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, October 31, 2007

Em-phasis On the Wrong Sy-la-ble

To start off a few brief nods to several people in the recent past who have commented on my site:

Lawrence... yes, I have found your comments most enjoyable and helpful! Thank you.

Austere... you know how lovely I find your comments, your blog, and your poetry. Thank you.

Mapiprincesa!... as a newcomer to my site, I have found your comments delightful and helpful in guiding me to a more peaceful center. Thank you!

Berin Greenbear - sir, I have enjoyed your comments about the briared life. I wish I knew how to contact you or at least if you had a blog to read so that we could compare this interest. Thank you!

Kelly Jene - the national writing month effort does seem like a helluva lot of fun to me too. I hope that I can keep up with the goals. I will be looking forward to reading your efforts! Thank you!

Lynette - Thank you! I enjoy debating politics, yet part of me hesitates of late in the tangible world, for it is so easy to bruise egos. As I get older, I get more and more disappointed in how we are traveling as a nation.

Shanita - Don Quixote is a noble, yet deluded fellow. I still see many similarities in his persona and my own, much to my chagrin. Thank you for your very kind words!

Zirelda - your kindness has touched me immensely. Thank you!

G@P - you are a friend sir, and I delight in your comments. Thank you!

Andrew - you are amongst my oldest friends here in the Blog world. I wish our talks and discussions were more frequent and in depth like they had been previously. But, please know I enjoy and appreciate your comments. Thank you.

* * * * *

I am sitting here eating a large bowl of chocolate pudding upon which I have added a scoop of French vanilla whipped cream and also a scoop of chocolate whipped cream. It is oddly soothing to my tired soul this evening. The day has been a long one and I have been struggling to work exceptionally hard and efficiently to catch back up to and be on track with work and grading and research like I was a few weeks ago. The mutlti-week foray into sadness has muddied my efforts so that I feel again like I am on the precipice of a downward spiral of chaos in my efforts. I am pulling in the reigns so to speak and trying hard to ignore my emotions and my moods of sadness. If I ignore them, I can get back to having the rest of my life outside of my emotions and moods be even keeled. Even though it does not eliminate the sadness, the rest of my life is more pleasant so it helps out in the "overall" affect.

I want to drink deeply from the joys of life, and I am not sure how to return to that position. It seems I used to live life with far more gusto than I currently do, and I want that to change. I want to once again feel the deep, moving passions in my day for all that I wish to do. I am on a mission to try to find that old part of myself again. Although I currently go through the motions, and do most of the things I used to do that made life feel so rich and so full, it is like the old phrase, I think I am putting the emphasis on the wrong syllable (read that EM-pha-sis, and sy-LA-ble).


Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Conversational Loop

Not a whole helluva lot to say tonight. I have put my pipe fast on hiatus for the time being. Not that it makes too much difference at the moment, for I am not enamored with may current rotation of pipes nor any of the tobacco I have. I have been smoking a bowl or three a day out of habit, but garner little pleasure from them at the moment. It feels like a friend has left me.

I have been reading a few trashy crime novels of late, attempting to prepare me for my next attempt at writing a novel. Michael Connelly and Lawrence Sanders are the primary reads in this preparation. While I likely will not complete the task again (I started in 2004, but quit rather quickly), it is enjoyable to daydream about it now. Thursday is Day 1.

I would like to have all my computers be cleaned up to be running the same of everything and to have my desktops all be organized in the same fashion. This would be nice, for then I would not have to hunt around for the materials I want, worry about conflicting versions of every last damn program, and it would give me a unity I enjoy. Yet, I do not have the energy to update programs, nor to clean desktops into a unified pattern.

I would like to accomplish more, but I am feeling so damn lazy. I think the rapidly diminishing daylight hours are giving me a mild form of seasonal affective disorder. I sometimes wish I lived in Florida where the day length did not change so drastically. Next week, with the change of the clocks, it will start to be dark in these parts around 4:30 - 5:00 pm. Very challenging.


