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, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas

Family. Food. Libations. Celebration of life. All is good.


Saturday, December 24, 2011

Day Before Christmas

It is the day before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature is stirring, not even a mouse (nor a damn rat either). I hope all of you have a great day and evening tonight, and if you celebrate Christmas, I hope you have a wonderful Christmas day tomorrow.


Friday, December 23, 2011

Not For Imobilization

Austere asked why I wanted to imobolize my finger. Truth is, I did not use the splint for imobilization. Instead, I simply used it as a hard covering over the end of my finger to avoid hitting the end of my finger from use and causing re-injury. It actually only imobilizes my first joint on the finger, so while cumbersome, it is worth it for the protection.


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Aggravating Finger

A brierfer post today. I am wearing one of the contraptions above to protect my finger where I was bitten. It is not a serious wound, but it is deep, and I think that by wearing this for a few days prior to the holiday, my finger will heal more rapidly, and not be continually bumped. The metal cage does protect the tip of my finger (the site of the injury) but it is clumsy and cumbersome. It also makes typing a bit of a chore. However, bumping the injury can cause the tissue healing to take longer as it keeps re-opening the repairing tissues.


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Damn Rat

Laboratory rats are usually very docile and pleasant creatures to work with. However, one genetic strain of rat that I currently am using for one strand of my research is much more edgy and intense. Today, one of these rats bit my finger. It is nothing serious, but it is annoying. It is only the third bite I have ever experienced in my many decades of working with thousands of rats. The difficulty (problem) is that rat bites are deep, so they are slower to heal.


Tuesday, December 20, 2011


Today is a wretched milestone. 17 years ago today, my niece, who was 17 at the time, committed suicide by swallowing a handful of beta-blocker, hypertensive medication that belonged to one of her parents. She would now be 34 years old if she had not done that asinine act.

She was a wonderful, academically smart, beautiful young lady. She had been accepted at the college she had desired and was planning on becoming a high school teacher. She even had a significant amount of scholarship money that she had obtained as well as backup support in the form of grants and loans if needed.

Why did she do it? She was awoken shortly after taking the damn pills, and then went to the emergency room where her stomach was pumped. She was lucid and talking for much of the time. Unfortunately, enough of the drug entered her system that she went into cardiac arrest and was unable to be revived.

I do not know why I am even thinking about this now. For the first year or so after her passing, it was exceptionally hard. She had been the niece I was the closest to in terms of personality. I was filled with rage, anger, and despair. I am not sure how a person is *supposed* to deal with a suicide, never having had one occur in my family previously. I also am not sure what is the *best* way to handle the issue in order to "move on". For me, I simply have learned to shut down and compartmentalize the rage, anger, and despair into some sort of box which I bury deep somewhere inside myself.

Today is the first day in quite a while that I have actually THOUGHT ABOUT her, and purposefully tried to REMEMBER who she was before that day. For the most part, I do not think about her or the 17 years she spent on Earth, because to do so brings back the numerous happy times and happy memories of who she had been. That may sound good, but then the rage and pain return because no matter how I try, there is no longer any way to remember just those good times. The suicide itself is the overwhelming event that has now defined each and every aspect of her life.

Thinking about her today causes significant pain. I had forgotten how harsh that pain was. In my mind's eye, I replay over and over in my mind her younger sister (who was 13 at the time) as she cried and wept and screamed at her sister as she was dying on the hospital bed in the intensive care unit to "wake up", to "come back", to "not leave".

As it is, I am writing now with tears streaming down my cheeks into my beard. This is stupid. It is foolish, it is a waste of time for me to write this sh*t. It is a waste of time for me to think about this sh*t.


Monday, December 19, 2011


I am feeling mushy in my mind.... mind you, I am not suggesting the *pleasant* sort of mushy mind feeling after having had a few libations. I am talking about the unpleasant, unfocused sort of mindset you get after having spent an entire day engrossed in minutia details. I am going through my syllabi with a fine toothed comb to ferret out any errors, and to adjust and check dates, and to finalize what labs will occur when during the next semester. Working through all of these knit-picky little details has given me a headache, and I think I am going to go home and just forget about it for a while. I will head back to it either tonight or tomorrow. I just want to get my secretary the details sometime tomorrow so that she can fix-it-up to make it look nice and polished and ship it off to graphics.


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Song About Psalm 174

There is a song we sing at mass frequently that has remained in my mind since yesterday as I was listening to it on a CD I have of the mass parts. I was driving around in my truck doing various errands. Amongst them, I went to a couple of stores to pick up a few items (bagels, flowers for my wife, some cheese, olives, pipe tobacco). The song version was far more moving than the writing of the words, but here they are:

I will praise your name, my King and my God.

