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, December 28, 2007

Plans Gone Awry

My plans for tonight were to attempt to regale you in a humorous story of my giving the rats in my lab a dye job. I did indeed dye their fur during most of the morning. I use a sponge brush and paint a permanent color stripe (permanent meaning it will last roughly one month) on the side of each rat to be able to identify it specifically from others in the cage. The colors I use are orange, blue, green, and purple. Perhaps another time I will go into how and why I use this technique.

However, as the day progressed, my plans, goals, and ideas seemed more unimportant and unnecessary. Tonight, especially has been a challenging evening because of multiple, strong pangs of sadness related to thinking about my mother's passing. It has been almost 10 months now, and many days are quite bearable, but there are still many days (and evenings) where tears well up in my eyes at nearly every thought.

Do not get me wrong, I probably think of my loving Mother a dozen or more times each day, just like I think about my beautiful wife and cherished kids dozens of times each day. I believe what happened specifically to cause sadness for me today is very similar to what I was feeling often during the start of the Fall semester. Today was the first day I was in a fairly normal, "work" mode when compared to the last several days which were not routine at all. The last several days were filled with specialized, unique tasks related to the Holidays. But today, after spending a few hours in the lab on research, I closed up my lab and locked my office, and as I have done thousands of times before, I left work feeling satisfied in my accomplishments for the day, and as I normally would do, I began to look forward to my drive home and my time to be with my family. Of course, I then have my heart drop as I again am jarred out of my comfortable "happy-to-go-home" mood with remembering that, of course, my Mother is no longer there. Combined with the various times her absence was especially pronounced through the Holiday, it caused an immediate welling of tears in my eyes.

Please do not misunderstand... I left thinking of my whole family, but it was that part that was missing... my Mom... that clouded my mind and overshadowed the joy I felt about everything else. Not that I was despondant, or unable to cope... just simply I *hurt* and feel very sad.

I do not know where my level of faith is anymore. I keep thinking I should go to visit a priest I have been listening to for the last several Sundays and ask him to hear my confession. In my confession, I believe I would be able to talk openly with him about what it is I am feeling: 1. How I am grieving quite strongly about my Mother's untimely passing. 2. About how I PURPOSEFULLY broke my Lenten vow to refrain from my pipe... out of shear ANGER at God. And, 3. about how I am still VERY angry at God, and am not even sure if or what I believe anymore about faith or about life.

It is all such a chaotic set of emotions I feel balled up inside my soul. A part of me still believes in the ideas of service for others, the idea that working to live a kind, gentle, helpful life is good, the feelings that I am doing an "ok" job in this world by trying hard to uplift others and to help make the world better. These "good" and "helpful" thoughts converge violently with my anger at God and at life for taking Her away, converge with my DISTRUST of those tenets that I had always previously believed in (knowledge, truth, hope), and converged with my feeling that I have been DUPED my whole life and that perhaps I should have been or should simply become a selfish bastard. I am often filled with thoughts that my own spirit and my soul are becoming only a rotted empty shell, a void of only nothing. All of these ideas described above, swirl through my mind, chaotically ricocheting between what I have believed all my life, to what I feel may instead be reality.

As I have said before, I used to feel as if I were a "Don Quixote", in the vein of the musical... a somewhat befuddled buffoon, but one with a deeper inner wisdom and kindness who strove to fight the good fight for what was right, just and true. But I no longer feel that sense of conviction about a purpose in life. In so very many ways I simply go about tasks, feeling nothing REALLY matters, but that I have nothing else to do. If I think about THAT too deeply, I will cry out for my loss of self, for the loss of my own moral/philosophical compass.

That may be it... I had a compass that guided me through life... trying to do good, trying to help, trying to love, trying to be of service. But now I doubt the compass, for I think it lies to me and is just making me out to be a fool, a wretched, tired old fool who is nothing more than a zero.


Thursday, December 27, 2007


We took a drive half way across the state today to visit some of my wife's side of the family who lived farther away. It was a very nice time. The festivities were held at the house of the daughter of one of the elders of the family. She and her husband had begun a odd, yet very interesting house renovation project. Even though they had a home previously, they found this odd property that had a chimeric blend of two separate houses together into one. Rooms jutted out from all over the place, and there were added on floors in some regions, mergers of the two homes by long hallways, and every sort of mish-mash you could imagine. It is an intriguing project indeed. When they get the project done, the house could be stunning and amazing. I admire their eagerness to take on the effort.... it is enormous... and is far beyond what I could bear to live through. They sold their other home and live in this other project home during the renovation.