Monday, October 29, 2007

Pistons & Oil

Within the seam of the riverboat's steam,
there lies a large morass upon the tall sea grass.
It knows no gnomes,
and it has forwarned,
of the inevitable Garden of Istanbul.

* * * * *

Does anyone have any idea about how January 2009 will be? I do not think I can know, nor can anyone. Will we have a new president that is Democratic or Republican? In my mind, I hope that Hillary Clinton will be elected. However, In that same heart, I think it is unlikely she will win... mostly because of a bunch of ultra-fundamentalist folks fear, dislike, or simply do not approve of a female as president of the United States. Another part of me would enjoy seeing Al Gore run again. He is a noble, great man. And, of course, his being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize is wonderful, and speaks of his calibre. I think a Clinton/Gore... or a Gore/Clinton ticket would lead to wonderful changes in our nation. If we could have them as a team, I believe we could again turn this nation around to live and promote the ideals of true freedom and true liberty for all would return.

Yet, I am a realist. I have seen it happen far too damn often in my lifetime, to expect anything else. I suspect, that when the election is held in November of 2008, that we shall again elect a horrid candidate... most likely a republican... and likely someone who does not give a rat's ass about making this nation a better place for its people, nor about having our nation be a model example of how we all should interact on a global level.

We will end up with another bozo. It seems inevitable.


Thursday, October 25, 2007

Why? Here is why.

G@P, an excellent fellow and friend wrote a comment wondering why I have been contemplating refraining from my pipe. I thought I would now try to write about my reasons for this anticipated endeavor.

I deeply, and truly enjoy each and every aspect of smoking my pipe. It is a hobby and an avocation for me. I enjoy the tools of the trade (the pipes, the lighters, the pipe cleaners, matches, tobacco pouches, etc), I enjoy greatly the flavors, the textures, and the colors of indulging in the hobby. I enjoy the robust stimulation of the neurons in my mind and feel its effects are literally magical in their artistry and beauty. I literally feel my smoking my pipes transforms my thoughts... an analogy would be that my thoughts when not indulging in my pipes are akin to digital photographs... very literal, very clean, and very precise. When I indulge in my pipes, my thoughts remain detailed and clear, but they also elevate into the realm of feeling artistic, more colorful, more vivid, more substantial.

So, if I feel that much wonderment from the pipe, why, you ask, would I be contemplating refraining? Well, the answer is not a simple statement. Unfortunately not much of anything I think is a simple statement, but that is a topic for another essay. I am seriously contemplating refraining from the pure, blissful hobby of my pipe for each of the following reasons:

1. I did purposefully refrain from my pipe for the 12 or so days prior to my mother's passing. I had originally taken this vow to refrain as a way I could show love to God and my family. It was a moderately comfortable endeavor and I felt very good about my choice at that time. I anticipated that I would continue my refraining for a good, long time, likely years, even though the initial time frame was to refrain during Lent. As many of you long-term readers know, after the sudden, unexpected passing of my beloved mother, I willfully, purposefully, and vehemently returned to my pipe literally to show my anger, disgust, and rage at God. While I have not had a recovery of my faith... it is still at a very low ebb in my life at the moment, I am still thinking that my refraining could be a way for me to show my love of my family. So, that is one reason.

2. It grows tiresome to have the media, and most of the general public displaying very anti-tobacco feelings continuously. I disagree with these anti-tobacco feelings very strongly. But part of me is pretty damn tired of fighting against windmills (remember, I have said that my feelings of being Don Quixote have died... this is one of several ways that I think my Quixotesque feelings have died).

3. I sometimes believe that the way for me to grow is only through doing difficult, hard things. I would like to grow in breadth and depth as a person, and part of me things that by forcing myself to deny myself a pleasure, to experience this sort of seperation from a hobby that is deeply ingrained in my soul might be one very important way to grow in breadth and depth.

