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.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Jethro Tull

In my quest to brighten my life with more music, as I worked on class materials yesterday, I decided to listen to "Jethro Tull".  They were a favorite of mine when I was younger, but I have not listened to them in a very long time.  Utilizing "YouTube" helped a great deal, as I do not have any CD or audio file recordings of any of their work (I have LPs of them).  I was happy to get reacquainted with Ian Anderson's voice and flute skills.  The above image is of Ian Anderson during the mid 1970s.  He was a pipe smoker back then.  Not sure if he still indulges or not these days.


Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Polar Vortex

My region has experienced a fairly sizable snowfall in the span of 24 hours (around 12 inches (30 cm) total). More unusual for us, though was the colder temperatures DURING the snow.... it was close to O degrees during the storm (close to -17 Celcius).  This leads to a very "dry" snow that blows around easily.  Shoveling and plowing ended up taking up most of my extra time on Monday and much of Tuesday.  Now we are in the midst of a "Polar Vortex" where we are having a few days of temperatures dropping to -12 degrees Fahrenheit ( -25 degrees Celcius).  This is not so unusual, but the very high winds have made the WIND CHILL FACTOR be around -50 degrees Fahrenheit (-46 Celcius).  So, travel is hindered a bit and tends to be as minimal as possible.

I am thankful that our power is still intact and that we have a pleasant, warm home.  I did accomplish my 5 mile (8 km) run each day though (on an indoor track)!   I am happy about that!


Friday, January 25, 2019


I have to add more beauty to my life.  I am turning off the b*llsh*t news and the obnoxiousness.  Instead, I am going to listen to my collection of Sonny Rollins albums.  He is an amazing tenor saxophonist. 

Here is a link to one of his great albums from the mid-1950s:


Thursday, January 24, 2019

Tired of Politics.....

I used to enjoy discussion of news and current events.  But, everything is too damn polarizing. 

I cannot stand what has happened in our country since Trump was elected.  It is such a sad state of affairs. 


Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Wound Up

Yesterday I was in some sort of higher energy mood than usual.  I was intense and all "fire-and-brimstone" in my teaching yesterday.  It was a helluva lot of fun.  The passion was palatable.

I really like teaching, I know that.  But, yesterday was even more intensive and passionate than usual.  I was pontificating everything I could think of in regards to the integumentary system, and it was fun.


Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Covington Catholic Student

If you have been following the news this past weekend, there was an incident that occurred at the Lincoln Memorial that has been videotaped and has gone viral about an encounter of three groups:

1.  A group of high school boys from Covington Catholic School in Kentucky who were there to attend March for Life rallies.

2.  A group of Black Hebrew Israelites apparently attending activities of the Indigenous Peoples March.

3.  A group of Native American gentlemen who were there to participate in the Indigenous Peoples March.

Unfortunately for all concern, the situation grew very heated and quite tense.  From video posted, several things are currently known:

1.  The boys from Covington HS were a pretty large group (perhaps around 100 at the time).  Many of them were wearing MAGA clothing (especially present were the "Make America Great Again" hats).  Some of these boys were shouting "Build the wall!" at the members of the other two groups.  And, one boy in particular (self identified as Nick Sandmann) appears to be getting into the face (being too close) of a Native American gentleman and smirking.  However, this HS student has written an e-mail that suggests otherwise.  

2.  The Black Hebrew Israelites have been heard on these videos rather nasty slurs and comments about both the Covington HS students and the Native American protesters.

3.  The Native American gentleman and a few other Native Americans are seen in the videos playing a drum and singing some sort of Native American song.  It is reported that some other videos are in circulation that show the Native Americans moving in between the Covington HS students and the Black Hebrew Israelites.  Whether this was to *try* to dissipate tensions, or to be agressive seems to be up for debate as of this writing.

