I have a favor to ask, however, for those of you who CAN post on Andrew's blog, would you please let him know that I am still reading, but that I simply am no longer able to post. I have decided at this time to NOT post on any more comment sections that reqire the GOOGLE log in as I do not want to figure that crap out again. Apparently because of security needs on his site, Andrew found need to change his comment section to the beta blogger version and I can no longer post using my blogger login information. Please let him know.

I am growing more and more certain that when the day comes where blogger REQUIRES us to switch to the "beta" blogger, it will likely signify the end of "The Thoughts of a Frumpy Professor".


Annoyed as Hell at Blogger

I personally do not see any value or benefit from the &$^&^%% beta blogger. All it has caused me thus far is a royal pain in my posterior. Here are some examples:

1. I DESPISE the idea of having some damn Google account. I like the user names and passwords I have in blogger. I DO NOT want to have to learn another sh*tl**d of names and passwords. I supposedly have one google account so far, and I had used it for a time when Andrew changed his comments section to require that sort of username/password combination. Then he switched back for a while... now apparently he switched back again in his comments section (or Blogger did). That is why I cannot post on his site anymore.

2. The idea of getting a damn google account irks me no end. I cannot remember the one I originally had when Andrew's blog was invite only, and it annoyed me when I used it then too... I did not have my photo image accompany my comments during that period.

3. Why does blogger feel the need to have this idiotic beta blogger *IF* it is so much the same!??!?!?! The most likely reason is money. For some assinine reason, I am sure the annoying idiotic requirements to have a google account are because somehow blogger gets more money that way.

4. I am so ticked right now, that I had seriously contemplated deleting this whole site. I have not yet done so (obviously), but I still may.

5. I do not need google accounts, nor do I need g-mail or any of that crap added to my life. I simply want to write here and to post comments on blogs of friends.

I am feeling extremely frustrated.

Even if I do not delete my blog now, if I am ever FORCED by blogger to switch to the assinine beta version, I may just chuck it all then rather than change. I am that angry right now.


Another Thing I am Mad At

I am also annoyed at blogger for whatever the hell they did that now makes it impossible to post a message on my site using Netscape! For the past few weeks (when all this b*llsh*t beta blogger crap took off like crazy), when I try to go to blogger to add to my site, blogger shuts down my NETSCAPE. I have been using Internet Explorer (which I dislike) when I wanted to post. But it is damn annoying and unfair to have to use Internet Explorer when I prefer Netscape.


A Final Bit of Anger

One more thing I am ticked off about and I am going to bed. About five days ago, my computer was scheduling some updats and suggested I install the newest version of Internet Explorer. This is the second or third time this suggestion came up so I finally agreed and accepted the download.

Unfortunately the new Internet Explorer is annoying as hell! The MOST annoying aspect is that the refresh and home buttons in the upper left are GONE. The home button was nothing too valuable, but I sure as hell use and need the REFRESH button. It is available through menus in this new idiotic version, but NEVER IN MY WILDEST IMAGINATION would I have thought ANYONE would remove a REFRESH button. To me it is the same as a denist removing a tooth just because they think it will not make a helluva lot of differce and they thought it might look "cooler" in a new design in the mouth.



Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Comment for Andrew's Blog

Some yahoo posted a statement on Andrew's blog that seems to exude negativity. I wished to answer this person, but something is amiss in Andrew's comment section at the moment. Instead of losing my comment, I decided to post it here in case Andrew stops by to read it.

Andrew... something seems amiss with your comments section, it seems I cannot log in the old way this afternoon. I am not sure why. I am not sure if others are experiencing this difficulty as well.


You ask how Andrew affords his lifestyle. Andrew affords his lifestyle in the same way we all do.... a mixture of sources.

Andrew does not currently work at a paying job, for he is currently working at stabilizing his medications. However, he has worked extensively in many different venues in the past. He lives a quiet, gentle, low-cost life based on frugality. Frugality does not mean being destitute or downtrodden or skimping. Living a frugal life is about enjoying and being enriched by what can be afforded in a given financial situation.

So, in a nutshell, Andrew lives within his means, from a variety of income sources, including SSDI, some help from family and friends, and his own past income from previous jobs.

