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, April 15, 2021

No Good


I am now trying to live in a mindset of NOT COMPLAINING, but accepting.  Complaining really does no good.  Acceptance is really all that can be done in cases where there is no known path towards change. 

So, what I am working to accept:

1.  I am working to accept that I am in some (hopefully temporary) stage where my motivation to run is low.  That does not mean I cannot run.  It does not mean I am not running.  It just means that it is something I need to work more strenuously at to accomplish each day currently.  I am not sure why my motivation is low.  It may simply be that I am desiring a break from the current routines of life.... a vacation of sorts.... a vacation somewhere that is not really possible at this time due to work and due to Covid.

2.  I am working to accept that my motivation to teach ONLINE is low at the moment.  Plugging away at and fussing at the array of "mouse clicky" work that ONLINE teaching entails is not that hard, it is just tedious and time consuming in ways that have not been a part of my teaching until Covid.  I can do this ONLINE teaching and I will do this ONLINE teaching as long as it is needed, and I have to keep my focus on the idea that I AM being helpful to students.  I AM helping them to grow and develop.  I am helping to motivate them.   Yesterday, I had one of my ONLINE students schedule an ONLINE meeting with me, and he was very animated in his descriptions to me of how he was happy he has had me as his instructor during Covid, because he felt I was really working hard to reach students through this electronic format.  By contrast, yesterday I also was able to meet with a handful of prospective undergraduate research interested students IN PERSON, and the interactions were delightful and invigorating to me and reminded me of the best of what IN PERSON teaching can be.

3.  I am still perusing my Lenten Vow of forgiveness and kindness towards the two who hurt me so very much.   I can say that I have had ups and downs in that progress.  Earlier in this week, I had reached another low point where I was feeling very intensely the sort of dislike and distrust I have had for the worse of these two folks.  I am working to accept that this may still occur, and that what I can do is to keep focused on how I want to be towards the two EVEN when I am in a down state, and if I cannot wrangle myself out of the "down" state, I can work to at least ignore the feelings until I feel enough energy to try to be better again in my goal of forgiveness and friendliness.  Overall, I have made progress, but I still have much further to go.  

 4.  I am working to simply accept that right now, I am in a very strong phase of yearning for and missing my pipes (PCS = 9 again today).  I cannot get down on myself for this.  I really can only accept that even after well over 1000 days, these memories of the deep, yet ethereal pleasures of the pipe and pipe tobaccos remain with me and will likely remain strong at times, and may quiet at times.  I must work to continue to accept that these undulations in memory and desire will likely continue, perhaps forever. I cannot and should not complain.  I have so many utterly cherished memories of indulging in the beauty of the briar pipe and the myriad of pipe tobaccos.  I should live in joy about those memories I was able TO experience, and now can savor at least IN memory. And, even though I seemingly cannot currently find an appropriate way to return to them, I can also keep in mind that there may still perhaps be a way, and perhaps I will discover that way someday so that the joys will not be just beautiful, exquisite, artistic memories, but may also be able to be again a reality in my current experiences.   To figure out a way in which I can again, with joy, experience the sheer magic of the lived experience of smoking my pipes is something I do hope for.  

5.  I am working to accept that Covid, even with a vaccine, will still in all likelihood shape our futures in ways that will continue to be different.  I have to accept, for instance, that my hope for being able to swim again in the community pool at least in the Summer is probably more likely than not only a beautiful pipe dream.  In the same way as with my pipes, I must try to live in and relish the memories of those times year round when I was afforded the luxury of that beautifully immersive experience.  I cannot dwell on the inaccessibility of the beautiful pool now, for that only diminishes the beloved memories.  

6.  I am working to accept that films in theaters, plays in auditoriums and stages, concerts that I listen to and watch, and concerts that I play in will not be available soon.  But the memories of their pleasure, of their shared experience can help sustain me.   

7.  I am working to accept that double masking in face-to-face teaching will remain for a long while.  I am working to accept that the tiredness of speaking robustly and animatedly through a double mask to try to instill a thirst for knowledge in my students is my requirement, no matter how exhausting lecturing in a loud, professorial voice can be over the scope of hours.  


Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Huge Covid Surge


Although there is no GOOD time for this to happen, unfortunately the surging COVID rates in my region are not being dealt with appropriately.  That they are surging now in a way with no cohesive guidance makes work at this time of the U semester pretty much a nightmare:

1.  I am expected to keep face-to-face classes that I have been teaching, and NOT converting them to online (because there is no policy from the state).

2.  I am expected to not only teach these face-to-face classes, but to also simultaneously build electronic replacements for the myriad of students who are now unable to attend because they are in quarantine due to exposure to an active COVID patient.  

3.  And, do I or will I get notified about quarantining myself, because of the high probability that some COVID active student has been in one of my multi-hour face-to-face classes? 

+ + +

It is just so difficult to be at peace with anything at the moment.  

My wife is grumpy about her work and COVID too.  It is difficult to talk with our kids about this as well as they are all experiencing various COVID scares again as well.  

+ + +

I so very much want to smoke my pipes right now (PCS = 9).  The yearning, the pangs of missing them feels so harsh today that it feels like it is in the top 10 days of difficulty I have experienced in the last 1,155 days I have gone without my pipes (Yes, I just counted to see how many days it has been.).

+ + + 

Running, though critical for my stress management, is not in a fun phase at the moment.  I am still doing my 9 (or more) miles a day, but I am not experiencing any joy in it the last week or two.  I hope that my mood improves where I can get back to it being enjoyable again.  Currently, I am just trying to view it as a "prescription medication"  that I *have* to do and *have* to get done to dissipate stress.  I cannot simply ignore it, because I want to.  And, if I did not run, I suspect my mood would be even less "stellar" than it currently is.


Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Discussion of Some Comments


I thought today I would focus on a few recent comments I received:

My friend, Anvilcloud, asked me:

"Do you treat your beard in any way?"

Anvilcloud has been (like I also did) allowing his beard and mustache grow out more robustly than the usual length he wore.  I started my own "bigger" beard/mustache adventure a few years ago now, and have found it very pleasant.  Anvilcloud has decided to try it a few months ago.  Here are some of my thoughts:

1.  A “big beard/mustache” is even easier!  I no longer occasionally shave a border on my neck, for instance.  Perhaps once a month I will take electronic clippers and gently smooth out the rough edges of my beard to keep it in neater shape, but that is it.  It has become very dense and full, and I have an almost "mountain man" sort of visage, albeit neater.  Actually, in many ways, since I tend to dress for my work at the U in tweeds, khakis, and various hats, and also wear lab coats quite a bit in my lab and lab courses.... I think I tend to look a bit more like the stereotypical 1800s fellows from various Jules Verne novels. 

2.   I have gotten a helluva lot of complements about my beard/mustache since I have grown it out. I have worn a beard and mustache continuously since I was 19, but I had always kept it short (usually in the neighborhood of 1/2 - 1 inch in length).  But, I can say that in the roughly almost three years since I started to let it grow out fully, I have gotten more positive complements, more accolades, and more notice in this length of time that I ever did in total in the decades before growing it out.  I find it very bemusing about the many comments I receive from students.  I have gotten a lot of comments from the workers at the coffee houses I frequent, and I have even been stopped randomly by folks in the grocery store.  It is surprising and interesting.... and I have to say I enjoy the positive comments.  Since Covid hit, and I am wearing a mask, the complements have gone down, but they still occasionally happen.  For instance, I was getting a few items (bagels at Tim Horton's) through a drive-through window the other day, and because I was in the car, I was not wearing a mask to go to the drive-through window.  The young fellow at the window who was taking my money commented on how I had a "...really great beard" and then he also proceeded to call over his girlfriend who was working there too, and she also said it was really "great".  In some ways this attention is a bit embarrassing, but it is also a lot of fun.   

So, back to Anvilcloud's question:  Do I treat my beard in any way?  

Basic answer..... no.  

