The Thoughts of a Frumpy Professor

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

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Sicker Than a Dead Dog

I have written posts every day for the last several and for some reason they are not posting. I am trying again, but this time it is a very brief message (as oppossed to the earlier ones which were long and elaborate).

I am unfortunately sick as hell at the moment with an upper respiratory infection that has made my eyes like a faucet with a bad gasket and my nose like a rain gutter that has a leak.


Monday, August 25, 2008

Start of a New Bootstrap

As usual, I am trying to "tough it out" so to speak and force myself to feel better. It is still a challenge, as Sunday was perhaps one of the worst days I have felt in many months. My anger and frustration was due to some behavioral issues that occurred in "T" that had me questioning my value as a person and my sanity all at the same time.

Added to the mix was the fact that today is the first day of classes at the U for the Fall Semester. Yesterday was going to be challening anyway, due to the (foolish) stress I feel before the semester begins each academic year... even though I have been through this every year for multiple decades.

I did try to pull myself up by my bootstraps again, and did exercise this morning, lifted weights, and am prepared to start a new semester (I guess). I feel uninspired and I wish I felt happier and more enthused.


Wednesday, August 20, 2008


Yesterday was the 62nd Anniversary of the marriage of my mother and father. It hurts that they are both gone. Both my mother and father were wonderfully special people.

I miss speaking with my father about life and miss our gentle joking around. I miss how my father, especially later in life used to very much enjoy having us go to the local coney-dog place and both of us would eat two coney-dogs with the works and have fries and root beer. I miss his willingness to try new things. I miss visiting hardware stores with him and looking around and buying various parts. I miss my father's advice. I miss the scent of his pipe tobacco and aftershave. I miss sitting with him at the barbers while we each waited to get our hair cut.

I miss my mother very much. I miss our discussions about life and the gentle banter and rapport we had in discussing everything. I miss making cookies and fruitcake with her at the holidays. I miss helping her when she was ill. I miss taking care of her. I miss driving her around. I miss our trips together to Elias Brother's. 99% of the time she would order one of three things.... a Strawberry Waffle and bacon, or a BLT sandwich, or if she was in a more feisty mood, she would get potato pancakes. She was a very elegant woman, and miss her.

I miss both my mother and father greatly. I do not wish this feeling of emptiness on anyone. But it is what everyone is destined to feel, for it is all in the web of life. I wish it were not so.

Please God, if you hear me, please let the idea of heaven be true, and allow it to be a place where I will be able to be with my deceased loved ones again some day. Please allow heaven to be a place of joy where if I get to arrive there some day, that I will see, hear, and be with all those that I love who have passed away. And please allow my loved ones here on Earth to somehow know that I am safe and that I will be waiting for them when they eventually arrive as well. Please, O please let this be so.


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Who Am I? What Am I? How Am I to Be?

The above are questions I pose to myself without meaning to, virtually every day.... perhaps more like every HOUR. This ambiguity manifests itself in so many ways.

Whereas two years ago, I felt I understood who I was, and I understood what life was about. And, I felt I was doing the "right" and "just" things in my day-to-day life. I felt CONTENT with who I was, what I was, and had a vision for how I was to be.

Today, I really do not know who I am:

1. I am no longer a caretaker of my beautiful mother. This was a big part of my existence.

2. I am no longer feeling a kinship with my Department since the fiasco about the hiring of SuperPuppy.

3. I used to feel "special" in that I felt there were GOALS in life and that I KNEW these goals.

Additionally, I do not know what I am:

1. I used to be a loving, devoted son to my mother. Now that is no longer a viable relationship. I am, instead, an adult orphan.

2. I used to feel a leader in my Department, but I no longer really give a damn what the Department does or how it fares in any of its interactions across the greater University.

3. I used to be driven... driven to accomplish or at least strive for great things in my day-to-day life. This is how I most used to feel akin to Don Quixote. But now, I have virtually no drive to accomplish or strive. I am simply finding drifting along without purpose to be the new way I live day-to-day.

Finally, I have no understanding of how I am to be:

1. I cannot devote so much of the remainder of my life to reliving and rehashing the details of my mother's last few months with us. Yet, I cannot shun memories of her and blithely prattle on as if she were never here. Both conditions are horrible and harsh.

2. I cannot "forgive and forget" the pure nastiness of those in my Department, for I cannot tolerate being played for a fool. Yet, I cannot hold that hurt inside myself any longer, and I cannot grieve any longer for what I used to have in the Department.