If we look at the great scheme of things in society, I suspect the same sorts of avenues exist for many of us. I may have a job currently, but if I had a medical issue that required it, I would be very happy to acquire SSDI funds, which is their exact purpose. Additionally, I know I help in the support of many people, including my elderly mother and my children, and the relatives I help also contribute to their own lives in financial ways as well, such as in retirement income my mother receives.

Add to this fact the very idea that Andrew, as well as myself as well as many others SUPPORT society by living a good, appropriate, life of caring and service to others... work that does not necessairlly earn cash, but is a value to society, and you can see that your question, which on the surface sounds a bit mean and condescending is actually one that from the standpoint of philosophy is far more complex and multifaceted than you may realize.

Pehaps a question you (anonymous 2:28) might want to consider for yourself is....

We all, in each of us who is living, gives and takes to the greater good of society in one way or another.... DO YOU give and take from society in a way that you feel is approrpriate?



Today, after I spend time at work, I am hoping to be able to squeeze out of work early and go home because my mother wishes to make a fruitcake and some cookies. She is not able to do this by herself, and I do not want to disappoint her. I wish it was not such a terribly busy week with final exams and grades being do, but I will figure out a way to fit this into the day as well.


Monday, December 11, 2006

Uneventful Weekend

The weekend was pretty much uneventful.... which in other words means it was pretty damn good. Nothing horrible happened, nothing unforseen befell upon us. It was just pretty much a casual, rather quiet, somewhat "typical" weekend.

It seems it has been a helluva long time since that happened.

We made a homemade pizza with whole wheat crust for Friday evening. On Saturday, we made Mexican food, and on Sunday, we prepared Ravioli with Pesto.

* * * * *

The song clip last time was fun. I have included another one here. This artist is more obscure, especially the primary readership of blogs. But, I suspect there may be a few of you who know a) the name of this great artist, and b) the name of the song. I think I have removed all trace of that information from the segment. No prize this time, except for making an old furry faced professor smile.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Razor's Edge

No, I am not going to shave my beard and moustache. Do not worry, my gnome-like visage remains intact.

Nothing is seriously wrong in the household at the moment, yet there are fluctuations that indicate the weekend may be more stressful and chaotic than calm and peaceful. I call this time, the Razor's Edge, for it could go either way... situations could fall of the edge towards greater tranquility, stability, and happiness, or life could fall off the edge in the other direction and spiral into chaos. I am working hard on keeping a calm, reasoned, optimistic attitude. I must fight to not beome enveloped in0 feelings of hopelessness, especially because if the fluctuations continue to turn for the worse, the hopelessness makes it ten times more difficult to work hard to serve my family and work responsibilities. Here is what is up:

1. My wife is having severe stress about work related issues that is making her feel inadequate and hopeless. I am trying to help out in ways that I can, but I have to be careful to not do too much, because then she feels disheartened that she is "burdening" me.

2. My mother's weight has fluctuated a pound in one day. While, technically this is a variation that can occur naturally for a whole host of reasons, it is not the typical pattern for her when things are going well. Instead, it is often an indication of the start of problems.

3. I have been having difficulties with my laboratory assistants all semester. One of them is a fairly low wattage bulb in terms of intellect and does assinine things. Earlier this week, he was set to proctor a lab exam which was set up in the lab... and he decided to pass out student evaluation forms for himself FIRST, and then left the room for 20 minutes to let them fill out the forms (IN THE ROOM WITH THE PRACTICAL DISTRIBUTED OVER ALL THE BENCHES!). The other is very intelligent but is a "head in the clouds" sort and apparently is not particularly observant. One of the students who took the lab practical in his section wrote to me last night, complaining about widespread cheating during the exam. It is frustrating to the nth degree and in both cases, there isn't a whole helluva lot I can do about it for this semester.

4. I have a huge, and rather unexciting report that I must complete prior to the end of the semester. This report will be roughly 30 pages, and my desire to write this evil document is less than zero (yes, I know, all you math profs, that is not a valid construct in this example... but it is dramatic liscense on my part).

So, while technically, nothing is horribly amiss at the moment, the building blocks are all around me to create a house of chaos the next several days. Add to this that next week is final exam week, and the kettle is definetly filled with a gruel-like brew of unpleasant possibilities.