1. I will give you glory, my God and King, and I will bless your name forever.
Every day I will bless and praise your name forever.

2. The Lord is full of grace and mercy. He is kind and slow to anger.
He is good in all His works and full of compassion.

3. Let all your works give you thanks, O Lord, and let all the faithful bless you.
Let them speak of your might, O Lord, the glory of your kingdom.

4. The Lord is faithful in all His words, and always near. His name is holy.
He lifts up all those who fall. He raises up the lowly.


Saturday, December 17, 2011

What To Do?

I am still thinking about making a full blown effort to give up my pipe. Part of me thinks I should. Part of me resists. I am trying to figure out how to either a) get 100% on board with refraining or b) fully dispel the notion that I should quit from my mind. The "in-the-middle" state is frustrating.


Friday, December 16, 2011

Hot Damn!

No, that is not what I am planning to drink later today. It is an exclamation I am making as I am nearing the end of the semester and am working feverishly to get the obnoxious grades in.

Truth be told, I do not give a damn what grade a student earns. Grades mean absolutely nothing to me. I have known students who earn an "A" and are unable to think worth sh*t. I have had students who earn an "F" and are very insightful. And I have seen all manner of students at either extreme and in-between.

What I care about when I speak to a student of mine is how he or she THINKS. If the student can use their logical mind to discuss, predict, and hypothesize about matters related to the particular biological discipline I have taught them, then I have succeeded even if they have earned a "D" in terms of points.

Now, of course, the reality is that in the vast majority of cases, a student of mine would earn at least a "C" grade or better on my tests (which are logic based and driven), so most of my best students have earned "A", "B", or "C" from me, and very few of the "smart" ones have earned a lower grade, but it does happen.

I am thinking I will get some preliminary grades and allow them to "marinate" over the weekend. I am thinking I may "marinate" my mind with some pleasant libations this afternoon as well.


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Food Cravings

It is rather unusual for me to get what I consider to be "food cravings." Do not get me wrong, I relish food and look forward to every meal with gusto. In the process of losing the 100 pounds (~45 kg)that I have lost, I actually find greater enjoyment and deeper pleasure in the foods I eat than I did when I was heavier.

Today, however, I am experiencing a food craving. Perhaps "craving" isn't the right word either, though. I have been thinking about pizza ever since I smelled a particularly good smelling pizza pie baking in the U cafeteria as I walked to class.

["Now, hold it right there, Bub!" I can hear you muttering, "It is only about 9am where you are at."

"You are correct!" I would say with a wide, furry-faced grin of bemusement.

"Who the hell eats pizza, hot out of the oven, at 8 o'clock in the morning?!?" you sputter.

"A large contingent of college students." I would say, laughing. "Our U tried an experiment to see if pizzas made that early in the morning would sell, and sure enough, the traditional pizza has become a very popular breakfast item."

"Hmm." you ponder as you do not know how to respond.

"All of us know that for generations, people have eaten COLD pizza for breakfast. So, why not hot pizza as well?" ]

So, suffice it to say, I have had pizza on the mind this morning. I was specifically, though, thinking about my favorite toppings. Hell, I like damn near all of them, so here is a listing of my favorites and then a smaller list of items I am not fond of on pizza:

The "Best of the Best":

Italian Sausage
Green Olives
Green Peppers
Black Olives

"Very Good" Items:

Tomato Slices (fresh or sun-dried)
Banana Peppers
Leaf Oregano
Leaf Basil
Double Cheese

Acceptable Items:

Feta Cheese

Items I Dislike on Pizza:

Ground Beef

* * * * *

I really do not want to eat a slice of pizza at the moment, but the smell from the U Cafeteria as I walked by earlier, sure did send a flood of pleasant thoughts through my mind about pizza.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Hand Bicycle

At the gym each morning, I am now (in addition to my 5 mile walk outside), bicycling with a "hand bicycle" much like that shown above for 3 miles. I think it is having a positive effect on my arms and chest region. I started using this hand bicycle about 2 weeks ago. I should write down the date.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Newest News on Obesity

As is common knowledge in physiology circles, the nation is experiencing an obesity epidemic. Many very good researchers are focusing on the biological control of eating behaviors that can lead to obesity. There have been several studies showing potential hormonal links, genetic links, and other links. Now, very interesting research is suggesting a neural and neurohormonal cause:

Cilia Control Eating Signal: Little Hairlike Appendages in Brain Cells Control Weight by Sequestering an Appetite Hormone

By Tina Hesman Saey in Science News

Web edition : Thursday, December 8th, 2011

A primary cilium (red) protrudes from a neuron (green). Most normal cells in healthy people have primary cilia. New research shows that the hairlike cilia help suppress appetite.N. Berbari and Bradley Yoder

DENVER — The action of tiny hair-like appendages on cells can mean the difference between fat and thin. Now scientists have a better idea of how the little hairs, called primary cilia, control appetite.

