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.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Travel to Sit

I unfortunately had to get up very early today and travel to the other end of the state to participate in a workshop based on a grant that I participated in putting together for implementation as part of a state initiative for education reform. The meeting was long, and like most meetings filled with ample hot air.

Although the goals and the concepts of the grant are wonderful and very valuable, the sitting around at meetings that are best described as controlled chaos are tiring. I am more tired and spent than if I had talked and lectured for 6 hours today... and I really didn't do a damn thing except drive and sit.

Oh well, it really is for a good reason. I am just glad it is over for a month and a half. Not until mid-January do I have another one to go to. I just wanted all of you to know that is why I did not post earlier.


Thursday, November 29, 2007

Logic & Language

The inspiration for today's post came from the comment left by Mapiprincesa.

There is often a presumption that logic and art do not mix. When one thinks of a logical man, one envisions a banker, or an accountant, perhaps a scientist, or a physician. When one thinks of an artist, the mind envisions a free-spirit, a wild-haired soul lost within himself, often a person of chaotic means or of non-sequential thought. Yet, for both the logical man and the artist, these impressions are but illusions and misconceptions. We each have within our mind, body, spirit, and soul the propensity for rational, sequential thought, just as we have the ability to see things in the abstract and disordered. Therein lies the quintessential dichotomy of how our life unfolds... which path do we choose? Or, perhaps, do we choose both paths? Or, even more antithetical, do we choose no path?

In essence, what makes us who we are is built upon the choices we make. Be they conscious choices or subconscious choices, both shape and develop who we have become. To those in the neurobiological/experimental psychological circles, this is the arena where many of us find ourselves poised... filled with ideas, experiments, questions, ambitions... to uncover the new knowledge, the new understanding of how these choices shape who or what we are.

For me, this chimeric yet bifurcating path truly intersects back together at the study of the brain, both neurally and endocrinologically. How is it that electrical signals from one neruon to the next guide our thoughts, our behaviors, ourselves? How is it that minute chemical molecules impart such strong effects into our body that they can drive us to DO the myriad of activities that we do daily... eat, drink, sleep, copulate?

Mapiprincessa, I thank you for steering my thoughts into this venue today. For your comment helped encourage me to re-explore what it is that in essence makes me tick. It is both the logical side of my being and the artistic side of my being that helps me to feel whole and complete inside. The logic of my research is coupled to the creative artistry upon which I try to build my experiments. The wanton abandon that I sometimes crave in my routine, is coupled with the logic of predicting the outcome of the efforts. For many months now, I have felt empty... empty from the loss of my beloved mother. And while her passing is still a harsh and bitter pill, by remembering and rethinking about how I feel about science and art being merged into one holistic paradigm of how to live, I feel more complete and more whole than I have in quite some time. To recall the beauty I see in the forms of art I attempt to practice... painting, photography, music, and now the mosaic art, and allow it to merge again with the logic, the pendantic, methodical practice of the art of science, helps me to feel more who I have been, and helps me to see more what I have lost of myself as I grieve the loss of my mother.

Your comment has given me hope, hope in reclaiming the totality of life.

I thank you.


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

This & That and a Bag of Toast

Well, today's post is meant to be a bunch of lists....

1. I am feeling much better. The antibiotics I have been taking since Saturday have really kicked in well and for most of today I have felt very, very good. It is interesting that I feel so good, especially since I was very fearful of how I would feel this morning.... I had a horrific time getting to sleep last night. Although I am very much a night owl, I usually go to sleep around 1:30am or 2:00am and get up between 6:00am and 6:30am, last night was one of my very rare bouts with insomnia. It may have been due to the looming deadline of the grant I was writing, especially since I worked on it late last night until roughly 1:30am. But, when I went to bed, I kept tossing and turning, and felt utterly wide awake. I could not trigger sleep at all. It was frustrtaing, for I knew I needed to get up early to begin the final cleaning and editing of the grant, and would need to spend as much time as possible today editing and preparing the grant for a 3:30pm electronic submission deadline. So, by 3:30am, I was utterly frustrated and no closer to sleep. I was still tossing and turning in bed like a fish out of water. I went downstairs and did something very uncharacteristic for me. I purposefully went to the refrigerator and quickly drank two bottles of beer, and then sat and read two chapters of a novel I have been working through. I thought the combination of the beer and the book would quiet my mind enough, and pull me away from the thoughts of the grant so that I could finally fall asleep. I crawled back into bed at 4:00am, and reset the alarm for 7:00am. Although I tossed and turned a bit, I did fall asleep in a relatively typical time frame during this second attempt. When the alarm went off, I reset it and allowed myself to sleep in to 8:00. Fortunately, at 8, I felt good and set of a bit later than desired to head to the U to finish up the grant effort.

