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, March 31, 2010


Although a moot point currently for two reasons, I am reminded of the pizza chain that had been proclaiming its $5.55 pizza deal in an almost alarmist fashion over television, radio, and who-the-hell-knows where else a few years ago. Well, yesterday was a sort of similar event that I should have also proclaimed in as bellicose a fashion:

Yesterday was the 555th day in a row in which I walked 4-5 miles EVERY DAY. For long time readers, you may recall that this pattern of consistency in exercise was in no way the norm for me. You will also recall that roughly a year ago I attained a normal BMI reading through this effort (having lost approximetely 70 pounds).

Walking (and sometimes now even jogging) has become an integral part of my life. I hope to make the next several milestones without missing a day as well. Even though I am still often stressed as hell, I believe the walking is a major factor in helping me cope and reduce my stress and anxiety.


Monday, March 29, 2010


Pining for a Pipe

I am sitting here in class, proctoring an exam. I am enjoying the quiet by preparing some new aspects to future lectures this semester. However, my mind is also doing a bit of wandering.... I am thinking of several items:

1. A family vacation I am hoping for this Summer
2. A very strong desire to smoke my pipe.
3. A "hunger" for a huge piece of vanilla cake, dripping with thick layers of frosting... or perhaps just a can of frosting.


Friday, March 26, 2010

I Arrived Home

I arrived home safe and sound.


Thursday, March 25, 2010

Isolated, But Ok

I am away on an academic trip. I miss my wife and family greatly, but it is all for the greater good. I am alone in a distant city, but it is for the benefit of my family and also myself. I did good work at the meetings I attended, and my research will be well received tomorrow as well.

To allay my boredom and desire to be with my family, I have indulged in some well aged whiskey and some especially vibrant pipe tobacco. While no substitute for my beloved family, I am enjoying my evening. (hic)


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Rough Day

Today was a rough day, running nonstop from roughly 5am until just about an hour ago. But I want to keep writing every day (or at least every weekday). I feel it is valuable for me to do so. I have also been feeling more kinship as I have been making an effort to comment more as well. I am a little behind for my recent comments but will catch up.


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Small is Better Than None

While the story is only gestational at the moment, here is my Flash Fiction effort this week. Because of time constraints, I could not finish, but I have decided to make a multi-week effort that will continue this story arc up until May 4th.

To me, it is far more valuable for me to get SOMETHING down, rather than just leave my site empty. A bit of progress is better than none.

* * * * *

Oh, Ohio

He had been told crawling would get him nowhere. Yet, he had never understood the sentiment behind those words, until recently. Now he saw the folly in his ways.

Michael had always been a meek sort of fellow. While intelligent, he lacked a certain vibrato, a certain vitality that would make him stand out in a crowd. The potential was there, but he had an innate ability to unknowingly obscure himself and his efforts to blend into the background like a beige index card. This blending in, this fading into nothing, was a result of his horrific and foreboding sense of insecurity. In a nutshell, Michael thought of himself as a “zero” a nothing, a non-entity.

Creative and at times even a bit insightful, Michael, was a researcher and professor at Kent State University. Yes, the University where the tragedy occurred nearly 40 years ago to the day. It was back in May of 1970 that members of the Ohio National Guard showered a hailstorm of ammunition at the protesters on campus, killing four students.



Monday, March 22, 2010

Wading in Deeper Waters, But Surviving

I am not going to give another damnable "bootstrap" introduction where I proclaim that life is all better and that I will be a better writer bee from now on and that I have big plans for writing and living robustly.

However, what I will say is that I miss writing, I miss all of you readers, and I want to get back to where I am writing regularly. I feel like I am at a point where I can try again. I come to you hat and pipe in hand, and offer a humble apology of sorts for my slipshod efforts at writing and reading and commenting. I will not vow anything, for I seem disproportionately designed to break such a vow. Instead, I will say I will try to be for all of you what I would like myself to be... a participant in bringing you things to read, and a participant in reading and commenting on what you are writing.


Friday, March 12, 2010

Ikiru (生きる)

My wife was tired and retired early for the evening. Me, being a rather nocturnal oriented person, could not go to sleep so quickly. Instead, I decided to watch a film I had recently taped on the VCR. The film was remarkable and beautiful. A true drama about life and its meaning.
Written and filmed in Japan in the early 1950s, it hit home with me on several different levels. First, I have been feeling in a very poor state of sort mentally and emotionally. It seems harder to shake off than it has in the past. It has been a struggle to get out of bed every morning. I have felt anxious, unfocused, unmotivated, sad, sleepy, and disillusioned... all at the same time. Second, the film was big into the idea of service for others, a theme I ascribe to philosophically. Third, it was a captivating film set in black & white in early 1950s Japan, so it was intriguing from an historical perspective as well.

