The Thoughts of a Frumpy Professor

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

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Printer Ink

I remember using typewriters for damn near everything. Even though it was not common for males to take a course in typing, I did take one for a single semester while in junior high school simply because I wanted to learn. It was perhaps the most valuable elective course I ever took.

The modicum of skill I learned in typing on heavy, cumbersome, stiff as hell old manual typewriters that weighed roughly 30 pounds a piece has served me inordinately well. In high school, I could get papers done at a very rapid rate, in college, as papers grew in depth and length, I could type and edit my work at my own pace, without having to hire or date a girl who could type for me. Same in graduate school. I typed everything, other than the final copy of my dissertation that was bound and sent to a publisher. That document I hired a professional typist.

Even as a Professor who has his own secretary, I still do a great deal of typing myself. And with the advent of computers, learning the skills of typing have become even more important. Kids today, regardless of sex, learn to "keyboard" in school, often now in elementary school. I firmly believe that this has been a good change, for everyone should learn this skill to help them become better writers.

One small caveat, however. I think some schools are substituting "keyboarding" (aka typing) in their education scheme instead of teaching cursive writing. I think this is a damn shame. I have many Freshmen now who cannot take notes with any speed or clarity because they only PRINT everything.... except their signature. They do not have the ability to write in cursive.

So, so very foolish. Typing AND cursive writing are essential to allow a person the greatest ability to communicate as an adult in society.


Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Pipe Dreams

As I sit here, indulging in a large bowl of molasses tinctured burley in my large sized, full-bent Peterson pipe, I am feeling very content.... even excited and motivated about attempting accomplishment. It seems, a good, thought-provoking idea (research plan) has coalesced in the tangle of neurons and synapses in my head. This plan has all the makings of intrigue for me (planning, executing, building, etc) and is rather open-ended in terms of time commitment (there is an ability to have days go by without HAVING to tend to the research).

It feels very pleasant, rewarding, and invigorating to have a feeling of excitement and joy about a project such as this. It feels as if there is PURPOSE. And, you, my loyal readers know how I desire purpose in life.

It may all of course be a pipe dream, but I hope it is not. I am not sure if all of you know the derivation of the phrase "pipe dream," but if you do not... it IS NOT related to my beloved tobacco pipes, no matter how I merrily I jest and joust with this phrase to suggest so. "Pipe dreams" originates to phantom images or hallucinations that were described by opium smokers in the vast array of opium dens over the years. It is a big topic in my neuroscience course, because I use the phrase "Pipe Dreams" and the story behind this phrase in a lecture focusing on the use and function of the opiate receptors in the brain. These receptors are named "opiate" receptors because they respond to the presence of opiate compounds, which are mimics for a variety of endorphin-style compounds that the body produces internally.


Tuesday, January 29, 2008


I am not in much of a thinking mood today as a result of a long, tiresome day of writing and paperwork for the Human Subjects Committee (HSC) that I am a member of. The HSC should be a straight forward committee that looks over and approves the research of faculty that involves the study of humans, but it is anything but straight forward.

There are two blow-hards on this committee that get so involved in minutia and stupid crap that even the simplest proposal does not get immediately approved and the researchers get justifiably riled up. My foray into serving on this committee was just because of that reason. Three years ago, I submitted a HSC proposal for get this... a study where I talked to people who knew a relatively famous but deceased scientist who had died 30 years before. Basically, I was trying to get historical information from these people about what it was like to work with this professor... in his lab, in other University matters, and in speaking to relatives I could find. This is perhaps the simplest form of "human subject" use that could even afford to go under the scrutiny of the HSC. In fact, in a vast majority of universities, interviews of people for historical purposes DO NOT require HSC approval. Yet, from the the date I submitted my VERY SIMPLE, two page proposal, to the date I finally received approval was FIVE LONG MONTHS!!!!! It was outrageous and because of this lunacy, I decided to get involved in the hopes of reforming the committee.

I became a member of the committee roughly a year and a half ago, and I regret the decision for the most part. The two blow-hards make the job so annoying and frustrating. The others on the committee are good people who work hard to make the work of the HSC good, but the blowhards (who happen to be the Chair of the committee and his "right hand gal") impede every step.

I do not really need the hassle of this committee, and I am formulating my plans for a graceful exit in the next 6-12 months. It is not worth it... I used to feel I was a Don Quixote, and would gladly tilt at windmills to do what is just and right, but as you dear readers know, I have lost that drive... and though I *do* desperately want that drive and conviction back, this committee may not be the best place for me to test my mettle in that way.