I do not have the right mental temper to be able to live for months and years in the midst of renovation. I need a comfortable, ordered space to thrive mentally and emotionally. Do not get me wrong... I think renovation work can be exceptionally fun and rewarding... I have worked on many different renovation projects over the years. But, and this is a BIG but... when I work on renovations... the room or space that is being worked on by me is isolated (by tarps, by plastic on the walls or doors, or some other means... and the room/space ceases to EXIST in my mind as part of our living space UNTIL the renovation is complete. Even the idea of renovating and living in the same spaces continually, literally would drain every ounce of energy from my soul. If I were renovating the family room for instance, I would seal off the room and move our family room into some other space for its temporary place. I could not bear the other method... to fix some things in the room, then go and "relax" in the same space with still further work to do. It would drive me up the walls... for instead of relaxing in the space, I would only be able to focus on what work I needed to do next in the room. It would drive me to distraction.

I think I shall go check my rodents in the morning. I have not been to the U since Sunday. I will probably have to top off their water bottles, they may be getting close to being on the low side.


Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Within My Center & Periphery

Christmas was a pleasant day. We spent ample time with my wife's side of the family both on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and we will be traveling to farther distant relatives on my wife's side of the family later this afternoon on Wednesday. It has been nice.

My wife enjoyed all of her gifts from me, and this pleases me. I helped my elderly father-in-law show for my mother-in-law and also wrapped is gifts for her. She and he were both pleased.

As my mother-in-law prepared for us a traditional Christmas feast (including ham and other accouterments) on Christmas Eve, we prepared a more non-traditional feast for Christmas Day and invited everyone over. While our meal was not as "non-traditional" as I would have likely pursued if given my own palate to work with, because my wife's side of the family are not overly comfortable with spices and different sorts of food, we found a middle ground. The main protein dish consisted of marinated chicken breasts that were then baked in a fettuccine sauce with carrots and green beans. We served traditional mashed potatoes as well as a spicier sautéed rice dish. Traditional corn was served as well as a slightly more exotic spiced pea dish. An elaborate salad (lettuce, tomatoes, kidney beans, green peppers, cucumber, garbanzo beans, two kinds of olives, onions, parsley, celery... with croûtons, dressing and shaved Parmesan cheese), and another side dish of a spicy Southwestern macaroni & cheese were provided. All left full, even before the various Christmas cookies, desserts, and other traditional fare were brought out over coffee or liqueurs.

It was all very nice, and very festive and family oriented. I had a very nice day. I am feeling much better (probably around 70% up to snuff) from my horrid cold. The type of antibiotics I had been prescribed (Augmentin) proved EXCEPTIONALLY beneficial and needed. I was so utterly sick on Saturday and Sunday I was quite worried.

Of course, there was the missing aspect of this holiday as well. My beloved mother. I cannot bring her back, although I would love to. But I can say that I tried as much as I could to make the holiday one that she would be proud of me for accomplishing. I am hoping she can hear me and see me, and if so, the message I wish to send would be, "Mom, you mean the world to me. I miss you here, physically. But, I hope you can see me and see that I am still trying to live my life in a way that makes you proud of who I am and what I try to do. I love you, and will always cherish you."


Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas

I want to wish all of you a Merry Christmas. I hope that all of you have a wonderful day filled with love of family and friends. There is nothing more valuable than love.


Sunday, December 23, 2007


I have been struggling with a heavy chest cold. I knew I would get it when the sneezing, hacking, crying student came into my office on Wednesday complaining about her grade. I wanted to run to the hills when I saw her come into my office. Foolishly, I instead talked with her for five minutes.

I went to the doctor Saturday morning (after feeling like hell Friday). I am on powerful antibiotics. I am hoping that when I wake up Monday, I will feel significantly better.

It has been an enormous struggle to do anything, let alone anything related to the holiday the last few days. My heart has not been into Christmas in its usual manner for reasons I have reiterated probably far too often already... but this infection has sapped what little energy I had out of me.

I hope to feel better tomorrow and if so, I will work to bring a more vibrant and happy post.


Thursday, December 20, 2007

Announcement Before the Day Ends

Before Thursday concludes, I needed to mention that on this date, thirteen years ago, my one sister's third child... my niece, committed suicide at the age of 17. If she were alive today she would be 30 years old. If she had lived, it is very likely she would have become a high school teacher.