3. I do not think I can exist as an unfocused, drifting nothing, but neither can I reacquire the ambition or drive or devotion I once had.

So, I am at a loss on how to proceed. I do not know who I am any longer, I do not know what I am, and I do not know what I will be.

So many of you may feel my words are a bunch of prattle and b*llsh*t. You may feel I am so full of myself that I need to place a call to "RotoRooter". But, please, if you can understand anything, please know this is not the case. I truly do feel lost, lost in a way I have never ever experienced before. It is very truthfully as if who I am or what I was has DISAPPEARED. The man who has disappeared is someone I enjoyed, someone I was comfortable with, someone I UNDERSTOOD. The new skin of experience I wear seems as foreign to me as fur on a fish. I do not know how to be a furry fish, nor am I sure I can be a furry fish or if I want to be a furry fish.

I do not know how to find myself anymore.


Monday, August 18, 2008

Struggle & Effort

The weekend was not to my liking... lots of saddness and a great deal of strife. It has me exhausted. It has me sad. Yesterday was the birthday of a childhood friend who I have grown distant from. This fellow was actually the best man at my wedding. I have tried to keep in contact, but it does not seem to be something he desires.

What to do with myself? I do not know of anything else to do about my saddness other than try again, for the seven billionth time to pull myself up by my bootstraps and force myself to feel better. I shall again try to do this through:

1. Extensive exercise in the morning.
2. Hard work during the day.... with a strong effort to isolate myself from others in the Department as all they end up doing is frustrating me and bleeding away the limited amount of time I have.
3. If I can get the work done I would like to accomplish, I would like to try to leave the U early and do something to feel good about working at home.

If I can do this tomorrow, perhaps I can chase the saddness away.


Friday, August 15, 2008

It is Friday

After a week of emotions where I felt low (primairly several instances of feeling sad about my mother's passing and also about the near end of Summer), it is now Friday. I am hoping for a better weekend, one that is filled with joy and good times. I will see how it unfolds. I am trying to keep hope alive.


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Almost 42 Years Ago

This article is taken from CR4, and engineering blog. It is food for thought in this day and age of the (in my opinion, very wrong) discussions of bringing back nuclear power. Neither candidate deserves my vote, if they promote nuclear power.

* * * * *

October 5, 1966: Partial Meltdown at Fermi 1
by Moose at CR4.

Today marks the fortieth anniversary of a partial meltdown at the Enrico Fermi breeder reactor near Detroit, Michigan. On October 5, 1966, a zirconium plate at the bottom of a reactor vessel became loose during a test for full-power. The plate blocked the flow of liquid-sodium coolant, causing two fuel subassemblies to begin to melt. When radiation monitors sounded, operators shut down the reactor manually. The time from the first alarm to partial meltdown was only four minutes. Although the release of Iodine-131 remained confined to the secondary containment system, utility officials briefly considered the possibility of evacuating nearby Detroit.

The Enrico Fermi Atomic Power Plant, Unit 1 (Fermi 1) was designed by Detroit Edison and Dow Chemical, and owned by a consortium called the Power Reactor Development Company. During the 1950s, Argonne National Laboratory had developed the first experimental breeder reactors, EBR-1 and EBR-2, for civilian use. Like these earlier power plants, Fermi 1 was designed to produce or "breed" fuel by producing more fissile material than was consumed. By closing the fuel cycle loop, fast breeder rectors (FBR) could reprocess fuel and achieve the "plutonium economy" that many saw as the future of nuclear power. Unlike EBR-1 and EBR-2, however, Fermi 1 was cooled with liquid sodium and operated at essentially atmospheric pressure.

The world's first liquid-metal fast breeder reactor (LMFBR) was filled with liquid sodium in December 1960. After criticality was achieved, low-power operations began in August 1963. Testing above 1 Mwt commenced in December 1965, shortly after Fermi 1 received a high-power operating license. On October 5, 1966, a zirconium-sodium flow deflector fractured during a full-power test. Overheating damaged two fuel rods and forced operators to shutdown the breeder reactor.

Fermi 1 was restarted in 1970, but shut down again in 1972 when its core approached the burnup limit. According to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), the fuel and blanket subassemblies were shipped offsite in 1973. The non-radioactive, secondary sodium system was drained and the radioactive, primary sodium was stored in tanks and drums until removal from the site in 1984.

* * * * *

You may say this is an isolated event, but look at the many others... Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, etc. The energy obtained is NOT worth the risk to lives.


