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, July 29, 2012

Today's First Reading

A man came from Baal-shalishah bringing to Elisha, the man of God,
twenty barley loaves made from the firstfruits,
and fresh grain in the ear.
Elisha said, "Give it to the people to eat."
But his servant objected,
"How can I set this before a hundred people?"
Elisha insisted, "Give it to the people to eat."
"For thus says the LORD,
'They shall eat and there shall be some left over.'"
And when they had eaten, there was some left over,
as the LORD had said.

2 Kgs 4:42-44

*     *     *     *     *     *

This reading keeps telling me I should not be such a worrier.  Why is it that I worry so much?  Why?  It is not helping me to be happier.  It is frustrating.


Saturday, July 28, 2012

Quiet Day (Hopefully)

I had a nice time at the in-laws yesterday afternoon.  Good conversation.  My mindset is in a better state as well at the moment. 

My plans are simple for today.  I am going to work with my wife on some cleaning and organizing of the three bathrooms in our home.  The idea is that this is a sort of "Spring Cleaning" of sorts.  But it is basically to try to fix up a few things to get life easier and more organized. 

If we get all that done early enough, we will likely then go to Mass on Saturday instead of Sunday.  It will make our Sunday more flexible.  


Friday, July 27, 2012

Gyri & Sulci

The hills and valleys that are a part of our cerebrum are referred to as the gyri (hills) and sulci (valleys) of the surface of large expansive outer layer commonly called the cortex.  It is responsible for the majority of our higher level thinking and reasoning skills.  The amount of folding (the gyri and sulci) are thought to be related to how much higher level thinking ability a species has.  Humans have an extensive degree of folding.  When you look at mice and rat brains, the cortex is relatively smooth, indicating less higher level thinking ability.  Paradoxically, both elephants and dolphis have MORE relative folding of their cortex than we do as humans suggesting that they may have even greater higher level thinking ability that we humans have.  This part of the lore associated with classic films like "The Day of the Dolphin" as well as others. 

Well, I am in a bit of a melancholy state today.  I think I am staying too long in the hills and valleys of my mind and getting into a kind of funk that I do not want to immerse myself into.   It was about 4 years ago that I first began to realize that it was easy for me to begin ruminating about crap too much and that my ruminations about lost time and missed opportunities and death and the loss of loved ones..... DO ME NO GOOD.  I am sorry to say that the time spent in the hospital on Monday with my wife, and the day in bed on Tuesday (with my thrown out back) gave me time to ruminate again and I have been feeling rather listless and emotionally sad since then.  Yesterday (Thursday) was somewhat better, for I had a nice morning and early afternoon with my wife, but the sadness and ruminations made their presence known as well yesterday. 

Because this meloncholy mindset caught me a bit off guard, I wasn't preparing myself to keep it at bay and now that I realize it for what it is, I have to summon up the courage and energy to fight back against it.  I will fight back to get back to the state of contentment and general happiness I had prior.  It will be a bit of hard work, but I have done it before and had kept the sad feelings away.  I will try to put most of my energies into that again today. 

If I can get some of the mood to dissipate, I will also probably head over to my elderly in-laws home to have some pipes and libations with my father-in-law. 


Thursday, July 26, 2012

Nicer Day

My wife and I drove to a nearby town today to look around at their "downtowny" small stores.  Some of the highlights included a store that sold unique, special sizes of shoes, an surplus goods store that had really out-of-the-ordinary items (neon yellow coveralls for instance), and an amazingly interesting and nostalgic store that specialized in selling "antique" electronics.  The items included beautiful floor radios from the 1930s, vivid transistor radios from the 1960s, and all sorts of items in-between.

We visited an art studio while there and looked at their current exhibit of water colors.  My wife wanted to go to this studio as they offer classes in clay and she is contemplating enrolling this fall.  

We then ate lunch at a really nice vegetarian restaurant.  We ordered a zucchini wrap with cucumber-dill dressing, and a baked falafel wrap with roasted red pepper humus.  We ended up splitting them both and they were both very tasty. 