She died in the same horrid year as my father. My father died in March of 1994, whereas my niece died in December of 1994. Between March and December of that year, we also experienced the death of one of my very close uncles, the death of my major professor/advisor from when I was in graduate school, and the death of a very close, family friend.

My niece is buried in a plot that is next to the burial site for my mother and father. When I went to visit my mother and father this evening, I brought the rose I always bring for my mother, and I also brought a small bundle of yellow daises to lay upon my niece's grave.

By the time of the day I can arrive at the cemetery (all the way across to the far side of town... roughly 45 minutes by car), it is usually between 8:00 and 8:30 pm. In the Summer this is not a problem, but now, during the Winter, it is pitch black outside. As I slowly drive down the lonely deserted roads deeper and deeper into the cemetery, the darkness grew deeper and deeper. The only light was that thrown by the headlamps on my truck. After several twisted turns I came upon the burial sites. I angled my truck in such a way in the road that a cast of light shown upon the graves. Getting out of my car, I walked slowly to the graves, the tired, old, dry snow crunching loudly under each boot as I stepped.

First I lay the rose upon the grave blankets covering my mother's and father's graves. I try to talk to them, but the harsh wind bites through my jacket and my face feels the sting of the cold even through my beard and moustache. I give up and move over to my niece's grave. I lay the flowers upon her grave blanket that covers her grave and mumble a few words before heading back to my truck. In the truck, I fumble around for my pipe and tobacco pouch. Tears of sadness and anger roll down my cheeks into my beard.

I put my truck into gear and slowly drive back through the cemetery to the public roadway. I then begin my 45 minute journey home.


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Quietly Quiet

I am feeling quite quiet at the moment. I have been simply working on getting syllabi in for next semester and revising my lectures. Emotionally, I am pretty much neutral as well. Not happy, not unhappy... not really much of anything.

I am thinking over the next few days I will do at least some of the following:

1. Perhaps shop
2. Perhaps visit my father-in-law
3. Perhaps work some more
4. Perhaps make an appointment to talk with a Priest for confession
5. Perhaps make an appointment to talk with a Priest about my Mother's passing
6. Perhaps something else

I am feeling rather vague and nebulous. It seems as if I have no drive or purpose at the moment. It is odd, and somewhat disconcerting to not have goals, hopes, ambitions, or purpose at the moment.


Sunday, December 16, 2007

Snow Update

As of this writing we have received roughly 8 inches of snow, and more is still underway.


Saturday, December 15, 2007

Let It Snow

The prediction is that over the next 24 hours my region will receive between 10-14 inches of snow. If so, it will be beautiful... as long as the electricity holds out.

I shall try to update if we have power.


Friday, December 14, 2007

All Done

I have turned in my grades for the semester and it is before noon on Friday. Grades are not even due until next week. This is the earliest I have turned grades in, in over 15 years.


Thursday, December 13, 2007

Proctoring An Exam

I am in the midst of proctoring my last final examination for this semester. It is a comprehensive final exam for my anatomy and physiology students. They are working feverishly at the moment. You can see the exhaustion in their faces as many of them likely stayed awake all night trying to recall and/or cram some last minute details into their brain.

I admit the course is a tough one. But, it damn well needs to be as this is *the* primary course that will lay the path for them to become future health care providers (nurses, doctors, dentists, occupational therapists, clinical psychologists, and even an occasional pharmacist) or biology researchers or future science teachers.

As the exam for this course typically falls on Thursday, it is often most student's last final of the semester, and for many, tonight will be spent celebrating at one of the various watering holes around and near campus. I often get invited to spend some time with the students at these bars and taverns. I am not sure if I will go tonight or not.


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Cold Air Stream

Some days just *feel* different. I woke up very easily and very early this morning and started meandering around. I decided to get ready and head to work right away. In the winter, as is my practice to conserve a bit of energy, I went outside to start my truck, turn the defroster on high, and scrape off the windshield. I typically allow my vehicle to run for roughly 5 minutes and then turn it off and get ready for work. It saves gas in the long run and saves time for me by having the car ready to go when I am finished taking a shower and getting dressed.

Well, this morning, as I went out in my pajamas (and a coat) to start my truck, the atmosphere was "crisp". By crisp, I mean that there was a palpable dryness and coldness to the temperature that happens only occasionally. This morning was a bit warmer than usual (20 degrees Farenheit [-7 degrees Celcius]), but had that delightful crispness. Also, the air was utterly still.

