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.

Monday, December 31, 2018

Last Day of 2018

With this being the last day of 2018, I thought I would list a few thoughts I have about what I hope for in the upcoming year of 2019:

  • Lots of love and joy with my family.
  • A deeper relationship of love with my wife and my kids.
  • A kinder, gentler heart and mind.
  • Happy teaching and guiding of students.
  • A sense of time that is more relaxed and less harried and less pressured.
  • A deeper commitment to striving to be a good person.
  • More laughter and joy.
  • A continued resolve to exercise and work to improve myself.
  • A more pleasant Departmental environment.
  • Time with hobbies of music, writing, and art.
  • A firmer committment in terms of pipe smoking or lack thereof.
  • A more robust sense of belonging and of feeling useful and wanted.
  • Fun.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Bitter is Better

On this Friday, I must briefly comment on coffee.  For me, coffee is at its very best when it is dark, dark, dark.  And, the longer the pot sits on the warmer the better!  I will occasionally go purposefully to the nearby 7-11 very late in the evening, and peruse the coffee pots that are still on the burners.  I  will take and mix together whatever is the darkest looking, most opaque, longest sitting coffees there that I can find, regardless of flavor and fill and mix these bitter remnants of coffee until I am able to fill one of their extra large 24 ounce cups.  I then buy it and take it home for the next morning.

I did this last night,  and was able to concoct a beautifully murky, thick blend of Brazilian Dark Roast, Blueberry, Coconut, and Hazelnut coffees together to make my 24 ounce cup filled.  Each of the coffees were so think that I think a spoon may have been able to stand upright in each pot!  It was beautiful!

Now that I have completed my five miles this morning, I am looking forward to having that heavy, harsh, beautifully bitter and robust coffee!!!!!


Thursday, December 27, 2018

A Few Questions to Ponder from Pat

A few days ago, Pat posed a number of questions for me to think about.  Because I do not know how to contact Pat directly, I thought I would attempt to answer some of the questions here:

"Does your faith teach you that you should be the best "you" that you can be? "

My faith simply guides me to try to be a person who works to live and practice the "best" qualities I can muster within myself.  For me, this means I need to strive to be kind.  I need to strive to be considerate and respectful.  I need to work to help others.  I need to try to understand other's perspectives and to take into account their point(s) of view.  I need to try to put others needs ahead of my own.

"...WHO CAN JUDGE what is "lazy" and what is "respecting your limits" or "coping with circumstances" or "tending to your own weaknesses before you can help others"? "

That is a very intriguing question.  I guess the answer is that I have to be my own Judge.  I guess in the greater scheme of day-to-day living, I am the person who has to provide the measurement scale upon what is my grade related to my actions.  In so doing, I rate myself on a scale of what I have the potential to do versus what I actually do.  I should try to approach my potential in helping others, or in being kind to others, but I often do not do so.  

"Does your faith teach you that there is no such thing as a person who has "done enough"? Even the saints make stupid mistakes at times, and there is always one more leper or indigent or broken person who could have been helped. Isn't the difference between saints and sinners ultimately that the former take full advantage of the Mass and the sacraments? Isn't the ultimate difference that the saints on planet Earth, members of the Church Militant, stop worrying and instead put their trust in their Savior and in the Church Triumphant?"

Very interesting thoughts.  It is true that I should more deeply integrate my thoughts into Mass.  And, the idea of "not worrying" is one indeed that is something I desperately need to work on.  I am a worrier by nature and I know that is not how I should be.  There have been several times (to varying degrees of success) where I have tried to force myself to avoid and not worry.  But, it is extremely easy to fall back into that pattern of rumination and worry.   

"Also, I can't help but notice that Old Saint Nick in your photo is enjoying a pipe. Pipe-smoking doesn't guarantee sainthood, but neither is it a sin."

The image I used for that day's writings is one of my very favorite Rockwell images of St. Nick.  I have one capped pipe of that same shape (it is not nearly as beautifully ornate, but it does remind me of the one St. Nick has).   Your statement that pipe smoking is not a sin is actually a VERY important statement.  I do not have enough time to flesh it out fully here, but I will soon.... my discussion with a visiting priest named Fr. Keith, who helped me think about that very issue.  

"If you go back to your pipes at some point, whether days or years from now, I hope you have learned that you are a rational actor with tremendous will-power, not a "lazy, worthless lout." "

Admittedly, I *do* think about my pipes several times each day.   I do vacillate in my mind about the decision to fast from them quite regularly as well.  It seems silly and foolish for me to carry on about them all the time, so I do not talk about them publicly anymore to any real extent.  