Primary cilia — single, hairlike projections that all cells in vertebrates usually have — seem to sequester a protein that senses and responds to an appetite-stimulating hormone, Nicolas Berbari of the University of Alabama at Birmingham reported December 6 at the annual meeting of the American Society for Cell Biology. In people and mice that lack primary cilia, the appetite stimulant works overtime, leading to overeating and obesity, Berbari said.

These findings may lead to new ways to control appetite and prevent or reverse obesity.

And the study may help scientists better understand the process of eating, said Kirk Mykytyn, a cell biologist at Ohio State University in Columbus. “This work is important because it’s more thoroughly clarifying the molecular mechanism involved in obesity associated with the loss of cilia,” he said.

A mouse that lacks primary cilia in its cells becomes obese (right) compared with a normal mouse (left).N. Berbari and Bradley Yoder

People with Bardet-Biedl syndrome have defects in genes responsible for building primary cilia. A prominent consequence of the disease is obesity. Working with mice that also lack primary cilia due to defects in the same genes, Berbari and his colleagues tried to figure out exactly how the cellular appendages are involved in appetite.

Previous research had suggested that primary cilia work like tiny antennae, helping nerve cells in an eating-control center of the brain to sense an appetite-dampening hormone called leptin. The theory was that taking away the cilia also removed leptin’s ability to put the brakes on eating.

But Berbari and colleagues found that mice lacking cilia still respond to leptin as an appetite suppressant, suggesting that sensing the hormone is not the problem.

“The original work was barking up what was the most obvious tree, but turned out to be the wrong tree,” Berbari said.

Instead, the researchers discovered that a protein called MCHR1, which senses an appetite stimulant called melanin-concentrating hormone, is normally found in primary cilia. Concentrating the sensor protein in the cilia may keep the protein from inappropriately triggering eating.

Berbari has preliminary evidence that his hypothesis may be correct. He fed peanut butter pellets containing a drug that inactivates MCHR1 to mice with intact cilia and to mice that have no cilia. The mice with intact cilia maintained their regular weight despite having unlimited access to food. Mice lacking cilia lost weight when given the drug, suggesting that turning off MCHR1’s ability to stimulate appetite corrects the appetite-control problems caused by missing cilia.

The researchers still don’t know exactly how MCHR1 activity stimulates appetite or how the cilia keep the sensor in check.

* * * * *

As with the case of the earlier discoveries of hormonal and genetic links to obesity, it is unlikely that this neural and neurohormone association is the complete picture. But, it is a very intriguing next step in our understanding of this issue.


Monday, December 12, 2011

Trying to Be the "Better" Me

I have been thinking about my efforts to try to be a better person. In general, I think I am "ok" as a person, but, there are PLENTY of things I could do to be a gentler, kinder, more helpful, and more caring.

However, because a part of being a better person involves being willing to be open to others, I find one of the most challenging aspects for me personally in trying to be a better person is maintaining that philosophy in my mind all during the day. What I mean is the following:

1. I generally *know* what I *should* do to be a better person.

2. When I try hard, I *can* be a better person.

3. When I am *not* focused on trying to be a better person, my mind easily drifts to other pursuits and I can easily fail.

4. What I need to figure out is how to maintain a sense of willingness to continually be a servant to others all the time. It is when I serve other's needs that I am being who I *can* become.

It is a profound and important lesson. But it is so damn hard to maintain. I want to do better.


Monday, December 05, 2011

Pleasant Weekend

I had a very pleasant weekend! It is so very nice thinking that I am perhaps already seeing some of the improvements in my life with my "End the B*llsh*t!" campaign. On Friday, I indulged in some libations and was feeling a little bit raucous during the evening. We played games and watched television and I read the conclusion of the novel I had been working through (Cook's "Mutation").

That night, I slept soundly, but awoke at 3:45am and felt wide awake. So instead of waiting until 5:00am (my usual walking time), I dressed and headed out the door to walk at 4:00am. It was actually very nice walking at that time of morning. I did not see a single automobile nor another soul. It was quiet and peaceful and I prayed the rosary and composed my thoughts.

We went to a museum on Saturday and helped out at a cookie sale (fundraiser) during the morning. In the afternoon we made a new red lentil soup that could simmer until dinner, and then went to Mass. Saturday evening was spent just relaxing.

