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.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Important for Me To Embrace

The following is a devotion related to the mass readings I heard at my parish this week. I am hoping to embrace more the ideas of this devotion:

In detachment, the spirit finds quiet and repose for coveting nothing. Nothing wearies it by elation, and nothing oppresses it by dejection, because it stands in the center of its own humility.

-- St. John of the Cross

It seems that it could be a way to provide some of the comfort I seek.


Saturday, October 15, 2011

Update on Exercise

Today marks Day 1119 of my consistent walking (and now oftentimes jogging) of about 5 miles each day without missing a single day.

I need to take a bit of pride in this accomplishment, for it is a big one for me. In the greater scheme of things I know it is inconsequential, but it has been very helpful, useful, and good for me. Besides improving my physical self in ways I have addressed before, it has proven to be a very important stress relieving activity as well.

Friday, October 14, 2011

A Grand Day! (Part 7... The Last Post on this Subject)

[Please note, if you have not done so, and wish to read earlier parts of this essay, please scroll down to the first entry where the essay begins. Subsequent parts occur in reverse order.]

It was disheartening to me to find the pipe so very dull. To me, at that age, I called things "dull" when they were boring, unexciting, and very different from what I had hoped. And this certainly qualified. There had been no amazement, no feelings of relaxation, no vibrant flavors, no anything of merit to the activity. I could not understand why it was so clear that my father relished this activity and yet for me it was nothing but DULL.

Yet, the day was still young, and I wanted to explore the fields for new creatures. I left the platform of the treehouse and went toward the creek. Very quickly I spotted a very large walking stick (insect) and a praying mantis. I was already fairly eagle-eyed about seeing these creatures in the woods and saw them more readily than others in my family. Since they were not new creatures to me, I did not bother to collect them, but instead went to the edge of the creek to look for any salamanders and amphibians that I could find. Although I worked for probably two hours or so, I only found two yellow spotted salamanders and a bunch of bullfrogs... nothing new, as these were the most common varieties in our area. Likewise I did not find any amphibian eggs (they are a helluva lot of fun to watch develop, and even to this day I enjoy watching the process and have included it as part of the work my students study in lab).

Without much success in finding anything new to examine, and having left my insect net back at the tree house (platform). And also being that I was hot and muddy from all my efforts, I decided to head back to the tree house and eat and read for a while before returning with my insect net later in the afternoon.

By the time I walked back to the tree house, I was powerfully thirsty... but then I remembered that I had left the sodapop in the creek to cool off. I raced back to the water, scooped out the bottles and raced back to the tree house. This added activity only exacerbated my thirst, and when I finally got back up on the platform of the tree house I immediately opened one bottle and gulped it down in less than 30 seconds. I didn't even bother to open my sandwich, and opened another bottle of sodapop and drank half of it at an equally fast rate.

I had just unwrapped my sandwich when (as my mother had warned me about), I started to have strong hiccups from having consumed the drink too rapidly. Even to this day, if I "guzzle" any carbonated beverage (sodapop, beer, etc) too quickly, it will cause me to have hiccups. These hiccups are very strong and usually last 20-30 minutes. It was very hard to eat when having a strong hiccup every 15 seconds or so, I knew I needed to postpone my sandwich and decided to pick up my book to read (hiccup). The book layed next to (hiccup) my father's pipe that I had "borrowed" and again I remembered how dull the experience was and felt somewhat sad. Why was it that my father found pipe smoking so enjoyable (hiccup) and yet I could not find anything exciting about the activity? I decided to try it one more time, to see if I could figure it out.

Striking the match (hiccup) was a little bit easier this time around. Fairly quickly I was able to draw little puffs of smoke from the stem. Again, nothing very interesting about the activity. "Perhaps," I wondered in my mind, "I needed to take lots and lots of puffs quickly to make it more fun?" I decided to try this, even though in the back of my mind I did not anticipate much as this was not a behavior I had seen my father engage in while he smoked his pipe.... his manner and behavior was always very methodical and patterned when he smoked his pipe. But, by this time, I figured I might as well try.