Typically when I start my truck, I scoot back into the house for the few minutes I let it run before I come back out to turn the vehicle off. But this morning was so pleasant and appealing, I instead walked around to the back yard and started looking at some of the baren branches on the trees nearer the house. The cruch of the snow underfoot was pleasantly rough, sounding almost like coarse sandpaper being used on a piece of rough hewn oak. I too my pipe (my birthday pipe) out of my coat pocket, and my tobacco pouch and filled the bowl of the pipe. I had a pleasingly potent and vivid burley leaf that was tinctured with cranberry. After igniting the bowl, I inhaled a large draught of the creamy, thick smoke, and slowly exhaled a strem of the smoke. The plume of smoke was larger and more tangible than it typically appeared because of the mix of the very dry, cold air and the water vapor that I also exhaled. I watched for a few minutes the shapes and patterns that each exhaled lungful of the rich smoke displayed as it slowly dissipated. Then looking again into the branches of a nearby tree, I saw two coocoons delicatly dangling from the distal end of one of the delicate ternimal branches. The leaves that encased each coocoon were twirled around it like a blanket. From the size and shape, and design of coocoon, I suspect the species of moth that is inside is a Cecropia.

After I finished my pipe, I went back to the truck, shut it down and went back inside to shower, shave (my neck), and get dressed for the day. I imagine I looked quite unusual standing around quietly in my pajamas in the backyard, smoking my pipe on this very cold morning. It was, truly pleasant.

* * * * *

The Service at the Grief Support Group last night was nice. I did not feel a huge sense of emotion (good or bad) during this meeting. I was content to listen, and then during the service, I followed proceedure and showed a photograph of my mother and briefly explained when she passed away, what gift she gave to me, and what I miss most about her. I ended up bringing the largest photograph of anyone in the group (a framed 8x10... most had wallet sized images or 5x7s) but that was not a problem as it helped people to see her image better across the room. I explained how she passed away unexpectedly in March. I said that she gave me many, many gifts, but that the three most crucial to me at that moment were 1) her time, and 2) her encouragement to explore who and what I could be and could become, and 3) the idea of having a life devoted to service. What I missed most about her, I stated, was her smile, her laugh, and being able to talk *with* her. I also stated that I know I can to her, but it is not the same. So, overall, it was a mild evening in terms of emotions, and a generally nice experience. I went home and was able to have a very pleasant and warm evening with my wife.


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Crying Over Spilled Milk

I had very high hopes for today. And, in fact, much of the day went wonderfully. I was able to roust myself out of bed early enough to exercise. I did a very extensive workout, both cardiopulmonary and in terms of weight training. I made up for a secretarial error without making an issue about it (I ran a test over to the Disabilities Testing Facilities for a visually impaired student of mine. The DTF is all way the hell across the exact opposite side of campus from where my office and laboratory are located. This exam *was supposed to* have been sent electronically last week by a secretary to the DTF, but there was a snafu only discovered half an hour before the exam was to be given. I got the paper copy to the DTF and ran all the way back to my building with only 5 minutes to spare before I needed to go administer my first final examination of the week.). The exam I administered ran smoothly. I was able to work with several of my research students, and I even read several new journal articles I had been needing to read.

Then I went home. It was dark already, and I turned on the living room tree, the tree that had been the tree decorated with silver and had belonged to my mother. Of the four strands of lights on the tree, one strand, in the middle, did not light. I went through and tried to find the defective bulb or fuse to no avail. The middle layer of the tree was barren of light. It looked foolish and ugly. Then my brother stopped by with his kids, and he asked me to give them haircuts. It may seem odd, but I have always been known to give good trims and I use my moustache and beard trimmer to give these two tykes haircuts. His little girl, who is four and a half was an angel like usual, and I was able to give her an excellent trim. His young boy, who is two, was as active and impossible to hold as usual. Unfortunately, because he would not sit still (typical) there was a sizable chunk of hair that I mistakenly cut in the back. I tried to feather it in some, but it is still noticeable.

To make a long story short, I am not fully sure why, but after those two incidents (the lights and the haircut mishap), I very literally started to cry my heart out. I was so angry, frustrated, sad, and upset, that I had to excuse myself and went outside for a bit to be by myself and to cry and sob uncontrollably.

The obvious choices for "why" this happened are pretty typical... 1) the tree, which is a task I had been dreading since my mother's passing was DONE, and to have to redo it (string new lights and decorate it again) meant I would have to experience all that again after having just completed the task Sunday, or 2) the mistake I made in my brother's boy's hair made me feel like I had once again failed... like I seem to fail at so many things of late.