2. The final day of writing and fussing over the grant went pretty smoothly. As is typical this time of the semester, I had a myriad of students stop by with grave concerns over their performance in my courses, but I was able to handle their concerns relatively easily, and spent a good amount of time writing. I even went to our journal discussion group at lunch, I felt so comfortable in the time frame.

3. I submitted the grant with roughly 15 minutes to spare on the deadline.

4. A very pleasant and unexpected surprise occurred when I arrived home. My wife whisked me away and we went to our local bookstore and meandered around for a while just perusing the new titles. Then she suggested we go out to eat dinner. We arrived at the resturant, and lo-and-behold, she had invited my siblings to meet us there for an impromptu celebration of my birthday (we celebrate birthdays when we can, near the date, but not always on the exact date). It was an evening filled with fun and heartfelt laughter and conversation. I thank my wife for orchestrating such a beautiful surprise.

5. One of the surprise gifts I had received from my wife was a book about mosaic tiling as art, and also a starter kit to build a clock from mosaic tiles. Even though it may seem a surprise to many, I have a creative, artistic side. To me, I really think that science is ART in a similar way to painting, sculpture, etc. I have always loved pursuing a variety of different forms of artistic expression, and mosaic tiles were one avenue that has sparked my curiosity for several months now. I cannot wait to delve more deeply into the book and the project piece itself.

6. I think I shall sleep easily tonight, for I do not have any looming worries or deadlines at the moment.

7. To conclude my previous story about the hunting trip... the buck I saw while sleeping in the tree was a fabulous beast, likely a 9 or 10 point buck. I had very good sight on him, and I feel I could very easily have made a strong accurate shot and downed the beast. But instead, I chose to not aim my rifle at him. The reasons are not that I am some sort of "softy". Nor am I in any way, shape, or form anti-hunting. In fact, I think that if a person chooses to eat meat (which I do, albeit infrequently, and when I do it is primarily chicken or turkey), he should be willing to go through the whole process of obtaining the meat for consumption. I have bagged a few deer in my day, specifically to live this particular belief. The reasons I DID NOT shoot the deer this time were a) I really do not like venison. In years past when I bagged a buck, I found a way to donate the meat to friends, relatives and needy food banks and shelters, b) I did not feel energetic enough when I saw the buck, to want to go through the effort of getting the beast, bringing it back to camp, and gutting and dissecting the carcass. Again, do not get me wrong... I think those steps are something everyone who eats meat should be willing to do at some level, and I have done these steps in my life. But, I was just not in the mood for it that morning, and c) this year I was really more interested in the camaraderie of deer camp itself... the eating, drinking, smoking, card playing etc. So, perhaps a bit lazily, I decided to NOT take aim at the buck and instead laid back down and slept a while longer in the tree. When I awoke again, I cralwed down, and walked back to camp and continued to relax and have raucous fun up until I left.

8. At dinner tonight, I ordered fajitas, combonation fajitas... meaning I had a mixture of seasoned chicken AND seasoned steak along with grilled vegetables, guacamole, pico de gala, and other fixings for my meal. The last time I had beef of any sort, I believe was probably almost two months ago. It was interesting to try the combination form, but I would have been happy with just the chicken fajitas, it was not worth the extra price to have some steak strips as well as the chicken strips.

9. Our U library has a free paperback novel exchange program that has been going on for several years. I stopped by there today following journal club and found a book by James Blish. I have not read the author before, but have been told he is a science fiction author of the variety I typically like... traditional, with a penchant for writing about societal ills and/or corruption. If anyone has any further knowledge about this author, please let me know.


Monday, November 26, 2007


I am sorry for the late post today. I also apologize for its brevity. I am still feeling under the weather, and all my limited energy is being devoted to the completion of a grant application that is due for submission on Tuesday. After submission, I will hopefully be back to my normal writing schedule.