*  *  *  *  *

I sincerely do not know how all of this will pan out in the end.  It is still in quite a bit of flux at the moment.  I can express my opinions currently, however:

A.  My impression is that the HS kid (Sandmann) *was* being "in-your-face" purposefully, and that his facial expressions *to me* felt like a rude, impolite, denigrating series of smirks. I cannot say with certaintity that was his intent... but it sure as hell looked to me that he was acting like a rich kid who thinks he is better than everyone and feels he has the right to belittle and denigrate others.  

B.  My impression of the Black Hebrew Israelites is that it seems from all accounts that I have seen and read that they were there to try to agitate others, and that they were trying to agitate virtually everyone other than themselves.  To what end, however, I have no idea.

C.  The Native American group, in most of the video content and stories I read, seems to have been there to truly celebrate the Indigenous Peoples Day.  From my understanding this was the first such event held in DC for Indigenous Peoples Day.  My opinion leans at the moment that the Native American group that went between the  Covington HS Students and the Black Hebrew Israelites *was* trying to diffuse a tense situation.... even though that proved unsuccessful.   

*  *  *  *  *

Some things I would like to point out:

1.  It also is highly discouraging to me that all of these things transpired also during the MLK weekend preceding the governmental celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.   I am of the opinion that neither the Covington HS students nor the Black Hebrew Israelites respected in any way, shape or form the memory of Martin Luther King Jr. with any of their actions that have been shown.  It was appalling.

2.  The Covington HS students were there supposedly to support "March for Life".  I think March for Life is a worthwhile pursuit.  I find it annoying, rude, obnoxious, and idiotic that these high school kids really made a mockery of the "March for Life" protest too by their actions.  I mean... come on.... the kids themselves.... and at least the supposed chaperones that they had on this trip should DAMN WELL KNOW BETTER than to have anyone wear MAGA hats.  That is just political b*llsh*t and sullies the intent of "March for Life".  

3.  As further information unfolds, there are potentially some important details we have not yet heard.  There is a potential that with additional information some things may be clearer or opinions may need to be revised a bit.  But, right now, I am frustrated and annoyed.  

4.  But, as a practicing Catholic myself, I find it shameful a) the wearing of stupid MAGA politically charged hats at this sort while participating in March for Life, b)  I think the Covington High School governance needs to look very carefully at what sort of elitist, obnoxious, uncaring attitudes they appear to be breeding in their students.   The actions and the manners shown by that huge group of kids from Covington was appalling and DOES NOT represent true Catholic faith or teaching. 

5.  It hurts me that many folks equate the Catholic Church with the cases of pedophila and now with this appearance of bigotry and obnoxiousness.  None of that is my experience with my faith.  No faith is perfect and there are a lot of nasty, criminal folks in all faith organizations and in non-faith organizations (including politics). 

It is just frustrating as hell.  Truth be told, although I have taught myself to not act out in anger, I can tell you with certainty that what I want to do at the moment is to have a bowl of dark burley leaf in one of my pipes.  But, I have learned both with food and with pipe tobacco to be able to tell myself NO! when I am sorely tempted by either as a way to cope with anger or frustration.  


Monday, January 21, 2019

Dream Time

Once again, last night, I had another beautifully vivid dream about pipe smoking.  In this case, I was my "codgery-old-self" that I am today, but I was living in the late 1800s.  My family was the same, I was still a professor, but it was around 1890 or thereabouts and life was based upon the technologies of that time.  I walked to the U.  We had a family carriage and horses.  Life was slower paced.  And, I was enjoying pipes frequently throughout the day... even while teaching, so it was delightful. 

In my dream, the feeling of freedom of day-to-day life was oddly beautiful.  After awakening, I have been thinking about it in regards to the pipe smoking, and I think perhaps the dream was so pleasant as perhaps my mind corralled itself to shape my thoughts in the dream to that of a fellow in the late 1800s... with no inherent knowledge of the dangers of smoking, nor the stigma attached to it.  It was wonderfully relaxing.  It also reminded me of a brief period earlier in my life when I did participate in some reenactments from that time frame as well. 