4. One particular brand of tobacco is becoming very difficult to find locally. This brand, Sir Walter Raleigh, is a wonderful leaf, and even though I have many varieties of pipe tobacco to choose from, I have been going out of my way of late to try to locate this particular brand. Because of its scarcity locally, I wonder if this is some sort of message from the ethos that I should be willing to give up this hobby. I know I could order said brand of leaf via e-mail without a problem, but there is something about being able to purchase this leaf in my local community that makes me feel a part of a greater sense of community. To "cheat" and buy said over the Internet, would turn my efforts from being a part of the local community, to instead being just a mechanized, required process. It seems to dehumanize the effort.

Perhaps none of the above makes sense. Perhaps none of the above are legitimate reasons for refraining. But as it stands, those four reasons ARE the reasons that give me the push to at least contemplate refraining. As of today, I have reduced my participation in the hobby. Actually for the last three days, I have allowed myself one pipe and one cigar only a day. I am not sure what my next step shall be. I am not sure if there will be a step forward towards further refraining, or if I shall step back into full immersion into the hobby. It is yet to be determined.


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Sick of Me

I am sure damn near all of you are sick of my whining and complaining and sadness. I have decided to try to bottle that all up and put it on the shelf and ignore it for a while. That said, it appears I have little of value to say.

The only news of any (and very minor) merit is that I think I will resurrect my attempt at writing a novel by joining this year's "National Novel Writing Month" again. I did this in 2004 but did not finish. A small part of this work is seen in the "Grates of Rat" blog. I think I will use the same space, but post a new work of fiction. I shall begin in the next few days.


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Nearly Blank Canvas

I had come here, to my den, to write a long diatribe about how exhausted I feel, and how I feel lonely and alone. I planned to write about giving up my pipe. I wanted to write for you long, belabored stories that allowed me to spill out my inner feelings, my emotionally foggy disposition of late.

But, I am too tired to do any of that. Too tired to much of anything but sign off and head to bed.


Monday, October 22, 2007

What Shall?

Incongruent messages
from a melted green transistor radio,
convey today as yesterday
and tomorrow as far away.

From whatever we shall be
it is the lack of forever which we grieve,
in the very last, precious gasp
life will be closed, by a gold hasp.

Yellow, brown and amber bees,
copulate with flowers and attempt to tease,
life's very essence in bold fact
from pollen slung upon their backs.

- PipeTobacco

* * * * *

I went to a pumpkin farm on Saturday and we had cider and fresh-made doughnuts. There was a small knick-knack store on the land as well, and inside, I found a beautiful maroom red star made from slats of wood. Each arm (of the five slats) was roughly 40 inches in length. Unfortunately, the store was unable to accept funds via credit or debit cards and because we had no additional paper money with us, we left empty handed. Later this week, I shall carve the pumpkins and roast the seeds.


Friday, October 19, 2007


Tonight, a series of very severe thunderstorms passed through our area three different times during the course of the evening. In several areas the gusts of winds were quite significant and tornado watches and even several warnings were posted although no tornadoes touched down anywhere.

As most of the storms geared up, I sat outside on the porch and smoked several very heavy, harsh bowls of pipe tobacco. It seemed fitting to choose a more powerful than typical leaf to mix with the storm.

My mind was a mix of different thoughts. Some of the time I felt alert and interested as it was fascinating to watch the immense power of each storm system as it passed, the rain being so heavy, harsh and solid, the lightning extremely diffuse... more akin to the flash of a photographers bulb rather than the stereotypical zig-zag pattern in the sky. Other times my thoughts were worrisome... concern that the storms would once again trip the circuits in my neck of the woods and suddenly there would be no electricity... again (it happens almost a dozen times a year). Additionally, melancholy settled into my thoughts... a general feeling of unsettledness and malaise about life. I can keep very, very busy, and by so doing, feel adequate. But is that what I have to look forward to now... simply working like a dog to feel adequate? With the only other emotion being sadness... and brought about by not following the "work like a dog mantra"? Is that living? But if it is not living, what is it? And if it is living, what was I doing before when I was happy, when I had simple joys nearly daily? That seemed more akin to living, but perhaps it was not. And finally, I felt waves of sadness... undulating to-and-fro as I watched the storms, but not the gentle, lively, engaging discussions with my mother about storms. She found them interesting and always had many stories about some of the more interesting (beautiful through severe) types of weather she experienced.