Puffing more rapidly on the stem (hiccup) did little to improve the experience. I did notice, however, that I was able to pull thicker, denser clouds of the smoke from the stem. The rapid puffs had apparently pulled the ember deeper into the leaf, ignighting more of the bowlful of tobacco. I had just drawn another large puff of the smoke into my mouth when I hiccuped again... (hiccup)... the hiccup caused me to involuntairily breath the puff of smoke into my lungs, which felt an odd thing to do, but not unpleasant. Suddenly, I started to feel quite different. There was a tingly sensation that began to spread throughout my body. My mind also felt this tingle, but also I started to feel a bit dizzy... not unpleasantly so... in fact it was rather pleasant. It took me a few moments to realize what I had done... I had inhaled the smoke into my lungs. All of the time I had spent observing my father, and yet I had not quite realized the mechanics of what he was actually doing when he smoked his pipe. It was more than just puffing the smoke out of your mouth, you also would inhale the smoke.

Now, I deliberately tried to inhale another puff of the smoke, and more of those feeling washed over my body. The additive effect was a bit strong for me, and I layed back on the platform of the treehouse and stared up into the leaves and sky. The dizziness was a bit stronger, and yet it was very pleasant as long as I layed down. I set the pipe aside and simply continued to experience those feelings throughout my body as I layed there. It was truly beautiful. As I looked up through the leaves of the trees towards the sky, the colors seemed more vibrant and vivid than they had only a few moments before. I felt much more aware of and more a part of my surroundings. My body felt both stimulated and relaxed simultaneously. This was what my father felt! I knew this was the magic, and I could imagine that my face must have held a similar relaxed expression on it as I had seen in his eyes and face so many times. The total even was blissful, and peaceful, and exciting all at the same time.

I layed there for a while and I eventually dozed off for almost an hour. When I awoke, the feelings were (sadly) gone, yet their beautiful memory remained. I looked around for a while, ate my sandwich, and drank the last of my sodapop. Then I struck another match and tried the pipe again. This time, I inhaled one of the puffs shortly after I had the pipe lit. Once again, the beauty of the leaf did not disappoint me... I felt that utter magic, that blissful relaxation that I had wondered about for all those many weeks after becoming aware of the expressions on my father's face as he indulged in his briar pipes. The day, the experience, the whole series of moments are seared indelibly into my neurons, and it was a beautiful, wonderful, life changing experience. From that moment on, I knew in my heart, my mind and my soul, that I was a pipe smoker, and from that moment on, I was.

The date of the above grand day was the 17th of July. It is a vividly magical experience for me even after all these many, many years. All those decades ago, when I was but a kid, and yet, at the same time, I was finding one aspect of my destiny. I cherish the memories.


Thursday, October 13, 2011

New Way For Stem Cells

The following article from Science News identifies a new method to study and utilize stem cell therapies WITHOUT the need for embryonic stem cells. It could help to further develop this technology while at the same time curtailing the controversy inherent in the process as it stands now with most focus being on using embryonic stem cells.

For my own philosophy, I am not comfortable with the use of embryonic stem cells. So, for me, this is a great new path that could truly open the door to a wonderful new scientific methodology.

Stem Cell Advance Uses Cloning: Method Using Eggs to do Reprogramming is Successful in Humans

By Tina Hesman Saey in Science News
Thursday, October 6th, 2011

The same technology that is used to clone animals can induce human eggs to reprogram adult cells to a primitive embryonic-like state. The accomplishment, reported in the Oct. 6 Nature, may one day help researchers develop a source of stem cells that could be used to replace a patient’s own cells.

Scientists had previously shown through cloning experiments that egg cells from many different kinds of animals could perform the feat, but until now, there was no evidence that human eggs could do it.

“There was a big question mark whether this was indeed possible,” says Dieter Egli, a researcher at the New York Stem Cell Foundation.

Though promising from a research perspective, the stem cells Egli and his colleagues produced can’t be used to treat patients.

“This is only partial success,” says George Q. Daley, a stem cell researcher at Children’s Hospital Boston and Harvard Medical School. That’s because the newly created stem cells contain three sets of chromosomes instead of the usual two.

