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.

Friday, August 31, 2012


Blueberries are perhaps my favorite fruit and I relish them in a variety of ways.  The family went blueberry picking a few weeks ago and the large bucketful we obtained have been used in a variety of ways.  I made a blueberry crisp that was very well received by everyone, and we have had blueberry pancakes and a few other things.  But we ended up freezing some of them for later use (for pies, for example).  However, every day, I have between a 1/2 to a cup of blueberries on my cereal each morning.  I have my wife put milk on my cereal the evening before (because I like soggy cereal.... I know.... most people like cereal crunchy), and then the blueberries.  It is a favorite of mine  for a very long time. 


Thursday, August 30, 2012

Things Set in Motion

Instead of my typical kvetching about things during the first week of the semester, I decided to lay low in the blogosphere for these first few days and let my thoughts marinate.  Figuratively, I put my nose to the grindstone (and it actually did a nice trim on my moustache hairs to boot :) ) and worked diligently and complacently through all the typical start of the semester issues. 

Now that the week is almost finished, I can say that I think I am off to a very good start!  Things have gone, generally, very smoothly.  I have even done a bit of cleaning in my lab and lab office (I threw out a bunch of useless paper debris that had been accumulating all summer, wiped down most of the counter tops, donated some of the books I had duplicates of or no longer needed, and also emptied the pipe tobacco ashes from all my ashtrays.)  I am hoping to keep up this momentum and stay and feel very even keeled throughout the semester! 


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A Blue Funk

I know I will get no sympathy about my condition, but I am going to describe it anyhow.  I am in a bit of a "blue funk".  This condition happens every year around this time, and is a malady that most of us professors feel, this the last few days prior to the start of a new semester. 

Yes, I know, 90% of the populace does not get 8-9 weeks off every Summer.  I do know that. 

Yes, I know that feeling sad about the end of Summer and the start of a new Semester seems like a problem a lot of people would "relish" having.

Yes, I know that I by admitting I feel sad, I sound callous to the majority of people who work hard every single day and perhaps get 1-2 weeks off a year. 

I know all that.  Yet, being truthful as I always try to be in my writings here, I must say that those things I *know* above, do not change in any appreciable way, the meloncholy I feel about the end of the Summer.  I *also know* however, that once my feet hit the pavement on the first day of classes, my disquiet will greatly diminish.  See, what I do *also know* is that I love teaching.  I enjoy my research.  I enjoy serving on meaningful committees.  So, once the ball starts rolling in the semester, I will find my bearings and will feel better. 

What I do not find joy inducing are the a) petty, crab-*ss*d people who take pride in making a load of meaningless b*llsh*t paperwork for us that takes away from teaching, research, and service, b) meaningless meetings (usually scheduled at the most foolish of times) that drain out a person's resolve, and c) research rules and regulations that are busy nonsense that eats away the precious little time a person has to think, reason, plan and execute research. 

And, a BIG part of why these last few days before the start of the semester are so meloncholy inducing is that a) these last few days are often eaten up in valiant, but unsuccessful attempts to thwart off the b*llsh*t so that the semester can start off nicely, b) life becomes more regimented and less free-flowing as it is in the Summer, and c) each and every year there are a bunch of semi-mandatory "social" functions that I detest and abhor attending.  I keep my attendance at these things to a minimum, but to be frank.... these "social" events drain the energy out of my soul faster than a battery is drained if it shorts out on the fender of an old truck. 

So, my goal over the next few days is to simply try to find a way to float sanguinely through the waves of the b*llsh*t, and coast through the anxieities until that day that the new Semester begins and a normal routine begins again.  The normal routine of the Semester is my second favorite time of the year (Summer being my favorite time, as you should expect, with other Holidays being a favorite as well).  I just have to slush through the thick as gravy b*llsh*t for the next while until I have that pleasant even keel feeling back. 