Monday, August 11, 2008

Quite a Weekend

All myriad of things happened this weekend. I received an invitation to go to a baseball game, and went. The participants on this journey included my brother-in-law, and my elderly father-in-law. My brother-in-law drove, but because it was a roomier truck, we used my father-in-laws vehicle. My brother-in-law parked his truck at my house.

Well, the evening went well, and I returned home with adequately beery breath. I was walking up the driveway when my brother-in-law let out a holler... his truck was dented very badly on the passenger side. At first, he thought it happened while parked in front of our house. But quickly it became apparent, it had not... there were no debris anywhere suggesting the accident, and his passenger mirror was missing... and not a single scrap of plastic or debris anywhere. My wife and I believe it must have happened when he was somewhere else earlier in the day.

Sunday was the anniversary of our wedding, and my wife and I went to an Uno's Pizzeria, and went to a movie. The best of a bad lot of films we had to select from was "Journey to the Center of the Earth" which was in a new style of 3-D. It was enjoyable, and the special effects brought to life via 3-D were quite fun... and much better than earlier 3-D attempts.


Friday, August 08, 2008

Razor Blades

The edge of the razor blade is so simple, it is almost primitive. Yet, in fact the edge itself can initiate death. Fortunately, for most this ability to kill is not the function for which the device is utilized.

Even though I have continually worn a beard and moustache for my entire adult life (well, since I was nineteen years old, so it is still many decades), I do know my way with a razor blade. Why you may ask? It is simple, because I find I need to regularly shave my neck, shave my cheeks, and help define the boundaries of my beard and moustache. My hirsute lifestyle gives me the freedom to miss a day or two of the intimacy most unfortunately cleanshaven males have with their own razors. When a man sports a beard and moustache, a day's worth or two day's worth of growth around the edges does not detract from the desired effect.

As I have aged, the rather uniform color of my hair has grown ever more cockeyed. In my younger days, my hair was very dark brown with a reddish cast. For the last several years, I look more akin to a calico cat in that both my hair and my beard and moustache erupt in all manner of color. As you would anticipate, I do of course have hairs that are dark brown and hairs that are grey. Yet, I also now have some hair that is quite black, hair that is blond, and some hairs, especially in certain areas of my beard and moustache are very stark white. The most interesting aspect of my hair is the wide scattering of very pronouncedly red hair throughout my entire visage as well. So think of it, while at a distance I have a primarily greyish disposition, up close, I have easily six distinctly different colors of hair scattered throughout my scalp, in my beard, and in my moustache.

I have not really done much study on the subject, but I have never understood why the "cleanshaven" look is the norm in the modern North American society. Why the hell would daily scraping of the face and lip region with an extremely sharp object be considered what is "required" for the pinnacle of male handsomeness? To me, the bearded norm that was last present in the mid-to-late 1800s seemed much more natural and appropriate. If anyone here knows of the origins of this silly practice, please do share it with us.


Thursday, August 07, 2008

Just Sad

Just feeling sad. It is difficult to shake. Nothing seems to bring joy. Nothing seems rewarding.

The only exception is being with my family. There I feel average, which is a big improvement.

Is this how life is for most folks? Was I so utterly naive to feel joy, hope, ambition, and excitement? When I look back on those emotions, I have mixed feelings... one, I curse myself for being such a fool, but two, I pine for and long for those feelings again.


Wednesday, August 06, 2008

New World Order & Eight Miles

Walked eight miles on Monday to try to chase away the gloom. I walked as briskly as I could muster. My shirt was soaked in sweat.

It is interesting to think about how my world has changed. My only spot of beauty is seen in my wife and kids. I used to think my job was beautiful. Now it is just a means to survival. I used to see meaning in the gallant fight to do "good" in the world and to strive to make the world "better". Now I think I was a dottering old fool to think of that as a goal. Don Quixote is dead.

My mother's passing also has deeply shaped my current life. I used to be naive and feel there was a purpose to my life. Now I think there is no purpose. I am merely a random blip on the screen of the monitor of our universe. I am nothing, I mean nothing, nothing I do means anything. It matters not if I eat or if I do not eat. It matters not if I sleep or do not sleep. It matters not if I breath or do not breath. My only purpose, if it is even that, is to simply try to help my wife and kids remain blind to (or if they are not blind to it, for them to ignore) the horrors I know that await us all in the future. That inevitable march to death. That walk into a void of utter emptiness and infinite haze of shear loneliness and utterly frightening solitude and nothingness.

