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.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Lead Balloon

Hmm. It seems my post from yesterday went over like a lead balloon. Oh well.

Today was a busy day of teaching. A myriad of students came in as this is the last lecture prior to their next exam in anatomy & physiology. The students who came in were concerned about their prior score. Of the nearly dozen students who came in, only one student had a score above 70%. She actually earned an 88% which I said was a pleasant score. She still wanted to do better so we analyzed her efforts and gave her a plan. The other scores from the other students were 38%, 42%, 52%, and 66%... plus a few others I cannot recall at the moment. In each of these cases I suggested that the student needed to devote more time to studying and also offered suggestions of different methods to address some of their specific issues. All of them (of course) balked at the mention of "studying more". They would proclaim loudly in nearly every case,

"I studied SOOOOOO very hard for this test! I spent hours upon hours pouring over my notes, etc."

Unfortunately, when pressed further for details, the typical response was that they had in fact studied for an hour or perhaps two for each of the two or three days prior to the test. Unfortunately, that is inadequate in terms of processing, thinking and digesting all the information they were being tested over, and I suggested this as kindly as I could muster.

A subject like anatomy and physiology... or for that matter any content driven course that is attempting to allow students to obtain a true depth of understanding is going to take a SIZABLE amount of effort to master. I have said to the class in general that this is not High School, nor is it a Freshman level course. I tell them that I am training them to be deep, critical thinkers and helping them to amass a large body of information. I am not going to simply give them detail that they can regurgitate back to me.... I need them to think deeply and look beyond simple memorization of detail.

They get frustrated and yet I encourage them to continue on, but to do so more deeply.


Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Moral Inventory

Taking a bit of a cue from my friend's post at 4th Avenue Blues I have decided to take a "moral inventory". Apparently this is a part of the 12 Steps that is much a part of many addiction groups. I found this out when I submitted the phrase "Moral Inventory" to Wikepedia, the on-line socialist encyclopedia (a side note to my students who may read this.... NO, it is NOT permissible to use Wikepedia as a resource in a science paper that you write for any of my classes. Wikepedia is best reserved for casual knowledge... and perhaps for K-9 education... not college). Since I have never been part of any type of "12 Step Program", I needed at least some sort of framework to understand what is meant by the phrase.

As best as I can tell, the "Moral Inventory" is a listing of resentments, fears and sexual conduct (again, this information is gleaned from Wikepedia). To me, this seems an odd grouping at best, but here it goes:


1. I resent that my mother has died. I want her here physically.

2. I resent ludicrous politicians that blather on about inconsequential matters and pander to the foolish to win votes with "catchy" phrases and "sound bites".

3. I resent that our nation does not have a fair, equal, NATIONAL HEALTH CARE plan for all its citizens. Health care should not be determined by your job.

4. I resent the misguided people who support and belong to PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (a true Orwellian phrase if I ever heard one). They have made science and science research a beuracracy with damnable piles of paperwork that is useless and deadens the scientific mind.

5. I resent most administrators. Not I said MOST, not all. I feel most administrators simply do not give much of a damn about anything except keeping their job, and hence they create mounds of b*llsh*t paperwork for people under them.

6. I resent people with "attitudes". I do not need or want anyone to be attitudinal towards me, and almost immediately if a person is that way, I dig in my heels and get obstinate towards them.

7. I resent that our government has been so ruled by "big oil" that they have made absolutely no progress (and actually a decline) in the Fuel Efficiency Standards of vehicles we drive. Gas mileage of vehicles is the same (if not worse) than it was in the late 70s when these laws were first enacted. The projection was that by this day and age, the average fuel economy would be in the 45-50 MPG range. But, unfortunately, administrations like Reagen, and Papa Bush and Baby Bush (and actually Clinton as well, since he did not do a helluva lot to reverse it) allowed the laws to grow lax.


