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, November 23, 2011

Coffee (Part 2) & Tea

BBC commented a bit about my coffee post and what he said gave me a bit more reason to talk about coffee and also now about tea:

In terms of the way I like coffee and tea... I like both very strong. Any coffee will do as long as it is very strong. At the U, there is a Starbucks, and occasionally I will buy a cup from them. The flavors are very pronounced and heavy... which appeals to me as well. Most days I drink three cups (if you count 8oz as a typical cup) of coffee.

I always drink my coffee black. Added sugar or cream or things like that will mute the rich, dark coffee flavor. I have had "flavored" coffees... these are coffees with extracts added to them like vanilla or hazelnut (but no sugar). I like to have these flavored varieties on occasion, but again.... black only.

As for tea.... I drink copious quantities of iced tea. I can easily drink three quarts a day of the stuff if we have it around and ready. As with coffee, I like my iced tea PLAIN. No sugar, no lemon. And when my wife makes iced tea for me, she makes in a large, glass, gallon container. Because I like it very strong, she will first steep 15-20 teabags in boiling water on the stove for several minutes and then let it cool. She will then pour this mixture into the glass container (including the tea bags) and fill the rest with cold water. After it sits in the fridge and gets cold, I pour it over ice and it is wonderful. I like virtually every type of tea I have ever tried, but regular, run-of-the-mill tea is great to me, as is green tea.

The one thing that is a bit odd in my coffee & tea behavior.... actually my drinking behavior overall is that I simply DO NOT LIKE hot beverages of any kind. I never have liked them. When I drink coffee, I will let it cool to room temperature or actually pour it over ice to get cold. I never drink hot tea, only iced. I do not like hot chocolate (I let it cool to room temperature or put ice in it). I do not like "hot toddies" (although, I will gladly enjoy the alcohol at room temperature or iced :) ).

This dislike of hot beverages actually parlays into food as well. I do not like hot food. I *always* prefer food that I eat to be very mildly warm at best, and tend to prefer room temperature or cold food. Because of this, I am always extremely "gracious" at all family events and other functions because I am more than happy to let folks go ahead of me in line so that the food has a chance to cool off. The only exception is when people use heated chaffing tables to keep food hot. In that instance, I prefer to try to get my food quickly to a plate so it can sit and cool off considerably prior to my eating it.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Beautiful Coffee

I relish coffee... like I relish many things. As I knew in my psyche, it is a substance that my brain likes a helluva lot. Here is a new science article helping us to understand why:

Coffee Delivers Jolt Deep in the Brain:
Caffeine Strengthens Electrical Signals in Rats’ Hippocampus

By Laura Sanders at Science News
Web edition : Monday, November 21st, 2011

Most caffeine aficionados would tell you that coffee sharpens the mind. It turns out that in rodents, a single dose of caffeine does indeed strengthen brain cell connections in an underappreciated part of the brain, scientists report online November 20 in Nature Neuroscience.

A clearer idea of caffeine’s effect on the brain could allow scientists to take advantage of its stimulating effects and perhaps even alleviate some symptoms of brain disorders. “Caffeine is something people are very interested in,” says neuroscientist Susan Masino of Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., who was not involved in the study.

So far, most of caffeine’s effects have been illuminated by studies using doses much higher than an average person’s morning cup of joe, says study coauthor Serena Dudek of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in Research Triangle Park, N.C.

Dudek and her team looked at the effects of smaller hits of caffeine on a small part of the hippocampus. In humans, this seahorse-shaped structure is buried deep in the brain behind the ears. After feeding rats the equivalent of two human cups of coffee (two milligrams of caffeine per kilogram of body weight), the team measured the strength of nerve cells’ electrical messages in slices of brain tissue. Nerve cells in this particular nook — a brain region called CA2 — got a major jolt from caffeine, showing a bigger burst of electrical activity when researchers stimulated the cells. Nerve cells in a neighboring part of the hippocampus didn’t show this sensitivity.

And the higher the caffeine dose, the stronger the effect. A caffeine dose 10 times higher — a dose reached by only die-hard caffeine consumers — caused an even bigger response in nerve cells in the CA2 region.

The team found similar effects when they applying caffeine directly to CA2 nerve cells in a dish, a result that rules out effects from post-caffeine changes in blood flow. After five minutes of caffeine exposure, the synapses stayed amped up for three hours.

“We don’t know what it looks like in humans, but in rodents, we think this is the area most sensitive to caffeine,” Dudek says.