Yet, after getting this out on paper, I will now strive with all my furry-faced might, to gear up for high-energy work and a positive attitude.

I know I have written about Man From La Mancha in the past, but it is indeed one of my very favorite musicals of all time. I know it may sound wretchedly simplistic, and perhaps a bit child-like, but sometimes I take comfort in envisioning myself a "Don Quixote-esque" sort of character, tilting at windmills, even when it is hopeless, but stiving for what is right and good and true. Since so many films today are based upon comic book characters, perhaps what I need to do is magine myself a "Don Quixote Superhero"?!? I could be a furry-faced caped crusader, with DQ (not for Dairy Queen, mind you) emblazened across my chest. I will have to think about what my tools and my superpowers could be. Mull it over and offer suggestions if possible.


Thursday, December 07, 2006

Bonus Post

I thought I would do something highly unusual for me and give a bonus post for today. This post, however, fits the theme as it involves music published very close to the era of 1972. In case you are not interested in this bonus post, you can, of course, scroll down a bit and read my regular writing for today. Why the bonus post, you ask? I am not sure. Perhaps I am feeling a bit of the heady exhilaration about having completed my last lecture for the semester (final exams are all that is left), or perhaps it is because my elderly mother is doing very well today, or perhaps it is because it is Thursday (a long-standing, favorite day of the week), or perhaps my serotonin levels have accidently elevated for some unknown reason, or of course it could be for some other reason all together. However, I feel pretty damn good at the moment. Therefore I thought I would try to explore and play around on the computer a bit, something I haven't done in a helluva long time. I want to see if I could get something to work here. The following is a link, that I *believe* will work adequately through my blogsite:

Guess This Song

This song is both highly pleasant and highly annoying at the same time. It also typifies well the musical range and depth (both good and bad) of the pop music scene at that long ago, but fondly remembered time.

If this endeavor works, the first person to name the artist and song together wins a fabulous prize, you can receive absolutely free, a .jpg of a beautiful new pipe I am enamored with and considering the purchase of said. Act fast, and win!


34 Years Ago

In 1948, an important scientist of astronomy, Fredrick Hoyle made the following statement:

"Once a photograph of Earth taken from the outside is available, an idea as powerful as any in history will let loose."

What Dr. Hoyle was intimating, I believe, is that when we as a human species, can see our world as a whole, from outside of that world, it will create in us an awareness, an understanding, that will allow our minds to grow far beyond what they were able to discern previously.

That photograph was taken, 34 years ago today, via the astronauts of Apollo 17. The year was 1972.

Let us think about what has changed since 1972:

The typical family car in 1972 was a Chevrolet Impala
Today, the typical family car is the Honda Accord

The typical male college student in 1972 usually looked something like this.
Today, the typical male college student looks something like this.

The typical female college student in 1972 usually looked something like this.
The typical female college student today usually looks something like this.

Please feel free to make any further comparisons between 1972 and now.


Wednesday, December 06, 2006

St. Nicholas

From the enormous decline in comments since starting the semi-philosophical essays, I can see they are going over as well as a lead balloon. Oh well, I suppose I shall keep it up a few more days and then either a) some new horror will befall my family and I shall be in the pits of despair again, b) I will become overburdened with the end of the semester nonsense that is a part of university life or perhaps c) I'll decide to chuck it all in and quit blogging like Andrew apparently has over at 4th Avenue Blues.

There is a feast day called the day of St Nicholas, which is celebrated on today, December 6th. The origins of this celebration are based in a Catholic bishop named Nicholas who lived in Turkey in roughly 400 A.D.E.

Everything known about this bishop is really hersey, but the legends are enormous. He has been considered to be especially generous to the poor, which is believed to be the origins of people giving gifts to eachother on his feast day.

Through the centuries the stories of this particular bishop have mutated and evolved enormously and he is believed to be the origin of today's Santa Claus.

So, if you can, give a loved one a gift today in celebration of St. Nicholas, the original, the forerunner of the pipe-smoking, jolly old elf himself that we are so enamored with on December 25th.