The rational, scientific side of me knows that both of the above "whys" are foolish and silly... a string of cheap Christmas lights that stop working is as common as fleas on a dog's back... and with the hyperkinetic behavior of the kid, there was bound to be some slip ups.

But, my emotional, psychological side felt devastated and hurt and a failure. I know it is not rational, but it is a real feeling. Coupled with the fact that Tuesday is the "Memorial" date for the Grief Support Group I attend monthly, I suspect I have more than the usual degree of pent up emotion inside me.

Tuesday evening, I will go to the Grief Support Group with a framed photograph of my beautiful mother. As was told to us last month, what we shall do is display the photograph in the meeting and each of us in turn will talk about the person he/she lost and also talk about how he/she is coping with the grief. While in many ways I know this is an excellent thing to do to help me work with my grief, a part of me is incredibly resistant about going. I both *want* to go and talk about my mother and honor her memory by telling of my love for her, but at the same time I am resisting, because I do not want to delve so deeply into the pool of despair that I can feel if I explore my feelings. As is typical for me, when push comes to shove, when the meeting rolls around at 7:30pm on Tuesday night, I will be able to attend, and will be able to give an honorable tribute to my mother, and I will be able to withstand the pain and the sorrow this event will unleash. But as is typical for me, I will worry and fret, and feel tense and aggravated about this particular meeting until I am actually there.

Please wish me luck and send good thoughts.


Monday, December 10, 2007

Christmas Decorating

First, a note to Ryan: Thank you for the link to the site about Sesame Street. I agree with much of the site. I reported the earlier article about the warning label only because it seemed rather silly and unnecessary... and even though there may be a bit of validity in suggesting the content is better for adults, in the same vein I think history, even of popular culture, is a very useful topic for all ages to learn about. Perhaps a three year old may not need to see all the content of the old Sesame Street today, but I think it could be valuable for him/her to see sometime. The warning system makes the old episodes sound more negative than warrented.

* * * * *

My wife and I were able to devote today to cleaning and decorating the home for Christmas. It was a great deal of work. Retrieving the various decorations housed in the cement lined "crawl space" accessible from the northern wall of our basement, I pulled out roughly 25 storage containers of Christmas items.

We decorated the two trees, and further decorated all three floors of the home. Special attention was given to the family room, as it is where we spend the lion's share of our relaxation time. Opening and arranging the various decorations was bittersweet. Sweet, for all the lovely memories the items held... from growing up as a kid, to the decorations my wife and I purchased during the first years of our marriage, to the times the kids were newly born, onto items we bought only last year. Bitter, however, it that my mother was not here physically to be with us. My mother loved the Christmas season. She loved baking cookies and fruitcake for us to enjoy, and she loved decorating for the holidays. I thought of her very frequently throughout the entire day.

Oddly enough, I happened to turn on the television while decorating during the late morning, and I happened to scroll upon the Disney Channel. I stopped because I saw Denzel Washington, an actor whose work I find typically to be of exceptional quality and caliber. I let the television play. I stumbled upon a made-for-televsion (original Disney) movie made in 2003 entitled "Full-Court Miracle". This film turned out to be amazingly good. Its plot was comfortably simple and familiar but also unique enough to be captivating. Here is a summary of the film I have reprinted from Wikipedia (below the summary, I continue to comment):

Full-Court Miracle

An African American college basketball star becomes the head coach of a yeshiva's struggling basketball team in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, after a knee injury forces him to leave the game. With his coaching the team goes to the finals, but they lose their coach when he has an interview that could land him onto a professional team. Meanwhile Alex talks to his mother to try to get her to understand him better and it seems to work. On the night of the big game she gets Alex's friend to forgive him and says she has something important to do before she can come to the big game herself. Alex leads his team during the game but a storm knocks out the power and the generator doesn't have enough fuel for the remaning time. Both sides agree to play until the generator is out of fuel no matter the time left and resume play. Meanwhile Alex's mother races to the arena where Lamont is playing to try to get him back. After talking to another player from the opposing team she realizes even more that Alex's dreams are not stupid and finds Lamont in the parking lot trying to get his van started to go to the airport. When she arrives his van suddenly starts as if it was waiting for her arrival. At the school the opposing team calls a time-out to eat away the remaining seconds as they're ahead and they'll win. The generator dies and Alex gives up when Lamont suddenly arrives and re-inspires him. Alex heads out into the middle of the court and suddenly the generator restarts. Alex's team wins as his mother finally shows up with Lamont's family. She and Lamont reveal that Lamont had changed his mind and he was going to the airport to pick up his family. Alex's mother went instead so Lamont could go to help Alex. In the end Lamont and his family stay and Alex's mother has him hired as a full time coach. The movie ends with Alex, his family, a friend and Lamont and his family playing a game of basketball and his mother actually turns out to be pretty good.