So, my mind feels like a bowl of spaghetti, and oddly enough, that is what I shall make for dinner tonight. My wife is mired in the midst of her own enormous project deadline, so this will be my night to handle dinner. I shall make a tomato based, vegetarian sauce with large chunks of bell pepper and onion, make a high fiber, whole wheat pasta, grate ample fresh Parmesan cheese, season the sauce with ample garlic, basil, oregano, a little bit of thyme, and a good dash of rosemary. I will also make an Italian style zucchini dish to accompany the spaghetti. Add to this, spiced garlic bread, a huge salad, and wine and the meal will be complete.


Monday, January 28, 2008


I am not sure I should watch Turner Classic Movies any more. Fortunately, this past evening, I did NOT become very sad and weepy while watching one of the films (as I did while watching "Goodbye, Mr. Chips" last week. But I could sense myself getting very close to that point.

I believe it has to do with the history behind the films.... and history in general. It may seem quite odd... it actually seems odd to me, but since my mother's passing in March, my interest in, and my pursuit of the study of history has waned to virtually zero.

Previous to my mother's passing, I relished the study of history... be it history of science, history of different eras, and history of the "famous" in the form of biography. I have a vast collection of at least 50 books about Darwin and roughly 60 about Hemingway (a favorite of my father as well as of me). I have biographies of a myriad array of figures of interest to me... scientists (the aforementioned Darwin, plus Pasteur, Lorenz, Tinbergen, Skinner, Cajal, VonFrisch, Einstein, as well as others), authors (again, the aforementioned Hemingway, plus Steinbeck, Faulkner, Grass, Huxley, Verne, Wells, Melville as well as others), plus inventers, painters, sculptors, and the list goes on and on. I have always LOVED biography and history of people. I also have books about products of history... cars, airplanes, musical instruments, radio, television, and the list goes on and on and on. In fact, I would say that far more than half of my very large library is in fact books of a historical nature.

Yet, my interest as of now, is zero. I do not find the deep pleasure in reading about history or historical figures. I feel indifferent, and uninterested.

It is a very big change for me.


Sunday, January 27, 2008

Quiet Yet Nice

The last few days have been quiet as far as writing goes for me. But, the days themselves have been nice as well. There has just been not a lot of things to report. Let me see if I can give you a nutshell look:

1. Friday, the day at work was smooth. My many meetings were all relatively easy and nothing controversial in any of them. The one meeting, where I am a member that approves or vetos policy and curriculum issues at our U was non-contentious, which is always nice. The submitted policy and teaching changes were either obviously a good move or obviously a horrid move and were voted as such accordingly.

2. Friday afternoon, I again visited my father-in-law and we had a wonderful time again. A great deal of enjoyable conversation and debate, especially about the presidential hopefuls ensued. We speculated on what and who should be the best nominees. We also enjoyed several pleasant libations together, this time focusing on a whiskey we both found pleasing to the palate and to the mind. And, the pipe tobacco to compliment the whiskey was a new three-berry tinctured blend. It had a smooth, chalky feel that complimented very nicely the pleasantly harsh feel of the liquor. Wonderfully relaxing and calm.

3. Saturday was spent first watching gymnasts as they worked on their skills at the gym, then my wife and I spent the day in our montly "super" clean of the house. This is a Saturday once a month where we do a myriad of additional tasks for the home in addition to the usual laundry, vacuming, etc. It was pleasant and productive.

4. Before heading to mass, I cleaned the driveway of the several new inches of snow that had fallen during the last three days. It now looks as clean and trim as I do when I get a haircut and moustache and beard trim.... the driveway has that rather spiffy, professorial edging and cleanness.

5. Saturday evening found us eating a wonderfully simple meal of curried bean soup, bread, vegetables and a monstrous sized salad. A simple, soup meal has become our routine for Saturday as we have been attending mass in the afternoons on Saturday for a fair number of years now instead of Sunday morning mass. It was soothing, warm and inviting.

6. It is now Sunday and the day is wide open. I am hoping it continues in the same vein as the last several.


Thursday, January 24, 2008

Nebulosity & A Bagel

Last evening I was feeling very sleepy and so, instead of writing, I laid upon the couch and read. The reading were varied and consisted of my local newspaper, the latest issue of American Biology Teacher, The New York Times newspaper, Popular Photography Magazine (I am contemplating becoming active in this hobby), and the latest detective novel in the Harry Bosch series by Michael Connelly.