I traveled all about today, distributing a portion of the small funds my mother left behind to each of my various siblings. It is only a start, but a start is better than the lack of inertia I have had of late in completing different tasks related to my mother's estate. In one instance, when bringing her portion of the funds, I sat and spoke with my eldest sister for perhaps 30 minutes or so at her place of work. She had just ended her work day and we sat at a small bench/table that is used by the patients in the facility to eat at on pleasant days. Although my sister had always been told by others she looked very much like my mother... I had not seen it other than in rather generic ways until today. As my sister reiterated some of the stressors and emotional pain she had been feeling the last several weeks since her birthday, I noticed a stronger similarity than I had ever seen previously And, it was shocking, so utterly shocking... I could see in the manner in which she pursed her lips as she talked about hard subjects... I could see one of my beloved mother's exact facial expressions upon my sister's face.

It has been 232 days today since my beloved mother passed away.


Thursday, October 18, 2007

Screwing Up the Courage

I have been avoiding it for a long time, but I have forced myself to again start working on some of my mother's finances. There isn't all that much left, mostly a few errant bills that keep floating in and then the dividing of her remaining funds. But I have been avoiding it, for it makes me sad. Sad that she is gone, sad that once these minor tasks are done, I will have no further way to help her. Sad that another tie will become severed in my link to her.

I have started also a scrapbook, not of photographs of my mother (she despised having her photo taken), but of the various bits of papers and notes that she wrote to me or me to her over the years. I feel more connected through her notes when I find one scattered around the house than in many other ways of late. I also have her social security card for placement in the scrapbook as well as her medicare card and various other items.

I do not know what else to do.


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

You Call it Maize

The continuation of the hard, physical exertion (my 5 mile walk each morning) continues to help me wrestle the blues into submission. Additionally, the non-stop toil all the day long until I step into my truck to drive home from the University each evening is also keeping the blues at bay. I am feeling, as long as I work hard, very average. So, that is an improvement.

The enchilada lasagna was quite successful, and we had a nice, quiet, relaxed dinner at home. In the evening, we watched a tape of "Little People, Big World" which was the season premiere broadcast on Monday. It was wonderful and fun to see the latest on that pleasant and kind family.

I allowed myself to eat some of my most highly prized treat this time of year. Do not laugh, for it has been something I have truly viewed as the world's most wonderful candy... I remember the first one I had (I think I was 5 years old). It was nirvana in my mouth. What am I speaking of, you ask? Well it is the candy called candy corn. And actually, the small sample I bought was a mix, about 50% the corn, but the other 50% the even more tasty mellocreme pumpkin.


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Exercise Pays

It seems as if the exercise efforts are paying off, for I feel in a much more average mood today. I have even volunteered to make a family favorite for dinner this evening. It is called "enchilada lasagna" and is my take on enchiladas that has the following characteristics:

1. It is a nearly zero fat recipe.

2. It is vegetarian.

3. The ingredients include: corn tortillas, dark red kidney beans, brocolli, carrots, corn, fat-free cheddar cheese, black olives, and enchilada sauce.

4. I initially made this recipe as a pan full of traditional looking enchiladas (rolled like a cigar), but after making it a few times, I grew tired of the difficulty working with rolling the corn torillas when cold (they break easily). This lead to the "lasagna" aspect. I now layer the ingredients in as if making a lasagna. It works beautifully and is fun and different to eat.

So, hopefully it will continue to be a pleasant, average day.


Monday, October 15, 2007

Rough Weekend

It was a very rough weekend in many ways. I have been feeling very sad about my mother. I am trying hard to pull out of it again. But I am just feeling very tired.

Probably the most memorable highlight from this weekend was my wife's pea soup. It was very, very tasty and felt warm and nourishing.

I can tell that there is a mixture of change going on... weather is turning much colder (we had a 38 degree morning the other day), the trees are changing color drastically, my mood has been really, horribly poor the last several days (sadness), and all of this has played havoc with my temporomandibular joint disorder. My teeth and jaw line ache like hell.