All and all, it was a very good film for me to see. I am glad I taped it from the Turner Classic Movie channel a week or so ago. Below, I cut and paste three different plot summaries for you interest:

This film was made in 1952 in Japan with English subtitles. The Plot Summary for "Ikiru":

Kanji Watanabe (Takashi Shimura) is a middle-aged man who has worked in the same monotonous bureaucratic position for thirty years. Furthermore, his relationship with his son has become strained, as his son and daughter-in-law seem to care mainly about Watanabe's pension and their future inheritance.

After learning he has stomach cancer and has less than a year to live, Watanabe attempts to come to terms with his impending death. He plans to tell his son about the cancer, but decides against it when his son does not pay attention to him. He then tries to find escape in the pleasures of Tokyo's nightlife, but after one night he realizes this is not the solution. In a night club, Watanabe requests a song from the piano player, and he sings "Gondola no Uta" with great sadness. His singing greatly affects those watching him. The song is a ballad encouraging young women to find love while they are still young and beautiful, for life is short.

The following day, a chance encounter with one of his former subordinates leads him to pursue a different solution. Watanabe is attracted to her joyous love of life and enthusiasm. He opens up to her by saying he just wants to live one day in such a carefree, youthful way like she does. She reveals that her happiness comes from her new job, making toys, which makes her feel like she is friends with all the children of Japan.

Inspired by her example, Watanabe dedicates his remaining time to accomplishing one worthwhile achievement before his life ends; through his persistent will, he is able to overcome the inertia of bureaucracy and turn a mosquito-infested cesspool into a children's playground.

The last third of the film takes place during Watanabe's wake, as his former co-workers try to figure out what caused such a dramatic change in his behavior. His transformation from listless bureaucrat to passionate advocate puzzled them. As the co-workers drink, they slowly realize that Watanabe must have known he was dying. They drunkenly vow to live their lives with the same dedication and passion as he did. They soon find themselves buried under the same meaningless busy-work they had vowed to fight.

An iconic scene from the film is from the last few moments in Watanabe's life, as he sits on the swing at the park he built. As the snow falls, we see Watanabe gazing lovingly over the playground, at peace with himself and the world. He again starts singing "Gondola no Uta".

Kanji Watanabe is a longtime bureaucrat in a city office who, along with the rest of the office, spends his entire working life doing nothing. He learns he is dying of stomach cancer and wants to find some meaning in his life. He finds himself unable to talk with his family, and spends a night on the town with a novelist, but that leaves him unfulfilled. He next spends time with a young woman from his office, but finally decides he can make a difference through his job... After Watanabe's death, co-workers at his funeral discuss his behavior over the last several months and debate why he suddenly became assertive in his job to promote a city park, and resolve to be more like Watanabe.

In a Post-War Tokyo, when the bureaucratic chief of department of the City Hall Kanji Watanabe (Takashi Shimura) finds that he has a terminal cancer, he decides to intensively live his last months of life. While dying, he finds the meaning of life, and fights for the construction of a playground in a poor zone of the city and the legacy of his existence.


Thursday, March 11, 2010


All right. I am going to live with this for a while. It seems "ok". Please, please let me know what you think of the changes.


To Hell With It Even More

There. I got the damn Blogger comments to show. I did it by changing my template. To hell with it. Everything's gone.


To Hell With It

I do not feel like trying to deal with this anymore today. The sh*tty Haloscan comments remain. It is odd, but the google comments DO show when you examine a single issue of my blog (aka: ) but not when viewed normally. I guess I don't care anymore. But if anyone can figure it out, I would appreciate knowing.


The Damn Comments Do Not Work

Enough said. I am aggravated as hell.


Change "May" Be Good

Back when I started this blog in 2003, Blogger did not have comments. So, I adopted the best I could find then, called HaloScan. This has served me well since 2003, even though with the advent of comments by Blogger, my system for comments has been a bit on the antiquated side.

Well, about 3 weeks ago, Haloscan changed the formatting of their comments (by joining forces with Echo) and the new method of commenting looks pretty damn sh*tty in my opinion.

I do not want to get rid of my old comments through HaloScan, but I want to have the Blogger style comments up now. So, I am trying to see if I can live with both of them together or if this going to lead to insanity.

If anyone knows of a way to have my Haloscan comments remain, but be hidden, please let me know.


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Flash Fiction Effort

I am a bit late, but think I will still be included as Cormac postponed the final submission date. I will look forward to your comments:


“They always had to kick out the back window to escape.” thought Benjamin as he looked quietly out the window. He was recalling one of several story arcs he had seen over the years in various detective dramas.

The two that were the most vivid in his mind were from long ago, the first was from an episode of the “Mod Squad”. Linc (played by Clarence Williams III) had been knocked unconscious and shoved into the back of a cop car that had been sent off the dock into San Francisco Bay. As the car was beginning to submerge, the bound and gagged Linc had to kick out the back window of the Impala to escape. The second was from an episode of “Simon & Simon”. Rick had been bound and gagged in a room of an abandoned burning house. As he started to succumb to the smoke, he gave a few last, valiant attempts to crawl over to a window where he was able to kick out the glass, eventually leading to his safety.