Saturday, November 24, 2007

Under the Weather

I came down with cold/sore throat on Friday. Hence, I did not feel up to posting. I am still feeling rough, but I wanted to note that today is my father's birthday. I miss you, Dad. I wish you were here physically with me. You would be 84 today.


Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you, my faithful and kind hearted readers. My story shall resume tomorrow. And, "Andrew", I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving also. You are generally a good kid at heart. Perhaps someday things shall change in our former friendship.


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

First Day's Hunt

After the night at the casino, where we left around 3am, I was undecided about whether to hunt or not immediately at dawn. Several guys ended up skipping hunting to sleep, others took a nap before going out mid-morning. But some, myself included, decided to go out immediately to be out at dawn.

But, I had a bit of a plan. Recall, I was still rather tipsy, so I meandered out to one of the sites I have liked over the years, and there was a special tree that I have enjoyed and kept secret about for a lot of years. This big old white oak tree must have been damaged in a storm earlier in its life, for it grew in a split "V" fashion, which is very uncommon for the species. The left side of the "V" was further misshapen in such a way that at only about 8 feet off the ground it spread out wide and nearly horizontal for about 10 feet. It was perfect to lay upon up in the tree. And from years past, I had a little sling arrangement for my Marlin lever action 30-06 to hang safely from. The weather was exceptionally warm for November (low 40s), and my heavy hunter orange jacket and insulated pants kept me plenty warm. So I climbed up into the tree, and smoked my pipe a few times, and eventually laid down on the limb and very quickly fell asleep.

After about two hours, I awoke and the light was still in that hazy, blueish quality that happens on a wet morning shortly after sunrise. The only minor mishap was that my pipe had fallen out of my pocket and I saw it down below in the brush surrounding the tree. Gingerly climbing out of the tree to retrieve my pipe, I heard a crack down away from my site about 50 yards or so, and when I looked, I swore I saw some movement. Very quietly I picked up my pipe and carefully climbed back onto the limb of the tree to get a better view. It was a buck!

I will continue with more tomorrow.


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Casino Royale

Not more than 15 minutes into my arrival at deer camp, a vote was taken and the group consensus was to spend the rest of the afternoon and evening at the casino. Now, mind you, the "casino" is roughly 2.5 hours away from deer camp, and is a bit seedy. But, most in the group were itching to go to whittle the night away before getting up at dawn to hunt again. So, off we went in a long caravan of trucks. Since I had only just arrived, I was happily offered the chance to ride in with another driver and was not to be a driver myself.

Now, truth be told, I am most definitely NOT a gambler. Sure, I enjoy playing nickle/quarter poker with the guys at deer camp, because that is fun. But being at a casino and dropping $200 or $300 in a couple of hours... no, that is not me. The idea of buying a lottery ticket feels frustrating to me (I am a bit of a penny-pincher), let alone playing other high stakes games of chance. So, at the casino, I had my fun through people watching, drinking beer, meandering around the place looking at all the lights and sounds, and spent a platry $5 playing nickel slot machines. Because of the ever changing and tightening rules on smoking in my state, at first I stepped outside to smoke my pipe (oddly, some establishments allow cigarette smoking which was evident at the casino, but they ban cigars and pipes), but after about an hour, I noticed a few other guys were smoking cigars and pipes and then knew it was acceptable inside as well.

By the time the evening drew to a close and we headed back to the cabin (left the casino at roughly 3am), I was pleasantly tipsy, a few of our crew won big (one fellow came out $200 ahead, another $150), but most lost their shirt (the worst, one guy lost $450). I much preferred my sudsy feeling, and the simple enjoyment of observing the various people at the various tables and machines. We arrived back at the cabin at around 5:30. Some of us staggered off to bed, forgetting about hunting, others sat around taking brief catnaps until it was closer to dawn, and a few of us geared up and went out to find a place to hunt immediately upon return.

My hunting efforts in tomorrow's essay.


Monday, November 19, 2007

Adventure North

It was a helluva enjoyable weekend up North. It has been a very long time since I have literally shaken off my troubles and concerns and allowed them to sit in "the back of the garage" while I simply had some carefree time.

As I spoke to my wife over the phone before I headed out, we both talked about our love for each other, and we both felt my journey North was important for me, and we both looked forward to our return to each other when my truck again drove in to the driveway. It was a wonderful send off by my wife. I felt loved, I felt cared for, and most importantly I know she understood me and understood why it was important for me to go.