The only time I speak of the are occasionally when a person will ask my how long it has been, and I will reply, or a person I have not seen in a long while will ask me "Where is my pipe?" to which I will briefly answer.  But, I try to not talk about it publicly anymore as it feels redundant, and foolish, and too self focused.  

I am sure most everyone here is tired of my speaking about them.... but I am leaving this space as my one venue to speak my mind about what whirls and swirls around in my neurons without filter.  It is a place for me to go, where I can expound about what I am feeling in my core.  And, for better or worse, it has been as of late, about my pipes.  

" have deprived yourself of something pleasurable for more than ten months. However, if you go back to your pipes because you rationally conclude that you are more wholly "you" as a pipe-smoker, please don't take that decision as failure. One way or another, have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!"

I am often times not sure what is "wholly me" any longer.  I guess in some fashion that is what I am trying to understand.  Thank you for your wishes!  I hope that you too have had a great Holiday Season!


Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Wednesday Musing

Well, we have successfully experienced the three "gatherings" we typically have between Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.   A few highlights and lowlights:


1.  Seeing family and friends I have not seen in a while.

2.  Mass.

3.  Being more deeply together with my loving family.

4.  Running my five miles with my dog, very early on Christmas morning.  (Thankfully, the trails were clean and free of snow and ice so I could run outside.)

5.  Wonderfully tart, home-made cranberry sauce. 

6. The chance to drink a few bottles of a wonderful I.P.A. with beautifully heavy and bitter "hoppy" tones. 


1.  Eating too much food.... and too much RICH food to boot. 

2.  Two relatives who got into a heated political "discussion".

3.  Very loud, noisy television watching.

*     *     *     *      *

Overall, it was a very nice two days.  I have to admit, though, that it felt a bit odd being without my pipe, especially on Christmas Eve.  It had always been a routine of mine for as long as I can recall, of standing outside, near midnight on Christmas Eve, my pipe in hand as I would look across the neighborhood at all the decorative lights on the houses, hearing the gentle quiet (always peace to my ears after the noise from the festivities inside), and I would gaze up into the sky thinking about family and life and faith.


Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Eggnog & Other Pursuits

Happy Holidays and/or Merry Christmas to all!  May your day be filled with joy!  May you and your loved ones be kind and loving to each other and to themselves!  May your mind be quiet and peaceful!  May your energy be vast!  And, if you indulge in eggnog, may be it robustly spirit-filled! 


Monday, December 24, 2018

Naughty or Nice?

I do not really know how to think about myself over the past year.  Have I been naughty or nice?  I would like to think and believe I have been a nice person and a helpful person.  But, truth be told... perhaps I have failed?  Sometimes I do try to be a good person.... but I often do not try as hard as I could.  Sometimes I am lazy.  Sometimes I am not trying to make things better. 

But, then again, there are ways in which I do try.  There are ways in which I recognize and strive to be helpful and strive to be the better person I can be. 

But, is it enough?  Is the question "Is it enough?" an indication that I am weak willed and lazy and only work to the MINIMUM I am capable of?  Should I instead work feverishly to always be improving, improving who I am for others, improving life for others, working to improve life as tirelessly as a hamster on a wheel? 

I do not know if there are any real answers to be had, but I do know that sometimes I think I am good, and kind, and helpful, and other times I fear I am just a lazy, worthless lout. 

These are some of the thoughts percolating through my mind this Christmas Eve morning. 


Sunday, December 23, 2018

Mass Thoughts

In Mass today I was reminded about how important it is to try very hard to "see into other people's shoes".  In other words, how important it is to always try to see, experience, and try to understand others by being more fully aware of their own life circumstances and their own experiences. 

This is such an important message.  But, it is also one that is so difficult to consistently maintain.  It is far easier to live within yourself and to only see life from your own experience and perspective.  I have been trying much more to consistently be more fully aware of the circumstances of others... especially when their words or actions towards me hurt me.  Sometimes I can more easily overlook my hurt when I am able to better realize what their experiences are or have been. 


Tuesday, December 18, 2018

The Pipely Pipe, Pipe, Pipe

I think that as we approach the Holidays that I am in need of some time to better prepare.  I have been having considerable cravings again for some beautiful pipe tobacco in one of my pipes.  For me, I believe the reason for the increase in desire for the burley leaf over the last few days stems from the inherent lack of routine during this time of the year. 