On Sunday, we ate a light breakfast and immediately dug into decorating for the Holidays. There was enough of a temperature rise this weekend that I was able to even get outside to string lights on the house (I was fearful that I had lost the opportunity to put up lights.... with all the snow we have been having, the gutters were filled solid. However, the weekend had a brief upswing in temperatures into the mid-30s... just enough to clear out the gutters so I could hang the lights on the house.)

We took a break around 1pm and the whole family went to the local Eastern Indian restaurant to eat an early dinner (This resturant has a buffet from noon-three, which we enjoy because we get to have greater variety than ordering from the menu at other times of the day.). The different curries, and the various dishes were amazing and delicious as always and we ate our fill and probably some beyond that. There was a wonderfully beautiful and tasty addition to the dessert area as well. It was a sweetened rice dish in a carrot/pumpkin puree and it had some saffron in it as well as some other spices. It was good. My wife and kids were very partial to the other desert item (small cakes in glazed honey), and I ate some of that as well, but the sweetened rice dish really struck me as the best.

Upon returning home, we continued to decorate until we were seeing green and red swim before our eyes.... and gave up for the evening. We then sat down and watched television for about an hour before heading to bed, where I started a new novel.

While the above may seem rather mundane and "ho-hum" to many folks.... to me, this sort of weekend was a true gift. It is a gift I am hoping is a result of the very hard work I am putting in to the "End the B*llsh*t!" effort, and it is something that I hope becomes much, much more the norm than the exception as I keep working to bring my life back into the focus I want for it and my family.


Thursday, December 01, 2011


I am still on my quest to make life happier and better for myself and for my family. I am still making progress too! I am slowly clearing out the b*llsh*t and making my life my own again. I am actually seeing progress. It will still be likely through April or May for me to reach the point I am aiming for in ridding myself of b*llsh*t, but I can already feel some of the horrible, oppressive weight on the yoke on my shoulders starting to lessen. I am so very hopeful that I am going to continue to have success in this way.

I have been saying (sometimes here, but mostly in my own head) for the past three or so years that "I miss who I used to be." Part of me thought it was simply me growing older, having loved ones die, and all the normal day-to-day things. But, it has taken me concerted thought to finally realize the following:

1. Yes, I am getting older (duh).
2. Yes, there is pain and sadness in losing people you love.
3. Yes, there are always and will always be normal day-to-day frustrations.


4. All those (above three) things are NORMAL and ARE things I HAVE BEEN ABLE TO HANDLE as well as anyone handles those things.
5. Those three items ARE NOT the major cause of my feeling so very, very low. Those first three issues do occasionally give me pause and may make me feel a bit sad or melancholy but not in an unrelenting way.
6. What has been making me feel the horrid ways I have been feeling *ARE* all the b*llsh*t tasks I have acquired (accepted?) that have been pure scutt work FOR OTHERS... and basically has allowed for an endless gripefest from a whole cadre of polarized nasty people at the U who do not know the meaning of compromise nor of academic congeniality.
7. I slowly began to realize how without meaning to, I fell into this quicksand-like trap of obnoxious, annoying, unrewarding, nerve degerating, happiness destroying, research reducing, teaching obliterating, SCUTT B*LLSH*T and IT WILL STOP!
8. Getting myself out of this quicksand is my number two priority right after making sure I show more love and devotion to my family.

* * * * *

With all my talk about b*llsh*t, you may be wondering why the hell do I have 1167 as the title of my essay today? Well, I have not updated you on this facet of my life in a while, but today is the 1167th day in a row where I have walked about 5 miles outside each and every day in a row without missing a day. Being sub-freezing now, I am in long underwear and sweat pants and sweat shirts on my early morning (5:00am) walk. Also, because of the snow, slush, and ice, I am wearing heavy winter boots as well. But it is a wonderful way to wake up in the morning.

I am also getting some new patterns for myself in the U gym that I have been visiting prior to getting to my lab and office each morning. I am now lifting weights to tone my upper body (I have been doing this, but had a 5 week refrain because the U dismantled the old equipment and it took 5 weeks to get the new stuff in and set up), but also I am now running (moderate jogging) a 1/2 mile each weekday INSIDE on the U track. I am doing this because it is not safe for me to jog outside with the potential for ice on the roads and sidewalks at this time of year. And, additionally, the U gym has acquired a handful of exercise "bikes" for your arms. These are actually resistance devices that look just like a stationary bike, but instead of pedaling with your legs, you pedal with your arms. I have been doing 2 miles a day on these machines and hope to work up to 4 or 5 miles a day for this equipment.

So, the image at the top of this essay is the only image I could find that had 1167 in it, so I used it. It looks like antique lamp shades of the sort that might find their way to Antiques Roadshow.