The Thoughts of a Frumpy Professor

............................................ ............................................ A blog devoted to the ramblings of a small town, middle aged college professor as he experiences life and all its strange variances.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Anticipated 24 Hours of Relaxation

I had a hellacious day on Tuesday.

First I had to drive my elderly mother across town to her doctor. The antibiotics she had taken last week had proven ineffective and she was getting worse quickly.

Second, I had to submit and get her perscription so she could hopefully begin to improve.

Third, I had to prepare her breakfast and set up all her breathing equipment, etc before I left for work. I arrived to work at 10:30.

Fourth, besides my normal teaching load, I had to write and submit an evaluation team report I had been working on.

Fifth, I also had to submit a report to the Department of Education that I got coerced into doing.

So, it was a helluva hectic day. But I was able to accomplish it! I drove my truck to work today, and on my way home as I smoked my pipe, I realized I very likely had a good 24 hours of time that would be relatively worry/stress free! My mother was seemingly responding to the new medication, Wednesday was an easier teaching load (only 3 hours of lecture), all the damn reports were done, and my wife had scheduled my current favorite meal for Wednesday evening (tacos).

So, I have been basking in the utter beauty of the 24 hour vacation.... the 24 hour period of time where I have at least a 90% chance of having things be normal and not filled with with one crisis after another.

To many of you, it would seem like an average day. To me, it is beautiful and utterly relaxing.

I will relish it.


Monday, January 29, 2007

Numb, Yet Placcid... And A Dog Story

Thank you to all of you who have commented. It touched me greatly to receive your words of help and advice. Specific responses occur below:

Leann - I fear death, like I suspect a good percentage of us do, for even if we have some sort of religious faith, our faith is not so strong as to be unshakable. In those moments, we fear. I agree with you that exercise is a must, yet I am not finding any way to allow me to accomplish said currently. I am still trying to figure out how to incorporate it.

Austere - Yes, I believe you are right. It is akin to traumatic stress, occuring prior to the event. And, yes again... I agree... the "ranting" does seem to help me carry on sometimes.

Cheryl - Thank you, Cheryl, for reading and for your first comment. I appreciate it.

Lynn - thank you, Lynn. I agree. But the hard part is I never imagined feeling so many different of these worries and fears all simultaneously. That is the aspect that is so shocking and so gnawing at my minimal stamina.

Mago - You have hit the nail on the head sir, when you speak of the "fear of being alone." I often have nightmares where I watch the deaths of all o fthose I know and love and I end up all alone. I cannot act, nor stop these deaths... I simply in my nightmare, observe each one. I wake up with clenched fists and sweat pouring off of my body.

Abbagirl - Thank you for encouraging people here. I have been moved by the great number of comments. Your comment also has been helpful. When my mother passes away, I shall be an orphan. I know it sounds odd, an old, grey-bearded professor speaking of being an orphan. Yet, it is how I will feel in my soul.

Jonathon - Thank you sir, for your mention on your site. I appreciate the effort greatly. I never used to think I was as morose as my brother, but now I see I can be similar. I had always thought of myself as a jovial fellow. But I have never had this ongoing sort of fear and saddness before.

Kristen - I am not familiar with the concept of spirit guides. They sound possibly helpful. Perhaps we could talk about this further?

SimplyTim - I agree 100% about walking. Yet, I have yet to figure out how to break the barrier and restart my 5 mile walks. It seems like a lifetime ago and yet it has been only months.

Amanda - Thank you. Yes, withdarwl can be worse. But it never seems like that when I begin that.

Summer - I would also be very willing to talk via e-mail. If you know you will be back here, I can give you my e-mail.

Red Robin - Sir, thank you. I have always felt a kindred spirit with you over the years I have known you. I also really enjoy your new site.

Proxima - Thank you, dear Proxima. I think I do take your advice in many ways. You and others here have been my support. You have been my way to grieve, yet remain strong to my family. You have given me your readership so that I can know my deeper core of grief and fear and pain can be heard. You help me to be stronger for them, those that need me.

Trekant - very true, sir.

* * * * *

Today has been a rather non-descript day. I feel mentally numb and placcid. Neither good nor bad. Not who I used to be, but not the fearful person I have so often been of late. While I loved who I used to be, it is perhaps foolish to pine over such historical artifact.... I will never be that person again, and this is the new me. Warts and all. I had damn well better get used to this person, that is me.

* * * * *

A newswire gave me a brief chuckle today because it reminded me of my former life, that time when I was a young doctoral student. Here is the story, and I shall elaborate further afterwards:

Pet Shop Owner Creates Beer for Dogs

Mon Jan 22, 2007 8:38 AM EST
Associated Press

AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS — After a long day hunting, there's nothing like wrapping your paw around a cold bottle of beer. So, a pet shop owner in the southern Dutch town of Zelhem, created a beer for her Weimaraners made from beef extract and malt.

Benito, a 5-year-old Chihuahua, drinks beer from a bottle in the southern town of Hulst, Netherlands, Sunday Jan. 21, 2007. Terrie Berenden, a pet shop owner in the town of Zelhem created a non-alcoholic beer for her Weimaraner dog made from beef extract and malt, and consigned a local brewery to make and bottle the beer, called Kwispelbier, after the word "kwispel", which is Dutch for wagging a tail.