On the drive North, I had a variety of accoutrements for my entertainment. I knew all the stations needed so that I could listen to an uninterrupted stream of National Public Radio on my journey... each time one station's signal would fade, the next in series could be easily dialed in. I had a large thermos of cinnamon pecan flavored coffee, a very large diet Pepsi fountain pop, a small submarine sandwich, two apples, and my pipes... including the beautiful beast I had just purchased on Thursday. In the back of the truck I had a cake my wife baked to have me take to share at the camp, my clothes, rifle (in case I decided to hunt), a pleasant quantity of beer (in glass bottles... it tastes so much better to me that way than it does in cans), a small pint of whiskey, the New York Times, a novel I am currently reading called "Echo Park", and a few other odds and ends.

Traffic on the highway was heavy (because of the plethora of hunters heading North), but not so heavy as to be troublesome for driving. Hats and jackets were displaying swatches of "hunter orange" color in most every truck and car. Listening to the news programs on NPR (mostly a) national news about the recent issues concerning the Democratic contenders, b) the science program called.... "Science Friday", and c) the arts program, "Fresh Aire"), interspersed with a variety of wonderfully rich orchestral classical music pieces was tremendously relaxing, pleasing, and enjoyable to my ears.

As I relaxed into my distance driving mode, I was able to focus on my newly purchased pipe in all of its glory. It has been an exceptionally long time since I have purchased a new pipe for myself, and I was eager to begin the breaking in process that is so enjoyable... you are in a period almost akin to courtship with the pipe, as you see how she will be and how your relationship will develop. As hoped for, I did indeed find a beautiful pipe, and even from the very first bowlful of a mixture I made for the journey (Sir Walter Raleigh mixed with an aromatic hazelnut tinctured burley leaf), I knew that this pipe would be a beautiful, gentle, yet robust companion.

More in my next post.


Friday, November 16, 2007

A Matter of Speaking

Sadly, "Andrew" has decided to write more negative things towards me on his site. And, when I attempted to leave a calm reply, he deleted it. Oh well. Below, I will summarize my comment (unfortunately, I did not save it, so I am paraphrasing as best as I can recall).

Paraphrase of a comment left to "Andrew" on his blog, 4th Avenue Blues, but deleted by him shortly after posting:


I wish to thank you for your very kind words (sarcasm). I am unsure about your extreme rancor and why you feel so angry. The anger that I had towards you was due to a rather rude comment you made to me (you told me I was "harping" about things). I no longer feel anger towards you because I see how inconsequential any of this is. I had throught of you as a good Internet friend. In fact, I still think of you that way, but it is doubtful the friendship will continue as you seem far too angry for that to happen.

As far as annonymity goes, I made a concious decision when I started blogging to have a pseudonym, in order to keep my real-world life seperated somewhat from my Internet life. For me, the choice was obvious, because by having a pseudonym, I was able to reveal a far deeper aspect of my thoughts and ideas than I nor many do in real life. I think there are many, many others who do likewise. In fact, when you were upset many months ago about your relatives reading your blog, I suggested you may want to do something similar. Yet, what I write about *is* me. And my writings are my thoughts and ideas. My words reveal a deep truth about my own feelings and beliefs about the world and about myself.

I am sorry you are so angry and upset. But, unfortunately, it is something of your own making (you started the rude statements). I am no longer angry, but I am only half the equation.

Good day, sir, and have a good life,


And now, back to preperations for the voyage north!

Voyage On

I am off to deer camp as soon as I can get out of a few brief meetings in the morning. It should be a very good time for me.

I did give in and allowed myself to purchase the pipe I had spoken of yesterday. It is as beautiful as I thought.


Thursday, November 15, 2007

Nebulous Meanderings

I am feeling rather out of sync and out of sorts today:

1. We had a sudden return of sub freezing temperatures, and this has discouraged me from walking outside again. I need to force myself into walking in the cold, as once I get used to it again, it is nice.

2. My wife, who always grows sleepy before I do, is having a challenge (due to the shorter day length, I suspect) staying awake beyond 9pm these days. Again, I know it is a part of her nature and that this time of year it is especially prominent as it grows dark around 5pm. But, I think I am feeling this dichotomy of sleep-wake cycles more profoundly this year, because in previous years when my wife would be unable to stay awake, I would have my Mom to talk with during the evening. It feels very lonely at night. I have been trying to get to bed earlier to try to adjust to my wife's schedule (last night I went to bed at the incredibly early time (for me)of 11:30pm), but I typically toss and turn and am restless and unable to fall asleep until my more typical time of 1:00am.