1. I fear that I will become completely alone.

2. I fear that at death, I will be completely alone.

3. I fear that my belief in heaven may be false.

4. I fear the deaths of those I love.

5. I fear being humiliated.

6. I fear hurting other people's feelings.

7. I fear people hurting my feelings.


1. I enjoy copulating greatly. It is a grand pastime.

2. The feelings of LOVE that are a part of copulating in a committed relationship are beautiful.

3. I have been 100% faithful to my beautiful wife and will always be.

4. I believe a person's sexual orientation is determined biologically (a mix of the genes and the hormonal environment the person experiences in utero).

5. I believe that sexual activity in the form of a "one-night stand" or "casual" sex is not healthy for a person emotionally even if it feels pleasant physically.

6. While I feel artificial contraception is perfectly acceptable for many, many people... my own personal conviction... for myself is that I feel uncomfortable with the practice (for myself, not for others). I never have used any form of artificial contraception... for I enjoyed the *possibility* of my physical love producing a child.

7. For me, sexual activity is not selfish... not all focused on "me" while I engage in it. Instead, when my wife and I am able to make love sexually with each other, it is more akin to play.... I enjoy pacing myself so that I can stimulate her (and she, me) for as long as possible, for then we both can reach intense climaxes. If I were to think only of my needs, I could perform quickly and vigorously to obtain my climactic release... but that is not particularly fulfilling. Instead, it is more valuable to take my time and stimulate my lovely wife through several climaxes prior to my own release. In this way, I feel much more a part of a love that goes beyond simply me.

I doubt the above is what is meant by the "Moral Inventory" according to a 12 Step group. But, hell, it was fun writing the above... using my own interpretation of the idea.


Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Tuesday, The Day

Today is again my longest day at work during Spring. I am sitting here, not looking forward to the experience.


Friday, May 25, 2007

12 Weeks

I am not feeling great at the moment. I am feeling a large wave of sadness.

A few weeks ago, a secretary at my University contacted me when she realized we were related (after reading my mother's obituary back in March). She would like to scan old photos that I have access to about my grandparents, great grandparents and other related folk from those generations.

I think it is a wonderful idea. But, my mother had most of those things and they have been tucked away for many years in various locations of her rooms in our house and I am not sure exactly where any specific photograph is.

I feel so sad going into her rooms and rummaging around. I have not had the heart to do anything in them except to water my mother's plants. While I want to share these photographs with this secretary, it is very distressing trying to find them. I have been crying more again this week than in the last few.

I hate rummaging around in my mother's items, for once they are moved and changed, then another part of her is gone forever. I realize that her things are not her, but at the same time, the way she folded her bed, the way she hung her clothes, the manner she used to put her socks away, her thoughts are indirectly in those rooms.

It has been 12 weeks today that she passed away.


Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Talking and Eating and Research

Tuesdays are my most hectic day of the week this Spring. Today has been no exception. My three hours of lecture on anatomy and physiology is EXTREMELY rapid, and my manner of teaching (rather frenetic and intense) means that I am fairly tired at the end of the lecture. Today, I became so wound up in my efforts that I covered two chapters, probably circled the room at least a dozen times, jumped up and down twice, broke 4 pieces of chalk by writing too hard with them, wore out one Dry Erase marker (green), and showed at least three images related to today's teaching that would be consdered obscene if taken out of context (a mammary gland, a penis and and pubic region of an individual whose sex was not identified) each of which related to different aspects of integumentary system.

I have also had several of my research students stop by. Three of them came by raring to go on their various research and so I have spent a fair amount of time guiding them. One additonal research student sent an e-mail and I helped her out with some library issues she had been facing.

One especially nice thing about Spring is that the fruit in the stores is so much better. I had a nice large bowl of watermelon and cantaloupe for lunch. And I treated myself to a "El Grande" 32oz Hazlenut coffee at breakfast in addition to my many other cups of regular coffee this morning.


Monday, May 21, 2007


My focus was not particularly strong over the weekend. I did strive to make a go of it, by taking a trip to visit my elderly father-in-law on Friday. It was pleasant enough... we had a few drinks and a few pipes and good conversation and all the usual that I typically relish. Unfortunately, while the day was beautiful, the time we were togehter was pleasant, and the rest of the evening at home was pleasant... I still felt out of sorts, I felt *unable* to experience a true sense of JOY, even for things I had typically felt joy from previously. I suppose that my grief may yet still be strong enough to hinder the expression of joy. However, I think I need to figure out a way in which I can still have moments of great joy in the midst of my grief. How to do this, I may never know... but I must attempt to figure it out.