"Once a year we go to Austria to hunt with our dogs, and at the end of the day we sit on the verandah and drink a beer. So we thought, my dog also has earned it," she said.

Berenden consigned a local brewery to make and bottle the nonalcoholic beer, branded as Kwispelbier. It was introduced to the market last week and advertised it as "a beer for your best friend."

"Kwispel" is the Dutch word for wagging a tail.

The beer is fit for human consumption, Berenden said. But at euro1.65 ($2.14) a bottle, it's about four times more expensive than a Heineken.

* * * * *

The above story reminds me of my own dog that I had during graduate school. As was custom at our school, we graduate students, and many of the faculty as well of our Department, would gather at a home or bar each Friday afternoon to drink and talk "shop". If you have never been around slightly tipsy academic biologists, you would be in for a surprise. It is both boisterous and bawdy, yet still scientific.

Well, during many of these Friday forays, I would bring my dog, Maxwell, with me. One time, quite early on, I and several others noticed that Max would attempt to stick his tongue into beer bottles and cans that were sitting on the floor. So, presuming he was thirsty, we decided to pour him a beer in his bowl. Well, he took quite a fancy to this, and drank the beer down immediately. I suspect for his size and weight, the single beer would have been roughly equal to me having 4-5 beers myself.

It became a ritual each Friday... both for me and for Max. And also, it because a highlight of many of the Friday gatherings... both from my friends, but also from faculty.

Max enjoyed this once a week pursuit as much as I did.


Saturday, January 27, 2007

Fear, Shame, Anxiety, Resentment

First, a thank you to all who commented on my list. Abbagirl, Austere, Mago, Laurent. I appreciate your words of advice, your kindness to comment, and your desire to help. To have you care helps me to not feel as hopeless.

* * * * *

I have two sides to my personality... the logical, reasoned scientific person, the fellow who looks a helluva lot like the image I have selected. I am a grey bearded, owlish, pipe smoking fellow. But I also have a scared, fearful, worried, insecure, lonely side too. When I write here, you do not see only the "semi-polished" persona I try to always portray to the tangible world. In day-to-day life I try to portray only the part of me that is strong. The part of me that is knowledgable about many things, the part of me that can guide, nurture, and support others.

However, here on this ever more important blog of mine, I attempt to reveal to you, my wonderful friends who care to read and comment... I reveal to you all the aspects of myself that I am aware of. My good days, my bad days. My abilities, my many, numerous, overwhelming weaknesses and failures. You have helped me as I try to sort through my good and bad emotions, my tranquil times of bravado and my times of utter fear and insecurity.

This is why this site is so important to me. There have been times when I have thought of abandoning my efforts. But I need to be able to remain in contact with you, for you have helped me to grow and to know more about myself.

Again, I thank you.

So, now on to my title:

Fear - I so fear death. Not so much my own, but feeling and experiencing the death of those I love and cherish. It is part of life, yes, but I fear it, and in my fear, I focus on it more and more (the "coward dies a thousand deaths idea). It is true, I do this, just like my baby brother. I hate that I do this. But I can find no way to stop. And with my mother teetering on that edge again and again, I cannot even imagine the fear stopping anytime soon.

Shame - I feel such shame that I cannot accept and love my role in my mother's life right now. I do work enormously to help her be happy, and do work to help her stay as healthy as possible. But I feel shame that I sometimes resent this role. I feel shame that sometimes I am sarcastic or too rushed in my time with her. I hate the many times I can recall through the years of my life when I was not as kind as I could have been with her.

Anxiety - I always feel anxious of late. It is such a hard emotion, yet I have picked it up and worn it like a winter coat in the frozen north. I cannot seem to shake the anxiety and this anxiety makes me inefficient, makes me slow witted, and makes me angry. I cannot get it to go away.

Resentment - I resent everyone and everything because I want my mother to be happy, healthy, and safe. The fact that she is not any of them regularly makes me feel guilty as hell and I resent having felt this way for the last several years. It is an enormous responsibility. And the guilt I feel at even admiting this idea of resentment is enough to make me want to shut down and retreat.

I am a pure bundle or raw, exposed nerves, and I think that I shall never heal.


Thursday, January 25, 2007

No Wind in My Sails

I feel lost. Here are my thoughts in a list as I am not coherent enough to think in paragraphs:

1. I feel unable to focus. I cannot do my work at the U at the level I want it to be.

2. I do not get to spend enough time at work to accomplish the items in #1 because my schedule is compressed at both ends due to needs of my mother. She does not do so well health-wise if I have her get up too early. And there are numerous items I need to help her with each morning (including medications, weighing, moving various breathing equipment). Typically I arrive at the U at 9am, sometimes 9:30.

3. Family time dictates I need to leave at 4pm on most days (5pm on one day when teaching is later). With all my teaching duties, committee duties and research duties cramed into that time frame, I feel I end up doing damn near everything half-assed.

4. I used to be able to compensate for the need for more time by leaving for work earlier in the morning, but because of my mother's needs that is not possible.

5. Working later in the evening means I miss "family time", so I do not wish to do that.

6. I could work late at night after everyone is to bed. Sometimes I do, but I am so unfocused at that time, anything overly technical it beyond my ability late in the night (late night is best for me to write here as it is a time when I know I can simply express myself and you will not belittle me for the occasional grammar mistep or typographical error).