Happy Monday. I will try to be in better spirits on Tuesday.


Friday, October 12, 2007

Flu Shot

I decided to receive my flu shot yesterday. I am not sure if it is real or psychosomatic, but I feel very tired this morning. I do not feel sick, but I do not feel as myself either. Let us hope that this subsides quickly.


Thursday, October 11, 2007

Again With the Damnable Bootstraps

First, a very sincere thank you to everyone who has written encouraging messages to me in my comments or in e-mail. I truly appreciate your kindness, concern, and support. It is difficult to describe how your messages touched me... in valuable ways while I was in the very pit of my despair. Your words helped me to see that sunshine still did exist.

As the title of my essay suggests, I am once again trying to pull myself up by my own bootstraps and bring back ORDER to my life as a way to push the depression and saddness away. When I keep myself ordered, in terms of the tasks I wish to accomplish day-to-day, and have a plan of attack from the moment I get up until I fall into bed at night, I feel significantly less grief and pain about my loss. Whether this is due to A) changing my hormonal profile through increased activity or b) if I am simply pushing my emotions aside temporairly by not having much time to think... I am not sure. But regardless, I end up feeling better on that day.

Therefore, I have geared up to again awaken at 5:30am to begin physical exhertion (walking) which I had let slide now for 5 days. I also have created a full slate of teaching, research, household, and general activities to keep me busy until I fall asleep (new plan is to be in bed by 12:30am).

It seems that this past weekend was a turning point for me in that I lost my routine, my patterns for keeping busy. Added to this was a disagreement my wife and I had during the weekend that helped me to become more cognizant of my feelings of being utterly alone in the world (a thoght that has always terrified me to my core... not of being by myself, but of having no one and no contact and no one who cares about me... the being in a void... of both space and time) and it is easy to see how I slipped back into the utter saddness I have been trying to keep at bay.

It is during these times that I again contemplate if I may benefit from a serotonin reuptake inhibitor (Prozac or something similar). Having not taken these medications previously, it gives me pause as to what the effects will be like:

1. I presume, the additional serotonin being held longer in the synapses will stimulate longer the neurons in the hypothalamic and amygdaloid regions of the brain thereby decreasisng the negative emotions that are typified by low neuronal activity in these regions. I know this from the standpoint of being a neuroendocrinologist (I study both endocrinology and neurobiology). But what I truly wonder is the following...

2. Would I feel a blunting of my emotions across the whole spectrum? [I hope not.]

3. Would I feel intoxicated through their effects? [An interesting idea... which could be entertaining, but I doubt there is that effect.]

4. Would I be one of the unfortunate few who have decreased sexual function while on these medications? [A definite negative, as the beautiful intimacy I share with my wife enriches me physically, mentally, and emotionally.]

5. Would I lose sight of who I am while on these medications? [A negative, because in general I think I am at least a moderately kind, good-hearted person.]

6. Would these medications cause me to ignore my beautiful mother? [A negative... I want to feel more accepting of inevitablity of her passage... I do not want to ignore her nor do I ever want to forget her.]

7. Would these medications become a crutch so-to-speak that allow me to return to a rather disheveled life and not need to exercise and exact order and discipline upon myself? [A negative... if this is only an easier way out of pain, all that would mean is I want to be a lazy worthless cur.]

I do not know the answer to the latter questions, and perhaps no one can really know. But I do think about them, especially when I go through a period of being so distraught like I have the last several days.

Cheers, and wish me luck on working myself into a heavy lather of activity that will exhaust me so that I can no longer feel sad.


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Don Quixote Has Died

I used to feel akin to Don Quixote, the somewhat addled but noble, diligent, and caring fellow in the stage play "Man of LaMancha". I used to believe that dreaming dreams, tilting at windmills and fighting for what is good, just, and true was the way to live life. Even though many of his battles were impossible... his spirit, his conviction to persevere made even losing of the fight something that was valuable and for the greater good.

