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, May 19, 2011

How To Become Motivated?

In my goal to become pipe tobacco free (actually, my preferred goal is to be mostly pipe tobacco free except for a few special occasions), I have been thinking a great deal about what will be the challenges and pitfalls I will face in this transition. My being a pipe smoker developed through many different facets of my physical and emotional self. In order to be successful in this goal, I need to be aware of all of these facets and to have strategies available for me to resist the temptations to revert back to my old (current) unregulated pipe smoking self. So, I thought what I would do here is try to address these facets of myself as I recognize them and try to brainstorm over what they mean and how I may address them. I may not get all (or even most) of these facets down in this essay, for I suspect this will be a work in progress. But here it goes:

Physical Aspects of Pipe Smoking

1. Biochemical (aka Nicotine) -nicotine is an alkaloid found in the nightshade family of plants (Solanaceae) that constitutes approximately 0.6–3.0% of the dry weight of tobacco. Nicotine acts on the nicotinic acetylcholine receptors, specifically the ganglion type nicotinic receptor and one CNS nicotinic receptor. The former is present in the adrenal medulla and elsewhere, while the latter is present in the central nervous system (CNS). In small concentrations, nicotine increases the activity of these receptors. Nicotine also has effects on a variety of other neurotransmitters through less direct mechanisms.

In low concentrations consumption of nicotine acts as a stimulant and neurotransmitter mimic in mammals and is considered by many a primary factor responsible for the dependence-forming properties of tobacco smoking. Nicotine's mood-altering effects are different by report: in particular it is both a stimulant and a relaxant. First causing a release of glucose from the liver and epinephrine (adrenaline) from the adrenal medulla, it causes stimulation. Users report feelings of relaxation, sharpness, calmness, and alertness. Like any stimulant, it may very rarely cause the often catastrophically uncomfortable neuropsychiatric effect of akathisia. By reducing the appetite and raising the metabolism, some smokers may lose weight as a consequence.

When tobacco is smoked, nicotine-rich blood passes from the lungs to the brain within seven seconds and immediately stimulates the release of many chemical messengers including acetylcholine, norepinephrine, epinephrine, vasopressin, arginine, dopamine, autocrine agents, and beta-endorphin. This release of neurotransmitters and hormones is responsible for most of nicotine's effects. Nicotine appears to enhance concentration and memory due to the increase of acetylcholine. It also appears to enhance alertness due to the increases of acetylcholine and norepinephrine. Arousal is increased by the increase of norepinephrine. Pain is reduced by the increases of acetylcholine and beta-endorphin. Anxiety is reduced by the increase of beta-endorphin. Nicotine also extends the duration of positive effects of dopamine and increases sensitivity in brain reward systems.

Research suggests that, when smokers wish to achieve a stimulating effect, they take short quick puffs, which produce a low level of blood nicotine. This stimulates nerve transmission. When they wish to relax, they take deep puffs, which produce a high level of blood nicotine, which depresses the passage of nerve impulses, producing a mild sedative effect. At low doses, nicotine potently enhances the actions of norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain, causing a drug effect typical of those of psychostimulants. At higher doses, nicotine enhances the effect of serotonin and opiate activity, producing a calming, pain-killing effect.

In my own self examination, I find that I rarely, if ever indulge in pipe tobacco in the "short quick" method that is designed to produce a low level, stimulatory effect. Virtually all of my pipe smoking is in the "deep puff" form to apparently produce a mild sedative effect.

I believe that nicotine is ONE aspect of the reason why I am a pipe smoker. I enjoy the effects of nicotine on my brain and central nervous system. Yet, I do not believe nicotine alone explains all nor even most of the facets as to why I am a pipe smoker. For example, in my whole life, I think I may have consumed less than 50 cigarettes (that is 2.5 packs). I do not enjoy them. Once, I even thought that perhaps the way to break my pipe smoking habit was to quit smoking my pipes entirely and allow myself to smoke cigarettes to assist in the transition. That experiement/attempt failed very quickly. For, while I was able to obtain the nicotine I thought (at that time because of what is typically published in the literature about tobacco use) would be the challenge to my quitting. I even thought that by smoking cigarettes instead of trying the gum or other nicotine products, I would be able to more easily put away my pipes. Yet, I lasted only a few days before I threw away the pack of cigarettes I had and went back to my pipes.

I am thinking, though, that nicotine is one factor that I need to address in my next effort. What I am contemplating this time is to consume nicotine lozenges (now available over the counter) if/when I feel the physical desire for nicotine.