7. I want my mother to become well and become stronger. I know that is almost certainly not going to happen. Yet, I need to keep that hope.

8. I want to appreciate my mother during the time I have left with her. I want her to be as happy as I can help her to be.

9. The two essays that I lost this week were diametrically oppossed to each other. The first talked about my trip taking my mother to the doctor (finally) after begging and pleading with her for 2.5 days. The other was the fear and despair I felt as my mother had a day that was really, really bad and she was adamant about NOT going to the hospital... and yet I could not stay home with her because of work and I was in agony on how or what to do.

10. I would love to have 2-3 (or 6-7) good, stiff drinks. Yet, I abstain at the moment, for I do not think it is helpful to drink when sad/fearful. On the occasions when I have a drink, I will do so only when I am feeling content and happy about life.... the few drinks add spice to the happiness. I wonder though, when (if) I shall feel content and happy again?

11. I know my mother is likely to pass away soon, but the thought is something I do not want to dwell upon while she is with us. It is a waste of the precious time we have left together.... I can spend forever thinking after she is gone about that event.

12. The adage.... a coward dies a thousand deaths, but a brave man dies but once.... is one that I firmly believe is true and beneficial to embrace.... yet I am perpetually the coward. I think about death of so many... my mother, my wife, my kids, myself. And I know intellectually that this thinking about it is akin to experiencing hundreds and hundreds of times. Yet, I cannot figure out how to keep my mind from focusing there. Sh*t, this sounds like my baby brother (who apparently gave up blogging).

13. I have stopped all forms of exercise. I miss it. Yet, it seems more than impossible to do at this time... since my time for doing regular work and regular family time is already being compressed.

14. My consumption of food has increased substantially. I have gained roughly 10 pounds since Thanksgiving, most of that during January.

15. I seem to be losing interest in my pipes and in my tobaccos. I do not feel the old joy from them.

16. I used to think, dream, plan, and look forward to each day. Now I go to bed and find happiness (sometimes) in my dreams or terrors in my nightmares. When the alarm clock goes off.... I feel fear and dread thinking about what I may find that day when I awaken my mother.

17. I used to love winter and snow. Now it makes life even more drab.

18. I used to play in our community's orchestra. I gave that up because of my mothers 7 week hospital stay last August.

19. I do not know what else to write right now. I will give up here for the moment.


Tuesday, January 23, 2007


I am rather frustrated. I poured my heart and soul into an essay on this site today. I probably put in a full hour of writing, and the post was finished and ready to go. When I hit the "Publish Post" button, however, my machine froze. This was at 9am this morning.

I am too spent to try to rewrite it tonight. I apologize.

Proxmia.... in your comment, you speak about eye tissue regeneration. No nerve tissue associated with the eye (retina, optic nerve, optic chiasma) has the capability to be regenerated in humans at this time. There are some animal model studies that have shown a bit of promise, but as far as I have read, nothing yet is close to even a clinical trial, let alone a common practice. I am not sure if this answers your question well... in fact it may be too simple an answer to what seems a more complex worry or concern. If you would like to talk about this further, let me know and I can find a time that would work where we could discuss this.


Monday, January 22, 2007

Delusions of Greatness

This weekend I participated in a segment of a workshop to improve education. It felt like I could glimpse happiness again. I could see and feel and remember what it used to be like to be a part of something big.

Then, of course, I realized how utterly damn stupid and utterly wasteful it was to even think about that. I am nothing but a servant. I barely have time to get to class on time. Life is empty.


Saturday, January 20, 2007


I am angry as hell. There is no other way to put it. My mother refuses to listen to me to go to the Quick Care facility to get antibiotics for a respiratory infection she has. She says she is fine.

This from a woman who has bright yellow mucous that she coughs out, who is on oxygen, who has congestive heart failure and who has COPD. I want to pull out my hair and bang my head very forcibly against a cement wall. Instead of going tonight, when we might be able to do the trip in two hours or so, my entire day Sunday will be spent with this, as it is much more likely that she will be far more sick and may need to go to the damn emergency room.

I feel like picking her up and forcing her into the car and forcing her to go now. It infuriates me that she will not listen. It angers me beyond belief.

She may not even go on Sunday, she will keep saying she is fine until then it is Monday or Tuesday and I am suppossed to be at WORK doing WORK, and I will have to scramble around trying to do two hundred million things at once and running into class without even thinking about what I am suppossed to teach about for three hours.

I feel like I am going insane. Why will she not listen and act reasonably?


Thursday, January 18, 2007

That Was Fun

Unfortunately, it seems my little foray into fiction yesterday was not a huge hit. Oh well. I guess that means I should not try that again anytime soon.

On that note, here is an interesting story I happened to find. I hope it proves to be true, but who knows:

* * * * *

Cheap, Safe Drug Kills Most Cancers

* 11:58 17 January 2007
* From New Scientist Print Edition
* by Andy Coghlan

It sounds almost too good to be true: a cheap and simple drug that kills almost all cancers by switching off their “immortality”. The drug, dichloroacetate (DCA), has already been used for years to treat rare metabolic disorders and so is known to be relatively safe.