That feeling, that belief, of nobility in struggling for what is just and right, the struggle for the greater good... has left me. I feel nothing. I am a used, spent shell. What pray-tell is the purpose of life? Is it to only witness death? That is all... death is the end game of our time here, and so I ask again... Why, for what purpose? Is there any purpose? There seems to be none. All of "life"is simply a march towards death. And the latter part of life is spent filled with the tortured ripping away of the connections of those whom you love and who love you.

You spend the first part of life finding out how to love, how to appreciate, how to nurture those fragile connections of love and devotion. You then spend the majority of the latter of your days having those connections torn from you, the yanking out your emotional innards more deeply with each and every death... in agonizing torture and pain. Each death is akin to having an advanced case of leprosy... part of your being is lost, much like the leper will lose a limb, or an appendage as the disease progresses. Death finally overcomes you, when so much of your own body has been lost due to the decay that is caused by the unrelenting grief.

I am not crying out because my experience is unique, for it is not. It is what all of us DO. We may deceive ourselves into thinking we have jobs, careers, hobbies, goals, and life. But we do not. We have nothing, except an excruciating march towards the final conclusion. The conclusion is not of our own chronology or being... but instead our conclusion is by each added death of those we cared about. And for most of us, the end of our own mortal flesh is nothing... except the fodder to allow another chink to develop in the armor of someone still alive for whom we love. It is this damage to the armor of a person's being that eventually causes their demise. For those whom love us our death serves only to add to their decay. It is inevitable and unstoppable, for as they themselves grow ever more aware of the futile effort that we euphemistically call "life", they themselves are preparing for their own end.

Does "it" or "anything" matter? At this point, I see no real purpose. I see no real hope. I feel no real life. Instead, I am just a void. I am zero.

The sooner I embrace this reality, perhaps the sooner it will not hurt so, to have loved and lost. It has been said that it is "better to have loved and lost, rather than to never have loved at all", but it sure as hell does not feel better.


Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The Urge To Splurge

Or, rather the lack thereof, is something I have noticed in me for the last several months. While it used to be fairly common for me to want to break away from routine, albeit briefly, by taking a day trip, or getting a bit tipsy with my father-in-law, or by buying some new pipe or other doo-dad or toy... that feeling has been absent in me. Even if I try to conjure it up, it really doesn't happen.

I am more comforted by sameness, monotony, reliability of late. I suspect it has to do with my mother's passing in March.

Because of an unanticipated change in plans last Thursday, I did not get to drive across town to visit my mother's gravesite as I typically do each Thursday evening. With the turbulent weekend I have had, I was out of town and hence could not visit then either. I did, however, go on Monday afternoon, as quickly as I could get things tied up for myself and my students working in the lab. The rodent breeding studies are moving slowly, and we have been troubleshooting possible reasons for the lackluster success.

I drove across town (~45 minutes at this time of day) to the cemetery, and purchased a red rose from one of the florists I pass en route. I sit beside the graves of both my beloved mother and my beloved father and try to talk with them. Obviously, and sadly, the conversation is, of course, significantly one-sided. How I wish I could talk with both of them again. How I wish they would answer me in some way I would know. I laid the rose atop my mother's grave and slowly drove home.


Monday, October 08, 2007

Rough Hewn Sandpaper

I spent the better part of the day yesterday sitting quietly with tears streaming down my cheeks. I have been feeling so alone the last several days. Alone and lost. I weep with shame and sadness at what I have missed. I feel as in a void. A pure void with no tactile, visual, or auditory sensation. I feel so alone, so heartbroken, so afraid of being nothing. It is so frightening. The feeling of being forever lost.


Friday, October 05, 2007

The First Party

There are a select few number of people for whom I was the primary person in charge of putting together a celebration for them. My wife is one. My kids... their celebrations are a joint effort between my wife and I. My siblings... I am a minor, secondary player in the formation of the celebration. For a fair number of years, when my aunt lived with my mother, I was the primary person planning an putting into motion her celebrations. So very sadly, my aunt passed away in 2002. However, until recently, there was but one other person for whom I was the primary person in charge of putting together their celebrations, at least during the last dozen or so years... this person was my mother.