Caveat answer..... I have over the time period where I have let my beard/mustache grow out.... received on a few occasions from my wife and my kids, special "beard oils", and various "beard treatments" and "beard paraphernalia" ("special" combs, etc).  I have gamely given each of them a try or two.... but have never took to any of them long term.  It is my opinion that "beard oils" are basically oily cologne.  My beard is very wiry and curly.  These beard oils do nothing for me other than perhaps give a slight scent. The special "beard treatments" (usually a special shampoo of some sort) seem to do nothing as well.  But.... then again, remember, I am a penny-pinching sort of fellow, and I will tell you a secret that even my wife finds odd:

I have only used bar soap when I shower ever since I started college back when I was a young lad.  Currently, I use "Irish Spring," and it is not only my bath soap for my body, it is my hair's "shampoo" and the special "treatment" I use to wash my beard and mustache as well.  I think I have used "Irish Spring" for at least 25 years or so, give or take a few bars of "Zest"  interspersed when my wife found a good sale. Before that, the soap I used was some other brand.  I think I was using "Dial".... it was an orange colored bar of soap anyhow.   

So, in the real, day-to-day life, I really do nothing to treat my beard in any way.  I think for me, the very wiry, curly texture is beneficial for me in terms of growing it out.  My beard never gets the droopy look that can sometimes happen if you have perfectly straight beard hair.  Because of my wiry texture, it just grows "bigger" in all directions.  It typically defies gravity and strong wind to boot. :)  

If I would have known/understood how much easier (and apparently "better") my beard/mustache would be if I let it grow out, I would have done so a helluva long time ago. 

* * * * *

Pat (unfortunately, no know blog to link to) also asked me a question:

"Could you delegate to a good graduate student or two some significant part of the chore of grading undergraduate exams?"     

 Well.... yes and no.  It really depends:

*ALL* of my graduate students are CURRENTLY science research students.  And, really, their major emphasis with me is to learn how to practice science.... learn to write papers and grants, learn to conduct quality research, etc.  While some other profs feel it is "ok" to have their research students do a lot of "grunt" work like grading things they should do themselves, I tend to feel that it is in my student's best interest to stay as sharply focused as possible on learning to be a scientist.  

However, sometimes I will have a graduate student or two who are science education students.  When I have these types of graduate students, I do have them work *with me* on grading and grading techniques... even though sometimes it is more work than benefit for me.  Because these students are working on their advanced science education degrees, having them explore different methods of grading is a reasonably good fit.  I do tend to work with them more, however, on developing their pedagogy and depth of knowledge.  

At the moment, at my U, there are not many science education graduate students.  In fact, I actually believe there may not be any at the moment.  The science education graduate students were always a much, much smaller number compared to the science research students.  The last time I had a science education graduate student, was, I think.... back in 2016-2018.  

But, onto a bigger picture answer to your question..... ultimately, I was not really particularly peeved about the grading itself.  I have grown very accustomed to that over the decades.  What was tweaking my mood towards the negative was a) that it was electronic grading which is perhaps a logarithmic level more tedious than normal grading, b) and that I did not have the option to experience the extremely pleasant, extremely desired ritual of at the end of the massive grading session.... of having a few drinks and a few pipes with my father-in-law.  That was truthfully what I was so adamantly kvetching about.  

I had this deeply ingrained, wonderful pattern, wonderful grading ritual for DECADES.  It was something I truly felt grounded by.  It was so wonderful, and now it is just gone.  


Monday, April 12, 2021



On Friday, when my work was nearing completion for the day, I was thinking and gearing up to write out some of my thoughts here.  On my mind, though, was a need my wife and I had to attend a visitation later in the evening that was being held for the father of a family friend of ours.  He was a very nice fellow that we had met a several times over the years during birthday celebrations and camping trips we had that included our friend and his family.  Our friend's father was also involved in "reenactments" especially of the French-Canadian fur trappers and traders.  I enjoyed hearing his stories about these reenactments, and have sometimes contemplated pursuing  such a hobby myself.  I think I would enjoy it.  