The extra chromosomes come from the egg, which contains one set of chromosomes that a woman would pass along to her offspring. In animal cloning, researchers remove the chromosome-containing nucleus from the egg and replace it with the nucleus from an adult cell. Something in the egg causes the adult cell to revert back to its earliest primordial stage so it acts like a fertilized egg and creates an embryo.

But when researchers tried that technique with human cells, the resulting cells stopped dividing after only four or five rounds. The scientists could reprogram adult cells only when they inserted adult cell nuclei into eggs that retained their own nucleus. So the resulting embryonic cells contain one set of chromosomes from the egg and the normal two sets from the adult cell.

The researchers hope that they will eventually develop ways of removing the egg chromosomes and still reprogram the adult cell. Egli thinks that if the researchers can pull out the egg’s nucleus after the reprogramming but before the two nuclei have a chance to merge, they can create stem cells that might be used in patients.

Regardless of the clinical applications of the newly created stem cells, the study is a “landmark,” says Daley. “We’re still trying to understand the basic mechanism of reprogramming.”

The new cells may help scientists correct flaws in another technology that is used to create stem cells without using embryos. Stem cells called induced pluripotent stem cells are created by transforming adult cells directly into embryonic-like cells by adding a cocktail of proteins. The technology holds great promise, but researchers have recently discovered that the reprogramming in the transformed cells is incomplete (SN: 8/14/10, p. 15; SN: 10/9/10, p. 28). Cancer or other problems might result if such cells were transplanted into a person.

With the new cloning technique, researchers may be able to figure out how the egg reprograms cells. That knowledge could then aid scientists in finding the missing ingredients that could be added to current gene cocktails to make direct, complete reprogramming possible.

Egli and his colleagues don’t yet know what the missing ingredients are, but speculate that they are either contained within the egg’s nucleus or associated with it.

* * * * *

I am still feeling out of sorts today, but I am making myself to do the usual tricks to force myself (hopefully) into a better frame of mind. Also, in case anyone is still interested, I will post the (delayed) conclusion to the "A Grand Day!" essay on Friday.


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

So Sad

Today is a very rough day for me emotionally after following a very difficult b*llsh*t laden day at work yesterday. I feel so very sad. I wish I felt like scampering about, but I do not.


Thursday, October 06, 2011

Out Of Time?

The following article was an amazing one from Science News (see link below). It reports on data suggesting that specific organs in the body other than the brain may have actual clocking mechanisms as well. This is a pretty damn revolutionary idea because our standard understanding up to this point was that timing rhythms (circadian, annular, etc.) were driven exclusively by neuronal means.

Very exciting stuff!

Also, in case you were concerned, I WILL have the last installment of my "A Grand Day!" essay tomorrow. It seemed far more fitting to have on a Friday, anyhow. I am hoping that after I publish it, I will mosey over to my elderly father-in-law's residence and enjoy his company and perhaps some libations and pipes.

Heart Disease Has Its Own Clock: Broken Timers in Organs May Cause Disease

By Tina Hesman Saey
Where: Science News
Web edition : Wednesday, October 5th, 2011

Broken biological clocks in blood vessels may contribute to hardened arteries, even if the main timer in the brain works fine. The finding, from transplant experiments with mice, suggests that throwing off the daily rhythms of the body’s organs can have serious health consequences.

A wealth of evidence shows that skimping on sleep and working against the body’s natural daily, or circadian, rhythms can raise the risk of developing illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes. Scientists assumed that the diseases resulted from malfunctions in a master clock in the brain, which synchronizes sleeping, waking and other body functions with the rising and setting of the sun.

But recently, scientists have discovered that the liver and other organs have their own internal clocks that may work independently of the brain clock and are set by meal times or other cues (SN: 4/10/10, p. 22). It wasn’t clear until now whether disrupting these body clocks could also contribute to disease, says Satchidananda Panda, a circadian rhythm researcher at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, Calif.

The finding may help explain why shift workers, people with sleep disorders and others who disrupt their circadian rhythms by staying up late or eating meals at the wrong time tend to be more vulnerable to heart disease.“If you want to prevent people from getting heart attacks, you have to know whether to treat the clock in the brain or the clock in the heart,” Panda says.
To determine whether it is the brain or body clocks that malfunction when arteries harden, vascular biologist R. Daniel Rudic, of the Georgia Health Sciences University in Augusta and colleagues transplanted blood vessels in mice. Inserting vessels from normal mice into mice with broken brain clocks didn’t lead to problems, the team reports online October 3 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “The blood vessels were pretty normal,” Rudic says. “They didn’t seem to be impacted by the surrounding mess of circadian rhythms.”