Also, I am surprised and pleased that my baby brother has posted again. If you can, give his sites a visit and consider giving him some encouragement. I will be doing so later on, myself.


Friday, May 18, 2007

11 Weeks

I simply do not seem to have any words to spill out onto this electronic paper. So I shall keep it brief.

Today marks 11 weeks since my beloved mother passed away.


Wednesday, May 16, 2007

What to Say?

I am not really sure why, but I feel pretty much lost for words. If you have opinions on why I may be feeling such, please let me know. In order to have something of value for you to read, I shall report on a History Channel report I watched called:

The Buffalo Creek Disaster

Much of this material has been obtained through Wikepedia. This occurred in 1972. The Buffalo Creek Flood was an accident that occurred on February 26, 1972 when a coal slurry impoundment dam built on a hillside in Logan County, West Virginia by the Pittston Coal Company burst. The resulting flood unleashed approximately 132 million gallons (500,000,000 L) of black waste water upon the residents of 16 coal mining communities in Buffalo Creek Hollow. Out of a population of 5,000 people, 125 people were killed, 1,121 were injured, and over 4,000 were left homeless. The incident completely levelled the town of Saunders, W.V. (the current town of Saunders is not the same one that once was located in Buffalo Creek).

625 adult survivors sued the Pittston Coal Company, seeking $32,000,000 in damages, but settled in June 1974 for $13,500,000. A second suit was filed by 348 child survivors, who sought $225,000,000, but settled for $4,800,000 in June 1974. The state of West Virginia also sued the company for $100,000,000 for disaster and relief damages, but Governor Arch A. Moore, Jr. settled for just $1,000,000 three days before leaving office in 1977.

Gerald M. Stern, an attorney with the law firm of Arnold and Porter wrote a book entitled The Buffalo Creek Disaster about his experiences in representing the victims of the flood. The book includes descriptions of his experiences dealing with the political and legal environment of West Virginia, where the influence of large coal mining corporations is significant. Sociologist Kai T. Erikson, son of Erik Erikson, wrote a study on the effects of the disaster on the Buffalo Creek community entitled Everything In Its Path. The book later went on to win the Sorokin Award, an accolade handed out by the American Sociological Association for "outstanding contribution to the progress of sociology."

I recall when this happened, but am surprised to find I had basically forgotten about this horror until I happened across this documentary. I am not sure why it did not stick as permanently as other disasterous events in that time. It sure should be common knowledge to anyone with a high school degree.


Monday, May 14, 2007

Phase Shift

There are several things I wish to talk about today, so I think I shall write a numbered list again so I can get them all out here on (electronic) paper:

1. I have decided that this Summer will be the Summer of "Achievement Without Stress". What I mean by this is that I shall pursue goals and activities in such a way that I can have fun, and enjoyment and contentment.

2. One way I shall accomplish this (item #1) is through a return to regular exercise. I have been rather slack on this score for roughly a year. It used to be typical for me to walk 5 miles every day. I think I shall strive for that effort again. I may even try to cajole my baby brother into participating in exercise as well (and perhaps nudge him to return to writing on his site as well).

3. I plan to become more proactive in my teaching so as to not procrastinate and leave things to the last minute. This should reduce stress.

4. I may attempt to adopt in a "hobby" sort of way, some sort of new manner of artistic expression. Perhaps is shall be photography, perhaps painting or drawing, perhaps something else. I am not sure yet.

5. I shall make a more concerted effort to stay atop of the chaos that my office and laboratory are prone to become. I can function so much more efficiently if I give myself 10-15 minutes a day for organizational duties in the two spaces, but the net gain in time saved is far, far greater.