One thing that is very quickly growing tiresome is the "Writers Strike" for the entertainment industry. While television viewing is not a "do-or-die" situation for me or anyone in my family, I think the way the industry has manhandled the media of television over the last 20 years is appalling and this latest strike (although perhaps understandable for the writers) is only going to deflect further viewers.

I am not sure how many of you are of an age (probably anyone over the age of 40 would recall this) where you remember when television programs would have 40-42 episodes a season. This was THE NORM for a good many years in television, from the 1950s through into the early to mid 1980s. In the 1980s a few "special" television programs broke that tradition by claiming they were so "challenging and 'high brow'" that they could not possibly produce that many episodes a year. They instead started producing 20-22 episodes a year. To me, this notion is really a big load of crap. This began the transition in the late 80s to the present where all shows have only 20-22 episodes a year. This means that reruns are rampant nearly all season long, with only a smattering of new shows presented at any given time.

Now, the 10 week old writer's strike has basically ended the 2007-2008 television season with most shows having produced only 8-10 episodes. Mark my words... this will quickly become the "new norm" for the television industry. It is foolish and annoying. It is no wonder most people are gravitating towards either watching mostly reality television (they are much more prolific and tend to be expansive about providing MORE content, not less) or forgoing television all together. A case in point is the program "The Biggest Loser". This show has been changing over the last two seasons to typically being TWO hours in length each week as opposed to one. Even though the show itself may be only moderately interesting, the stories of the people are captivating and I think the show offers a good message. Other reality shows that are watched in my household (in descending order of quality) include The Amazing Race (excellent enough to compete against ANY television program), Survivor, Project Runway, Top Chef, the aforementioned Biggest Loser, and even the inane Apprentice series. The scripted programs we used to enjoy watching even in their limited run have included House, The Law & Order Series of programs, the CSI series of programs,
Grey's Anatomy, Private Practice, and even the tired old, ER.

So, this is what I have been ruminating about as I sit here in my back office, hazlenut coffee in my mug, bagel with honey on the plate before me, and a strong, vanilla tinctured burley leaf in the bowl of my pipe, I am getting a rather nebulous, but calm start to the day.


Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow

Trying to screw up my courage and ambition as I head to bed, I keep trying to think of upbeat songs that are designed to boost one's spirits. Here is the list I have come up with thus far:

1. The Impossible Dream - Man of LaMancha
2. Over The Rainbow - Wizard of Oz
3. Tomorrow - Annie
4. Miracles of Miracles - Fiddler On the Roof
5. Man of La Mancha - Man of La Mancha
6. What I Did For Love - A Chorus Line
7. Think of Me - Phantom of the Opera
8. Aquarius - Hair
9. To Life - Fiddler on the Roof
10. Heaven on Their Minds - J.C. Superstar

It was surprising to me to realize that all the songs I listed in my mind were all from musicals... more aptly musical theater. Perhaps I should attempt to think of songs from other venues as well. Perhaps later, but I am wondering if it is significant in any way that musical theater so permeates my mind? For good or for bad.


Tuesday, January 22, 2008


I feel a sense of relief and reprieve. Overnight, there has been a release of roughly eight inches of snow and they have decided to close the University today because they are unprepared (the snow was unexpected). This gives me a chance to work at home and get caught up on many of the tasks that were lending to my irritable mood earlier.

I shall now get to work and then after a bit, I shall take a break and shovel snow.


Antsy & Irritated

Not a great deal to report at the moment. I feel antsy and irritated about life. I am feeling a lack of control of my own time because of a myriad of students who are needy and demanding. Part of me wants to be gruff and obstinate towards them, the other part of me wants to try to meet their needs. Either position, though, is aggravating to me. If I put on my gruff and my "dig-in-my-heels" obstinate face, it is emotionally costly and if I try to meet their unending needs I feel abused and buffeted by a chaotic series of winds.

I wish I did not feel the pressure I feel right now.


Monday, January 21, 2008

Cold as Hell

It is extremely cold here at the moment. -20 degrees Fahrenheit is the wind chill factor. It is a drastic departure from the 33 degrees we had only a week ago. But that is the way January is around here.