But putting arteries from mice with broken clocks into normal mice resulted in the walls of the transplanted arteries becoming thick and less flexible, indicating that diseases may result from timing defects in the vessels, not the brain or the rest of the body. The researchers don’t yet know if blood vessels are more susceptible to circadian defects than other tissues, or whether people with heart disease have timing defects in their blood vessels.

* * * * *

Such an interesting idea!!!! It gives me many things to think about in regards to my own research.


Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Nicotine Vaccine?!?

As many of you have heard, there is now a vaccine that is being tested in trials that will cause an individual's body to form antibodies against nicotine. I find this technological advance very interesting in theory, but I find the end result to be rather sad and depressing.

To be able to create a vaccine for a chemical/pharmacutical agent is a very interesting and remarkable discovery from a scientific standpoint, but the agent that is being targeted, beloved nicotine, is one that saddens me.

I find it perplexing and daunting that there is such anti-tobacco fervor at the moment in our society. I personally think this fervor is due to three primary causes:

1. Tobacco in the modern world is so adulterated with pesticide residues, herbicide residues, and additives that there is no wonder that smoking such chemical laden material can prove health threatening. I am of the opinion, however, that if one were to grow and smoke organic, pesticide-free/herbicide-free/additive-free tobacco in a natural, pesticide-free wooden briar pipe, that there would be a much lower possibility of inducing illness. In other words, given a natural, organic, tobacco leaf and a natural orgainc pipe, I think the risks, if any, would be minimal.

2. The combination of poor ventilation in buildings since the energy crisis of the 1970s making building air less fresh and any tobacco smoke has greater impact.

3. The inclusion of sulfering agents added to cigaretttes in the last 50 years or so... the sulfer is added to cause the cigarettes to burn faster (to increase number of cigarettes consumed... to increase profit), but the sulfer makes the cigarette odor especially foul and able to incite rancor. Cigarettes prior to the mid-1950s did not have this sulferated odor and were not bothersome. (As a sidelight, the fall of use of pipes is a secondary cause as well... pipes, by their nature, tend to be less offensive to non-smokers... and even appreciated by some non-smokers, so that their decline and the rise in cigarette usage is associated with the rise in anti-smoking fervor).

The above three items sadden me and is, at heart, the root cause for this vaccine. I personally relish nicotine and would never wish to be seperated from the pleasaure it can give me. The nurturing comfort I receive from my pipe has helped shape who I am and has made me a better person that I would be without said hobby.

Thinking back to when I was a youngster before my beard and moustache were grey, hell - before I could even grow a beard and moustache, the world was so different, not only for the three reasons stated above, but for the gentle camaraderie that was often expressed... the squeaky wheel didn't always get the grease... instead, people were more tolerant of other's hobbies.


Tuesday, October 04, 2011

A Grand Day! (Part 6... Second to Last Post on this Subject)

[Please note, if you have not done so, and wish to read earlier parts of this essay, please scroll down to where the essay begins. Subsequent parts occur in reverse order.]

I awoke at my usual time the next day, roughly 6am. I could already hear the hustling and bustling in the kitchen. Because it had been warm the previous evening, I had left my bedroom door open just a crack so there could be an exchange of air. I could see my parents through the slight opening of my door. My father had just sat down at the table, his fresh, clean work clothes... especially the vividly white, starched shirt and his richly-colored, dark brown patterned necktie, made him appear even more awe inspiring and worthy of my respect. My mother displayed her typical serene beauty in her simple white smock and beige, ladies pants. My mother had made the two of them breakfast. It was their typical toast and very strong coffee for. Additionally, my mother had opened one of her home grown and canned jars of peaches and placed a peach half in a small bowl for each of them.

My parents both enjoyed and relished each other's company, and they quietly chatted about their goals for the day as the consumed breakfast.

