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.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

All is OK

Happily, the battery procedure for my elderly father-in-law went very well. It was actually able to be done via out-patient services and he came home yesterday. I suspect (and am hopeful) that he will be so up-to-snuff by Friday afternoon that he may be interested in an afternoon of pipes and libations.


Monday, January 30, 2012


My elderly father-in-law is having surgery today to replace the battery in his pacemaker. I am hoping and praying all goes well. He is a wonderful friend and I greatly enjoy his company.


Sunday, January 29, 2012

Psalm of Value

Today in Mass, the following Psalm was sung:

"If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts."

I ask that I learn better how to follow this advice. I want to be a better, kinder, gentler person. I want to be slow to anger. I want to be rich in kindness. I want to be loving and forgiving. I need and want to be a better person.


Saturday, January 28, 2012


Today will simply be a day of cleaning the house and various other mundane fix-it tasks. It is an edict from above, and I have no options.


Friday, January 27, 2012

A Need To Be Consistent

I *know* I need to be more consistent in posting here. It has been a struggle, not because I do not want to write... I do. The struggle has been that I have been being pulled in far too many directions. So, for me, I think I *NEED* to force myself to make time each day for writing here as a continuation of my effort to destress my life. I am still committed to that goal. I have been shedding some of the time stressors and time eaters in my life, but it is a constant battle as new "opportunities" arise regularly to usurp my time.

I need to be heavy handed in my protection of my time and beginning today, I am vowing (again) to make my posts here a priority for me as a way to symbolize and show my commitment to getting my life back in MY control, not the control of others.


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Liquor On Your Breath, Eh?

A very interesting neurological study about the effects of drinking on endorphin release in the brain. It makes tremendous sense that the pleasurable aspect of drinking is due to the alcohol switching on a trigger of the brain's natural mood-elevating neurochemicals. Also interesting in the design of the study are the groupings used:

The study consisted of "13 heavy drinkers (10 to 16 drinks per week for women, and 14 to 20 for men) and 12 light and nondrinkers (fewer than five drinks a week for women, and fewer than seven for men)." I fall into the "light and nondrinker" category by that definition. Skoal!

Study Tracks Booze’s Buzz in the Brain: Morphinelike Chemicals Released in Both Heavy and Moderate Drinkers
By Laura Sanders in Science News
Web edition : Wednesday, January 11th, 2012

A shot of high-octane booze causes the brain to pump out its own version of morphine, a new study finds. If confirmed, the results may help explain why drinking the hard stuff feels good.

Many animal studies have found that alcohol can cause release of feel-good endorphins in the brain, but the new brain scan study, which appears in the Jan. 11 Science Translational Medicine, is the first to show the effect in humans and to home in on where the effect occurs.

Knowing exactly where alcohol causes its effects brings scientists closer to developing drugs that could block the “high” that alcohol brings without unpleasant side effects, says study coauthor Jennifer Mitchell of the Ernest Gallo Clinic and Research Center in Emeryville, Calif., and the University of California, San Francisco. “I really think we’re close,” she says. “There’s a lot of hope.”

Mitchell and her colleagues studied 13 heavy drinkers (10 to 16 drinks per week for women, and 14 to 20 for men) and 12 light and nondrinkers (fewer than five drinks a week for women, and fewer than seven for men). To get a sense of how many endorphin-detecting proteins were in the participants’ brains, the team injected a radiolabeled chemical that latched onto the detectors — a signal picked up with a PET scan.

After an initial scan, the team brought out the cocktails.

Each participant downed a shot of extra-potent, lab-grade alcohol mixed with juice. The drink was strong enough to raise blood alcohol levels to about 0.05 percent with a single dose. (Because the participants had to lie still in the scanner for several hours with no possibility of a bathroom break, the researchers wanted to minimize the volume of liquid.)

The participants then underwent a second scan. The same radioactive chemical was injected, but this time, some of the sites in the brain where it had originally bound were already occupied by the brain’s endorphins, which had been released after the drink. The brains of the heavy drinkers and the light and nondrinkers showed similar boosts in endorphin levels.

“Our results were a bit unexpected,” Mitchell says. “We didn’t see a big difference.” In both groups, endorphin release was prominent in a region called the nucleus accumbens, a pleasure center in the brain. The authors also found evidence implicating another region in the front of the brain called the orbitofrontal cortex, which is thought to help process rewards.