Friday, January 18, 2019


My wife and I took a chance and went to see a sci-fi movie called "Replicas".  The synopsis of the film sounded very interesting:

"After a car accident kills his family, a daring synthetic biologist will stop at nothing to bring them back, even if it means pitting himself against a government-controlled laboratory, a police task force, and the physical laws of science."

Modern films in general often are quite weak in plot and so, the ideas expressed seemed potentially more interesting than a lot of films I have read about lately, so we took a chance on it. It stars Keanu Reeves, which was not really a good sign.  But, I have enjoyed his work in a few other films, so we went to the theater.

Well, as to be expected I guess, the film had a helluva lot of plot holes, and was utterly far-fetched in so many ways it would take hours of writing to mention even half of them.  BUT... both my wife and I found it to be entertaining and enjoyable.  And, it was just fun to be together too.  The plot holes were easy enough to overlook as the IDEA behind the story was pretty intriguing.  Critical reviews of the film have been savagely against the film... but we both ended up being happy we went to see it. 


Thursday, January 17, 2019

Life is Sh*t

While I actually mean this more tongue-in-cheek.... there is some validity to the concept.  Let me explain:

Over the last several weeks I have been purposefully trying to foster in myself a more "Zen" -like disposition.  I do not mean this in the truly "Zen" fashion, probably, but what I am using "Zen" to mean at the moment, is that I am trying to foster in myself a greater acceptance of "what is". 

In my inner-self, I know that I have a pretty strong tendency to rail against things that bother or aggravate me.  I tend to want to dig my heels in and push back against things that I feel are wrong or are injustices or are just damn annoying in life.  And, in some fashion this *is* helpful.  In part this is what had helped me a) exercise for so many days (3000+ days and counting, I will have to backtrack soon and give an actual number), b) made me stubborn enough that I have given up my beloved pipes and pipe tobaccos for 11 months now, c) and this has helped me in various other pursuits (hell, it is probably instrumental in my sticking with and completing my doctoral education so many decades ago as well, even when I wasn't really wanting to for a while).  So... being a stubborn old fool HAS served me well in several venues.

BUT.... I have also been growing more and more aware that being that stubbornly determined to rail against things I did not like is also at times a) exhausting, b) not always helpful, and c) consumes a helluva lot of time.  So, as I stated above, during the last several weeks I have been trying to be more conscious of not needing to rail against every possible issue.  And, I can accept as simply "what is" for many day-to-day aspects of life that while not joyous, are just.... "what is". 

So, back to sh*t.  I have grown to realize in my attempt at this form of "Zen" that even though it is not the most pleasant thing to admit.... fecal matter is a necessary and significant focus in my life and has been for decades.  Here is what I mean.... there are so many times each and every week if not every day that I have to focus on feces in one fashion or another:

1.  A part of my research involves some study of the feces produced by my rodents.  Fecal analysis has been a segment of my physiology research since way back in graduate school.  It just is a part of what I need to do with my research.  It is not the primary focus (fortunately), but it is a part.

2.  When my kids were young, as any parent knows, bowel movements by the kids are an important indicator of potential health concerns.  And, so, in addition to the many, many years of diaper changes that occurred when the kids were babies, there was the potty training period,and even later where I had to be cognizant of their fecal output and qualities.

3.  And, as pet owners, we have had various cats in our home over the years.  As the male, the husband, it fell into my household duties to be the person in our home to be the catbox cleaner and the fellow in charge of its upkeep.  So, another nearly immutable link to fecal matter has been a part of my life in this regard.