As for me, as it was still early, I decided to plan out my day. First and foremost, I would need to pack some essential items for the day. I brought along a book I had been reading and several jars in case I found some interesting specimens in the woods. I also dug out my insect net from the closet and placed next to my russack. I made a mental note, to ask my mother to make me a sandwich and also to ask for two or three orange and grape sodas to tak along with me for the adventure. Of course, I also had my small handful of matches with me, wrapped in paper and placed deep in my pack.

My father finished his breakfast and proceeded to gather the accoutrements he needed for the workday. As he started to check to see if he had everything, my mother stood up... and with her hand reached up to my father's face. She gently brushed off a few toast crumbs that were clinging to my father's moustache and beard. My father grinned, and thanked her by kissing her hand. He then proceeded to gather his briefcase of papers and books, his pipe, pouch, and matches and lighter, and finally the lunch my mother had packed. After another brief kiss (this time on the lips), and wishes to have a great day, my father was off to work. My mother started humming quietly to herself as she tidied up the kitchen. I finished straightening my room and then went out into the kitchen.

My mother had warming on the stove the oatmeal we older kids were going to eat for breakfast that day. As my parents were not particularly strict about timetables for us children during the summer, I was the only one awake, and hence I was the first one up and out. My other siblings were still sleeping. My mother and I chatted a bit while she prepared a bowl of oatmeal for me, putting raisins and slices of the canned peaches on top along with a large spoonful of brown sugar. Then she poured a little bit of milk onto the oatmeal and also poured me a glass of milk as well. She sat these before me with a spoon.

I heartily began to eat the oatmeal, it being one of my favorite foods. My mother came and sat beside me and we talked. I told her I had planned to spend time out in the woods today searching for things and asked if she would make me a sandwich that I could take with me. My mother, who also tended to naturally awaken very early had already made sandwiches for me and for my siblings that day and simply gathered one and wrapped it individually in waxed paper for me. I also asked if I could take one orange and one grape sodapop with me, and she smiled and said yes. She reminded me that I should drink the sodapop slowly as it often gave me hiccups if I drank it too rapidly. I promised her I would. With that I finished my breakfast and finished getting ready for the day of exploration. I waved to her as I left and she smiled and waved back at me.

The day itself was sunny, yet pleasantly cool and dry. It was perhaps 60 degrees and virtually no humidity marred the texture of the air. It was an unusually cool and dry morning for the start of July and I relished it greatly. Once out into the woods, I first ran to the edge of the stream and put my two glass bottles of sodapop into the water to get them cool, and the I immediately raced back to the platform of my developing fort. I climbed the latter and immediately sat down. I could hear many different, quite sounds from birds and insects as they too were starting their day. Forgetting for a second, I then raced down from the platform and went to the nook of the tree and reached inside and pulled out the bag with the pipe inside. Heading back up the ladder I sat down and opened my russack and pulled out the matches. I was terribly excited and nervous and anticipatory all at the same time. I gripped the stem of the pipe between my teeth and proceeded to strike the match against the rough surface of the rock. Again, just like in my initial attempt, the first match I tried broke off at the tip.

Fortunately, this time I had several matches. However, I could tell this lighting of a match was a more difficult task than I had first anticipated. I took the pipe out of my mouth and laid it on the plank floor, and proceeded to examine the match more closely. I kept trying to figure out what it was I did incorrectly. Thinking back to how my father lit matches, I kept looking back in my my memory at what he would do. I slowly recalled through deep thought about how my father held the match differently than I had been doing. He would hold the match between his thumb and index finger... near the head of the match, and then use the rest of his fingers to steady the back of the match. He then swiftly rubbed the head against a brick or a rock.

All right. "I can do this." I thought to myself, I slowly positioned the match between my index finger and my thumb. It felt very awkward. Then because my hand was so much smaller, I basically rested the stick end of the match in my palm. To me this seemed so strange and it did not feel natural. Previously I had simply grabbed the wooden end of the match with my fingers and rubbed it around on the rock. With the match in this new position, I tried again, but lost grip on it and it fell to the ground below. By this time I was very frustrated. I was bound and determined to do this correctly. Using a third match, I held it in position and rubbed it swiftly against the rock. Suddenly, the match flared into life! But at the same time, my fingers were VERY CLOSE to that flare! The heat seemed intense, and I involuntarily shook my hand and the match dropped again through a crack between the planks and fell to the ground below. I could not tell if the match was still lit or not, and I feared that it could cause the forrest to catch fire, so I quickly ran down the platform and looked at the spot until I found the match. Even though it WAS out and not lit, to be safe, I rubbed the ground and the match with the heel of my shoe to ensure it was safe.