Unfortunately, while my wife and I were dressing and preparing to go to the funeral home for the visitation, we received some very tragic news.  A different close friend of mine (not the fellow in the above paragraph).... a fellow in the Music Department that I have known for nearly 30 years at the U, passed away suddenly.  This was extremely disheartening news, and it was made even more so because of the situation from which it transpired.  

My friend, this fellow who suddenly passed away, had only one week before his passing, gone into the hospital and had surgery and received three stents in his heart.  Because of the way health care is these days, he was summarily discharged 48 hours after this surgery.  

I personally do not think stent surgery is safe.  Just slightly over 14 years ago, my mother went into the hospital, and they founds she had some narrowing of some coronary vessels, so she had "preventative" surgery to have two stents put in.  Two days later, she died due to a blood clot that formed and broke free, resulting in a massive myocardial infarction in the hospital, the morning before she was going to be discharged from the hospital.  Her blood clot most likely formed at the sight of one of the stents because of the turbulence that occurs in blood flow in and near stent placements.... even though she was and had been on anti-coagulant (blood thinning) agents. 

From all accounts, it appears the same damn thing happened to my friend from the Music Department.  About three days following his release, he apparently died, alone, at home from a loose clot that caused a massive heart attack.  

I shall greatly miss my friend.  He was jovial, kind, and very passionate about life and especially about music.  It saddens me greatly, and brings back a lot of harsh memories also about my Mom.  


Thursday, April 08, 2021

Grumpy Grading

(PCS = 9)

I am tired, feeling grumpy and out of sorts.  The two “highlights” of my day were two online meetings.  The rest of the day was spent grading.  Electronic grading is actually far more than annoying compared with paper grading, so I have a pretty damn good headache.  

I ran 9.4 exhausting miles at 6:30am.  But I was determined to get them over with during the part of the day that was predicted to be dry and lowest wind (~ 8mph, ~13kph) of the day.  

Normal “big grade” days would be filled with shuffling paper, lots of flourishes with a vivid, red pen, lots of beautifully aromatic pipes, and the thought of a few beers with my father-in-law on the  Friday afternoon following “big grade day” .

None of that now.  


Wednesday, April 07, 2021

Ghost Taste


(PCS = 7)

Well, I did run 9.2 miles (~15km) when I finished work yesterday.  I was very sweaty afterwards as we had temperatures amazingly around 75 degrees (~24 C).  It actually felt good to get heavily sweaty.  This morning (6am), I ran another 9.2 miles.  So, I am staying on track and have ~27.6 miles (~44.5km) finished so far this week.  

I am hoping for a more calm, consistent day today.   I am going to try to squeeze in some time to capture some of the just beginning signs of Spring with my old camera.  We are just seeing some signs of little, green buds starting to show on trees and shrubs.  I can hopefully capture some interesting macro images of these if I get to go.  

I found a used book (with CD) that is meant to help me better understand improvisation styles and techniques that I hope will help me with my various instruments.  It is purported to help also in the understanding of the "ways to think about and envision" modal jazz concepts.  I hope so.  I really like to listen to modal jazz, but thinking of trying to play something in that style and with those concepts seems beyond my abilities.  

The small "ghost taste" I experienced yesterday as I was fiddling with my bulldog pipe lingered with me all afternoon.  It was such a friendly, enjoyable flavor that lingered.  It really reminded me of how flavorful and pleasant I found my pipes.  I have been thinking about that a lot since then.  I miss them. The tongue image is a drawing that looks much like my friendly dog's muzzle.  



Tuesday, April 06, 2021

Temporal Stress (Jangly Nerves)


The "unexpected" is occasionally good.... but often-times it is just stressful. Today's "unexpected" was definitely just stressful.