This weekend, by and large, was decent. There were some ups and downs. Friday, I did go visit my elderly father-in-law and it was another wonderful, peaceful, relaxing time. We both had ample mixed drinks and pipes and talked and relaxed and laughed away the afternoon. It was a grand way to transition into the weekend.

I stopped at a somewhat seedy second-hand store during my trip home. This store is in the rougher part of town, but it is operated by a nice fellow whom I like to talk with. I purchased several Jules Verne paperback books that I no longer have, having read them far too long ago. I would like to reread these wonderful classics.

On Saturday, I went to mass at my home parish and the whole family was about as well. It was nice and pleasant. A part of me, though, wondered about what was happening at the inner-city parish where Fr. Thomas resides. Part of me would like to go back and speak with him again. Perhaps I shall try to do so.

Saturday evening was also relaxing. My wife went to sleep earlier than I did, and unfortunately, I got myself into some trouble at that point. I turned on Turner Classic Movies and began to watch the film "Goodbye Mr. Chips." This classic film from 1939 was one of my Mother's favorites. I had seen bits and pieces of the film over the years but had never seen it in its entirety. This may sound awful... but I wish I had not watched this film. It brought back significant sadness and hurt and feelings of loss about my Mother. The basic story was about a man who became a teacher at a school in the late 1800s. The movie spanned his entire life from the start of his teaching to his death. Keep in mind, this film is a beautiful, classic, time honored piece of work. Yet, the film's portrayal of the passage of time elicited in me only despair and gloom. This fellow's life, or any life for that matter, seems only pointless. The feelings of horror and sadness washed over me as I again kept thinking about life as simply a progression of steps... where we spend the first half of our life growing to learn how to love and be loved, and the last half of our lives watching those we love die, one-by-one until we too, eventually die.

Although this type of thinking does me no good, it is hard to shake once it resurfaces. What if there *is* nothing beyond this life? What point is there to any thing that we do? What if life is simply a grand illusion of a few hundred thousands of small steps to our own demise and end?

Of course, I had fitful dreams and restless sleep. On Sunday I awoke and began to help my wife with the house cleaning as is our routine. But, I was feeling horrifically sad and hopeless. By noon, we took a break and laid upon the bed and talked. I cried to her about my feelings of loss and my fears. I cried about how pointless all of life seems and begged her to help me figure some way to again find meaning and purpose in life. She stayed with me for an hour and soothed me and helped me to calm myself inside.

The feelings of pointless have not left, but I have quelled them and feel adequate now. My wife and I went walking at the University before dinner, and then she made me a wonderful dinner of Parmesan encrusted salmon, fettuccine vegetables and linguine, roasted yam disks, and salad. We watched television and talked until she went to bed a while ago.

I feel "ok" at the moment. My wife helped me enormously today. I had thought the last several days that I was over my grief. I am not sure where I really stand today. Perhaps my grief is lessening. But, perhaps I am also having some sort of mid-life crisis, where I have become more wholly awakened to the inevitability of our death? It is not as if I was Pollyanaish previously. I KNEW and have KNOWN about our impending deaths. Yet, previously I felt a faith, a conviction of there being some real purpose, some greater scheme to life. I used to feel deep inside that there was a purpose to life and that it did not end at our deaths. But I am so very unsure now. Or, perhaps I am simply allowing myself to feel that uncertainty I have always had? Either way, it contributes to me feeling aimless and without focus.

Why do much of anything if there is no point? I do not know.

Yet, I am also all set to get up early in the morning. I shall awaken, get my exercise gear on and head to work. I shall go and do the cardiovascular exercises and also the weight training... just like I did last week. I shall go to class and teach them as well as I am able... just like last week. Not that I think there is a real "purpose". Instead, I do it to have a routine. The lack of routine would only add to my fears. I miss my prior belief that there was a purpose to life. I hope to someday be able to discover that there *IS* purpose.


Friday, January 18, 2008

A Calm Clam

It has been another pleasant, average day. Work went as smoothly as a fine German clockwork. I felt I delivered my lecture in a way that was innovative and stimulating for the students. My research students were able to follow my directions today in a very careful, yet independent manner. The seminar lunch session was raucous and fun. Dinner this evening with my sister was quiet, peaceful, and filled with mirth. My wife looked beautiful today and was happy as well. On the way home from dinner, I visited my mother's grave and did not feel the pit of sorrow, but instead simply felt my love for her and her life.

It was so comforting and average. No sorrows. It felt so atypical.