It also has no patent, meaning it could be manufactured for a fraction of the cost of newly developed drugs.

Evangelos Michelakis of the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, and his colleagues tested DCA on human cells cultured outside the body and found that it killed lung, breast and brain cancer cells, but not healthy cells. Tumours in rats deliberately infected with human cancer also shrank drastically when they were fed DCA-laced water for several weeks.

DCA attacks a unique feature of cancer cells: the fact that they make their energy throughout the main body of the cell, rather than in distinct organelles called mitochondria. This process, called glycolysis, is inefficient and uses up vast amounts of sugar.

Until now it had been assumed that cancer cells used glycolysis because their mitochondria were irreparably damaged. However, Michelakis’s experiments prove this is not the case, because DCA reawakened the mitochondria in cancer cells. The cells then withered and died (Cancer Cell, DOI: 10.1016/j.ccr.2006.10.020).

Michelakis suggests that the switch to glycolysis as an energy source occurs when cells in the middle of an abnormal but benign lump don’t get enough oxygen for their mitochondria to work properly (see diagram). In order to survive, they switch off their mitochondria and start producing energy through glycolysis.

Crucially, though, mitochondria do another job in cells: they activate apoptosis, the process by which abnormal cells self-destruct. When cells switch mitochondria off, they become “immortal”, outliving other cells in the tumour and so becoming dominant. Once reawakened by DCA, mitochondria reactivate apoptosis and order the abnormal cells to die.

“The results are intriguing because they point to a critical role that mitochondria play:

they impart a unique trait to cancer cells that can be exploited for cancer therapy,” says Dario Altieri, director of the University of Massachusetts Cancer Center in Worcester.

The phenomenon might also explain how secondary cancers form. Glycolysis generates lactic acid, which can break down the collagen matrix holding cells together. This means abnormal cells can be released and float to other parts of the body, where they seed new tumours.

DCA can cause pain, numbness and gait disturbances in some patients, but this may be a price worth paying if it turns out to

be effective against all cancers. The next step is to run clinical trials of DCA in people with cancer. These may have to be funded by charities, universities and governments: pharmaceutical companies are unlikely to pay because they can’t make money on unpatented medicines. The pay-off is that if DCA does work, it will be easy to manufacture and dirt cheap.

Paul Clarke, a cancer cell biologist at the University of Dundee in the UK, says the findings challenge the current assumption that mutations, not metabolism, spark off cancers. “The question is: which comes first?” he says.

* * * * *

I hope everyone has a good day.


Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Uh, Just So You Know...

The lack of comments on my post below gives me concern that many of you may be too worried to comment. I wanted to let you know that the essay is (of course) fiction. As I have been feeling blue and stressed lately, I thought I would explore on this electronic media some of the fantasies I let my imagination wander to when I am feeling inferior and worthless.


Parallelogram #1

It was a bright and early morning. The light of the rising sun pierced through the small window in the bedroom and its orange dagger-like beam sliced across my eyelids, which caused me to squeeze them more tightly to fend off the new morning. That is, until I could not ignore the light any longer and I opened my eyes and grimaced.

It seemed earlier than I would like, but, "What the hell, lets get this sh*t rolling." I muttered under my breath as I swung my legs over the edge of the bed and onto the floor.

I could feel the sand and grit on the floor of the unkempt room underfoot, and glancing sideways, I could see my leather boots splayed askew over near the archway of the door of the bedroom. Running my hand down my face, through my moustache and beard, I yawned deeply and glanced behind me at the still form laying in the other half of the bed. Reaching back, I slapped at the area of the blanket covering her rump. She groused slightly, kicking one of her feet at me, still too drunk to actually awaken even with the bright light.

I stood, and haltingly staggered/walked out of the bedroom down the hall, looking for the bathroom. Just as I was passing through the archway, I turned around and grabbed my jeans, underwear, shirt and jacket, then once again staggered into the hallway looking for the bathroom. I desperately needed to take a leak.

Finally, I locate the sought after bathroom and toss my clothing over the rim of the tub. Taking aim, I begin to relieve myself. As my bladder empties itself of the whiskey and beer of the evening before, I glance sideways into the mirror above the small sink. The trim ring around the mirror was rusty and much of the mirror itself was slick with film and grime, but it was still easy to see how unkempt I had become. My beard and moustache were quite bushy, thick, and dense, and even my eyebrows seemed to have grown heavier and more disheveled. I had drifted far from the rather groomed and professorial look I had maintained for so many years. I didn't really give a damn.

Turning away from the toilet, I bend over the sink and splash a few handfuls of water into my face, shaking my face from the shocking coldness. Quickly, I put on my underwear, jeans and shirt, and walk out of the bathroom, hoping I am going to find the kitchen.

The smell permeated my nostrils before I even entered the kitchen. The garbage pail had not been emptied for a few days, and the sink was piled high with dirty dishes. I open up the cupboards. Several of them are empty, or with a salt shaker, or a few cans of Campbell's soup. Finally, I hit pay dirt, a nearly empty jar of instant coffee. I gingerly reach into the pile of dishes in the sink and pull out a dirty mug and turned on the water to attempt to rinse out the worst of the grime. I then fill the mug with water and pour in the last remaining crystals of instant coffee from the jar. Opening the door of the microwave, I put in the mug and turn it on for 2 minutes.