Wednesday, July 25, 2012


It has been a rough past few days.  On Monday, my wife called me at the U in the early morning saying that her heart was racing and her blood pressure was up.  She was afraid she was dying.  I had to race home to take her to the emergency room.  

After spending several, very long hours at the hospital, and having her receive IV fluids, an EKG, and a calming pill, she was discharged as being physically fine and having suffered a panic attack.  This is what I had suspected from the moment I received the phone call based upon my background knowledge in medicine.  However, even though I suspected this from the first moment, I did not want to do the wrong thing by not taking her to the emergency room.  

Sitting there in the hospital for a huge number of hours was not particularly beneficial for me.  The extreme tension and anxiety I felt, along with the standard, hard, and very low seated visitor chairs at the hospital ended up helping my lower back to fully lock.  When I awoke on Tuesday morning, my back was so rigid and tight that even to get out of bed, I would have searing streaks of pain in my back and legs.  It was a real challenge just getting out of bed.  Because it literally hurt like hell, I thought perhaps if I went on my walk, I could get my back to loosen up and return to normal.  I went on my walk, but it was a difficult challenge just to walk because of the extreme pain.  And because of the pain I was experiencing, it took me a little over three times as long to complete.  By the time I got home, I was wringing in sweat and utterly exhausted from the effort.  Fortunately, I did not need to go to the U yesterday, so I  lied down and slept most of the day, only waking up occasionally to try various other postures and body positions and stretches to try to loosen up the muscles in my lower back. 

My wife seems to be doing fine today, and my back is probably 75% back to normal.  I am taking it a bit easy at work today, but I forced myself to jog about half of my normal walk.  I thought the jogging might help to further loosen by back a bit, and it seemed to help some.  I am hoping for a fairly normal rest of the day and hopefully rest of the week.  


Sunday, July 22, 2012

Mushy Mind

I have a very tired, unclear, and unfocused mind today.  No, it is not a result of indulging in too many libations last night (I did not drink anything but iced tea).  Unfortunately, it is due to my wife having a panic attack about her health.  She has had these occasionally in the past, and unfortunately, it means little to no sleep for either of us. 


Saturday, July 21, 2012


The beautiful car above is the Fiat 1400 from 1950.  I remember this car vividly as it is the vehicle driven in one of the best foreign films I have ever had the pleasure to view, Wild Strawberries, directed by Ingmar Bergman and released in 1957. The film is an amazing portrayal  involving an elderly professor on a road trip of sorts.  Because it tackles difficult questions about life, self-discovery and meaning of human existence, I consider the film to be one of Bergman's most emotional, optimistic and best films.

Yet, I do not want to speak only of this film.  Instead, I chose the above image because I have been fortunate enough to set another milestone in my fitness  regime.  When I finished my 5 miles this morning, I have now gone 1400 days in a row without ever missing a single day in my walking efforts!!!!  I am very pleased with this length of consistency in my efforts.  I value consistency greatly.


Friday, July 20, 2012

The Pipe

I am considering again, choosing to refrain from smoking a pipe.  I know it will not be today.  But my mind has been gnawing at me about the matter and I am once again thinking about how to proceed in a successful manner.   Three options seem most likely at the moment:

1.  Quit completely, quit "cold turkey" and that will be it.  This is probably the simplest method, but perhaps the most difficult one and the one that is potentially going to make me somewhat cranky for a while.

2.  Quit smoking the pipe and substitute some of the nicotine gum for a spell.  This seems only a minor step less difficult than #1.

3.  Quit smoking the pipe completely EXCEPT one day a week (most likely Friday, so I can continue indulging in the pipe and libations with my elderly father-in-law).  This is obviously not exactly quitting, but it would be a) a very significant reduction in my pipe smoking, and b) perhaps the way that I can perhaps more successfully move to #2 or #1 above at some point.  The disadvantage that I could see is that perhaps after going a whole week without my beloved pipes, indulging with them on one day will only set up a cycle of my missing them with the same sort of intensity every single week.

I am not sure what I am going to do, or actually when I will do one of the above.  It will not be today.  And, yes, I am going to head over to my in-laws this afternoon for pipes and libations.  So, that will be very pleasant.