The results need to be confirmed in larger studies with more carefully selected participants, says psychiatrist Raymond Anton of the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston. “People with alcohol use disorders are drinking probably twice as much as these heavy drinkers,” he says. Also, Anton believes the data are insufficient regarding the orbitofrontal cortex’s involvement.

The amount of endorphins released after a drink seemed to correlate with how good the drinker reported feeling on a questionnaire. This finding complements a recent study by University of Chicago researchers, who found that in heavy drinkers, the pleasure derived from alcohol predicted levels of alcohol abuse, says psychiatrist and addiction researcher Henry Kranzler of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

Ultimately, the results need to be replicated in real-world situations, Kranzler says. “We don’t care about what happens in a PET scanner. We care about what happens in bars.”


It is also interesting in this study that the subjects had to sit still while they were being scanned. I wonder how challenging this was for the researchers while the patients were intoxicated (grin)?


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Stuck on the Whirlwind

I do not understand why, but I am so frustratingly busy, I have no time to think or even be at the moment. It is disappointing, especially with the work I have been doing to try to lessen my workload. It is truly depressing. I am at a loss on how to proceed to try to make it better.


Wednesday, January 18, 2012


Millions of Americans oppose SOPA and PIPA because these bills would censor the Internet and slow economic growth in the U.S.

Two bills before Congress, known as the Protect IP Act (PIPA) in the Senate and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House, would censor the Web and impose harmful regulations on American business. Millions of Internet users and entrepreneurs already oppose SOPA and PIPA.

The Senate will begin voting on January 24th. Please let them know how you feel. Urge Congress to vote NO on PIPA and SOPA before it is too late.


Thursday, January 12, 2012

A Helluva Week!

Even though I had the best of intentions to get regular posts up this week, the first week of a new semester is always one of tremendous business. Unfortunately, that business kept me from getting here, but the good news is that it was a reasonably good start to the semester and that the routine seems well set. I think I *now* shall be back to posting on a very regular timeframe.


Thursday, January 05, 2012

Days of Wine and Roses

The 1962 epic film starring Jack Lemmon, was a classic about the problems of alcohol dependency. Here is a new report that may offer some interesting science about the effects of alcohol:

Drug Gives Rats Booze-Guzzling Superpowers
Rodents Get Less Drunk, Recover Faster and Appear Less Prone to Alcohol Addiction

By Laura Sanders at Science News
Web edition : Wednesday, January 4th, 2012

Rats dosed with a compound isolated from an ancient herbal remedy appear all but impervious to quantities of alcohol that put their compatriots under the table. Rodents on the drug can drink large quantities of alcohol without passing out, show fewer signs of hangover and even fail to become addicted to alcohol after weeks of drinking, researchers report in the Jan. 4 Journal of Neuroscience.

If the compound proves to have similar effects in humans, it may offer a powerful way to combat alcohol’s dizzying effects, the dreaded hangover and even alcohol dependence. “I think it’s really pretty incredible that one study opens up avenues for so many angles,” says neuroscientist A. Leslie Morrow of the University of North Carolina School of Medicine in Chapel Hill.

Researchers led by Jing Liang of the University of California, Los Angeles began by surveying herbal compounds that reportedly have antialcohol effects. A promising candidate caught the researchers’ eyes: an extract isolated from the seeds of the Asian tree Hovenia dulcis, first described as a primo hangover remedy in the year 659.

In the new study, Liang and her team tested one ingredient of Hovenia called dihydromyricetin, or DHM, on rats, which respond to alcohol in similar ways to humans. After rats were given the human equivalent of 15 to 20 beers in under two hours, the animals passed out in a drunken stupor and lost the reflex to flip over when placed on their backs. The rats took about an hour after this binge to begin to regain control of their bodies and flip themselves over.

But when the rats received a shot of DHM along with their alcohol, they tolerated the booze better. These rats still lost the ability to flip themselves over, but the stupor took longer to take hold and lasted only about 15 minutes.

DHM had benefits beyond the inebriated period, too. A dose of the compound helped ease rat hangover symptoms two days after an alcohol binge by curbing anxiety and susceptibility to seizures.