These strengthened synapses in the hippocampus may have a role in learning and memory, which makes sense because one of the main jobs of the hippocampus is to form spatial memories. (After navigating London’s labyrinthine roads for years, for instance, cab drivers have larger hippocampi than normal folks.)

Though the results are the first to establish CA2 as a caffeine hot spot, it’s too early to say how the research will apply to people, says psychologist Harris Lieberman of the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine in Natick, Mass. “It’s hard to jump from these kinds of studies to direct application to humans.”

* * * * *

It makes me think of a variety of potential corollary studies I could devise myself for my research students to work on. It could be very fun.


Monday, November 21, 2011


My friend, BBC, asked me in the comments section about my opinion of "Stock '84" brandy. Unfortunately, when he had posed that question, I have to admit to never having had said liquor. I decided to rectify that situation this past Friday. I bought a fifth of the fluid and took it with me to visit my elderly father-in-law late Friday afternoon.

My impressions of the drink are highly favorable. I like a bit of a rough edge to the flavors of my amber liquors (a clear liquor like gin, I prefer to be smooth). Stock 84 was not harsh by any means, but it did have a nice little edge to its flavor upon swallowing. The brandy went VERY nicely with the pipes we also indulged in. An excellent afternoon was had by the two of us.

Although I will try to elaborate further on Tuesday, I am still working hard to shed b*llsh*t from my life, and although it is an elaborate, enormous effort, I am seeing some positive effects. I believe I am now going to be able to back to regular, daily (or nearly daily) posting as a result.


Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Lot of Obnoxious B*llsh*t

A tremendous load of b*llsh*t has been going on at work and it has been very challenging for me to deal with emotionally. I have been working at adjusting my priorities in life so as to not let all this utter nonsense get to me.

One of the things that is so difficult for me is that I have the type of personality that really wants to find compromise when situations arise where there are two or more very opposed issues. Also, my personality is such that I also try to encourage tolerance and to be a tolerant person.

Well, in the last few weeks, I have been running head-long into a whole bunch of truly idiotic, intolerant, nasty, uncompromising people. And, I have felt almost smothered by their obstinate and simply vulgar behavior.

The difficulty however, is actually with ME. I have always had a stubborn, damn-dog determination to keep trying to find ways to FIX situations like these. In reality, I have been pretty successful BECAUSE of this stubborn, damn-dog determination most of my life. However, and this has been the extremely difficult thing for me to learn.... I *DO NOT* have to try to "fix" everything in situations like these. The physical and emotional toll this b*llsh*t puts on me us unhealthy, and I DO NOT need to let it control my life.

So, what I have been doing, especially since this past weekend is to work out a plan in my mind to disengage myself from this particular b*llsh*t issue AND... here is the even better part.... to disengage myself from all sorts of more minor b*llsh*t issues as well.

It will not be a swift task, unfortunately, because many of these issues are related to aspects of work I have committed myself to for years. But, in my strategy, I am getting rid of some of this crap each and every day, and I believe I should be able to disentangle myself from virtually all of this evil nonsense by perhaps the middle of March.

If my plan goes as I am envisioning it, I believe it will do me a whole helluva lot of good emotionally and physically. I think I will be able to appreciate and love my family a lot more. I think I will be able to even enjoy and love work again, and I believe I will feel unencumbered in ways I have not felt in at least 4 years.

This is the time of year in which I normally go to deer camp. Unfortunately, the dates for the deer hunt are not the best this year. November 15, 16, & 17 traditionally are the biggest hunting days of the year and therefore are the times when you have the best crowds for raucous drinking, smoking, eating, and poker playing at the cabins. With those dates occurring EXACTLY mid-week this year, it is challenging for me to get there on those dates with my teaching schedule. Weekend or close to weekend dates for those dates are quite frequent, and are much easier for me to work with.

What I am going to do though, is talk with as many of the gang I can get a hold of in the next few days and see if many of them are planning to stick around deer camp THROUGH the weekend after the 17th. If they are, I WILL go up there to join the revelry! If, however, as may be the case, they are heading out before the weekend, I may not go.


Tuesday, November 01, 2011


I have not been posting and may not post for a while, because since the last post:

1. I have been very upset.
2. I have been very angry.
3. I have been extremely stressed.

If I were to try to put down on paper my extreme emotions (such as seething rage, wanting to give up on it all, my despair) it would do no one (including myself) any good. So it is best I keep quiet until I turn a corner and can again feel a modicum of relief and happiness.