Earlier in this week, I put together a celebration for my wife's birthday. It was a very nice, pleasant affair. A good time was had by all.

However, putting together the party harkened back in my mind, memories of the birthday party I put together for my beloved mother. Her birthday was only three weeks before her passing. Much of the feelings of loss I feel, erupted to the surface, as I sat alone in the basement wrapping gifts for my wife, tears streamed down my cheeks as I put out a cake for her on the dining room table, and decorated the room. Fortunately, I did this at roughly 1am when she was asleep (putting together the decorations for a party and wrapping gifts is something I typically do very late at night to give me the opportunity to "transform" a room from typical to decorated so as to allow my birthday recipient a chance to awaken to a "surprise" of sorts. I say it was fortunate I decorated THIS time at 1am especially, for it gave me time to have my tears dry and I could tuck away my sorrow again, so as to not spoil my wife's beautiful day.

I so miss my beautiful and kind, and loving mother.


Thursday, October 04, 2007

"Carefree" is More Than Chewing Gum

Alternative title for this post "Bowling, Beer, & Briars"

Today has been a day of longing and desire. For what, you may ask? Oddly enough, I have had a strong "hankerin" to go down to the local bowling alley and bowl several games, drink several mugs of beer followed by shots of beautifully harsh whiskey, eat burgers and fries, and smoke multiple bowls of heavy, heady pipe tobacco. It all sounds so beautiful.

Shall I fulfill my longing and desire? Unfortunately no. It is not that I do not want to fulfill this desire, but more akin to the fact that I cannot fulfill this desire. Why you ask? It is unfortunately simple... I could go to the bowling alley, bowl, drink, eat, and smoke as I see fit, but in the end it would not lead me to what I want. I would simply tire my arm out from bowling, become a bit wobbly from the drink, become full in my gut (and perhaps have significant indigestion from the grease), and smoke my pipe as I typically do anyway.

What the hell is it that I want, then? What I want and crave and long for... is that carefree feeling of relaxed joy and contentment, that heady feeling of simplicity in life, that utter confidence that the world is a good place, and that life is itself good and and filled with joy and all was pretty darn right with my own little part of the world. That is what I want to feel.

I remember excursions just as I have described (bowling, beer, whiskey, hearty food, pipes and laughter, good times, and camaraderie and fun) from back in my graduate school days. I and a few friends would go and make an afternoon out of it, "sneaking" away from the lab on a light workload day, to have fun, to make fun with and of each other. This happened more frequently during the Summer than in the Winter, but probably once every three or four weeks. They were a helluva lot of fun.

So, while I could mimic and model my actions after those earlier times, the net result would be failure. Failure because while the outer shell... the exterior... the actions would be the same as in those previous joy-filled times, but the carefree abandon, the simplicity of life and effort would be absent... dare I say impossible to replicate. I could bowl, I could drink, I could stuff myself, I could smoke a bale of pipe tobacco... and yet I would not recapture that tranquil belief of possibility. I could never recapture that freedom of belief that life will provide the raw materials to help me feel casual and content.

Life today is less about young men feeling happy with life and drinking richly from life's rich cup of bounty... but more about suppressing sadness, masking pain, and simply slogging through the day. Adding bowling, food, drink, and pipes to that mix would be akin to blending oil and water. It is incongruent. Both can exist, but they do not interact.

I am not sure if I can ever feel that idea of possibility and joy again. Perhaps I am too jaded, perhaps I have lost the ability to see life in that way anymore. I do not know.


Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Desiring A Quiet Day

Not much to say or write about today. I am simply working on the myriad of tasks I need to accomplish. My goal is to have a peaceful, comfortable, quiet day. We shall see if it transpires.