6. I shall of course, continue to speak of and write of my beloved mother. Yesterday, my wife and kids got together in the back yard and released helium-filled balloons with notes written on them to my beautiful mother. As we watched each balloon disappear into the sky, we thought about how each of us missed Mom, and how beautiful and special a person she was. Her love was (is) like a beacon of light from a lighthouse in a misty and foggy harbor. This balloon ceremony allowed us, at least in a small way, able to try to be with her on that most special of days for mothers. On Saturday, I drove to the cemetery and placed a large pot of flowers near her headstone and also another set near the headstone of my grandmother. My mother was always very, very diligent about placing flowers at her mother's grave. I made sure I was honoring to my own mother by purchasing the same sort of flowers in the same sort of vessel that she herself had bought all these many years. I knew they were my mother's favorite. She bought them to honor her mother. Likewise, even though these flowers were not *my* personal favorites... I bought them both for my beautiful mother's grave and for my grandmother's grave to honor them both.

7. I would like to also try a new approach to guide students in research. I am still marinading the ideas in my head on how to do so, so it is a bit early to outline them here, but as they become ready, I shall tell more.


Sunday, May 13, 2007

Mom... I Miss You!

Mom, I miss you greatly!
I wish you were here with us tangibly.
I so yearn to hear from you.

I believe that you are here in spirit.
I cherish having had you as my mom.
I shall love and cherish you always.

Please know that I will try to always live up to the hopes you have for me.
I will try to always be kind and considerate and caring.
I will always strive to do good things for others.

I love you and miss you.
Please send me a sign that I will know.


Friday, May 11, 2007

10 Weeks

Today I have moved into the 10th week following the passing of my mother. The strength of the emotions and their intensity make it seem like it has been far, far longer than just 10 brief weeks ago that I had my mother with us in our home.

This weekend will also mark the first Mother's Day where my beloved Mom is not physically with us. It makes me very sad. I have selected potted flowers of the style she especially likes and plan to take them to the cometary on Saturday. My mother was very dedicated about placing flowers on her own Mother's grave as well and so I also bought a potted plant (again of the style my mother would like) to place on my Grandmother's grave as well.

* * * * *

I am also preparing things for my wife's celebration of Mother's Day. I cannot yet reveal details as she sometimes reads my site.


Thursday, May 10, 2007

After the Day

A few comments and then my new essay:

1. Please do not feel upset at Sr. Lisa Catherine. She is a wonderful woman, and I feel privileged to have her read my blog. I listen to what she says and I find value in it. My post yesterday was to try to explain what it is I am doing, and I specifically tried to address some of her concerns. I think I did this. I feel that in my writings, I am *trying* to work through my grief so that, while the loss of my mother will not end, that I may be able to restructure my life in a way that allows me to find joy. What I have been doing with my writings has been helpful to me, for those strong emotions and strong pains I feel are what you are seeing. Putting them to (electronic) paper like this gives me a way to release them so that I can feel their impact but also not have them be the only thing my mind is occupied with.

2. A while ago, Gail, you asked if I might want to talk more via e-mail and if so to contact you. I have tried in all ways I know of with Haloscan but I have not been able to find your e-mail from it. I would very much like to talk with you, but am not sure how to contact you.

* * * * *

I am ill with bronchitis. I drove this morning to the other side of town to visit my mother's physician (and mine for many years as well). I thanked him for attending my mother's funeral and expressed how I appreciated it. He was able to prescribe for me an antibiotic and also prescribed me a codeine laced cough syrup that he said would be helpful for my sleeping as well. Even though I have not had much trouble sleeping of late, it likely will be a pleasant and soothing addition to my sleep.

After leaving the doctor's office, I drove around that far distant part of town for a spell, looking at the many places where I spent much of my youth while growing up. Unfortunately, time has been very harsh on that area of town, and while my childhood home was still in decent shape (my mother's home until she came to live with us 5 years ago), in most of the nearby neighborhoods, a sad, predictable, and unfortunate decay permeated the entire area. Boarded up and abandonded homes abounded, and when I drove through the neighborhood where my beloved Aunt (my mother's sister who died in 2002... you may remember that she is the aunt whose cat was diabetic). Her beautiful neighborhood that I spend many many hours having fun as a youth was similar to a war-torn area. The infiltration of gang violence and crime had permeated nearly every corner of the community, and fully 1/2 of the homes were abandonded, burnt to the ground, or boarded up shabbily.