I believe this to be the case because not only did my typical pipe consumption rate increase during the Holidays most years, because I have also worked through the same sort of situation when I first lost weight.... I found holiday times to be the most challenging in terms of remaining in control of eating.  It took me a few years of considerable effort to figure out how to eat "healthy" during the holidays with the often inconsistent routine without becoming fairly grumpy at times.  I have a pretty good handle on eating appropriately during the holidays now.  But, I have yet to work through these same sorts of feelings and emotions associated with my pipe during the holidays.  It had been my regular, constant companion during the ambiguity of routine during this time of the year.  It served as a source of comfort in a chaotic world, so-to-speak. 

Now I need to find new approaches to cope with the loss of my pipe like I did the loss of just eating junk food as a stress reliever during this time.   I do admit that the idea of a pipe seems beautiful and wonderful, and the idea of figuring out coping strategies is giving me a grouchy edge. 


Monday, December 17, 2018

"Acidy" Stomach

Truth be told, my digestive tract typically is as strong as steel.  I typically have no problems eating even the spiciest foods.  However, today is one of those very rare days when my digestive tract is acting up a bit. 

My stomach feels "acidy" and I feel a bit constipated.  I am not sure what is going on... if it is some sort of GI virus that is going around (a few people have been sick) or if it most just nerves.  It is an unpleasant feeling. 


Friday, December 14, 2018


I feel a need to be more creative.  Over the years I have had all sorts of hobbies and avocations.... playing music, writing, painting, photography, building things with wood, whittling, making clocks, repairing musical instruments, repairing cuckoo clocks, making crafts.  But the reality is that over the last several years, the amount of time I have given to these various activities has grown smaller and smaller and smaller.  Many I do not currently do.  In fact, MOST, I currently do not do other than forcing myself to play music this semester and my more recent vow to write here more consistently. 

I miss the joy of those creative pursuits.  It used to seem easy to find nooks and crannies of time to spend in those activities that helped me feel creative.  But, now-a-days it seems damn near impossible to eek out time for anything other than getting through the requirements of work for the day. 

I do not know why.  Is it that I have more work?  I cannot say that for certain.  Is it something to do with all the electronic gizmos that permeate our lives?  In some ways I wonder if that is part of the answer, but I tend to minimize my time with gizmos as much as I can.  Am I just getting stupid and slow-witted in my old age?  I hope not. 

It bothers me that creative hobbies now feel NEEDED by me, but figuring out time to DO hobbies feels like a helluva lot of work.


Thursday, December 13, 2018

10 Months

It has been 10 months now since I smoked a pipe.  (Yawn).

Unlike with my efforts to walk and then to run where the increasing days, weeks, months, and even years have helped me to feel motivated to continue.... I do not feel much about reaching this 10 month milestone in regards to giving up the pipe. 

I had hoped I would feel positively... and that it would spur me on to seek to keep the number increasing.  Do not get me wrong... I do not feel overly negatively either.  I just feel indifferent.  I feel nothing much about it.  I do not really care that I have gone 10 months with refraining. 

So, I really do not know how to view this.  Overall.... I know it is good from a health perspective to refrain.  I also know that there are several days I only think about a pipe perhaps 4-5 times a day.  And, many times the thoughts are NOT the deep longing pangs of desire I had initially. 

But, sometimes the desire is there.  Sometimes it is strong. 

It is confusing as hell to me.  Once in a while I think to myself... Could I have a bowl of pipe tobacco now and just leave it at the one time?  Or would one bowl start a renewed cascade of desire that would make me start over from ground zero?  And, if that were the case, would I simply end up going back to my original pattern?   I really cannot say what I would feel/do in that instance.  

I really wish I felt more enthusiasm about having reached the 10 month milestone.  If I felt enthusiasm, it would be easier to build upon it.  Oh well.


Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Bundt Sphagetti Mac & Cheese

I made a curry and bell pepper Macaroni & Cheese in a bundt pan for dinner last night.  It was fun, and I was able to get the spice profile really nicely modulated so that it was strongly curry flavored and bell pepper flavored, but still rich, creamy and cheesy.  We all enjoyed it. 


Tuesday, December 11, 2018


I have not mentioned my running in a while (for which I am sure some of you may be relieved).  :)

However, I thought I could update you a bit.  I have now ran about 3,700 miles (fairly close to 6000km).  I am typically running around 30 miles a week.

Over the course of 2018, I got up enough gumption and overcame enough of my embarrassment to run in three different 5K road races.  My times have been pleasant for me with me getting through the 3.1 miles in about an 8:30 per mile pace.  One of the races actually gave medals for for runners in different age groups and I (surprised as hell) ended up getting 2nd place in my age group (I looked afterwards to make sure there were not JUST two runners in my age group.... there were actually about 15 or 16.