The standout result, says Steven Paul of Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City, is that DHM also curbed alcohol consumption. Rats allowed to drink alcohol gradually start consuming more of it. But rats that drank DHM-laced alcohol didn’t increase their consumption, the team found.

“When you drink alcohol with DHM, you never become addicted,” Liang says.

Though the results are exciting, they don’t mean that a hit of Hovenia extract can enable a night of consequence-free binge drinking, Morrow says. Alcohol has many effects in the brain, and DHM may not block them all.

Alcohol works in part by changing the behavior of proteins known as GABA receptors, which are involved in curbing brain excitation. DHM blocks alcohol’s effects by latching onto these receptors in the brain. Another compound called RO15-4513, discovered by Paul and collaborators, also blocked alcohol by interfering with GABA receptors, but it caused seizures.

So far, Liang and her team have found no side effects from DHM. The researchers now plan to test DHM’s effect on people.

* * * * *

So, while this DHM compound may potentially offer some promise in medical treatment for people who have problems with alcohol abuse, the more interesting aspect, scientifically, is how the DHM compound may be altering the GABA receptors in the brain. That an exogenously applied compound is show to temporarily alter receptor function (behavior) is very noteworthy for the brain.

For a general, run-of-the-mill indulger in a few drinks now and then, there isn't any meaningful applicability to me.

Here's mud in 'yer eye!


Wednesday, January 04, 2012

New Book

Although I have not read anything much new in a while on Ernest Hemingway, I have been a very big fan of his writing and also of the biographies about him for many years. In my library, I have probably in the neighborhood of 50 different biographies about Hemingway in addition to a copy of each of his books and short stories.

This interest in Hemingway originated while I was in graduate school. Being far away from family and friends, and missing them greatly, I decided I needed a hobby. But I had no idea what I would want to do. But, I knew I needed a hobby of some sort that I could deeply immerse myself in as a break from the intense reading/writing/researching in biology I was doing as a graduate student.

During that time, while I was trying to figure out some sort of hobby to "grab on to" to help with being away from my family and friends, I happened to be in the office of one of my committee members, casually chatting with him, as he was cleaning his office. Dr. (Professor) Herman Krause, who was VERY German in mannerisms and demeanor. He spoke with a fairly heavy German accent, and his diction was rather staccato. He had a very, very bushy, grey moustache and beard that he wore in a goatee style. Dr. Krause was clearing some of his bookshelves of books when he picked up a copy of "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" by Hemingway. He looked at it quizzically at first, and then commented that he had thought he had given it away already. He was an avid reader, and while he kept almost all of the biology texts he read, he would not keep other books, especially fiction, but would give them away after he read them. He offered the book to me, saying it was "...interrrrresting..." but that it was not Hemingway's best work in his opinion.

I thanked him and took the book with me when I left.

The book left an enormous impression on me, and I quickly started to read and collect all of his works I could find. I also started to read and collect biographies of the man.

Well, there is a new book that I received from my sister as a Christmas present and I began to look through the volume last night. It is a book of Hemingway's Letters. I had not really read or even looked for anything new about Hemingway in several years, but I must say, starting this book brought back a flood of enjoyable memories about how much I enjoyed reading the fellows work and biographies about him and about times past when I was in hot pursuit of a rare biography of the man at any number of used bookstores over the years that I visited on my various travels.


Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Back to the Grindstone

I am here at the U now, working on getting things moving for the upcoming new semester. I am not feeling particularly motivated at the moment, but I have a goal to get things set up well, so I can have a better start to the year and keep working on my long-term goal of having more joy and happiness in my life with my family and also a helluva lot less stress. So, since I do have a helluva lot of things to get done, I better keep the post shorter today.


Monday, January 02, 2012

January 2

Today is the second day of 2012. I am just relaxing, and reorganizing the house. Tomorrow, I go back to the U to get things ready for the new semester. Oh... it is also my one nephew's 26th birthday today.


Sunday, January 01, 2012

A New Year

Here is wishing all of you a Happy New Year. I just polished off a very pleasant bottle of wine just prior to midnight. My wife and I spent the latter part of the evening eating hummus and baba ganoush on pita bread along with Mederanian pickles and olives. We also wrote our annual "Hopes & Dreams" for the new year. This is a list that we have done each and every year on New Years Eve since we started dating so very long ago.