If my meetings go well during the day, Friday, I may call up my elderly father-in-law and see if he would like some company again in the afternoon.


Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Creative Thought & Piecing the Puzzle Together

First, a brief apology apologizing for my rather sporadic posts the last several days. I have felt a need to focus as much energy as possible on starting off the semester strongly. I believe I have done well and should be able to return to daily posting from this point forward.

One of the most valuable and wonderful aspects of my job as a professor and scientist is that I have been given the goal in my career to try to think new thoughts, to explore new ideas, and to try to uncover fresh insights about the world. It is really a goal that I believe ALL of us have if we search deep into our soul as human beings... I am just lucky it is my official goal and challenge in life as well.

Thinking new thoughts is a wonderful passion and yet the ebb and flow of getting and developing creative new thoughts is hard to understand and predict. Sometimes new thoughts and ideas seem to flow easily, other times it seems a struggle to break out of traditional thinking, dictatorial thinking, or thinking "outside-the-box."

Well, yesterday, I was feeling happy enough with my start of the new semester, and was feeling generally quite content, so in the afternoon I meandered over to my elderly father-in-law's home and we made a grand afternoon of indulging in pipes and delightful libations. The drink of the day consisted of roughly three fingers of a good, blended whiskey poured over crushed ice and sweetened just a bit with a dilution of lemon-lime soda. In addition, On my way over there, I stopped at the tobacco shop and found a new, rough, cube-cut raspberry tinctured burley leaf neither of us had previously tried. By the time we had each started our third drink, we were pleasantly tipsy and were just enjoying talking and laughing about all manner of stories and news we hadn't yet had a chance to talk about. While there, I worked on updating some of the new electronic items they (my mother and father-in-law) received for Christmas from various relatives. This included a few games for their computer, a new set of cordless phones, and digital camera and speciality printer that could be used stand-alone but also would attach to their computer. It was pretty straight forward work, but both of them get quite frustrated attempting anything new involving electronics, so I try to always go around to help them out.

After completeing the new electronics set up, we were both feeling quite pleasant, and we both found the new pipe tobacco pleasantly potent as well. I think we both nodded off for a bit until nearly dinner time. We awoke when my mother-in-law arrived home. I gave her some help learning how to use the new phones and how to access the "speed dial" numbers I programmed in for her. Then I proceeded home.

It was a very nice afternoon, and, in reality it has been a very pleasant start of the semester. I have felt relaxed and content with my efforts and feel creative in my ideas. I think this may be a sign my grief is becoming more managable and I am feeling more of my old self returning.


Monday, January 14, 2008

Ich Bin Tot Müde

The analogy may seem a cliche, or it may feel overstated, but I assure you it is an accurate portrayal. The football star (you can imagine either world football (that which is called soccer in the U.S.) or U.S. football) came back onto the field for the first time after the recovery from his knee surgery. It was the first game that he had participated in in many, many weeks, and he felt a mix of anticipation, worry, excitement, concern, enthusiasm and dread. As the game started, and while the field felt familiar and the sites and sounds stirred passion in his memory, the arena did not feel natural. It did not feel akin to a tool for his work, but instead a slightly foreign and askew place. Still, moving, barking orders to others, running up and down the field, and manipulating the ball all felt good, and reawakened the senses. When the day was done, this football player felt more winded and tired than he had in years. It surprised and shamed him to see he was so far from where he was. But, it also gave him the determination to get back what he had lost.

Today was the first day of classes this semester. My voice is worn out from talking after a month of quiet. My mind is a bit rusty and creaky about just what to do or say or talk about. My feet feel sore from the more formal shoes I wear when teaching compared to the casual tennis shoes or loafers I wear other times. My neck feels chaffed from having buttoned my collar and worn a tie again after a few weeks away. It is beautiful being back in the saddle, so to speak, but I am pretty out of shape.... I am as my title suggests... dead tired.


Thursday, January 10, 2008

Return to Bread Cubes

I am feeling quite out of sorts. I have a thesis proposal I need to read tonight for a graduate student, Rosa, and I am having a challenge focusing on this 50 page document. I feel unmotivated and I do not understand why today, why this week? I tried to spend the day organizing and getting ready for the start of the new semester, but the work was tedious, slow, and felt unproductive.