I sit down at the table and reach into a side pocket of my leather jacket that I had thrown across the tabletop. I pull out my pipe and pack its bowl with leaf both gingerly because of my aching head, but also hungrily. I quickly fire up the bowl, melding flame and leaf and inhale deeply, the rich, heavy, and harsh smoke. Its chalky, sooty feel fills my lungs and the glorious nicotine soon is rushing through my arteries into my brain. The pleasure is enormous.

As soon as the buzzer on the microwave rings, I pull out the cup of steaming coffee and nearly gulp the hot liquid in a matter of moments, in an effort to get the caffeine flowing.

The thought of food is rather nauseating, even if the kitchen would have been clean, so I walk back to the bedroom. She is still out like a light, and I grab my boots, sit on the edge of the bed, pipe in my mouth, and strap on each heavy boot. I look back at her still form, and give her a brief, mock salute. I then turn and walk out of the bedroom, pick up my jacket on my way out the door, and head out to the driveway.

The door slams, a rough, cheap aluminum sound as it hits the frame. I walk over to my bike. I straddle this trusty stead, fire up the engine and drive off to my next conquest.


Tuesday, January 16, 2007

American Chopper & Hope

I am vowing to work myself out of the gloom I am in. I am not sure how long it may take, but i want to regain the casual expectation of contentedness and occasional expectation of joy. The frame of mind I have had is not healthy, nor is it benefiting others. I miss who I was. It is shocking to say, but I am starting to sound almost as dour as my baby brother.

With the snowstorm that passed through here Sunday evening, I anticipated and did get a "snowday" at the U. So, what did I do Sunday evening until the wee hours of the morning? I watched a marathon of the television program "American Chopper".

Perhaps I should chuck it all and live life like Paul Teutul Sr. Perhaps a good choice for me.

Stay Tuned.


Sunday, January 14, 2007

Few Words

I wish there were something to say, but there is not. I am just feeling old and tired and hopeless.


Thursday, January 11, 2007

The Dismisal

This is a quick free form post. I am very sad and disappointed in life. The best reasons I can think of are on the surface, foolish and stupid:

1. My wife snapped at me for a comment that was MEANT innocently enough.

2. I spent a long time this weekend making a green pepper exactly as my mother used to, and she barely touched even a mouthful.

3. My wife was p*ss*d off at me because I did not leave my office until 3:30 even though i told her many times that I had to stay at work until I could get this mandatory list of supplies in so they could be ordered. She kept calling me every hour which made me more nervous and hyped up so that I felt more and more pressure.

4. A member of our family coughs so hard that she vomits while she is sleeping.

5. My mother's weight has been stable, but I am fearful it is stable because she is eathing less again and may just weigh less.

6. I got sniped at my my elderly mother a few days ago (the pill-no pill essay a few days ago).

7. I have very little to no interest to do a damn thing. At the top of that list at the moment is no interest in going back to work.

I sometimes wonder what I have done wrong to always feel so sad, so chaotic, and so fearful. I must be one helluva damn wretch of a person.


Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Feeling Stress

I am feeling a great deal of nebulous stress at the moment, so I am posting something thought provoking instead of trying to sort through my emotions.

* * * * *

Published on Monday, January 8, 2007 by
Cure For Yellow Ribbon Patriotism
by Robert Weitzel

A man I once knew survived his tour of duty in Vietnam. In the privacy of a rented house trailer he drank alone until he finally had the “courage” to kill himself. I don’t know if he saw combat. He never said. I only assumed he had because when he spoke, what he said had the finality of a trigger pull. To my mind, there is only one way to acquire such certainty.

I only saw him on the weekends when he made beer runs for my high school buddies and me. We gave him a six-pack and ten minutes of our time for his trouble and then left him as we had found him, sitting at his kitchen table pulling on an unfiltered cigarette and sipping a lukewarm beer like he had all the time in the world.

I didn’t see him after high school and he was dead by the time I next thought to ask about him. I don’t know that he was a casualty of the war. He might have traveled the same road regardless of Vietnam. But then, he might not have.

Like most returning Vietnam vets before the release of the POW’s, he was not given a hero’s welcome. Hero was a term we seldom used back then; not like today when we toss it out like confetti on the deserving and the undeserving alike.

He came back instead to an indifferent, if not hostile, country. He and his fellow vets were slipped into the country singly or in small groups so as to diffuse throughout the population the “cure” they carried in their marrow, rendering it as ineffectual as a homeopathic dilution.

The “cure” these soldiers brought back from Vietnam was a potion distilled of moments: moments of bravery and sacrifice and sorrow, of bowel-loosening fear, of dehumanizing anger and hostility, of unasked and unanswered questions, moments too damaging to the soul to ever find release in confession.

It was a potion that if used thoughtfully could inoculate the nation against the disease of the god Mars. But it was ignored along with the soldiers. Vietnam vets, like the man I knew, were left to overdose on the potion in their own private hell.

The rally cry, “support our troops,” was born of a sincere desire to separate our feelings for the soldiers from our feelings for the war. It was meant as a mea culpa to the Vietnam veteran and a promise that we would never again make our soldiers the scapegoats for the machinations of the power elite. As a statement of concern for the wellbeing of the individual soldier, “support our troops” is unassailable.