Back on the platform, I positioned another match in my hand, this time not holding so close to the head of the match, and tried again. This time, while the flare startled me, my fingers were not too close and I did not drop it. I quickly repositioned my hand so that I held the wooden end of the match and reached for the pipe. Quickly, I put the stem of the pipe in my mouth and brought the flame of the match to the bowl. Pretending it was a drinking straw, I sucked on the stem and the flame was pulled into the bowl. It looked just like how my dad did it! I sucked in on the stem of the pipe a few more times and soon there was a little wispy smoke that was drawn into my mouth. It was not very flavorful, and did not taste as good as it had simply smelled when my father was smoking his pipes. Do not get me wrong.... it was not horrible, but it was not nearly as exciting as I had anticipated. I puffed on the pipe a few more times, but all I could think of was that this was.... DULL. Not only did the pipe not taste as amazing as I thought it would, but also, I did not feel any sense of relaxation from the pipe like my father did. What was going on?

I was discouraged and sad at my findings. The pipe, which seemed so utterly magical and beautiful for my father, seemed to be dull and even boring for me. I was completely disappointed.

I sat there for about 15 minutes wondering about why I did not find the pipe as exciting as my father did, and feeling quite "gyped". I sat the pipe aside, and decided to go hunting for insects and amphibians for a while. I did not know what I was going to do about the pipe, but I did not feel like thinking about it anymore, it was so... DULL.

[Another good stopping point for now. Comments or suggestions are always appreciated. Next.... the ACTUAL conclusion to this long-winded story.]


Monday, October 03, 2011

A Grand Day! (Part 5)

[Please note, if you have not done so, and wish to read earlier parts of this essay, please scroll down to where the essay begins. Subsequent parts occur in reverse order.]

The sadness that enveloped me and the frustration that gripped at my soul was enormous and I cried for a long, long time. However, after a while, the frustration dissipated and I needed to figure out what my next plan would be.

I had several options but was unsure which to select. One, I could simply forget the whole thing, knock the untouched pipe tobacco out of the bowl of the pipe and carefully sneak the pipe back into my father's den. Two, I could go sneak out a few more matches from the kitchen. Or, three, I could hide the pipe and tobacco and try again when the opportunity presented itself. Option one was quite distasteful to me and I quickly ignored that option. Likewise, however, option two... trying to immediately get matches from the kitchen, was also unlikely. I knew my mother would be spending a great deal of time in the kitchen for the remainder of the day. Because of this, I knew it would be nearly impossible to obtain matches to try the pipe. With the previous two options unworkable, option three seemed the best bet.

Luckily, as I had been building the platform that was to become the tree house, I had found a small cubby hole in one of the nearby trees that I had been using for storage of various asundery items. I had paper bags, nails, a book and a few magazines as well as other things in the cubby hole. I pulled out one of the brown paper bags... lunch bag sized and carefully placed the filled pipe into the bag. Additionally, I took the remainder of the tobacco leaf I had obtained onto a small piece of paper and folded the edges to keep the extra leaf contained. I also put this into the bag, and then proceeded to crumple the top of the bag closed. I placed the bag back into the far reaches of the cubby hole and then left and went back home.

* * * * *

The pipe sitting out in that cubby hole was just about the only thing I could think about that afternoon and evening. I was concerned that my father might notice it was missing. I was worried someone would find the pipe and steal it. I was fearful an animal might find it and chew it to bits. And finally, I was utterly anxious to be able to go back out there and try it out.