I have not been exercising again. I know that the lack of exercise is likely contributing to the malaise, but getting the inertia up again for the task is difficult. For me, I think the lack of a normal weekend (recall, I went north for a conference/workshop ALL DAMN WEEKEND) makes for a very challenging workweek for me. Not challenging in what I CAN DO, but challenging in terms of throwing off my whole routine.

I am not sure if it comes through in this blog or not, but I am a person who greatly enjoys (probably craves) predictability and routine. I am a person who when I deviate from routine, will find it challenging to feel centered and at peace. I have lots of ideas, but nothing I feel motivated to do. So, I putter, I feebly work at organizing, I try to plan, try to make things nicer, but the energy is low and the success is scant.

I have been finding solace in my pipes more frequently than usual this week. But even that has been undulating. Some bowls feel akin to the typical, anticipated pleasure, but many feel as empty and vapid as if I had not put the burley tobacco leaf crumbles in or ignited the bowl.

I have been listening to the 1965 Broadway Soundtrack of "Man from La Mancha" quite heavily this week. Even it leaves me feeling melancholy. Richard Kiley's voice is excellent, the entire cast is exceptional. I was trying to win my mind over again to believing in the "tilting at windmills" as is the credo of this play. But to no avail.

If I do work, I feel tired. If I do nothing, I feel antsy. If I try to play, I feel wasteful and anxious. I felt shaggy and haggard, and hence went to the barber to receive a haircut and beard and mustache trim. My normal practice would be to visit the local pipe shop in that part of town that I do not get to other than when I receive my trim... but today I did not feel inspired to do so and simply drove home to wash up after the trim.

I have also been listening to hours of classical music on NPR this week to no benefit. Typically music has a way of soothing my soul and lifting my spirit. I think back to last week when I visited the priest and barred my soul to him about my sadness, my sense of ambiguity and my sheer and utter wretchedness. The visit felt cleansing and relieving but did not change anything long-term. I really do not know what or why I am feeling such a sheer and blanketing ambiguity about everything. Here are the contenders of possible reasons:

1. Am I still working through the grief of my Mother's passing?

2. Am I experiencing some sort of mid-life crisis?

3. Is it Seasonal Affective Disorder that I am experiencing?

4. Is this simply who I am?

5. Am I clinically depressed?

6. Am I just a worrywart and make my own problems?

7. Is this simply how one ages? (Grows more curmudgeonly and gruff?)

8. Is this a temporary lull and I will soon be back in top form?

9. Do I think too much? (Do I think too little?)

10. Life seems so much more ambiguous and unreliable. Is it really so, or am I just perceving it more accurately?

I do not know. I do not know how TO KNOW anymore.


Wednesday, January 09, 2008

What to Write?

I am in the midst of my tri-yearly gutting and cleaning of all work spaces in my life. My lab, my inner and outer offices, my den at home, and even all of my various computers. The one challenge I have as a professor is in the handling of all the paper I receive. The obvious pieces are easy enough to deal with... tests and papers that come in on time are all systematically graded and returned to students. But over the course of a semester, a surprisingly huge amount of paper accumulates from a myriad of sources... newspapers, journals, reprints of journal articles, University "junk mail" from various sources, papers and exams never retrieved by students, and on and on.

I do my best to keep these papers tamed and in line every day, but over the course of a semester, they infiltrate virtually every nook, cranny, bookshelf and area in my work spaces (the oddest thing I found so far is a small oragami sculpture someone made out of a piece of bright orange paper and inserted into the bowl of one of my pipes that were rarely used and were sitting in the pipe rack that sits on the far end of one of the windowsills in my lab. I cannot imagine which student put it there.

So, this past day and likely all of Wednesday as well are being spent on the mind-numbing, no-thought-allowed tasks of cleaning and organizing my work areas to again begin another beautiful semester of thought, teaching, learning, and research. I wish I had more interesting things to report to you today, but my "cleaning mood" mind is about as creative and exciting as room temperature decaffeinated coffee.

I suspect I will have more creative juices flowing tomorrow night.

However, I must note that I am very pleased that Hillary Clinton won the Democratic Primary in New Hampshire. I think she would be an excellent president, and I feel that she is our best hope on many issues... especially in our acquiring universal health care. Obama is a decent fellow, but in my opinion, not as outstanding as Senator Clinton. I think Obama would be an excellent vice presidential candidate for Hillary Clinton to select.