But like the word hero, the vitality of the sentiment expressed by “support our troops” has been sapped by mindless iteration and the Machiavellian genius of warmongers. It has become little more than a patriotic platitude on par with, “God Bless America,” and a euphemism for “support our war.” As a balm to the national conscience for once again consigning our troops to the killing field, it is the battle cry that leads and sustains our country in an unjust war.

In a recent Military Times Poll, only 35 percent of our troops approved of the Bush administration’s handling of the Iraq war, while only 23 percent believed Congress was looking out for them. The troops are telling us they do not feel supported by the politicians who sent them to the killing field for a dose of the “cure.”

Against the advise of both retired and active duty military leaders, President Bush’s new strategy for winning the war in Iraq is expected to include a “surge” of 20,000 to 40,000 additional troops to help quell the sectarian violence unleashed by the illegal invasion and botched occupation of that country.

A November 2006 survey by revealed that 72 percent of Iraqi Shias believe the presence of U.S. occupation forces only exacerbates an already lethal situation and wants them out of their country within the year, while 91percent of Sunnis approve of attacks on U.S troops.

Our troops, our top military leaders, and the Iraqi people are sending a clear message. It is time to for the U.S. to “cut and run.”

Yellow ribbon patriots finally have an opportunity to support our troops in a meaningful way. They can begin by removing their magnetic yellow ribbon bumper stickers, by listening to the troops and helping to get them home, and by demanding that those who took the country to war with lies and deception be held to account.

All Americans will continue to abdicate their responsibility to the living and the dead and the wounded troops if they are unwilling to inoculate themselves with the “cure” brought home from the killing field.

Robert Weitzel is freelance writer whose essays regularly appear in The Capital Times in Madison, WI. He has also been published in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Skeptic Magazine, and Freethought Today. He can be contacted at:

* * * * *

I hope I feel more serene tommorrow.


Monday, January 08, 2007

Roller Coaster Weekend

This has been a topsy-turvy weekend. One moment I am feeling happy, the next I am upset, the next I am ok, etc. I would like to get a sembelance of it all down, so I am going to write a list, to get down essential details:

Start - Friday (around 3pm)

1. Go to visit my elderly father-in-law.

2. Offer to take him around to places we like to visit.

3. He is feeling tired so we end up staying at his house.

4. We have a few drinks and a few pipes and chat.

5. I travel home.

6. My wife mentions to me when I get home that my mother is acting a bit odd.

7. My mother denies anything is wrong.

8. My mother falls asleep while doing her albuteral (breathing) treatments.

9. After I clean up the kitchen with my wife, we go to sit down, Mom, who went in before us, has already fallen asleep.

10. Saturday morning arrives.

11. My wife and I go travel around shopping a bit. I am able to spend some time in Harbor Freight. In case there is no such beast of a store near you, it is a veritable "candy shop" for people who like tools and gadgets of all sorts. I can easily spend 4-5 hours in there much to the chagrin of my wife. On Saturday, I spent roughly 45 minutes in there.

12. After we return home, I see my mother, who again is very sleepy. I quietly nudge up the LPM on my mother's oxygen concentrator.

13. On of my sisters and a nephew stop by unexpectedly, creating all manner of chaos (Oh, is mom not feeling well? She is on her oxygen.... etc) It again reiterates to me how little they know or understand the day-to-day activities we have here in the household. Mom has not been off her oxygen more than an hour or two at a time since leaving the hospital. My nephew wants to show me the very expensive civil war re-enactment, black powder rifle he received as a birthday present.

14. We decide to go to Saturday Mass.

15. I vow to try to stop worrying about what is going on with my elderly mother, and to stop trying to figure out what she is not telling us.

Lets cut to the chase...

More of the same continues to happen. Sunday starts out uneventful. Then this afternoon, as I get to the time in the afternoon where my mother should take her second diuretic pill (of the three she takes in a day) and her potassium pill... she says she took them a couple hours earlier. I am very frustrated because I had explained to her the importance of spacing out the intervals between dosages. She becomes defensive. I go to her medicine cabinet...


Now I am more worried and upset. She claims she has taken some (who the hell knows what kind) pills, but that her afternoon pills (which are the ones she claimed to have taken) are still in their spot in the pill tray.

I try as hard as I can to control my fear/anger/frustration, but am not entirely successful. I try to quiz my mother on what she took, when she took it, what the pills look like, etc. This makes her more defensive and she becomes angry at me and refuses to speak to me.

I feel as if I am going to go insane.

The best I can tell is my mother apparently imagined taking the pills while eating a Christmas cookie, but in reality she did not take them. Of course, this is only speculation, but after this many hours (it is about 8 hours later), if that is not what she had done, there would have been some sort of negative repurcussions that we would have noticed by now.

Medications are a very huge challenge. My mother used to be able to handle all her medication needs (up until about 4 years ago). Gradually over the last three years, mistakes have begun to spring up, that have necessitated me taking over the duty of filling her various pill chambers (in her weekly pill tender) so that all she has to do is open the compartment at the right time and take the pills inside. I have been setting up all the pills, all the various permutations of changes in perscription, all of the various mail-order b*llsh*t paperwork for her perscriptions for the last 3.5 years, and it is actually quite time-consuming work.