I am going to try to focus on running a few more 5K races in 2019, and I want to try to gear myself up for entering a 10K race sometime in 2019.  I have frequently ran the 6.2 miles when I am by myself on the trail, so in theory I should be able to do this.  But, for whatever reason, it really is a big struggle and worry for me to be "running" with other people who are actually runners!  There is a lot of embarrassment I have to work through and try to overcome.

And, truth be told... another worry I always have in the back of my mind is.... what the hell do I do if I have to go to the bathroom?!?!?!?   You may laugh, but it is a worry I have.  When I run on the trails I usually do at home, I  have had a small handful of occasions where the need to go became immediate.  On the course I run near my home, I know several locations where I can quickly conduct a "pit stop" if that sudden need arises.  But, with each of the 5K races I ran this year, I was consistently worrying about what I would do if that suddenly happened in the middle of the damn race.  Luckily it did not, but it was a true worry.


Monday, December 10, 2018

Sad & Hurt

Well, I was hurt by someone this weekend.  It was an emotional hurt that stirred up a lot of emotions in me.  I am still working through this so, I am using today to put thoughts on paper to try to fix this...

1.  In the greater scheme of things, what was said was not anything new.  This person has this sort of behavior that has been a part of this person's personality for as long as I have known this person. 

2.  We have had hurt feelings and arguments over this same behavioral response from this person in the past.... many times. 

3.  No matter how I try to work through and reason with this person on how I need to have us proceed in this matter, it never does any good. 

4.  I feel like a hit my head against a wall every time this happens. 

So, since I cannot get the other person to understand the impact of their actions on me, my only real option is to change myself.  But, that is a damn sight easier said than done.

So, I look to my faith.  My faith tells me that I need to forgive those who hurt me.  So, that is what I am trying to do with limited success.  But, I will keep focusing on this and trying to keep in mind that the only person I can control is ME and how I react and respond. 

Interestingly, I would really like to have a pipe at this time.  I am not wanting a pipe at the moment just for the sheer pleasure and joy of the briar and the burley leaf.  I am, due to my anger and hurt, wanting a pipe as a sort of solace, perhaps even a pacifier to sooth my soul.  In much the same way, when I was hurt and angry, I used to go and eat a lot of unhealthy crap. 

It took a lot of years for me to get to the point where I am now, in that I have as a routine that I *will not* and *do not* eat when angry or hurt... I think of it is as a waste of time and a waste of calories.  But, not having the pipe to help me cope with the hurt and anger... that is still a new effort by me and each time is a challenge.  But, I am bound and determined that *if* I ever have a pipe again... it damn well *will not* be wasted by having it happen when I am feeling angry or hurt.  If I ever have a pipe again, I want it to be at a point of joy.


Friday, December 07, 2018

Weekend Plans

Although I personally have not particularly enjoyed any of the "Harry Potter" series of books or films, all manner of members of my family (all my kids, my wife, two of my siblings, and many cousins) relish them and voraciously read, re-read, and watch, and re-watch all the various "Potter" things.

However, perhaps because it is a bit more "real world-ish" at least to a small degree, or perhaps because it features more animals.... I found the first film of the "Fantastic Beasts" series by Rowling to be quite enjoyable.  Because it is by Rowling, to my various family members it "counts" as a "Potter" film even though I disagree.  I see the "Fantastic Beasts" group of films to be vastly different from "Harry Potter" books and films. 

Regardless, we are planning a large gaggle of us to meet up and watch the second film of "Fantastic Beasts" this weekend at one of our nearby theaters.  I am looking forward to it.


Thursday, December 06, 2018

Coffee.... Nature's Vitamin?

Sometimes I really think coffee should be nature's essential vitamin.  But, hell, what do I know... if allowed to, I would want to classify pipe tobacco as an essential food group.


Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Fellow in Reflection

The vivid nature of this dream makes it feel so true, and real and part of actual life.  Dreams of this sort do not occur often, but whether they are happy or sad, uplifting or demoralizing.... they are so vivid feeling.... that they are hard to shake out of one's mind:

The fellow was balding, but grey-haired.  He sported a beard that was mostly grey but he had a thick, dark mustache that was rusty colored at the tips.  He was approximately my age, or perhaps a few years older even though I was far more grey than he. His face was round, his eyes somewhat squinty behind small, round, wire-rimmed steel glasses.

We were in some city, somewhere warm on an island somewhere.  My wife and I had just moved here after finally deciding to retire.  It seemed like a very big city.  Perhaps we were somewhere in Puerto Rico... I do not really know.