The beautiful area of my youth where I grew up had begun a major series of set-backs and a long extended decay starting in the latter stages of the Reagan era. President Reagan was (in my opinion) a horrid president for the working class folk who were the primary people in these neighborhoods. While I was away from the neighborhood during this phase, my parents continued to live there and his "trickle down" theory actually "trickled down" like urine on these good people (basically I *am* saying his actions were akin to p*ss*ng on them). The loss of jobs, the loss of security, the loss of a viable livlihood for these folks unfortunately led to great infiltration of crime, drugs, and gangs. It is horribly sad and wrong.

So, this long, extended drive broght back many memories, but was also tinged with sorrow... sorrow for those times being gone... but also sorrow for the good people who still live there and must carry on with all the harshness going on around them.


Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Sr. Lisa Catherine

I had been meaning for some time to write about some comments from readers. Today, I will specifically want to write about and address comments from Sr. Lisa Catherine. However, I suspect that her comments may be similar to comments in the back of many of you, my reader's minds as well. Please know how much I value and need all of your readership and comments. My blog is not a money-making venture, there are no ads or banners or things to try to attract readers (in some ways I wish I could figure out how to attract more readers). Instead, my blog is really a reflection of me, my inner workings, my hopes, dreams, fears, and adventures. I cherish all of you readers.

Unfortunately, I have apparently disappointed Sr. Lisa Catherine because of the somewhat morose nature of my recent posts this past two months. She is even considering NOT reading my blog any longer because of what I have written. I hope she does not quit reading my site, for I value her contributions greatly. Below, I take some of her comments and use them as starting points for answers and explanations I can give about my current situation:

"I've been reading your blog for some time now and must wonder in my heart if you do things to still, in some way, almost punish your mother for dying. Something to think about I guess."

This comment was the first one where I wanted to reply immediately and say... I do not understand how you think I am "punishing my mother for dying". I love my mother dearly and would never want to hurt her or punish her. I miss her tangible presence in my life every day. I suspect you mean I am hurting my mother by "not living life". Fortunately, I am living life. Albeit at this point it is a life that seems less colorful, less vibrant, and less hopeful than I used to feel. I do feel I am slowly regaining some of my joy. To me, the grief I feel for my mother (and myself) is something I really do not have a "roadmap" for on how to recover. I think recovery takes time and takes effort. I truly am making an effort to recover. I am making an effort to bring myself back into a happier frame of mind.

"This may, by chance, be my last visit to this page... I find it depressing and more, self harming to live in such self added pain you put on yourself."

I am not sure how you feel I am "self-adding" pain to myself. What I feel I have been doing here is trying as best as I can to describe what thoughts and emotions are going through my mind (this is actually what I have always done during the 3.5 years I have written here). Currently, a sizable chunk of my thoughts *do* revolve around my mother's passing. I am attending a Grief Support Group that has been suggesting there is no set length to grief... it is all individualized. Some people in similar circumstances to mine may grieve only a week or two, others may grieve for several years.

In the pain that I have been feeling these past (nearly) 10 weeks, it DOES SEEM to help me cope by having this spot to write in about those very harsh emotions I feel. And these emotions permeate into other grief I have experienced. When I write down these feelings, and when I write about those issues that have been on my mind.... I feel I have found someone to listen to my pain. By knowing that my readers (or those who remain) read about me, makes me feel that this voice is heard and I can then let that idea, that feeling rest. It does not always go away, but in most circumstances it does feel less burdensome.

"But I can't read your post where you have nothing but sadness when your mom would have wanted SO MUCH MORE from you and out of you after she died."

I agree with you... my Mother would want so much more for me and from me... that is a true goal of mine. I am making strides in that way... they may be "baby" steps, but I can sense and feel progress in myself. For instance, my faith, while not where it once was... my faith has been slowly returning. I am less angry with God for what He did (yes, I know I should *not* be angry with God, but at this point I still am to a degree).