Now it appears I am losing the ability to have faith or confidence in my mother simply TAKING her medications at the times necessary. When I speak of various plans, my mother becomes irate and tells me to not "treat her like a child". And then this is usually followed again by some more silent treatment from her. I am very frustrated and anticipate that no matter what I chose to do about her medications, it will only get worse.

Sorry for the rush job. Not the most effective story. I just needed to get the damn frustration out and onto this electronic paper. I apologize for the lack of hooks in the story and for a lack of more creative word usage.


Friday, January 05, 2007

Sometime Today (Probably)

It is likely that today, one of you, my friendly readers, will cause my hit counter to reach a new milestone..... 60,000 hits. Thank you! I appreciate each of you who read my blog, and I have found many new friends from those of you who comment as well!

If my elderly mother's weight is stable in the morning, I am seriously considering working in my office for half a day and then driving over to pick up my father-in-law for a trip to the pipe shop and perhaps some libations.

Wish me luck!


Thursday, January 04, 2007

147, 1, 4, 7.

It feels like time for a semi-puzzle-like post. Please note after you read this one, you may wish to also read the post for yesterday below, it is more in depth.

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As a little experiment, I thought I would encourage as many of you as are willing to conduct a little experiment for me. I think it will be fun and will give us each insight into our collective personalities. If you decide to follow through with this game, please leave a link in my comments so others may see as well.

This game is about letting others glimpse something about you, based upon what you read. I have done something like this before, but thought it was time to do so again with a twist:

1. Pick up the nearest book to you from where you are now sitting at your computer.

2. Open the book to page 147 (If the book does not have 147 pages, then put that book down and go to the next closest book until you find one with 147 pages).

3. On that page, go to the first new paragraph on that page.

4. In that paragraph, look for the 4th sentence and write it down (If there are not four sentences to the paragraph, take the fourth sentence after the start of that first paragraph).

5. In that "fourth" sentence, count to the seventh word, and write that down (Like before, if the sentence is shorter than seven words, go to the seventh word following the start of the fourth sentence).

Now, for what you post on your site:

1. Name, author, and date of the book.

2. The required fourth sentence.

3. The required seventh word.

4. A paragraph about what this seventh word means to you (it does NOT have to be in context with the rest of the sentence or paragraph).

5. A paragraph stating why this book is near you, and why it is a part of your life.

I give my own answers below, but you may be wondering why I have selected the places I did for this.... very simple.... today is January 4, 2007. In the typical American shorthand, it is 01/04/07.... which reduces down to 147.

Give it a try and have fun with this. Feel free to cut and paste any of the above if you wish.

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1. The book is "What Is Wrong With My Mouse?" by J. N. Crawley. Published in 2000.

2. The sentence is: Systemic administration of CCK inhibits food consumption in moderately fasted rats, mice, and many other species including humans.

3. The word = "consumption"

4. For me the word consumption FIRST brings to mind the disease "consumption" that was commonly talked about in the latter 1800s. From a scientific perspective, to me "consumption" is mostly a $100 word for having eaten something. In a more poetic sense, "consumption" causes me to think of a passionate need to do something, to be enthused enough to allow a person, thought, idea, or hobby consume you.

5. This book is near me now because I am sorting through various texts I have in order to choose the laboratory experiments my students will work on in endocrinology next semester. It is a book that I find useful both in terms of research and teaching for it outlines standardized techniques used in rodent (especially mouse) physiology and behavioral tests.


Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Hazelnut Tinctured Life

Apologies to Austere for my later than usual posting for today.

As I sit here in my back office at the University, it is beautifully quiet. No students are lurking about, and very few faculty are scurrying about either as classes do not start for another 12 days. I thought I would take this day and make it an enjoyable workday by getting all my syllabi, and various lecture & lab materials togther so that when my secretary arrives back on campus on Monday, she will be able to add her finishing touches to the documents and send them out for printing. In this way, I will be able to be ready for the first 2-3 weeks of the semester, and the transition will hopefully be a pleasant and smooth one without last minute rushes and stress. It is so peaceful on the University campus and in my building when I am one of only a small handfull of people about.

On the computer, I have a web-cast stream of NPR that is playing a mix of gentle, woodwind-rich, classical music alternating with highly literate and meaningful news broadcasts. To the left of my computer is thermos filled with a rich, hazlenut flavored coffee that I purchased on my way in. Its texture is wonderfully strong and bitter with just a minimal aura of sweetness due tht tincture of hazlenut flavoring. To the right of my mouse, the small, glazed (sage colored), hand-thrown pottery bowl (that I have used as an ashtray for my pipes in my inner office for years) has my full-bent, Peterson resting in it waiting for me to make gentle love to her by the melding flame and leaf. Between my teeth at the moment, my other mistress of the day, my quarter bent Dublin (the one that is the image on this blog), is warm and soothing, her bowl filled with an ember created from a beautiful hazlenut tinctured burley leaf. She rests so comfortably in my mouth, the hairs of my moustache gently cascading over the top of her stem like a blanket, while the hairs of my beard brush up and gently tickle her underside in a comforting embrace.