4.  The dog (or dogs over the years).... the dog also has guided my life to be more intimately associated with feces. There of course was the potty training of the dog, and the predictable, scheduled getting the dog out into the yard to do her duties.... and the inevitable weekly cleanup I would have to do on garbage collection day as well.  And, because it is the norm where I live, when I take the dog for a walk or now a run, I have to always keep with me, disposable plastic gloves and bags to collect her "movements" as we traverse along a path.  The intimate link I have with feces became even more apparent during the Holidays this past month when my dog came down with a bout of colitis.  Her colitis manifested itself in loose, nearly projectile, liquid movements, that gave me additional work and responsibilities.  Fortunately a veterinarian prescribed antibiotic has returned her colon to regularity and that added "sh*tty" aspect of  my day has been reduced. 

5.  And, of course as my wife and I have aged, awareness of variances in our own "habits" has become more a point of "interest" too. 

So, as you can see... I am trying to just accept "what is" in regard to all this sh*t in my life. 


Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Ice Storm

I missed a day of writing here due to an ice storm.  While it did not knock out our power, it did affect cable sporadically, which limited Internet access a bit.  But, the larger usurper of time was simply in taking up considerable time in dealing with issues that were slowed, delayed, or hindered to a degree by the storm. 

Things seem back up to snuff at the moment, so I wanted to check in and get back on track.  I *did* however, maintain my running and exercise!  So, the number growing in that regard remains intact!


Monday, January 14, 2019

11 Months

It has now been a FULL 11 months since I have indulged in one of my briar pipes filled with delightfully robust, richly umber-brown crumbles of tobacco leaf.  Basic thoughts:

1.  I still feel utterly indifferent to the "accomplishment".   I keep hoping that continuing to progress and increase that number would invigorate my passion and resolve to refrain.  But... I still only feel indifference. 

2.  There are days when I do not think about my pipes or pipe tobaccos. 

3.  There are days when I do think about my pipes and pipe tobaccos in a general sense.

4.  There are days when I do want to indulge in a pipe. 

Every so often, the thought creeps into my mind that.... hey, perhaps I could indulge in one or two bowls of pipe tobacco just to recall old times.  Or just as a special treat.  Or to remember a relative or friend who was a pipe smoker. 

The idea has appeal.  But, I do not know a) if I am strong enough to stop at one or two, nor b) if I would want to stop again.  I also know ("suspect" is probably a more accurate term, as I have never put it to the test) that now that I have been away for such a long time, it is likely that impact of having a pipe would be akin to the robust and beautiful way it felt when I first started the hobby as a kid.  It would feel wonderfully strong and rich. 

So, I keep waiting and proceeding as I have, with only indifference to show for it.  Perhaps I should focus on indifference being enough?


Friday, January 11, 2019

Subaru Libero (Domingo)

I have always had a fondness for quirky vehicles, so I often times enjoy looking up interesting vehicles that (unfortunately) do not or did not find their ways to the U.S. market.  One vehicle I have been especially enamored with learning about of late is the Subaru Libero (called the Domingo in European markets, apparently). 

It is a form of "microvan" with seating for 7.  It looks like it would be a lot of fun to drive around and was available with a manual transmission (a plus!).  That sort of vehicle has me thinking again of one of my favorite books by John Steinbeck..... "Travels With Charlie".  The sort of wanderlust expressed in his work has always had strong appeal for me.  In my mind's eye, I would get an old camper for atop of my pickup and traverse across the country with my dog, just like Steinbeck did in his work.


Thursday, January 10, 2019

Health Care

I usually try to not be particularly political on my blog, as I tend to think we hear too damn much political commentary in most other aspects of day-to-day life, but today I will make a brief exception:

I find it horrendous, criminal, and utterly ass-backwards that the United States has a "health care" strategy that revolves around having an employer determine and dole out the potential health care it may (or may not) wish to provide. 

I find it asinine that so many foolish folks in the United States are so brainwashed by money-grubbing elitist politicians... that they will fight tooth-and-nail against any sort of attempt to bring universal health care to everyone in the United States. 

I find it unbelievable that so many cannot see how universal health care for all the citizens of the United States is a civil rights issue. 