My wife and I were both home in the early morning.  I had my electronic "cyborg" type of teaching to do today and so I had to be ready to teach my class on-line.  My wife was staying home for a bit before she was going to do some of her things at her work later in the morning.  So, since we each had a bit of time before our required, scheduled appointments began for the day, we decided to go on a brief outing to the Starbucks' Drive-Thru Window to each get an icy blended beverage that is almost like a milkshake (they call them  Frappuccinos).  My wife had a fully loaded caramel crunch vanilla one, and I had a super low/no fat Matcha Green Tea one.  

Unfortunately, on the drive back, my wife's vehicle started to sound odd, and I had a sinking feeling..... and I had her pull into the parking lot of the "Harbor Freight" store we were just driving by (it was closed as it was early morning).  I looked around the vehicle, and.... as I expected.... the driver's side, rear tire was flatter than a pancake.  I could even still hear a little bit of "hissing" still.  We must have just ran over something or other that successfully punctured the damn tire.  

Normally not the biggest deal in the world.... just a bit of a nuisance.  But.... because both my wife and I had scheduled, work related appointments coming up quickly..... the sight of the damn flat sent surges of all of the short-term and long-term stress hormones into my bloodstream.  Even though I know I was only imagining it, it FELT like my adrenal glands were being squeezed tightly like you do a lemon you are trying to juice (the adrenals produce the array of stress hormones).  

I began calling wrecker services because time was of the essence.  We were at least two miles from a tire repair center, I had no time to try to actually change to the tire, and my wife's vehicle has one of those damn "donut" tiny temporary tires anyway, and her vehicle was absolutely filled to the brim with things she had in the trunk and it would have taken at least half an hour to get all the stuff out and get the tire and jack and set up, let alone the actual mechanics of changing the tire which would have probably taken another 45 minutes or more, and we could not simply drive there as the tire was FULLY flat.  The first wrecker service I called said it would be at least 2.5 hours we would have to wait as there was a big accident they were responding to across town.  The second wrecker service also had the same response as they were also responding to apparently the same accident.  The third service said they were "short" staffed today and did not have anyone to come out at the moment because almost all their people had called in sick.  Finally the fourth one said it would take 20-30 minutes to get there.

We eventually got the vehicle to the repair place, and it was busy too, so I waited around outside until my turn eventually came, dropped off the keys and mentioned, reminded them that we get tires from them all the time, but that we would REALLY prefer to get the tire repaired instead of buying a new one if at all possible, since we were not planning on keeping the vehicle much longer.  They planned to call us later today when it was ready.

Fortunately, while I was inside dealing with the tire, my wife was actually able to get a hold of her brother and very surprisingly he was able to pick us up and get us back to our home. My wife quickly dressed for work (in about 2 minutes) and I ran to dress for class too.  My brother-in-law was able to drop my wife off at work, and I was able to get in front of my computer about 5 minutes before class was set to start.  

My nerves were so damn jangly by the point.  What I very, very truthfully wanted at that moment more than anything was to fill and fire up my pipe, and take several consecutive, long, deep, deep draws from the stem.  That had frequently been a helpful pattern I had for coping with the "jangly" nerves I get when I am feeling the stress of a time related requirement that becomes difficult and out of my control to fix.  I would feel a bit calmer.  I kept eyeing my bent bulldog pipe (much like the one pictured), on the rack in front of me.  I only had a minute or two before I needed to open up the video lecture, so I grabbed the little bulldog pipe and even though it was empty, I went through the "motions" of holding it in my mouth, and taking slow, deep draws from the stem.  Other than the very pleasant, "ghost taste" of the air that had gone through the stem which had acquired just a little bit of the flavor of the residue of the last pipe tobacco I had smoked in that in that bowl, it really wasn't helpful in reducing stress, and I had already guessed it wouldn't really help much.  But, I put the pipe back in the rack and proceed to turn on the video to begin lecture.  Luckily, my lecture wasn't too bad, even though I still felt "jangly" as hell, and was not in strong focus.  A few more meetings occur soon, one more lecture today, and then grading for the rest of the day.

And, I still have to run later to day to boot.  I had hoped to get that finished before the first lecture today.  I just really dislike and do not do well when the timing of my day gets all shot to hell. And, I have a stress headache as well, unfortunately.