Therefore, today, it seems is a hazlenut day for me. The mixture of both hazlenut coffee and hazlenut pipe tobacco has encouraged me to explore more about my favorite edible nut. For those of you biological types, you may find this interesting:

The hazlenut (also called the filbert (Corylus maxima) is a species of hazel bush that is predominately native to southern Europe and southern Asia, but is now cultivated widely. It is a deciduous shrub 6-10 m tall, with stems up to 20 cm thick. The leaves are rounded, 5-12 cm long by 4-10 cm broad, with a coarsely double-serrated margin. The flowers are wind-pollinated catkins produced in late winter; the male (pollen) catkins are pale yellow, 5-10 cm long, while the female catkins are bright red and only 2-3 mm long. The fruit is a nut produced in clusters of 1-5 together; each nut is 1.5-2.5 cm long, fully enclosed in a 3-5 cm long, tubular involucre (husk).

My own favorite way to indulge in hazlenuts (besides its essence in coffee or pipe tobacco) is to purchase one or more pounds of the (in the shell) nuts and gently roast them (in the shell) at home. The time and heat level depends upon the moisture content of the nut, but a general recipie is as follows:

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Home Roasted Hazlenuts (my own recipie)

Lay the hazlenuts (in the shell) on a cookie sheet in a single layer.
Place in an oven preheated to 250 degrees Farenheit.
Roast for 40 minutes.
Sample one hazlenut. If the very center of the nut is tinged a slight reddish brown color, the nuts are finished and may be taken out to cool. If the very center is still pale yellor/tan, let the nuts continue to bake. Recheck every 5 minutes until you observe that slight reddish brown center.
Serve with a nutcracker when cool.

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You may be surprised to know that there is even a festival devoted to hazlenuts. It is in Oregon (the US's major filber growing region). Earlier in December, I was looking around for a recipie using hazlenuts, and found the festival and this recipie I have copied below. I have yet to try the recipie, and would likely reduce or eliminate some of the fat called for. But, I think it looks like it could be a very tasty dish:

From the Springfield (Oregon) Filbert Festival Website:

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Oregon Trail Risotto With Oregon Hazelnut-Sausage Mix

Recipie serves 6

Italian sausages (1-1/2 lbs.)
1-1/2 cups red onion, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons butter
1 green pepper, coarsely chopped
1 red pepper, coarsely chopped
2 bananas, sliced
3/4 cup halved Oregon hazelnuts
1/2 cup currants or raisins
4 cups cooked rice salt and pepper to taste
Garnish: 2-3 hard-cooked eggs, sieved Finely chopped parsley, basil, chives

Brown the sausages in large frying pan or electric skillet. Drain sausage and cut into chunks. Melt butter in skillet and add chopped onions. Cover and cook until onions are barely tender. Add peppers and sauté until barely tender. Add rice, sausage and salt and pepper tossing with a fork until hot. Add raisins, bananas, and Oregon hazelnuts and carefully toss together. Season to taste. Serve on a heated platter. Top with sieved egg and herb mixture. Excellent brunch dish.

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I hope to continue a peaceful and tranquil day.


Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Oatmeal & Raisins

My mind is not overly ambitious tonight. I am sitting lazily here in my den, pipe in my mouth, glass of red wine next to my mouse. In the background, out of the corner of my eye I can see and hear little snippets of an episode of "Flip This House" on HGTV. The game I mentioned in my previous post was not well received by my wife (her side lost). I have thought often about the hanging death of Saddam Hussein. Again, please do not get me wrong. This man did atrocious things in his life. But, I do not feel a nation or a world can legitimately endorse capital punishment. It makes me sad to think about that sort of death. I did briefly watch some of the video of his actual hanging. It was such a harsh, cruel action. No human should submit another human to that sort of thing, ever.


Monday, January 01, 2007

A Quiet Day

Not much to report today. It has been mostly quiet. My wife is very enthused about the upcoming Rose Bowl football game. As most long-time readers know.... I am not overly excited about watching any team sport, so for me the game will be a rather big yawn.

I do feel outside the norm because of my lack of interest in team sports. It is easy for me to go months and months without actually watching or paying attention to any team sport. Baseball and ice hockey are relatively interesting for me to watch, but I have no passion or drive to root for any team over another. To me, group sports seem much like the lottery... pretty pointless in terms of my participation (as a watcher of the sport or a buyer of the ticket).

One time at my University, I was invited to participate in a weekly football game prediction pool. I participated, not because I gave a damn about any football team, nor did I want to watch any of the games. Instead, I thought it would be an interesting problem to try to create some testable theories about regarding the football teams. I read statistics about the teams in the papers and each week developed predictions based upon mathematical formula that I continually tweaked for each week. At the beginning of the season, I was rather crude in my mathematics, but as the season progressed, my predictions proved more and more accurate. I finished in the top 10% of the participants... without watching a football game. I found that mathematical effort enjoyable and fun.

Now, do not get me wrong. I am not some eggheaded, anti-sports maniac. I may admit to a *slight* eggheadedness, and I am somewhat professorial. But I do enjoy sports... and I do enjoy watching sports on television. The thing is, however, that the sports I enjoy watching are all individual sports.... track and field events, bicycling, gymnastics, golf, tennis, and even bowling, auto racing, etc. I can easily watch those sports for sizable amounts of time every weekend if I allow myself to. I just do not feel any sort of enjoyment or attachment to group sports. I do not know why.