3. The grief support group that meets once a month at the library had a meeting this past Tuesday about the "Loss of a Parent". I attended this meeting, and there are many thoughts rolling around in my head about this session. I am not quite yet ready to put them down on paper here, but that is my plan in the next several days.

4. I am working my way through a book I checked out of the library that is about the life of a man who attempted on three seperate occasions while in his 70s, to set sail across the Atlantic Ocean in a small 11 foot boat. I will write the title down and post about it as I delve into the story more. But, as of this time, the adventure seems far different than I had been hoping for. He seems almost "off his rocker" in terms of how he attempts these adventures. I was anticipating something more methodical and adventuresome.

5. The problem with "Andrew" also is something I have thought about these last several days. As he has vowed to not read this blog nor answer e-mails, I suspect nothing will improve. It is discouraging. He apparently does not want or desire comments that have substance, as he called my comments "harping". If this conflict is ever resolved, I plan to only offer the self-help, "Oprah-esque" type comments of "Wow! That is fab!" or "Gee, you 'got it goin' on'!" he seems to be favoring and desiring these days.

6. I went to the pipe shop yesterday on my way home from the University. There was a beautiful walnut grained, half-bent Dublin style pipe that caught my attention. It is exceptionally beautiful with curves in all the right places, a pleasantly large bowl, and a silky smooth finish. Especially noticable was the broad stem (mouthpiece)that I always find more enjoyable clenching between my teeth (rather than the more common, narrow stem). To top it all off, it was also very modestly priced. I almost purchased said pipe, but I hesitated because I am still not sure what my heart and mind are guiding me to do. Should I continue with my hobby, or should I purposefully refrain? That is another topic of debate in my cortex. Part of me suggests it should be a birthday present to myself, but another side of me says no.

7. With my upcoming birthday, and with the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays just around the corner, I am wondering what these events will be like without my beautiful Mother present physically. These will be the first of this trio of holidays, and from all that I have read about the psychology of grief, it could be a time of significant emotional turmoil. I know that it may be difficult, but I also know that it may not need to be difficult. I am just not sure what to anticipate within myself.

8. I feel like I am drifting and am simply buffeted by the winds into whatever direction they choose for me. I much prefered the sense of taking charge of my life and my day that I had fostered during the latter part of the summer and first half of the Fall Semester. If I want to recapture that, though, I need to figure out how to cope with the changing conditions (those listed above and others) more successfully.


Wednesday, November 14, 2007


* * * * *

Before the regularly scheduled post for this day, I wanted to give one, final brief concluding statement related to "Andrew's" blog, 4th Avenue Blues, and why I choose to no longer comment there.

"Andrew" had been struggling with issues about his medication and family disagreements for a period of time, and I attempted to offer him words of encouragement. This seemed to be well received and allowed for a congenial discussion between the two of us.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, "Andrew" became hostile towards me and said I "harped" at him about some of the above mentioned issues. This statement was rude and uncalled for. I told him so.

He then decided to remove the link to my blog from his, is telling others that I hurt his feelings and that he no longer reads my blog.

My concluding statement is simply to no longer comment on his blog. I do not need to be on the receiving end of such impolite and rude behavior, especially when I had been only friendly and helpful to him. I used to consider "Andrew" a significant Internet friend. Unfortunately, I was apparently very deceived.

Now we can return to the original post for this day.

* * * * *

This meme is from Not Fainthearted at This Journey, but was used by me after seeing it on Abbagirl's blog:

1. What were you afraid of as a child?

I was afraid of being left all alone, with everyone I knew or cared about being dead. In my gravest rendition of this fear, I would be in a nebulous space without contact or stimulus of any kind other than a faint glow of light. There would be no one, nor anything that I could touch, no one that I could talk with, and no one who was alive who knew of me or that I existed.

2. When have you been most courageous?

I believe my most courageous period was in the latter stages of graduate school when I earned my doctoral degree. Earning a doctorate is always a frustrating activity, but for me, it was to the point where I almost cast my efforts aside simply to go work in another career. Not because I was failing, but because I had lost the hope for a future, a vision in what I had wanted and strived to become my career. My courage derived from my tenacity to simply keep sloughing through repeatedly for months and years out of shear determination and stubbornness.