How can so many in the U.S. not recognize how so much of the industrialized world treats its citizens so much more fairly and equitably than we do here (look at Canada and Brittan for just two of many countries who do a good job). 


Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Night Time Sleep Ritual

While I rarely have any sort of trouble falling asleep at night, I suspect the reason for my ease in falling asleep is due to consistent routines that tend to follow.  The three routines that I follow typically are:

1.  "Intimate Proclivities" - an obvious and joyful method of acquiring a good night's rest involve indulging in intimacy with a loved one.  And, so, when my wife is willing and of a mind to indulge me, this is an excellent and favored choice.  However, it is not always an option. 

2.  "The Novel" - as my occupation as a professor has me reading a good bit of the time, "the novel" may seem at first glance to be an odd choice.  However, as a scientist, the VAST majority of my work related reading is technical, dry, and requires a certain alert mindset.  I do, however, find that reading fiction at night is a wonderfully different sort of beast.  It is a story, it is read for pleasure and does not require the same sort of focus as does my daytime reading.  I have several novels in my queue right now, and I find that on nights when #1 is not an option, reading 3 or 4 chapters in a good book relaxes my mind in such a way that sleep then is readily available.  The only time a good novel is not reliably helpful, however, is usually during the first 2-3 chapters.  I find that when I START a new book, I tend to focus more to create the story in my imagination and sometimes it is more challenging to sleep.  Once I have the characters well established in my mind, however, (like after the first few chapters), then my novel reading is almost akin to a movie playing in my mind. 

3.  "The Briarpatch" -  Even though I have forsaken the pipe at this time, I find it interesting, and sometimes quite helpful for me at night when I am trying to fall asleep.  During the day, I tend to try to focus away from thinking about my pipes and pipe tobaccos for the most part, as to think about them will create pangs of desire for a pipe.  However, at night, when I am in bed, I often find great comfort and a clearing of the mind by thinking about my pipes, pipe tobaccos, times I have indulged in the beautiful leaf, and the various shops I have visited over the years.  Thoughts of these memories, when trying to fall asleep give me a sense of tranquility that helps me. 


Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Alto Clarinet

As many of you know, I enjoy playing music and have recently rejoined a wind ensemble I had been away from.  My primary instruments are the bass clarinet and the tenor saxophone.  But I can also play the clarinet and the alto clarinet. 

The alto clarinet, though, is a seldom used instrument in most modern permutations of orchestras.  I am not sure why that is, but I suspect it is due to their rareness... and due to their vocal range being effectively covered by the alto saxophone (both are pitched in Eb).  It may also be due to a inherent tendency for the instrument to be a bit  off-key if not played with diligence and care. 

But, I have always enjoyed the instrument and I am happy to say that I am going to be able to play it for one particular piece we are working through now!  My primary instrument will still be the bass clarinet in this group, but this one piece, has an important part for the alto, and I look forward to being able to double on it in my group!  I am going to dig out my alto clarinet and polish it up so it looks nice and shiny and will have it ready to go.


Monday, January 07, 2019


For me, the weekend was fairly mundane.... and that can be very nice!  My wife and I took down all the Christmas decorations and I took the decorations off the outside of the house as well. 

Just because it sounded fun and enjoyable, we decided to have a traditional "Thanksgiving" style dinner last evening.  Sounds odd for January, but this past Thanksgiving we and the whole family ate at my Mother-in-Law's home and it turned out to be more of a sort of "pot-luck" style occasion then. 

Last night we had all our requisite dishes for the Thanksgiving... roasted turkey, basil and tarragon mashed potatoes, gravy, salad, green bean casserole,  yams, dinner roles, cranberry sauces, stuffing, and pumpkin pie.  We all enjoyed it greatly.