Listening to music is one of my favorite experiences in the back lab. There I can sit quietly away from all the hustle and bustle. I can turn off the phone ringer, and simply write or work with my animals in peace. When I get the chance to "hide" back there, I always take a thermos of good, strong coffee and a full pouch of pipe tobacco. I have a pint of whiskey tucked in the desk drawer as well, and sometimes I will brighten up my coffee with a shot or two. However, today, was not a day for whiskey, instead I listened to a wonderful series of CDs including this one. I had forgotten I had a copy of that CD in my desk. The slightly more eclectic mix of instrumentation (primairily guitar, clarinet, and bass clarinet) befit my mood better and helped me to find an inner quiet and concentration as I worked with my beasts and wrote for a grant submission.


Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Ralph Nader... Why Did You Abandon Us?

Ralph Nader used to be a world-class, top notch fellow who fought the good fight and waged countless battles for the regular people. He is an attorney and political activist in the areas of consumer rights, humanitarianism, environmentalism and democratic government. Nader has been a staunch critic of corporations, which he believes wield too much power and are undermining the fundamental American values of democracy and human rights. He helped found many governmental and non-governmental organizations, including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

He was a true individual of fine merit and worthy of sincere admiration for his work until he became a crackpot and ran as a spoiler third-party candidate for president. It was through his efforts that Al Gore, a political leader who would have made a difference in issues of science and the environment lost his bid for the presidency to the yahoo we now have in office. Nader's few percentages of votes, especially in the Florida debacle were enough to tip the scales and change history for the worse.

Now the man, who was nearly saintly in his effort to help people will be forever associated with a major downfall in the way of life in our nation. It is so utterly sad and disgraceful.


Monday, October 01, 2007


On this date, 50 years ago today, October 1, 1957, the drug thalidomide was first marketed in West Germany and shortly thereafter sold in at least 51 other countries. Unfortunately, due to inadequate animal model testing prior to approval for human use, this medication has had a profound and horrendous impact on the lives of thousands, and is a valuable lesson in the neuroscience and endocrine communities as well as the whole of science.

This chemical was first synthesized in 1953 as a sedative and it seemed a "wonder drug" for pregnant women to combat symptoms associated with morning sickness. Unfortunately, much, much too late it was found that the particular molecular shape of this compound allowed it to easily move across the placental wall, affecting the growth and development of the the baby in utero. Worldwide, over 10,000 individuals were born by the early 1960's with astronomical birth defects, including deafness, blindness, internal disabilities, cleft palate, deformed or even missing limbs. Survivors, now middle-aged adults, have continuing health problems. The problem lies in this drugs ability to sedate or halt the normal progression of cell division that is so vitally rapid during gestation. The effect often lead to miscarriages and still births, but when the infant survived, the effects appeared most often scattered in a particular cell lineage. The endocrin effects that this drug identified as being critical for development in utero were initially thought to be virtually unique to this drug. However, in the last 10-15 years, an entire class of compounds, called "endocrine disruptors" have begun to be identified in chemicals in manufacture and in the wastes from their manufacture. One may have hoped that by now, this problem would have opened the collective eyes of our society towards the dangers of dumping chemical waste into the environment, but it has not... not because scientists have not warned about this issue for decades... but because the vast majority of people do not give a damn about science and do not heed what scientists have to say.

People do not want to see the connection between one particular drug and the problems that arise from our polluting of the planet.... both occur when people do not listen to and almost hate and fear scientists.

Yet, the drug thalidomide now has some beneficial uses... discovered by research scientists in universities across the nation. Thalidomide has now been approved in the treatment of leprosy and other potential benefits of thalidomide are vast, and several experts expect doctors to quickly begin prescribing it for "off-label" uses. In recent years, thalidomide has been experiencing a revival of sorts, and scientists are experimenting with it for maladies as diverse as AIDS, brain cancer, lupus and other autoimmune diseases. Advocates for people with these conditions have been urging the agency to make it available.

So, what can we learn from the above? Namely... science and scientific discovery are VITALLY important to our society. Scientists need more, better funding, and need better respect in our nation. People need to quit blindly accepting facetious and idiotic arguments from nonsense groups like PETA and those of similar ilk... they are basically composed of anti-science bigots. Scientists need to be given a greater voice in public policy and they should be revered as tremendously important figures... not the crazy, wild-haired buffoons of most television portrayals.