I was surprised how captivated I was in watching this simple film. The fact that it was a "feel good" film probably drew me in, and the notion that it featured at least ancillarily the Jewish faith, a religion I find wonderfully rich and beautiful, kept me interested. I actually wept profusely at the end of the movie because the film had the typical "working hard and doing good will lead to a good" ending which again is something I feel melancholy and bittersweet about. I truly DO believe that the real purpose I can have in life is a result of working as hard as I can. Additionally, I must try as hard as I am able to "do good" during my time here. It is that life of service that I have spoken about many times in the past. Yet, I feel such a sadness about my questioning the validity of those convictions (or perhaps more accurately... I am feeling deeply my sense of doubt about such matters of life, convictions, philosophies, and my role in life). In so many ways I feel lost, abandoned, and without a rudder to steer me. What I used to feel and believe, I no longer feel is real. It *may* be real, but I may simply have been under a cloud of illusion. That is what made me weep at the ending of the simple movie.


Saturday, December 08, 2007

Outlandish... Early Sesame Street Rated "For Adults Only"

If this isn't idiotic, I do not know what is. The following was posted a few days ago on . I presume it is only in Australia, but I am going to investigate further to see what the US policy is.

* * * * *
The 'Tut-tut' Police Keep Us on the Street and Narrow

Article by Melissa Kent

December 2, 2007

SESAME Street is now brought to you by the letter P and the letter C — for political correctness, that is.

The fun police have slapped an "adults only" warning on a new DVD of classic episodes, which featured a world in which children played in the street, a monster gorged on cookies and a bad-tempered puppet lived in a bin.

The episodes, made between 1969 and 1974, have been released in the US with the caution: "These early Sesame Street episodes are intended for grown-ups and may not suit the needs of today's preschool child."

Topping the list of furry villains is the Cookie Monster, whose penchant for devouring cookies and the odd plate or two is no longer deemed appropriate behaviour for modern children.

His alter ego, Alistair Cookie, host of MonsterPiece Theatre, "modelled the wrong behaviour" by smoking a pipe and eating it, according to Sesame Street producer Carol-Lynn Parente.

Back then, Big Bird's bumbling friend Mr Snuffleupagus was still imaginary, which might encourage "delusion behaviour". And trash-loving Oscar the Grouch has been targetted for his blatant bad manners and questionable hygiene.

"We might not be able to create a character like Oscar today," Parente told The New York Times.

Like the whitewashing of Enid Blyton books, the move has sparked howls of protest and charges of political correctness sucking the fun out of childhood.

Children's book author Andy Griffiths, creator of the popular "Bum" series, said children loved dark, mischievous characters such as those who lived on Sesame Street.

"Kids love seeing their primal desires acted out in the form of things like gluttony or violence, and literature or TV is a place they can safely experience these desires," he said.

"I think it's an entirely healthy and appropriate thing for a children's TV program to be doing."

Griffiths said children could tell the difference between fantasy and reality and did not blindly mimic the behaviour of clearly fictional characters.

"People who claim to be protecting children always make the assumption that what children see is what they will do," he said. "Underlying that is the assumption that kids can't tell the difference between fantasy and real life and I have found that to be consistently bogus."

Andrew Fuller, a clinical psychologist and consultant on children's television production, said a sanitised world was far more dangerous than the whacky world of Sesame Street.

"Unless we expose kids to a diverse range of characters and behaviour they will not be prepared for the real world," he said.

The ABC, which has broadcast Sesame Street since 1971, would no longer consider the original episodes suitable children's material, head of children's programming Tim Brooke-Hunt said. "We might screen them in the context of a discussion about what was happening back then, but now they are not appropriate as children's TV," he said.

"The reality is that the majority of kids are not going to copy this behaviour, but as producers of these shows we have to think about what might happen with the minority.

"If even a small number of kids might do it you have a problem."

But he admitted such lengths could threaten the joy of childhood. "Yes, I suppose there is that danger, but I just hope parents don't look to TV to give their children all their fun."

* * * * *

So, now because the Cookie Monster smoked a pipe in an impersonation of Allistar Cooke, it is inappropriate content? Dammit. I do not understand the world much anymore.