Friday, January 04, 2019


I am trying to gear myself up to actually run a 10K Road Race this year.  I would relish doing so to get my "trophy" (a t-shirt of the race).  It is a bit foolish of me to be nervous and angst riddled about doing so.... I often times will run the 6.2 miles (10K) in my morning run, so I know technically I *can* do it. 

But, it is difficult for me to overcome the psychological barrier of "running" amongst other people who ARE athletic and ARE runners.  In many ways in my head I am still very much the pudgy kid I was growing up, who was not athletic... or I am still very much the 300 pound heavyweight I was for a number of years.  Psychologically, I feel like I do not "fit in" running an actual race.... in public... with other REAL runners.

It took a lot of energy and gave me a lot of anxiety this year when I ran a few 5K races.  I was VERY excited at completing them.  But I was very self conscious during the races themselves.

But, I think it will be good to push myself to do a public 10K.


Thursday, January 03, 2019

Near Vegetarianism

In terms of food, my wife and I are often at opposite ends of the spectrum.  My wife would be most happy being pretty much a carnivore.  For me, if push-came-to-shove, I could easily be a full-time vegetarian.  I *do* like and enjoy turkey, chicken, and some fish.... but I could easily make due without any of the three if there were a need to do so.  In reality, I end up eating perhaps 2 or 3 meals a week with a small amount of one of the above three meat choices... every other meal would classify as vegetarian.  I have no "philosophical" reason for this... I just happen to like the flavors and textures more in what closely approximates a "Medeteranian" style of diet. 


Wednesday, January 02, 2019

Orange & Yellow

Even though I tend to not put much faith in the concept of "favorite colors" having any sort of hidden meaning about one's personality, I can say that if push came to shove, my two long-standing favorite colors are Orange and Yellow.  So, I thought I would look up what is commonly said about having those two colors as "favorites".  According to "psychology" sources ( perhaps psychobabble would be more apt in this case )...

If Your Favorite Color is Orange.... You are assertive and determined rather than aggressive - having a personality color orange means you are more light-hearted and less intense than those who love red.


If Your Favorite Color is Yellow.... You have chosen the color of happiness, wisdom and imagination, Yellow is chosen by the mentally adventurous, searching for novelty and self-fulfillment. Yellow usually goes with a sunny and shrewd personality, with a good business head and a strong sense of humor.

I admit, I *like* thinking the above denotes my personality.... but.... I think it is probably just hogwash.


Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Ice Pack

The ice-pack image is a rather 'stock' image for New Year's Day to represent significant overindulgence in spirits the evening before.  Fortunately, I very rarely drink to a level where such an ice-pack is desired.  I believe I have had a hangover of that sort perhaps only a handful of times in my life.  Once when I started graduate school and was quite a novice, and the other few times typically associated with a robust wedding reception.  So, the ice-pack is just for show this morning.

Well, it is now 2019.  Last evening, my wife and I spent a quiet evening together examining our hopes and dreams for the upcoming year as we have done each year since we began dating so many, many years ago.  It was a gentle, quiet time of reflection and love. 

A tradition that was a bit different than in years past was in beverages.  My wife is a virtual "tee-totaler" and so typically in years past, I have coaxed her into having us open a bottle of wine on New Year's Eve, but truth-be-told, I would typically drink the lion's share of the bottle.  This year, however, because of my pipe fast, I was a bit hesitant about how much to drink as I anticipated that being slightly "sloshy" feeling would lead me to yearn for a pipe.  It had been my normal pattern to truly and deeply relish a strong bowl of dark tobacco in my pipe when I would become gently "sloshy" of mind.... it always has been a very beautiful paring that I would enjoy.

However, I did not want to have to work through the philosophical arguments in my mind last night about whether to have a pipe or not.  So, instead of a bottle of wine to "share" with my wife, I instead gently worked through two bottles of a pleasant I.P.A. style beer during the evening.  I do admit that there were a few moments when I *did* contemplate a pipe, but I was not "sloshy" enough to end up having a serious internal debate.

Happy 2019!