One final note... as I have spoke of much during the last year, I have worked very hard to diminish the various b*llsh*t aspects that I have been weighted down under during the last few years.  I am actually looking forward to assessing how successful I have been.  If I have played my hand well, this year could return my life to the minimally b*llsh*t filled exisitance of my earlier years at the U.  I think I have carefully played my hand well this past year, and should be able to bear some of those fruits this semester. 


Thursday, August 16, 2012

Quiet & Calm

I decided to take a few days off from the U to go play.  My wife and I and our kids all went together for a few days to a city we had not visited before about 5 hours away from home.  It was wonderfully relaxing and enjoyable.  We really didn't do anything dramatic, but the following were the relaxing highlights:

1.  We ate at a great Italian resturaunt and I ate an Ahi Tuna Ceasar Salad.  It was *quite* rare (purposefully) but was wonderful.  All of us also shared a Cuban Pizza.... which had a rich, black bean sause, Asiago cheese and pulled pork.  While I generally am not fond of pork, the pizza was delicious!

2.  We visited a grand historical museum for several hours.

3.  We ate an absolutely tremendous Indian Buffet.  The Chana Marsala they had was tremendously spicy (and utterly delicious).  The Kheer (a rice pudding) was rich, creamy and had a pleasantly strong almond and cardamon flavor.  There were many other wonderful dishes as well, but those two were especially wonderful highlights.

4.  We spent most of a day at the city's Zoological Garden.  It was wonderfully well done, and the Tamarins were an especially big hit with all of us.  They were active and playful and a joy to watch.

5.  We ate at our first "Tapas" resturaunt.  This is a typical style of meal favored by some forms of Spanish and Argentinian cuisine.  We had small tasting samples of a few items and each one was rich and satisfying.  The highlights included a pesto hummus served with corn tortillas, and also  black bean and quinoa  patties that were baked and served with richly seasoned vegetables and herbs. 

6.  We spent a long time at the Art Museum and saw two of the traveling exhibits that were especially inspiring, one a photography exhibit about urban decay, and the second a painting exhibit featuring the period of the early rise of abstraction in the 20th century. 

7.  We also ate at a very satisfying Mediteranian Resturaunt that had perhaps the best traditional hummus I have ever been fortunate enough to eat, a Tabouli salad that had the brightest, crispest, and most flavorful parsley I have had in years, and incredible seasoning. 

Interspersed amongst all these wonderful activities, we swam several times in the hotel pool, walked around through the downtown area observing the sites and scenes, stumbled upon not one, not two, but THREE seperate, different FREE musical events held in the town center (one was 1940s  through the present dance music, one was jazz, and one was world music), we ate wonderful ice cream cones a few times, walked along the beatiful river Boardwalk that seperated the city into East and West sides, and I did my requisite exercise intensity walking every morning at 5am so I was able to watch surise each and every morning in the city and see the hustle and bustle come to life each day. 

It was wonderful.  Since I was away from the U, I was unable to post during my absence.  However, I think I have highlighted most of the most enjoyable parts.


Thursday, August 09, 2012

Action & Reaction

I worked through a lot of my feelings of yesterday morning during the afternoon and had a reasonably average day for the remainder of it.  Today I am taking the "bull-by-the-horns" and am keeping myself busy and focused on getting tasks off my plate so that I can enjoy the day. 

In a book of quotes I have from Mother Teresa, one affected me especially for today:

“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”
- Mother Teresa

This is what I am trying to have as my focus for today. 


Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Fear & Sadness

I awoke this morning feeling very sad.  Sad about the brevity of life and fearful that I was not doing enough to show my wife and my kids how much I love them all.  It was very difficult to get out of bed and get moving today.  It felt as if I were in an endless void.  A void in which there was nothing except me and my grief.  It felt as if it were crushing my being and I was destined to be in that limitless void for eternity.

I did get myself to work, however, and now I am trying to make it a productive day.  I want to turn my emotions around to feel happiness and joy.  I hope I can figure it out.


Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Feeling Irritable 

This will not be a long post, as I am feeling rather irritable.  In fact, the posting will consist of a list of random thoughts:

1.  Sadly, there was no gin at the wedding on Saturday.  They had only whiskey, or vodka, or beer.  So, I drank whiskey with cola while there. 