Friday, December 07, 2007

Rudyard Kipling

As the semester draws to a close, and I make final preperations for giving final examinations next week, I have become a bit more contemplative. To me, contemplation, the thinking and pondering of thoughts and ideas is crucial for helping me feel a whole person. When life is too harried and hectic, and I do not get to contemplate, I feel a bit hollow.

Now, as long time readers may recall, several times in the last several months purposefully worked to keep busy to NOT contemplate, because at the time, I was trying to avoid contemplating the loss of my beloved mother which occurred in March. But, that was an attempt to avoid pain by me. I love to contemplate, and even if the contemplation does turn to memories of my mother, I strive to make the contemplation of good times shared. Now, realistically, many times that contemplation of my beautiful mother does turn to the sadness and grief.... it is part and partial of what is now reality.

What is nice, however, now that I have more contemplative time, is that I am contemplating other avenues of my life and work as well. It has been enjoyable to plan and prepare new strands of research. It has been grand to think about new papers to write and submit for publication. It has been mildly pleasant to contemplate new grants I can submit (grant writing is not my favorite task).

I have also been contemplating more about art and music. A case in point is my thinking about Rudyard Kipling, the author/poet. His works are so creative and enjoyable. I am thinking I wish to re-read several of his novels. It is also significant to note that Kipling was a venerate pipe smoker as well... always a good trait in a fellow. I thought I would post an especially meaningful poem of his here for you to enjoy. It is called "IF". I have found the poem meaningful and beautiful my whole life. It helped me in adolescence and throughout adulthood.


If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you
But make allowance for their doubting too,
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream--and not make dreams your master,
If you can think--and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings--nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much,
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And--which is more--you'll be a Man, my son!

--Rudyard Kipling

I hope you find the poem as valuable for you as I have found it for me.


Thursday, December 06, 2007

Feet & Philosophy

It is a nice feeling having the last week of the semester (last week before final examinations) upon us here at the U. Today went well. I gave two lectures. One was on the basic history of the sciences of ecology and ethology, and in the other class, I focused on a discussion of the anatomy of the male and female reproductive systems. It is satisfying to have the student evaluations already completed for all three classes, and my final lecture in the morning is a repeat of the male and female reproductive anatomy lecture from today. When I leave tomorrow, I will not have to talk in my loud, distinct "lecture" voice for 5 weeks. It shall be nice to just have that length of quiet chit-chat.

This afternoon, following lunch, I went into the back, back office, and sat at my computer, working on some new, updated protocols for work my research students commonly do. I make these protocols to outline for them the procedures to follow so the data collected all meets a unified standard. It has been my project for most of the semester, as I have never had a FORMAL protocol book for my students. Instead, I have talked to each of them individually and they all have had scraps of paper that they jotted notes upon and/or inherited dog-eared notes from former students. As I finish each protocol, I insert it into the lab notebook (3-ring binder) in its own plastic page protector. It should prove very durable and also helpful to the as they learn new tasks.

I was not in a particularly didactic mood, so I only wrote one new protocol. Instead, by about 2pm, I decided I had enough. I went on-line, and proceeded to connect to the Internet broadcast of one of the myriad of National Public Radio stations I enjoy. I picked the Barow, Alaska NPR today to hear not only good news and Inuit music but an interesting perspective on a land/region I admire. Lately, the other NPR station I have been listening to is the one in Kent, Ohio. I have been enjoying their especially orchestral heavy form of classical music. After getting the Barow station set and playing, I pushed away a bit from the desk, put my feet up on the desktop, filled a bowl of cranberry-tinctured burley in my pipe and stared out the large window into the sky. My thoughts were contemplative and philosophical... I was weighing different possible options in my mind for a new research strand I wished to get underway in the next several weeks. For me, the crux of the issue I wanted to mull over in my mind was... the method of administering the neurohormone to the rats. I have the option of administering the dosage in several different ways, and basically I am contemplating which would be most likely successful.

I sat with my feet up, contemplating, day-dreaming, and smoking my pipe, quietly for most of the rest of the afternoon. As I had the office lights off (I worked with the light from the window), and the NPR turned down quite low, no one knew I was in the back, back office, and I had delightful quiet and solitude to allow thinking.

At 4pm, I sat up, and shut down the computer. I then went back to my main office, closed things down there.... three students stopped by in the 10 minutes I was in there packing my briefcase to take home, shutting down that computer, and tidying up the office a bit. The three students all had a multitude of questions, which I tried to help them with quickly. I left campus at roughly 4:15 and drove home.