As I sat around, waiting for my chance to grab a few matches, I continued to watch my father engage in his own beautiful dance/battle with the pipe. Shortly after dinner, my father, still dressed in his work clothes from the day's teaching, would go out into the backyard and loosen and remove his tie, unbutton his collar, roll up his shirt sleeves and take off both his shoes and his socks. A rope hammock, strung between two large oak trees, was my father's destination. This was my father's favorite spot to read the paper on dry Summer evenings. He climbed in to the hammock and said back comfortably, the newspaper that was tucked under his arm, now resting on the white linen of the shirt, near his stomach. I and most of my siblings (those that were old enough to walk, anyhow), were playing in a rather raucous game of tag, and my mother was still in the house, mostly likely nursing one of my younger siblings.

My father gently unfolded the newspaper, and with his knees bent, propped the paper against him as he lay in the hammock. With unconscious precision, he reached into his shirt pocket and removed his pipe and lighter. Reaching toward his back pocket with his other hand, he removed his leather tobacco pouch and opened it with one hand and proceeded to guide the crumbles of leaf into the bowl of the pipe he held in his other hand. Again, without glancing up from his newspaper, my father filled and tamped the pipe, and brought it up to his mouth, his bushy moustache and beard enveloping the stem as he gripped it between his teeth. Using his lighter, he melded the flame into the leaf in the bowl and took large, rapid puffs from the pipe to get it going well. Finally, with the pipe well lit, he took a large draw from the stem and inhaled it deeply into his lungs. Slowly he exhaled the rich smoke, and I watched it curl slowly from his nostrils. Again, the sense of relaxation and contentment was on my father's face.

A few moments later, my mother, as was her custom, came out of the house carrying a glass filled with a beverage for my father. The drink was beautifully cold, and today it happened to be lemonade. Other times, my mother would bring my father iced tea, or sometimes a tall glass of beer. As she brought the drink to him, he grinned a broad grin, and removed the pipe from his mouth, took the proffered glass from my mother and took a drink of the lemonade, feeling refreshed. He then reached over to my mother and brought her face close to his and gave her a deep, prolonged, furry-faced kiss of thanks. My mother always appreciated my father and he appreciated her. Their love and kindness to each other and to us children, was a wonderful model for us to wittiness as we grew up. I think it helped each of us make wise decisions in the course and development of our own marriages and ensuing families.

Returning the pipe to his mouth and the half empty glass to his side, my father again began to read the newspaper as my mother went back into the house. After only a few moments, my mother came out with a tray with a pitcher of lemonade and glasses for us children and we also had the wonderful, refreshing drink. My mother went and sat in a chair that was near the garden, very near the hammock by my father.

I realized this was likely my best chance, so I put down the lemonade, and informed my parents I needed to go to the bathroom, and proceeded inside and immediately pocketed at least a half of a dozen matches. I then went into the bathroom and quickly flushed the toilet before heading back outside.

The rest of the evening was spent having fun with my family, but in the back of my mind, I was eagerly awaiting tomorrow, so that I could once again go out into the woods to try out the pipe.

[Another good stopping point for now. Comments or suggestions are always appreciated. Next.... nearing the conclusion to this long-winded story.]


Sunday, October 02, 2011

Ideas from Mass

Let me now sing of my friend,
my friend's song concerning his vineyard.
My friend had a vineyard
on a fertile hillside;
he spaded it, cleared it of stones,
and planted the choicest vines;
within it he built a watchtower,
and hewed out a wine press.
Then he looked for the crop of grapes,
but what it yielded was wild grapes.

- From Isaiah Chapter 5, beginning

Besides having me think about having a glass of nice, red wine, this excerpt from the first reading that I heard at Mass Saturday evening had me think about whether or not I am doing what I should be doing with my life. Am I working to make a real difference? Am I doing anything of merit? Am I using my time here in a way that is helpful?

I still feel flummoxed so much of the time.... the confusion always revolving around what I *should* do to try to be a better person... to be a person who *is* helpful and kind. At one level I feel like I do work to help the greater good. But if I peer at myself in a different way I only see my failure in life. I see how horrid I am and how wasteful I am.

It is so challenging to know what to do at times.


Saturday, October 01, 2011

Four More Days

[I shall resume, "A Grand Day!" on Monday.]

Just a brief note about an important countdown... my barber will be back in four days so that I can revert back to my normal, somewhat natty, professorial look instead of being a scruff ball. More details forthcoming.