2. Sensory effects - to me, a pipe is a beautiful visual work of art. I think many pipes could easily be worthy of being museum pieces. I can look at and examine a pipe, its bowl and its stem for long periods of time and find new, beautiful aspects every time. In my effort to refrain, I *could* still very easily look at and enjoy my pipes without smoking them. Yet, I am not sure if that is going to be a successful strategy. I suspect that looking at my pipes will (of course) allow me to see and enjoy their beauty, but I fear it also will trigger yearnings and desires to SMOKE my pipes as well. So, I am not sure what I plan to do about this aspect.

Also, a pipe is very tactile. You can touch and hold the beast in your hands and grip the stem between your teeth. As longer time readers know, I have tempormandibular jaw disorder, which basically means the architecture and design of my teeth, jaw, facial nerves and facial muscles gives me a strong propensity to naturally clench my teeth and to grind my teeth while sleeping. I have worn bite splints since I was in my mid-teens and it helps immensely. The bite splint simply puts a prescribed space between my upper row of teeth and the bottom row decreasing the impact of clenching my teeth together and decreasing the inclination to grind teeth while sleeping. I think I may have found the pipe stem to be an early sort of "bite splint" that kept me (at least while smoking the pipe) from clenching my teeth together so tightly as is my inclination otherwise. In terms of my TMJ, I can wear my bit splints during the day more frequently to accommodate the loss of the pipe stem between my teeth, and I *could* still handle and hold my pipes in my hands and even technically grip empty pipes between my teeth.... but like in the visual discussion above, I think that may be a risky strategy as it may also cause me to yearn to actually smoke my pipes again.

For many, pipe tobacco is very much associated with the senses of taste and smell. In my thinking of my pipe tobacco indulgence, I do believe the taste and smell of the pipe tobacco is something I enjoy, but I do not think it plays a huge role in my effort to refrain, so I do not think I need to plan anything for these sensory aspects.

* * * * *

I think I shall stop here for now. In the next post I will likely continue with other aspects of pipe smoking that I know I need to address as well.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Frustration & Postponement

I am having a (fingers crossed) few hard days of annoying paperwork effort yesterday and today at work related to some b*llsh*t I find very distasteful but shall refrain from discussing. Therefore, I am still only in contemplation mode about the reduction of my consumption of pipe tobacco.

I still am planning to work to reduce (and dare I suggest, eliminate) my consumption except on special occasions (I am thinking perhaps the following will be those occasions: 1) Remembering my father's birthday, remembering my grandfather's birthday, and when I am drinking) If I were to get to this level, it would mean my consumption at its most extreme would be confined to one period of time a week or less.


Monday, May 16, 2011

Must Change Myself

While all of you long time readers know of my fondness and enjoyment of smoking pipe tobacco and pipes in general, I believe I need to do something to reduce or eliminate this hobby/avocation from my life. I have been thinking about it for a few weeks and monitoring more closely the rate of consumption I currently have. The results are that I am on average consuming roughly 6 ounces of pipe tobacco a week. This is a higher rate than I think I should indulge in. Billy, an Internet friend of mine over at Spirit Doings, has said he has been consuming roughly 6 ounces a month.

I am still contemplating my course of action at the moment, but I believe this effort, this time, will be one that I will be successful in forcing myself to adopt. I am not 100% sure what my plan will be (I am mulling over several), but I will write more as I firm up my plans.


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Clean Slate

I have never tasted the bottle of wine above, yet. But my wife received it as a gift a few years ago and perhaps we shall drink it soon. I am not overly enthused about white wines (when I drink wine, I prefer the darker, deeper hues of red. To my way of thinking, the darker the red the better).

But, the wine bottle only spurred the name for today's post, nothing more. I am in the midst of massive cleaning, decluttering, and purging of all sorts of excess we have in the house. All the members of the family are helping and our hope is to declutter all the excess STUFF we have so as to have our home be more spacious and clean feeling.

Just one example to help explain some of what we are purging. With my exercise and fitness levels keeping me as fit as I have every been, I am the smallest I have ever been in my life. At my heaviest 100+ pounds ago, I used to wear shirts that were 2XL or 3XL (I now wear Medium). Also at my biggest, I wore 44 inch waist pants and underwear (I now wear 34 inch waist pants). Even though it is VERY hard to do, I am forcing myself to purge all the sizes of clothes except what fits. I have been saving much of it in case I gain the weight back (negative thinking) or sometimes I fear that getting RID of the clothes will cause me to gain the weight back (superstitious thinking). So, I am bagging it all up, passing it through various relatives who may wish to cherry pick items they could use, and then taking the rest to the St. Vincent De Paul, Goodwill, and the Salvation Army in that order.