I can understand your point. I think my posts of the last several weeks have probably driven a great deal of my readership away. I do not wish that. However, I am a bit at a loss on how to proceed... this blog, by definition, is meant to be an area where I display my thoughts... and right now, these are my array of thoughts. Do I suspect they will always be this "down"? I sure hope not. And, I do not suspect they will be. But, at this point, what you read is what *is* pouring out of my soul at this time. When I wrote about the 9th week of my Mom's passing, and wrote about the suicide of my niece, and wrote about the death of a beloved pet... those were the things my mind was churning and blending and putting in the forefront of my thoughts. After I wrote that essay... please note... I felt a sense of freedom... a sense of calmness. Specifically BECAUSE I was able to put these very strong emotions down somewhere where some would read them... and this would in some way validate my emotions so that I could stop thinking about only them and expand outside of them.

So, in conclusion, I hope you Sr. Lisa Catherine, and any of you who remain.... I hope that you do not give up on me. I hope that you do not leave me. I am striving to be better.


Monday, May 07, 2007


A list of details of the past several days:

1. Friday was 9 weeks since my mother died.

2. This weekend was especially hard for me concerning my mother. I cried heavily 6 different times between Friday and Sunday.

3. My sister's child that died would have turned 30 this past Sunday. She committed suicide when she was 17. It is still very haunting. I am still angry at her for doing this.

5. One cat in my home had a birthday on Saturday. Amy is now 17.

6. Toby (who passed away in the Summer last year) would also have been 17 on Saturday. He was another cat in our family. He was originally my Aunt's cat. When my Aunt came to live with us, she brought Toby as well. When my Aunt passed away a few years ago, we of course kept Toby. Toby was diabetic, so I ended up giving him daily injections of insulin for years.

7. The other cat we have, Rufus, is going to be six years on December 27th. We found him on the 7th anniversary of my father's death in March.

8. I ended up watching "Beach Party" on AMC Sunday night. My younger readers may be unfamiliar with this film (starring Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon), but it is a rather cheesy film. Yet, in watching this film, I became tearful... because of its gentle view of life and its happy demeanor. In so many ways I miss thinking of life in that manner... thinking life was to be filled with joy and adventure. The truth is so much starker and harsh.

9. I am probably 50% finished with grading. I plan to get up at 6am and head to school to finish the damn things and if I am lucky, I will get them turned in before noon.

What shall I do then? Part of me would like to a local bar and get sloshed to the gills. It is unlikely I will do that. Perhaps I shall go home and sleep. Or if I can muster up the energy, I will go for a walk. Part of me thinks that is about as likely as going to get sloshed.


Thursday, May 03, 2007

Grades, Grades, Grades

Students may dread Finals Week at the University because of the effort in terms of study. But, most professors ALSO dread Finals Week, because it (if the professor is worth his salt) is a helluva lot of work for him as well.

I give my anatomy & physiology students a comprehensive final examination. This means EVERYTHING in the course is fair game. This exam consists of 100 high-level multiple choice questions (high level means there are choices for virtually every question such as "two of the above are correct" and "all of the above are correct".

I give my upper division students (endocrinology or neurobiology or ethology) a comprehensive final examination as well. Yet their exam is typically a 6-7 page exam of essay questions.

My seminiar class does not have a "final exam" but instead we gather to talk about what was good and what was not so good about the course.

I am feeling bushed. More grading all day tommorrow.


Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Hazy Shade of Winter

Today was a long day as I am finishing winter classes and also starting an early start summer course.

I am not sleepy at the moment, as I did not arrive home from teaching until roughly 10:30 pm for my (early start) summer graduate class. I have been meandering too and fro on the Internet for quite some time now and finally stumbled across a brief music track that recalls so much of the good time of my graduate school days. Listening to that brief snippet, I felt more youthful than I had in a long time. I think I will order the CD tonight. The snippet of the song can be heard here.

Listen to its intensity, listen to its tempo. It actually has caused tears of happiness to well from my eyes.