3. What sound most disturbs you?

The sound of a little girl crying. The cries can be so heart-wrenching and sad. I feel compelled to try to "fix" whatever is happening to cause a small child crying so to stop.

4. What is the greatest amount of pain you have been in?

Acute pain - the first time I rode on an airplane. I did not realize I had significant problems (scarring) in my Eustachian tubes and also did not realize I had an ear infection. Upon descent in the plane, the pain in my head felt akin to a heavy railroad spike being pounded into my skull. I was only in my early 20s at the time of this first flight, and I was truly fearful... having never experienced such pain... I was thinking I may have had a stroke. Upon landing, the pain was still agonizing and I had very poor balance control. I staggered off the plane, and drove myself to my physician where the issue was diagnosed. I then slept for nearly three days in my attempt to recover.

Chronic pain - my tempormandibular jaw syndrome, when it is in an active state can cause intense, throbbing pain to radiate down from my ear through my entire jawline.

5. What's your biggest fear for your own children?

My biggest fear is that something I have done or will do, will cause them to be significantly unhappy or afraid in life.

6. What is the hardest physical challenge you have achieved?

The hardest physical challenge I have achieved was to wait until the evening of my marriage to engage in copulatory behavior for the first time. I did so due to the philosophical teachings of my religious faith (Roman Catholicism) and to respect my parents. Yet, it was a very difficult physical challenge for me.

7. Which do you prefer: Mountains or oceans/big water?

Oceans and/or big water is the preference for me. While I think mountains are beautiful and very special, for me, a person who raised and lives in a flat geographic area, mountains disorient me, and I find it challenging to navigate when in the midst of them.

8. What is the one thing you do for yourself that helps you keep everything together?

I do not know for certain. There have been many things but they change over the years, or even from day-to-day. At times, taking care of my beloved mother who recently passed away helped ground me, but at other times it would fill me with sadness and fear. Other times, I smoked my pipe as a means to keep my grounded. Still other times, I have used (or tried to use) exercise in that manner. Perhaps if I could discern something that would always work, I would feel more "together" on a day-to-day basis?

9. Ever had a close relative or friend with cancer?

Sadly, more people that I care to count or reenumerate.... but here it goes... my father died of mesothelioma (cancer of the pleura of the lungs due to asbestos), my mother (bladder and colon), a cousin (pancreatic), and others.

10. What are the things your friends count on you for?

I am not sure. I think I used to be counted on more for humor and a good disposition. But, due to the signficant saddness, I suspect my true, deep, long-term friends count on my now (and perhaps before as well) for my stead-fastness, my resolve, my stubbornness in helping them.

11. What is the best part about being in a committed relationship?

Having a friend who is willing to know you and listen to you and hear you.

12. What is the hardest part about being in a committed relationship?

Not being able to communicate successfully.

13. Summer or Winter? Why?

Summer now. I would have said Winter perhaps 10 or more years ago, but I have grown to appreciate the beauty, the heat, and even the humidity more than I have grown in my appreciation of the cold.

14. Have you ever been in a school yard fight? Why and what happened?

Yes, albeit without any actual punches thrown. I was in elementary school and had had just about enough of an obnoxious, crude, and idiotic bully whom I dispised. Even though I had been trained through years of effort by my parents to not engage in physically violent behavior, this person was just beyond my ability as a nine year old. The "fight" never actually came to blows, for I latched onto his shoulders with my hands, and he did the same. As we were physically similarly matched, all we ended up doing was pushing each other around for 20 minutes... each of us with our hands locked onto each other's shoulders the whole time until the coach (who was the recess monitor, and who had been smoking a cigarette at the side of the school during much of this time) hollered at us to break it up.

15. Why blog?

Because blogging allows me to communicate ideas and thoughts and opinions to a broader audience than I otherwise have in my classroom, family, or community.

16. Did you learn about sex from your parents?

No, as a scholarly kid, I read about it in books on anatomy and physiology and books on psychology from the public library. When my father finally approached me to tell me about the "birds and the bees" when I was 15, he simply asked me "Do you need to know anything about the process?" I quietly said, "No." with a red face of embarrassment. To which my father replied, "Oh, ok, good." and we then went to a diner, had a couple of Coney Dogs, drank a few root beers and smoked a few bowls of vanilla tinctured pipe tobacco while we talked about more engaging subjects.