Monday, January 07, 2008

Wiped Out

I can only leave a brief post at the moment because I am completely wiped out. Here is a brief synopsis:

1. I went to speak with Fr. Thomas. It was good to talk and good to have him listen. There were a few kernels of advice he gave me that were helpful. I shall flesh them out tomorrow.

2. In my thinking about and getting ready to see Fr. Thomas, I neglected perpetrations for the three day work related meeting I needed to leave for on Friday. The meeting was three hours north of my home, and the preparations were extensive. I only arrived back a few hours ago, and I am fully bushed. Again, more about this experience tomorrow.

3. Mapiprincesa - I just read the information you provided. I will write more about that as well tomorrow.

Good evening friends. I hope to sleep well.


Thursday, January 03, 2008

Lumière du Soleil

It is set for 3:00pm today (Thursday). I shall drive there in my old pickup truck. It is interesting that even though we have four vehicles, as of late, I do not want to drive any vehicle except for my old, worn, bare-bones, 10 years old little pickup truck. None of the other vehicles seem to suit me. My wife drives one and the others tend to sit.

My journey will take me deep into the heart of the city, into the area that has been devastated economically. Numerous houses are abandoned, poverty is rife. Crime, shootings, and robberies are all unfortunately too common in this area of town. Not because of the vast majority of people who live there... 98% or more are wonderful, kind, gentle souls. Unfortunately, the 2% who are criminals tend to set up shop there too because it is easier pickings... the elderly, the poor, the destitute, the homeless... people who can not defend themselves against the criminal element.

Deep in the heart of this area of town are two buildings of note. One was a beautiful, privately owned museum of African American History that shut down due to lack of funds. It is a true shame. Art should be, for the most part, publicly supported and sponsored, and to have a museum like this fall into decay is a damn shame. Across the street from the abandoned museum is a small, brick church. St. Bartholomew Parish.

At 3:00pm, I shall go inside, down to the small office area and speak to Fr. Thomas. I want to go to confession, but also to talk about my thoughts these last several months. I have been wanting to speak to him for several weeks. I feel as if he is the right person to hear me and to give me guidance and advice about what I am experiencing. I will tell him about the loss of my beautiful mother, about my role for so many years as her caregiver, I will tell him about my anger, my hurt, my rage. I will tell him how I purposefully broke my Lenten vows. I will explain how I feel a tremendously diminished sense of faith. I will even admit that sometimes I do not think I believe anymore. I will explain how I feel lost... a ship without a rudder.

I am not trying to get my hopes up too much. I know there is likely little he will be able to do or offer. But, I feel that if I am able to say it to him, he will understand more than most others (except my wife) what my thoughts are. I need for him to hear this. I need to hear his words of guidance, be they short, brief and terse, or more elaborate. I think it will help me to have him, a spiritual leader, hear me. It will make my grief, my mid-life crisis, or whatever the hell I am feeling, get outside my head for a while and into the open for someone to hear. To me if that happens, it will be "Light of the Sun" to my soul (which is what my title to this essay says in French).


Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Quiet New Year

It would have been a helluva lot more fun to say my title "Quiet New Year" was needed because I was recovering from a rip-roaring good time at a New Year's Eve party, and that I was sitting with an ice pack on my head. But, alas, that is not the case. I am simply trying to start the new year in a plain, calm fashion. My goals are simple and managable, and consist of the following:

1. Work on continuing with my healthy diet choices. Other than a four day spurt around the holidays, I have been very good at eating well since roughly July. I like how the increases in vegetables and fruits, the increases in water, and the decreases in "junk" foods make me feel.

2. Work on improving my consistency with exercise. Since July, I have been quite a bit better than I typically am about consistency, but I have ample room for further improvement. This is perhaps my most important goal, but the one I will have the most difficulty with. Not the being able to do the exercise, but with the consistency.

3. Continue to reduce my consumption of tobacco. A worthy goal.

4. Continue to work at being kind to others.

5. Continue to work towards a life of greater service.

6. Work towards letting me not be so governed by my emotions as I have been the last ten months. I am hoping to channel the energy and thoughts of my sad emotions into something positive and helpful.

7. I wish to write more letters to the editor... locally and in the state paper and the national papers I read.

Overall, a reasonable list.


P.S. Mapiprincesa... I can talk to you about several aspects of the disease you are dealing with, but perhaps the most important thing I need from you is an indication of whether the stage of discovery is early or late (late meaning having spread to bone and cartilage). With this information, I can be of better assistance to you.