A nice day. More productive in terms of developing ideas and thoughts than I have had in several weeks.... it was not just a day of me lecturing and helping students. Do not get me wrong, I love teaching and helping students. But as a scientist as well, I also crave and desire time to think, ponder, plan, and execute research.


Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Lemonade from Lemons

Tuesday was a pretty good day overall, even though there were a number of obstacles that attempted to thwart my attempts at success and happiness. Below I outline the first obstacle:

The first obstacle came of my own doing again... I ended up not arising from bed until roughly 6:45am. This precluded my planned for exercise routine. Thank you to Mapiprincessa, Zirelda, and Lawrence for your suggestions. I am investigating them all further.

I combated this first issue by forcing myself to go to the U gym and engage in as much physical exertion as I could while still getting a chance to shower and get to class on time. I was able to work on some weight training, and also performed some "cardio" exercise on a stairmaster device. It felt good to get so physical.

It was surprising how much this simple act of exercise helped me. Well, it really IS NOT a surprise... I tell my students this same thing. I tell them that exercise can relieve stress. But, push come to shove, it is so difficult as hell to convince myself of that when I wake up to the blare of my alarm clock at 5:30am.

Tonight, I am placing my alarm clock all the way across the room, as far away as I possibly can from my bed. Perhaps this, coupled with the lights, may be enough to help me awaken feeling alert, even though it is truly dark outside.


Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Odds & Ends During "Crunch Time"

As this is the last week of classes prior to final exams, it is a very busy time for the students and also for us old geezer professors as well. But, in the midst of the enormously busy day of lecturing and tending to the very bruised egos of hordes of students who are not getting the grades they think they should be getting (read, not getting an "A"), a very nice present arrived for me in my lab. My new laptop computer, complete with docking station arrived today. I brought the beast home to look it over, but will be taking it back in the morning so as to set up the docking station. It is going to be very nice and helpful in research.

* * * * *

I am still struggling with the loss of light in the morning. It is so very challenging to get up at the time I would like to set for myself. In my best case scenario, I would like to get up at 5:30am. However, the utter pitch blackness during this time of year makes it a bigger challenge than I would like. Sometimes, during this time of the year, I do not really wake up until 6:30 or 7:00. Occasionally I do not crawl out of bed until 7:30 when daybreak occurs. It is so much nicer in the Summer with the longer day length. I can easily get up at 5:00 if I set my mind to it in the Summer. Any tricks to help in getting up in utter darkness would be appreciated. My best results so far are to set the alarm for 5:00 am and then turn on all the lights in the bedroom. Then go back to sleep for a half an hour and it feels *a little* more like it is daylight. This only is possible on days when my wife gets up at 5:00 however, as the light disturbs her.

* * * * *

The pipe I bought myself as an early birthday present right before deer camp is still a stalwart and true friend who provides utterly amazing service every day. It was such a perfect find for me, and my pipe smoking methods. Grand indeed!


Monday, December 03, 2007

Winter Wonderland

Not sure if I am serious or sarcastic about the title tonight. We had a helluva snowstorm go over us yesterday and it dumped many, many inches of snow over the entire landscape. I must admit it is pretty. And, the snow warmed and moisturized the air a great deal so it is much more comfortable outside.

I had been lazy this year and had not tested nor tuned my snow blower for for function like is my normal practice. In typical years, I usually have the beast in the garage from where I store it in the pole barn by mid-October at the latest. And, usually by mid-October, I have it cleaned, lubed, filled with fresh gasoline, and test fired. Not this year. But, very fortunately, the beast fired up after only two attempts. I was able to finish the driveway (long) and the walkways in roughly 45 minutes.

One of the birthday gifts I received back around Thanksgiving was a DVD of the movie Ratatouille (note, there is a brief 10 second advertisement that plays before the trailer). One relative purchases almost anything she can find that is about rats for me, since I work with them. It was one of the few movies my wife and I watched this past Summer, but it has been fun to watch it again. The movie is about a rat who feels like an outsider in his family because he wants to eat and cook good food instead of eating cast offs and garbage. He becomes a chef in the process. It is very well done, quite humorous, and a delight for adults and children.

As you may likely presume, this person also purchased the "Stuart Little" series for me as well.

After about two weeks of lax attitude about exercise, I am gearing up to again do battle with myself in the morning to force myself to get up and exercise before I head off to class. Wish me luck.