“Such cliches, but oh, so very true as well.” thought Benjamin. The rage he felt inside was being kept at bay by sheer force of will.

If he knew a way to not get in deep shit for it, he would like to kick out the window of the office that he sat in, and run though the hills like a screaming banshee, letting the rage and the anger, and the disappointment emanate from every pore of his being in much the same way that he truly felt. Life was not going well for him, and he felt trapped like a wild beast inside an iron cage.

His life was like others, just a bunch of bullshit and a daily grind, yet he always thought his life would be different. He was the guy who tried hard to follow the path to allow him those gifts that men cherish... freedom and flexibility in his life.

He spent many long years working in graduate school, and finally became the professor he had envisioned for himself to be. He enjoyed being a professor, he truly did. He also enjoyed his research, for it was interesting and meaningful. He focused on trying to understand how the biochemical environment of an animal shaped how the brain developed and thought. He had a loving wife whom he adored, and great kids who were the true apple of his eye.

Yet, and this was the crux of the matter, he was disproportionately unhappy. And to top it off, he did not know what he needed to do to “become” happy. All he knew was that he was frustrated, apathetic, or grumpy as hell the vast majority of the time.

“I keep searching, I keep trying, I keep on keeping on. But, it never changes, and I don’t know how the hell to change it.” he thought as he reached over to the ashtray by his office computer and picked up his full-bent Petersen pipe.

“Where is the joy? Where is the drive? Where is the passion? Where is the spark?” he lamented, and then ruefully looked into the bowl of the Petersen at the crumbles of vanilla tinctured pipe tobacco.

He then reached for his lighter. It produced the only sparks he could muster now. He slowly lit his pipe and inhaled deeply, the rich smoke.

“Is this all there is? Am I lost?” he murmured, slowly exhaling.

A loud, abrasive sounding knock resounded from the door to his office. Grimacing, he turned towards the door, not wanting to answer whether it be a student or colleague. Even though it wouldn’t do a helluva lot of good, he laid his pipe in the ashtray and then slid the ashtray behind a row of books on the bookshelf near the window. He wasn’t supposed to smoke his pipe indoors any longer... an idiotic policy of the university he chose to ignore.

He opened the door. There was no one there.

Aggravated, he cursed under his breath and closed the door, retrieving his pipe.

On the way back to his desk, he glanced at himself briefly in the mirrored surface on top of the centrifuge he had brought back from his lab. It had given up the ghost, and he needed to have his secretary send it in for repair. Seeing himself, however, he focused on how gray his beard and mustache had become, not to mention the hair on his scalp.

“Where did time go?” he sighed. Then, “How the hell do I “fix it”? How do I find happiness again?”

Why is happiness so elusive? Another knock came on the door.

Again, no one was there when he opened the door. More aggravated, he slammed the door harder, and heard the paper he used to cover the thin, 6 inch wide window along the edge of his door above the doorknob. The paper rustled from the force.

Going back to his seat, big, salty tears of fear, rage, and despondency began to cascade down his cheeks into his beard. “What do I do?”

A third knock was heard on his door. Upon opening it, it was once again only to a vacant hallway.

“Shit!” he cursed loudly as he threw the edge of the door into such a powerful arc to slam it shut that the impact of the door into the frame actually caused the door to bounce back a bit and not actually latch shut.

“Son-of-bitch!” he hollered as he forcibly palmed the door with his hand slamming it hard into the frame. There was a sound of breaking glass.

In slamming his hand against the door, he had picked the paper covered window area to exert the impact. In doing so, the shattering glass cut through the artery of his wrist.

Large amounts of blood poured out of the open wound. He could have clenched the wound shut with his other hand and easily saved himself. But instead, Benjamin sat down in a heap on the floor, and let the blood continue to flow. Although it was not his intent, he did relish the euphoria of oxygen deprivation as he bled to death on the floor, for it mimicked in a small way, the feelings of happiness.

His torture was over. He no longer had to search for a way to fix “it” so that everything was better. Everything was simply done. He had broken through the window, and escaped.

* * * * *


Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Death, Time, & Wounds

Today is the date when my wonderful mother died.... three years ago in 2007. While time may heal old wounds, this wound has not healed. Her loss is still felt very painfully in my heart.

I can say that I am coping better with her death. I am having moments where I feel content and even happy. I am able to conduct my work more efficiently and even sometimes find it enjoyable. I have been continuing to focus as much effort as I can muster to try to become an excellent husband and an excellent father. I know I am neither, but I am trying to be better.

So, I am coping. Yet, the wound is raw, and it hurts.