After exercising (walking and the gym), I have been working with some of my animals in the lab this morning.  It has been a pleasant, quiet, but productive morning here for me at the U.


Thursday, July 19, 2012

Death Looms Nearby

The father of a very close friend passed away yesterday.  It was unexpected and due to a massive stroke.  Another close friend's husband has a terminal brain tumor and just started experiencing new headaches this morning. 

I am thinking I am going to simply acknowledge these tragedies, because they are horrible and sad.  However, I want to keep myself from going into a melancholy mood or depression about these situations.  My mood DOES NOT have to be set in such a negative direction.  I need to live a life of joy and contentment with my wife and family while we are all in great health, even in the face of hardship for others who I care about.... because if I do not do so.... I will not have lived myself.   So, while I feel some twinges of guilt (which I am striving to push aside as well) about not feeling as morose as I typically might be for the friends above, I am acknowledging my care for these friends in their time of heartache, and I am there for them if I can be a listening ear or other support.  However, I am not going to allow myself to become pulled down emotionally for my own day.   I do not know if that is callous of me or if it is a healthier way for me to be, but I want to keep the feelings of contentment and joy I have been experiencing in my heart and mind.


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Trying To Not Be Angry

Yesterday ended up being a more challenging day than I had been anticipating in the afternoon.  I was grumpy and out of sorts.  There was no real reason for it. I just was annoyed at everything.  I am vowing to make today a better day. 

The 100+ degree days are getting to be so routine around here, that it would be all anyone talks about.  And, yes, the heat and drought ARE in the news a great deal, but, it is interesting that most folks that I deal with day-to-day have gotten rather accepting of this very long stretch of 90 - 100 degree days (it is not typical here in the northern regions).  They have actually stopped commenting and significantly curtailed grousing about the weather and have moved onto griping about other things. 


Sunday, July 15, 2012


Yesterday, before heading to the wedding, we went to an International Fair that was being held, and saw a variety of cultural events.  For me the Indian (Eastern) displays and food stations were a favorite.  We watched several groups that danced to a variety of current and traditional Indian musical scores, and I was able to find a station that sold exceptionally good Pinde chole.  It was rich, spicy, and wonderfully soothing.  Unlike in previous years, none of the vendors were selling CDs of Indian music, much to my chagrin.  I had been hoping to find some wonderful, traditional sitar based music that I could listen to at work. 

The wedding went well, and I did have the opportunity to indulge in several gin and tonics, which tasted wonderful!  The food wasn't too bad either, for wedding food, and there were ample vegetables and salad, so I had heaping plates of both and a piece of the chicken.  At weddings, I enjoy have a lot of things to eat to keep my mouth full and chew on because I do not really enjoy trying to engage in idle chit-chat (to me, it is rather tiring to do).  So, I was able to spend most of my time slowly chewing through all the food, drinking gin and tonics, being relatively quiet and silent and listening to the idle chatter of others.  Listening to idle chatter about all manner of nonsense is far, far better than having to engage in the idle chatter myself.  If the subject matter is of little interest, I can easily tune it out.  My pipe and pipe smoking were a modest hit also, when I was outside with the tobacco indulging groups.  I was the only pipe smoker, and as usual they thought my pipe was a mixture of old-fashioned, quirky, interesting, odd, and somewhat dashing.  So, again I had people idly chat with me, and with my pipe in my mouth, I again had to speak hardly a word and could simply relax. 

I am in my office briefly this morning to take care of the beasts.  But now, I am going to leave so I can attend early mass. 


Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Wedding Bells Are Ringing

My wife and I must attend a wedding of the son of one of my relatives.  We do not know the fellow well, but will attend anyway.  Two mildly enjoyable aspects about wedding dinners for me includes:

a) I typically will drink gin and tonics while at the reception.  With the people I associate with, gin is not particularly popular, so I do not buy it, nor do any of my drinking buddies ever have it.  But, I must say that gin (and gin and tonics) are my favorite flavor of a alcoholic libation.  So, to have them at the wedding will be quite enjoyable.

b)  I take one dressier, seldomly used, but in very good condition pipe with me.  The one I typically take is like the image above.  It is pristine in appearance of the bowl, looks brand new, and in one that nicely complements the sport jacket and tie I will be wearing. 