Well, I must head back home and back to work on cleaning. ALSO... I have purged a helluva lot of stuff from my home office as well. I am gearing up to fix the damn computer so I can work and write from there as well. It may even be something I do today... but I anticipate finishing it perhaps at least by the end of the weekend!


Thursday, May 05, 2011

The Amazing Blueberry

One of the greatest, albeit simplest, food pleasures I have is eating my cereal in the morning. And, one of the most pleasant parts of my cereal to me is that I have blueberries on my cereal probably 95% of the time. I started to do this perhaps 4-5 years ago, for even though I ALWAYS loved to eat blueberries, for some reason (stinginess perhaps, having parents who lived through the Depression perhaps) I always thought of blueberries as extravagant and decadent. So much so, that even when I would have blueberries back then, I would dole them out more as a garnish rather than as a main serving of fruit.

I still find and feel that blueberries are "decadent" but I have been indulging my passion for this decadence. A typical "serving" of blueberries as a fruit is usually listed as 1/2 cup. So, most mornings for the past 4-5 years I have been eating two servings (~1 cup) of these delightful morsels each morning mixed with my cereal. When available, my wife will buy me fresh blueberries, but sometimes during certain parts of the winter, I will have frozen ones instead. And, we have even picked blueberries to freeze ourselves. Whether fresh or frozen, though, it is of no matter to me... both are delightful, each in slightly different ways.

An especially interesting final point, though, is that recently there have been many different studies published showing some pretty striking health benefits in eating blueberries. The link here, for example, is one from WebMD that describes a relationship between blueberry consumption and decreased abdominal fat in rats. My awareness of this and various other studies about blueberries did not occur until after I had already become an active blueberry hedonist.


Wednesday, May 04, 2011

41 Years Ago

It seems like it was only yesterday, but in reality it was 41 years ago today that the horrible tragedy occurred where there was a massive shooting at Kent State University. I remember that day very well. It is still so very sad. I have visited the memorials at Kent State University a few times. While there was some controversy about the design, the memorial is a good one and does help us to remember (or for the younger, gives them a physical presence to hopefully stir them into learning about) this horrid event.

It is also the very day that my first niece was born as well. So, that was one positive.


Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Job I Enjoy

Billy over at Spirit Doings asked me why I don't just go get a job that I enjoy. The truth of the matter is, I enjoy about 85% of my job here at the U. What I enjoy is:

1. Teaching and interacting with students.
2. Research and research writing and the discovery of new knowledge.
3. Service in meetings and organizations that are worthwhile.

And, the above three items constitute about 85% of what I do within my job. Yet, unfortunately, the 15% that remains is the bane of my existence in that often it takes over and usurps what I want to do (the above three) on many days. It is on those occasions that I tend to complain about it here. The major irritants typically include:

1. B*llsh*t paperwork issues... from all sides of the U. Paperwork nonsense that was unheard of 20 or more years ago (hell, even 10 years ago most of this b*llsh*t did not exist). This paperwork nonsense takes away the limited and valuable time I have to do the three items above.

2. Grading for whining "consumer oriented" students... during the last generation there has been a mentality shift in students where a larger and larger percentage of them think of the professor/student relationship as if THEY were a consumer of a product that I sell... and if they do not like it (or the grade I give) they feel they have a right as a "consumer" to demand a "refund"... they complain and b*tch and moan right and left. Fortunately, this percentage of the student population is still low (perhaps now-a-days about 15%), but back in the day this sort of behavior was unheard of and it is annoying as hell.

3. Colleagues who try to foist their work onto you. I think the paperwork and the grading whining has most everyone in our Department feeling the pinch and this is causing some of the more histrionic sorts here to have the notion that they have to shed their real work onto others to lighten their load. It is rude and obnoxious.

So, again, I do like MOST of what I do. But the 15% that is crap, is stinkier than usual.


Monday, May 02, 2011


All I have been doing all damn day is grading. I am tired of looking at papers, tired of grading tests, tired of number crunching, tired of sitting here looking at all these numbers.

But, I am drawing closer to having the damn things done. They are now in the marinade stage where I contemplate being hard nosed or a softie. The jury is still out on how I will proceed. If I indulge in a few libations, I tend towards being a bit of a softie, if not, well... it is more up-in-the-air.