17. What are you most thankful for this year?

In this very hard year, I am not overly thankful for much. I lost my mother, I have diminished faith, I have felt quite a bit of despair. The one thing I am thankful for is my wife and my children. Their love has helped me beyond what they can know.


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

To Harp

a transient verb - to persist in talking or writing tediously and continuously

It seems I have been labeled a person who "harps". To me, that is a hugely rude, impolite, callous, and unjust moniker to label upon me. In an effort to refrain from "harping", I shall simply stay mute with those who feel I am so from this time forward.

* * * * *

I am planning to steal away to deer camp later this week. It is my plan and hope that the alignment of schedules, time lines, and dispositions this week allow my foray into the great white North to be robust, fruitful, fanciful, enjoyable, and a helluva lot of fun. If all goes as planned, I shall head North Thursday or Friday and shall have evenings filled with poker, rough language, beer, pipes, liquor,cigars and a camaraderie that is nourishing to a man's soul. Some at deer camp may actually go hunting as well. I have the truck filled with gasoline and have packed all the needed accoutrements to aid in this adventure that is only a few short days away.

* * * * *

I have been trying to encourage my baby brother to write more often with more purpose. He has some delightful, heartfelt stories of the wonderful life with his wife and two lovely kids. His blog is Lectures On Life, and I hope to get him to put his thoughts onto electronic paper more often. As an English faculty, he sometimes gets overwrought with grammar, style, and impact... and this actually impedes his efforts to simply record his thoughts. He has an incredible ability and he has two of the most adorable little kids around.

* * * * *

A final note, I am planning to post for Wednesday, a new "meme" that Abbagirl has posted on her site. I will of course answer the questions based upon my own thoughts, but the "meme" she has uncovered is a very interesting, thought provoking one, and I hope you will enjoy it.


Monday, November 12, 2007

Tempormandibular Joint Disorder

Temporomandibular joint disorder is a problem related to the jaw joint. Other names include myofacial pain dysfunction and Costen's Syndrome. Because muscles and joints work together, a problem with either one can lead to stiffness, headaches, ear pain, bite problems (malocclusion), clicking sounds, or locked jaws.

The reasons for developing temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ) vary and often include several of the following:

1. Teeth grinding and teeth clenching (bruxism) increase the wear on the cartilage lining of the TMJ.

2. Dental problems and misalignment of the teeth (malocclusion). Chewing on only one side of the jaw can lead to or be a result of TMJ problems.

3. Trauma to the jaws. Previous history of broken jaw or fractured facial bones.

4. Stress frequently leads to unreleased nervous energy. It is very common for people under stress to release this nervous energy by either consciously or unconsciously grinding and clenching their teeth.

Tonight/today my TMJ is acting up. I was first diagnosed with the condition in my latter teens when my jaw started to click, clack, and grind audibly. Bite splints help and I have chewed my way through many of them over the years. My own condition is caused by a propensity towards grinding my teeth, a tendency to chew on one side of the mouth in favor of the other (I have always done this, and now try to compensate by altering sides fairly often), and through STRESS.

Stress is the major contributing factor for the flare ups I have occasionally in this condition. I am going to go to bed now and take two Tylenol to try to reduce the pain and swelling in my jawline.


Friday, November 09, 2007

Sharp Pain

I have been trying to work through it, but this week has been filled with far more sharp, stabbing pains of loss than I have had for several weeks. I can have very reasonable, normal days at work. Some happiness, some business, some good teaching moments, some frustrating university politics. But several times during this week, I would have a strong sense of wanting to... actually planning to... talk with my mother when I got home. It used to be a very common through in my mind... as I left my building at the end of the day... I would think happy thoughts about my family, feeling love for them. And I would often have a funny incident or story I would want to tell Mom when I got home. The thinking of those normal patterns of thought... the same sort of thing I would typically think of most days when I left the U for home... that would cause me to catch my breath and feel a sharp dagger of pain as I realized I would not be able to see Mom when I arrived home.

I miss her smile towards me.
I miss her laugh.
I miss talking with her. We could talk about silly things or serious things and it would be wonderfully deep, enriching conversation. I so miss that.
I miss having her to count on.
I miss helping her.
I miss watching television with her.
I miss her hug.

I miss HER.