Usually, at weddings, the people who indulge in tobacco now congregate in an outside area by the hall, and you often find very interesting conversations.  While I am out there, I should look fairly dapper with my neatly trimmed beard and moustache, shinny, new pipe and sport jacket and tie. 

So, even though attending weddings of people you do not know particularly well is definetly not my favorite thing to do, I do have two enjoyable aspects that are helpful. 


Friday, July 13, 2012

Friday, Casual Day


I have decided to have today be a pretty easy, gentle day.  I have walked and gone to the gym of course, and I have worked on one small project.  However, I think that shall be it for me.  I am going to go to a movie with the family, and then after that play some putt-putt golf, and then I will probably head out to my in-laws for some pipes and libations. 


Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Day and What Will Perhaps Be

Today was a bit topsy-turvy so far. I got up early, and it was a wonderful morning of walking and exercise. Then I came home, and my wife wanted to talk. She is struggling a bit emotionally, so even though I was planning to get going to the gym, I stayed and talked with her. I think it went well. The things she has been feeling emotional about have stemmed from her feelings of a lack of success in the goals she has been setting for herself this Summer. She has wanted to spend the Summer being very excited and happy about all sorts of activities she has been getting ready to put into effect all Spring. Unfortunately, during the Summer thus far, she has felt little motivation towards these projects, and that has gotten her down. One of the major things she wants to accomplish is to change our eating habits to follow what is called the "Ornish Plan".

Basically, the Ornish food plan is simply to eat virtually a vegetarian diet, but to have it focus on including several food items that are not as commonly consumed, but have evidence as being especially healthful (for example, wheatberries). From my perspective, I am completely fine with this sort of food plan. I enjoy damn near every food that is recommended by Ornish, and I have always found vegetarian recipies to be interesting and exciting (and often they feel somewhat exotic, almost like eating ethnic foods). I also really dislike fried foods of any type, so that is not an issue for me either. And, meat.... well, even though I am not opposed to eating beef, buffalo, venison, turkey, chicken, or fish, the reality is that I really eat relatively little meat already.

I probably eat 2 or maybe 3 meals that have meat in them a week at most. And, 99+ % of the time the meat I do have is either chicken, turkey, or fish. I think it has probably been at least a year if not longer since I have eaten beef, and longer than that for buffalo or venison. Pork is a meat that I really just do not like, so I do not eat ham, bacon, pork chops, etc. And, the couple of times a year when we have hotdogs they are turkey franks.

So, the issue is not me in regards to Ornish. It is actually my wife. She is much more fond of meat than I am, and will often make for herself, a dish that contains beef, pork, chicken, or turkey that she eats and I do not (she usually makes these for herself for lunch, and my own lunch is a much simpler affair which I carry in my lunch sack to work).

I think my wife likes meat so much that she does not want to eliminate it from her diet, but that she also conversely wants to eat the Ornish plan as she is concerned about health. That is the conundrum she is facing and having difficulty in making a decision about one-way-or -another.

I am happy I am not a cause of the problems she is dealing with, but I unfortunately also do not know much, if anything to suggest. For me, it is simply a decision... either she chooses the Ornish Plan because she wants to OR she continues to eat her current diet because she wants to.... either is ok with me. But she gets frustrated with herself about her lack of decision.

Well, by the time we finished talking about this, an hour had passed. So, my routine for the gym was off time wise, but that was ok. My wife was pleasantly interested in intimacy, and so we made time for that which helped boost my spirits. I then went to the gym late, but did a fast workout and got to my office. I continued to work on updating some classwork for Fall so I could give my secretary some work to do.

I am now off to do some outside work in the yard again, and to *PERHAPS* even work on the damn computer at home so I can once again get on the Internet there. I am not sure I want to give myself a headache working with the tangled mess of wires or not, but at least I am considering it.