A strand of my current research into neuroendocrine development is showing surprisingly strong results. In my prior life, I would be jumping up and down, grinning a wide, furry-faced grin from ear-to-ear with anticipation and would be talking about it incessantly with any ear I could find. Now, in the new world order I find myself in, it is simply data I am collecting. No more, no less. I will continue to plod on and work on this and other projects, but they have no meaning to me. There is no sense of adventure nor of quest as I had always framed my research work before. Teaching also has changed. In my previous life, I was a firey motivator, and was animated and boisterous in class, getting my opinions on science as well as the content out to a wide audience. Now in the new world order, teaching is simply me talking a bit in front of some students.

Life used to be a cinnamon and raisin bagel, toasted lightly, and with an enormous dollop of pineapple and walnut laced cream cheese on top. Now, life is a piece of dry, butterless, white toast that has gone soggy around the edges from humidity.

Time, time, time... it is as Simon & Garfunkle said, a hazy shade of winter.


Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Stop My Mind

The thoughts of death and the inevitableness are in full force again today. It has been such a chore to try to avoid them, these thoughts creep in at any moment in which I relax. I can sit at a park, or I can watch television, and without warning the feeling of the inevitability of our demise and our death is what my mind turns to.

Oh how I wish I could be oblivious to this horror. I wish that I could simply live and enjoy and be happy. I strive each day for new ways to attempt to keep those thoughts at bay and away from my consciousness. Perhaps I will again decide to give up my pipes and perhaps my coffee as well. Perhaps a more monastic style of living would suit me?


Monday, August 04, 2008

Conundrum of Emotions

Emotions are a part of life yet also a hard part of life. I am "middling" at the moment, as they say. It is tough to know what to write that is not going to bore the few readers I have to tears. We shall see what unfolds this week.


Friday, August 01, 2008

Lack of...

I am feeling very down today. I had a horrendous time falling asleep last night and even though I tried my techniques to prepare for bed, I had a hard time clearing my mind of the "what if" questions and the doubts and regrets.

I am trying to live experientially, but yesterday, especially last night was enormously difficult. I am trying to let things slide off my back. I am trying to not feel second rate and useless. I am trying to not think about "Super Puppy". I am trying to not think about the deaths in my family. I am trying to not think about my worries and fears both internally and externally.

At times like these I feel an inept fool, akin to a useless pile of waste. I fear, what is the point of anything? We are on an inevitable march towards death. There I fear being forever alone. What is the point?

Nightmares abounded last night. The major one was again that of being in a nebulous space of absolutely nothing. I was suspended in a vast grey area, no up or down, no side-to-side as far as I could see. It was simply hazy, grey nothingness. I could not touch or feel anything. The temperature was neither hot nor cold, the air neither dry and pure, nor wet and heavy. The lighting, if you can call it that was nebulous, neither dark nor light. I could not move, I could not think. I could not even feel the weight of gravity upon my body. I was simply suspended there for all of eternity. Forever.

I awoke, groggy and listless, covered in sweat and my arms and legs sore from clenching them so tightly for so long. I uncurled my fingers and my toes and tried to force them to relax, but even that felt uncomfortable. When I have this nightmare, I awake more tired than I was when I went to bed. It was not the only nightmare I had last night. I had the nightmare of watching over and over and over again every person I have known and loved, dying before me. In this nightmare, I am unable to touch them as they are beyond a glass wall. All I can do is watch their terror and see their pain as they expire. Hundreds of hundreds of people before me, and I am outside their area and can only observe their horrendously sad passing. The third nightmare that I recall was the one where I am between two vast canyons on a three rope bridge... one for my feet, and two for my hands. I am in the middle of this multi-mile crossing when I see an enormous bolder rolling down the bridge towards me. This boulder is at least 15 feet across and it will crush and pulverize my body, but if I jump, there is a perpetual free-fall towards a hard, rocky, and jagged ground several miles below. The nightmare stops as I am in free-fall waiting for the crashing of my body against the rocks. In my mind as I fall, I am imagining (though not trying to) my skull smashing against the jagged rock and splitting open and all of my brain and cerebral fluid becoming like mush upon impact and dribbling slowly down the rocks.

I am so exhausted from this night of terror films going through my mind. I am going to try to go for my five mile walk. I do not know if it will help me shake off the tiredness and the sense of despair and gloom. But it is all I have. Then I shall get a large coffee, and consume it as I head to work.

Feel the joy within me.