I had written to the fellow saying that I had retired and was looking for a part time job where I was moving to and that I would like to see if he had any openings.  He owned the island's (only, I presume) pipe/tobacconist shop.  He wrote back inviting me to stop by to talk.  The day after my wife and I had settled into our newly purchased condominium,  I bicycled down the pathway to reach downtown and proceeded to the shop. 

Upon meeting him, I could hear a hint of an accent, but it was not overly distinct.  In some ways it had a German quality to it, in some ways it sounded Spanish.  It was interestingly variable.   He told me I was invited to work with him up to 20 hours a week if I was interested.

Working at a pipe shop has always been something I thought would be enjoyable... both when I was a kid growing up, in college, and even thought about in adulthood.

The fellow, being the owner, had a few simple rules:

One, workers needed to carry around a pipe with them (or at least in their shirt pocket) all the hours that they worked.

Two, workers were encouraged to smoke their pipe as often as they wished during their time in the shop, but while working they all needed to smoke the designated pipe tobacco brand of the day.  The shopkeep went on to explain to me that he liked the room note to be cohesive each day, and that he would rotate blends each day to keep up variety.

Three, in order to promote both a formal and informal atmosphere, the uniform (or costume) we were to wear while working was to be khaki pants, a loud, tropical-print button down, short-sleeved shirt, and, interestingly a necktie that clashed and contrasted with the shirt.  Hell, that seemed easy enough.... I have worn ties my whole life.  :)

Four, while working, we needed to be open, friendly, and helpful to the customers.

It seemed like a wonderful, fun adventure for me, and I asked if I could start out with 10 hours a week (two hours a day) to see how things would go.  He agreed this was a good idea.  I then bicycled back to the condo to tell my wife.

We were eating a light dinner while I told her about the adventure, and she seemed to think it would be good and fun for me to pursue.

That evening we went to bed, and I had in my mind the get-up I would wear on my first day, and had the right pipe,  all cleaned and shiny to carry with me.

In the morning, my wife and I had a breakfast of oatmeal, toast, and a bunch of cut up fruit.  I had my typical 24 ounce coffee poured over ice, my wife had her tea.  I then got dressed in my pleasantly gaudy best, and peddled off to the shop.

I had just parked my bike and locked it to a sign, and was about to enter the shop.....


(*&% !!   *(^*U !!!  *&((( !!!!    The damn alarm clock went off and woke me from my dream!

I got up, put on my running clothes and went to do my morning run.  But, the vividness of that dream.... seemed so utterly real.


Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Michael Palmer

I have been a fan of medical fiction and science fiction for my whole life.  I have been reading a book by Michael Palmer, Miracle Cure.   It is a well written medical suspense thriller about a medication that can reverse arteriosclerosis.  I have just about reached the half way mark in the book, so I decided to venture around and see other works Michael Palmer has written (I have read two or three others of his works, but wanted to see if I could buy another one to read after I finish this one.).  It appears I have at least another dozen possible novels of his to choose from.  Unfortuantely, though, I also have through my search that Michael Palmer is now deceased.... he passed away unexpectedly in late 2013. 

Is anyone else here a fan (or at least reader) of Michael Palmer's works?  If so, please let me know. 


Monday, December 03, 2018

Under the Viral Stormy Weather

I and my wife must have acquired some sort of viral pathogen, because both of us came down with a myriad of aches and pains, and utter lethargy beginning last Friday.  I do not handle being sick with particular grace, so I tended to be FEELING quite grouchy this weekend.  And, to avoid causing conflict, I stayed as quiet as I could, and I tried to stay by myself as much as possible.  My TMJ has a tendency to flare up during these times as well.... and my grinding made my jaw, ear, and throat ache and throb.  I tried to sleep as much as I could.  My wife did similar things as I did.... but she does not have TMJ,  and she was generally not grouchy.

I feel about 90% confident that it was a viral affliction as neither of us had a fever.  Fever is more common with bacterial infections.

The one nice thing about this bout of illness was that I have not (yet anyway) lost my sense of taste and/or smell.  This allowed food to still taste decently delicious, even though I did not tend to want to eat much.  We had soup one evening, and pancakes another evening.

I feel roughly 75% better this morning.  Mostly I feel better in that my TMJ has subsided considerably, and when I ran my five miles at 5:00am this morning, it felt more normal in terms of speed, stamina, and "enjoyment".  During the weekend, it felt as if each and every step of each day's run was a huge chore, I was much, much slower than usual, and my body felt fatigued and utterly lethargic when I started, and I continued to feel fatigued and exhausted at the conclusion of the run.  Even stretching was wholly uncomfortable during the weekend.