One final thing for me, is that I am becoming more and more aware of how noise and noise pollution REALLY affects my mood. On my vehicle today, I had the windows open as it was mild this morning, and this moderately loud squeaking noise would be heard constantly through the ride to the gym. This is not something new, and I have said on numerous occasions that it is due to a moderately loose hubcap on the wheels of the beast. Normally I do not hear it much because I have the windows closed (heater on or a/c on). Well, the noise with my window open ended up aggravating the hell out of me. I was quickly very, very angry. I *KNEW* this nose was simply due to a loose hubcap, but I was so aggravated that I started to imagine all sorts of other b*llsh*t that could be wrong with the car. I pulled the hubcap off and the noise disappeared, and with that, so did my feelings of aggravation and annoyance.

I have to keep it in mind how noises like that affect me. I sometimes think I can get in a grouchy mood just from some types of background noise. It is good for me to know.


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Just Working & Thinking

Today has been a pretty productive day of working and thinking.  I got up and got an early start to my walking, getting on the road at about 4:45am.  I was at the gym by 6:30am, and showered and in my office at 7:50 am.  Before I got to my office this morning, I had already drank 70 ounces (2.07 liters) of water.  I immediately fired up my computer and fired up my pipe and started working on updating a set of assignments I give my introductory biology students in the Fall. 

It has been an enjoyable morning.  I think I will now go home and paint the deck on the house, do some trimming and fine-tuning in terms of yard work.  Later this evening, I think we will go to the public pool and go swimming. 

One other nice note for me, we went to a used bookstore last night, and I found a copy of a Robin Cook mystery novel I had not yet read.  I will be looking forward to digging in.  It is called "Fatal Cure". 


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Busy Day (Meeting)

Even though it is Summer, one unfortunate aspect is that there still are occasional meetings that need to be attended to.  Today was one of those days (I think the only one for two weeks for me, fortunately).  I had to attend the Institutional Review Board which oversees the experimental research involving humans.  Although I currently do not have research going on that involves humans (I have in the past and may again in the future.), I have been a long standing member of the Executive Board of this committee.  Sometimes the work is interesting and it gives me insight into research going on at the U, other times it is drudgery, as some people love to talk endlessly about utter minutia involving the interpretation of Federal Guidelines for human subject research we have to follow.  Today, happily, it was simply a very brief meeting and nothing of any controversey was discussed.  The whole damn meeting only lasted 30 minutes!  Another plus! All we actually did was to approve a few continuations on proposals involving research associated with surveying people on their opinions on health care.   No fuss, no controversy.  It was the best kind of meeting to have.

The rest of the day I was able to do things that were more valuable to me.  I worked on some research, did some writing, and went through and updated some of the lectures and assignments I give for one of the classes I am teaching this fall.  


Monday, July 09, 2012

Return To Routine?

Now that the reunion is finished, I am hoping that this is the start, again, of a fairly extended period of normal routine.  It will be wonderfully enjoyable if that is the case.  I am looking forward to all sorts of enjoyable pursuits.  I have a lot of fun, family times I look forward to experiencing.  I have several reasonably pleasant yard tasks to accomplish.  I have several different pipe tobaccos I have not sampled in quite a while that deserve to be re-examined.   I have many books I have been wanting to read. 

I just have had my routine return to me (now that last week is over) and also have had my freedom expanded (now that all course teaching is finished for the Summer).  It feels good, and I hope to make as much out this time as possible. 


Tuesday, July 03, 2012

I Am Off

Off to the reunion.  That is about all there is to say.


Monday, July 02, 2012

Loss of Motivation

I experienced a severe loss of motivation this past weekend.  I had to go to a graduation party for a nephew, and that was about my limit of accomplishments.  I just did not feel like doing a damn thing all weekend.  I cuss at myself, under my breath, about my foolish waste of time, but it really was pretty damn near all I did. 

It was a wasted weekend, and to be frank, it was not particularly enjoyable either.  I didn't even goof around doing anything fun. 

We are going to be heading up to a reunion on my wife's side of the family sometime on Tuesday.  I find those sorts of things very challenging, and maybe that is a part of my malaise.  We shall see, if upon my return, my vim and vitality returns.  

I shall talk more on Tuesday.