2.  The whole family went together to a nearby County Fair on Sunday.  It was quite nice.  It was not the Fair in our County which was a few weeks ago, but is that given by a neighboring county.  We watched some of the teens who are active in 4-H take care of their animals, saw a few competitions, drank some wonderful apple-cider slushies, and had fun walking around.  Probably my favorite display was when we watched an artist carve out a beautiful statue from a stump of a log using chain saws.  It was a remarkable display. 

3.  Yesterday was a sort of wasted day, with nothing much of merit to report. 

4.  Today, I am aggravated and irritable about work and about my ever growing honey-do list at home.  Work is currently filled with a bunch of yahoos who simply want to make more busy-work b*llsh*t, and the growing honey-do list at home IS NOT my wife's fault, but is instead a result of my feeling lazy and apathetic about doing much.  I want to change that, but have yet to do so. 

5.  I am going to head out soon and get a haircut and beard and mustache trim.   I will then try to get motivated to do more work.


Saturday, August 04, 2012

Another Wedding

I am going soon to attend another wedding today.  I am hopeful they have gin at the reception. 


Thursday, August 02, 2012


I feel pretty focused and energized today.  I am going to try to adopt a technique that has proven helpful for me in terms of my exercise routines and consistency, and try to apply it to everyday life.  If it sticks, I think it may help me feel greater happiness. 

The idea is that, just as with my exercise, I will try to do all the "required" tasks of my life as quickly, efficiently, and as early in the day as is reasonably possible.  I truly have felt that I have been given additional time in my life by getting up at 5am to walk.  It was simply time I otherwise wasted by sleeping.  While I cannot get up all that much earlier, I think the focus I have at 5am to walk is a focus I can use to do all the "required" tasks each day. 

In my mind, I am thinking if I push myself when I get to work to immediately get all the required b*llsh*t out of the way, low-and-behold.... I get the rest of the work day to play (which means to have more fun with research, etc.).  The same would apply to home too.  When I first get home, I should (and plan to try to) do all the "required" things (such as some cleaning, cat-box-patrol, mowing, etc) and get them the hell out of the way as quickly as I can to then be able to really play for the rest of the day. 

For many of you, that may sound obvious, and I guess it is to a degree.  But it is not how I have typically approached things at least the last few years.  I am going to see how it works out. 


Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Urban Decay

I was away from Sunday afternoon until last night on an unexpected, but enjoyable trip to Toledo.  My wife and I went on the spur of moment and two of our kids accompanied us as well.  We saw a wonderful museum show of the Toledo Studio Glass Movement.   At the showing, we also were able to watch a demonstration of glass blowing by one of the artists at the museum.  It was amazing and beautiful.  Going to this particular exhibit renewed my great appreciation for art and artists.  In many ways, I think if I had not choosen a career in biology, I might have really enjoyed a career being an academic artist, perhaps in metal working, or glass, or something else.  It is something I have often thought of pursuing in a hobby sort of way.

We ate wonderful Indian food at the Tandoor where in addition to our various favorite Indian dishes, we had one new, especially delicious bread called Peshawari Naan which has coconut and raisins infused in the bread dough.  We also ate at a wonderful Lebanese resturaunt called Byblos which had wonderful Babaganoush.  Finally, we also ate at the famous Tony Packo's.  Their Hungarian Hot Dogs, their Karut and their Barley Chili are wonderful. 

One thing that was especially sad, however, was how extensive the urban decay is in the city of Toledo.  It's downtown is filled with so very many absolutely beautiful new and very old urban architecture, but a near majority of it is abandoned.  Unfortunately, due to much of the same ruthless business practices industry (steel, automobile, etc) engaged in during the late 1970s through to the present, Toledo is in many ways a veritable ghost town of its former self, much like Detroit, Buffalo, etc.  Since 1970, Toledo lost over 1/3 of its population.

Still for all of its hardships and for all its urban decay, Toledo is a great town, and we all had a very happy experience there.