Tuesday, December 05, 2006

To Be A Dad

Relationships are vital to the formation of whom we are and who we have become. I think that the most challenging responsibility I have in life in terms of relationships is that of being the very best Dad I can be to my kids. Please do not get me wrong, my wife is my loving partner and I cherish every fiber of her being. I also love dearly my own mother. And I love my siblings enormously as well. Yet, it is the relationships that I have with my kids that I think that has the most influence. Parents are the vital to the development of who kids become.

The reasons for this are multifaceted but revolve around my responsibility for bringing them into this world. No matter how old they become, I will always feel a need to be an available guide for them and a desire to help them become as happy and wonderful as they can be. It is likely I learned this deep respect of the responsibility of being a Dad from my own beloved father. His calm, quiet, conjovial demeanor was one that really helped me to grow into who I have become. I hope I have been and will continue to be as nourshing to my own children as my own father was and still is (sadly, in absencia) to me.


Monday, December 04, 2006

The "Jesse" Tree

I suppose most of us (at least those of us who have spent any time in a rural environment) will recognize the following event:

A large, aged tree of great girth is sawed down (due to whatever cause)to the ground. All that remains is the raw, glaring stump, the base of the tree that once was. Yet, often within a season, or a year, or two years after then original tree was amputated from its stump and roots, a young, new, shoot will arise along that cut surface.

I am not actually sure of its origins, but my wonderful father always refered to this sort of occurance as being a "Jesse" Tree, and I think the image of this growing tree stump is very good as an analogy for our life.

For me, the tree can represent many things. These would include:

1. Our family. The stump and roots can symbolize how there will be some of that family that will remain even when the main body is no longer present in its full form. The new shoot is both NEW, but also OF THE OLD that came before it. By having the NEW be possible, it makes it bearable that the original may change. I think of my father often in this way. I miss him tremendously, and in some ways, I hope that I am like the Jesse tree... some of him in terms of manner, demeanor, and traits, but also my own individual. There is obviously also the genetic component as well.

2. Our idea of knowledge. Knowledge grows and arises from what has been discovered before. This is part of the idea of the scientific method. This notion of knowledge being a collective force for our world, our society, and ourselves is a critical idea and one that is parlayed every day in colleges and universities of science across the world. We learn and value and covet the past, both in recollection of the previous toil and effort, but also to be able to utilze this information as a springboard for our own awakening and discovery of new knowledge.

3. Our Love. The "Jesse" tree can help to make harsh realities a little less so, for I think the one aspect of life that this mimics well is LOVE. Love between family and friends is so precious and vital. While original love, the love that initially bonds people in a family together is very unique and special, those who are fortunate to have such bonds (be they between husband and wife, between child and parent, between siblings, etc) also can wittness how the grow, develop and become new and even better over time.

Much of life is like the "Jesse" tree.

* * * * *

My mother is doing well. Her weight has stayed stable since her return home. I do not like to relax and think everything will stay stable.... for if I do it almost inevitably that in doing so, I "jinx" it and a new disaster ensues.

My wife and I are working hard to experience as much joy as we can during this, the start of both the holiday season and the physical start of winter.


Sunday, December 03, 2006

Advent & Philosophy

Today begins the season of Advent in my faith. This is the start of a new year in terms of the liturgical calendar. For me it seems fitting then to attempt to incorporate some new plans and efforts to try to become a better person.

I know that in many ways I am nothing but a bum. I am not worth the many gifts I receive. My family, my friends, my life are all gifts to me, and there are times when these enormous gifts are not appreciated as they should be by me. I hope that through thought during this season, I may learn to complain less about what is not important. I hope to be able to work harder and more successfully in having my family know and feel my love for them. I hope to become a better man, a better husband, a better father, a better son, a better brother. I hope to be able to help my students and my co-workers in their goals and plans.

As a part of my efforts that I am trying to create in me during Advent, I am going to begin an occasional series of philosophical essays that may take the form of fables, debates, and/or opinion papers. These will be in addition to my normal writings, and I hope that you find them challenging and thought provoking.

A life that is about service is how I feel life should be lived for me. Yet, I have been selfish and often do not focus on working on making a mark.... making my time here be beneficial to others.

I am hopeful I can make progress towards that goal... to work harder, to be kinder and more helpful, and to make a difference in life during my time here. I pledge to... to improve.