I am not sure why the pain has been especially sharp this week. I cannot discern anything that would have made it so.

Part of me wants that sharp sadness to leave. But part of me fears it will then simply leave a void of nothingness. That is worse. It would be as if I lost another piece of her.


Wednesday, November 07, 2007

24 Hours Needs to Be 32 Hours

Wish me well, friends. I am in the midst of a deadline for submission of abstracts to a scientific meeting I would like to present my research findings at. The deadline for these abstracts as well as other looming deadlines is making my days feel quite rushed and chaotic. If I had a magic wand, I would extend the day to being 32 hours in length, so that I could afford to give 8 hours of the day to sleep and still work 24 hours a day during these times.

If I can persevere and hold my calm, it should make for some very interesting times ahead. But, keeping up the stamina to get all these fussy, fastidious and mind-numbing deadlines met is exhausting.

My goal is to still walk Wednesday morning, no matter how damn cold it is outside. I also am planning to adopt more "zen-like" qualities during the day tomorrow to try to keep an even keel. I also am planning to hide in my back office away from the multitudes who want a piece of me "for just a moment" to "help them with their crisis". It feels rude, but it the only way I know to maintain my sanity during these times of looming deadlines.


Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Let It Snow

Today, during my morning walk, I saw the first snow of the season. In my neck of the woods, it actually is later than usual this year, and these first few flakes will not amount to anything. However, just about 45 minutes north of here, there are Winter Weather Advisories in which up to five inches of snow is anticipated. The snow, especially up North, will be gladly received by the deer hunters, and deer camps will be a much more jovial and excited place next week at the start of the rifle season.

A goal I have this winter is to be more accepting of the cold, and to become more acclimated to the cold earlier in the season. During the last few years, I have not been overly active out-of-doors in the winter, and the lack of activity became self-perpetuating in that the less I did, lead to the less I wanted to do and I would feel almost locked into being a captive indoors. A myriad of reasons went into this change... family issues, my mother's health, and others. But, I am attempting to embrace the winter more fulling again this season. I want to reach a point where I do not just slough through the day, running from building to building.... I want to embrace being a "winter creature" in a Northern climate. I want to move around out-of-doors... walking, playing, and enjoying this very beautiful, and very cold season.


Monday, November 05, 2007


During the last two weeks, I have been lax in looking through the newspaper. In good times, I get most all of my news from a mixture of reading a local paper, the New York Times, and through listening to National Public Radio. I do not listen to local or national news on commercial television as the local news is atrociously done and the national news on commercial television is about as meritorious as stale bread soaked in day-old coffee.

Yet, during the last two weeks, my time has been very limited... so the newspapers have been laid aside until I could find time to glance through them. Much to my horror and surprise, I see that nearly two weeks ago, an old acquaintance with whom I went to high school with... ended up dying in a triple suicide pact.

It is so tragic and odd. She was a very quiet, mouse-like girl when I knew her. Apparently she married a brute of a man only one month or so ago. Even though she was older, it was her first marriage. Together, they and one of his children together overdosed on pain medication and the husband pumped exhaust from his truck into their home. Each of the three of them wrote a suicide note.

The details are sketchy thus far. But, it was very sad, very shocking. It was fairly big news in the state, but she was a rather secondary character in the whole affair, as the majority of the news coverage concerned this brute of a man and the way he had interacted over the years with his son. The two did not get along. My friend/acquaintance lived at the other end of the state at the time of the trio's suicide.


Friday, November 02, 2007


I did not write on Thursday, as the day was spent in thought.

Today, November 2, 2007 was the day in our diocese when all who have died were remembered at a special mass. For the first time since my mother's death and her funeral, I traveled the hour across town to attend the parish I grew up in. Since my mother's passing, I have attended mass at a church closer to my home (about 10 minutes away). It was here that her name was read amongst those that have died. The mass lasted roughly one hour and began at sunset. My wife and I attended.

Prior to going to the mass, we stopped by my mother's grave and placed a pale pink rose on her burial site. We both stood there and looked at the place where my mother was buried for a long time.

At the end of the mass, a member of each family who had lost a loved one was invited to come to the altar, receive a scented candle with our deceased loved one's name on in, and light it from the Chi Rho Paschal Candle adjacent to the altar.

Following the lighting of the candles, the mass concluded. And we went home.

It was 8 months ago today that my beautiful mother passed away.