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.

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Polenta & More


It had been a long time since I had seen the 1961 film of "West Side Story" and also quite a few years since I had watched the actual musical as a regional play.  I had forgotten some of its harshness, and that in many ways it was/is a more modern version of Romeo & Juliet.  

The Spielberg film of "West Side Story" was QUITE remarkable and dynamic, and the cinematography was exceptional.  It was an utterly captivating film to watch.  All of the actors were extremely adept in their portrayals of their respective characters.  It was a truly excellent film.  I gave the film an "A-" grade.  The less than perfect grade was not due to any of the above reasons I mention in this paragraph.  The slight ding, was due to some inherent aspects of the original story itself.  1)  The choices of Maria near the end (avoid reading if you do not like spoilers) in choosing to continue to love the person who killed her brother..... just felt wrong.  2) The actions of Tony following his crime also just felt wrong.  3) The "musical theater-esque" style of rather THIN character portrayal was transformed in its entirety to this film version.  Nothing inherently wrong with the typical thin, yet over-the-top characterization of characters in musical theater.... but in this very elaborate film, it ended up feeling just a bit "kitchy", and 4) the expected bit of disconnect between the elaborate, often ballet-like choreography with the harshness of the story seemed a BIGGER disconnect than it has in the earlier film and in the theatrical productions I have seen.  Do not get me wrong..... it was a wonderful film.  I think the original STORY and the original THEATRICS are not aging as well as say, a "Fiddler on the Roof" or a "Don Quixote".... at least in my opinion.  But, it was a FILM that I WOULD watch again.  

Ran 11 miles this morning.  Glad the infernal machine is seemingly holding up with my repairs. Last night for dinner, my wife and I made baked polenta squares and covered them with various toppings (mushrooms (me only, my wife abhors fungi), peppers, onions, sauces) and then had salad, broccoli and cauliflower, and I had some of my chickpea & chard side dish as well. 

I am not feeling especially motivated to teach nor do research today.  I think it is in part a weather related phenomena.  I am growing to rather dislike the blustery, harsh, cold Winters of my region in January and February.  I feel like I have to just slog through them as best as I can.  My wife and I are more and more convinced we want to move to a warmer part of the US when we retire.  Or, perhaps we will be "snowbirds" who spend Winters in the South and migrate back North in the Spring?  

No new musings about pipes this morning.  There is just the gnawing desire to return to them.  That is about all on that score.  


Monday, January 17, 2022



With today being the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday, the U is closed.  I have been working from

The treadmill has been holding up well!  I *DID* force myself to make up the miles on Friday and Saturday so that I *DID* have 55 miles done by the end of Saturday evening, so I was able to take Sunday off from running and also stay on track with my goal.

I ran 12 miles this  morning, and watched the Capuchin Mass from Sunday while doing so.  It was and is always a joy to do so, even though I watch it a day late.  It was nice hearing another Homily about the readings, as I was the Lector at Mass this weekend, and sometimes in my nervousness to read clearly, loudly, and carefully with strong enunciation, I am not paying as strict attention to the merit/intent of what I should be hearing.  So, it was nice hearing the Lector read to me, and of course the Priest's Homily was helpful, focusing on the second reading about the "gifts" we are given, and how our call is to share them.

I am going to be a bit risky today, and  my wife and I are heading to an early afternoon movie.  We will both be wearing our N95s, so we are hoping it will be safe.  And, the early afternoon movies are usually not very busy.  In previous years, pre-Covid, we would sometimes be the only people in the theater.  We are hoping for that luck today.  We picked out a movie we both are excited to see.... but one that is at the tail end of it showing in theaters (also likely to help it not be heavily attended).  We are going to watch Spielberg's version of "West Side Story".  


Friday, January 14, 2022

Fingers Crossed


It *APPEARS* that I have been able to be successful in getting the damn infernal treadmill machine back into service!!!!

1.  After getting home as early as I could yesterday, I started to work on the beast again.  Lots of drilling of holes through metal support arms, lots of drilling of other anchoring holes, lots of use of bolts, nuts, washers (including lock washers), lots of finagling with wires and sockets to get the electronic "gizmos" reconnected and attached, and lots of finessing and fussing getting plastic shields and other screws and other things to "fit" into the appropriate spaces areas.  But, by around 6:30pm, I had the damn thing together, and decided to turn it on.

2.  It turned on!  But then it said, "Safety Device Not Detected".  I started to grumble under my breath, but I remembered..... oh it is that damn little "Plug In" thing that has a cord attached to it that then attaches to me, so if I fall off the beast, the plug pulls out and the machine stops (theoretically to limit injury to me).  So I rummaged around on my workbench and found the errant little plug-in cord.  I plugged it in........ "Safety Device Not Detected" continued to splay across the screen.  I then began to REALLY grumble, mutter, and cuss under my breath.

3.  Normally, with such a perplexing situation, I would fill a bowl of one of my pipes with some dark brown crumbles of pleasantly potent pipe tobacco, chomp on the stem, and ignite my pipe.  As the lovely nicotine would caress my brain's neurons and the flavors and aromas would stimulate my olfactory and taste receptors, I would ruminate on how to solve the vexing problem.  But, as you unfortunately realize, I have not had the guidance of my pipes in that regard for some time now.  So instead, I slumped in the chair at my workbench, scowled, rubbed my face with my hand, and without the assistance of my pipes, tried to figure out what was the next step.  

4.  I came to the sad (shall I suggest.... agonizing?) conclusion that the only thing I *could* do would be to dismantle roughly 95% of all of my work to gain access to the innards housing the electronic "gizmo" circuitry to attempt to see if I could find out what about the "safety" device's innards were not up to snuff.  

5.  Dismantling took a long time, reopening up the fascia to the "gizmos" had to be done with painstaking patience because the plastic is old and the various clips are a bit brittle (as the machine is roughly 20+ years old) and I did not want to break any so as to create more issues. Finally, I was at the circuit region for the damn safety device.   I had not really paid any heed to it before, but now I had to figure out how the safety device worked internally and at the same time try to figure out why it wasn't working anymore.  Very, very fortunately, it *appeared* that during my unplugging plugs, dismantling wires, and re-plugging in wires and plugs for all the other electronics.... the "safety" circuit device's electronic contacts had rotated a bit (due to a loose screw I had NEVER touched before) so that no contact with the safety key (the "Plug In" thing) could be established.  It was a relatively easy manipulation to rotate these contact bands back into position and to tighten them in place by tightening the loose screw (Hey.... no jokes about me having a "screw loose"!).   

6.  I then went through the machinations of reassembling all the shields, guards, gizmos, and what-not.  Then I reassembled the entirety of the armature of the braces I had made and reinstalled all of it onto the arms of the beast.  I then gingerly turned the beast back on......... and on the electronic screen came the message.... "Safety Device Not Detected" started to flash again........ I cursed audibly, "SH*T!!!!".... but then I remembered.... I had NOT yet put the safety key back into the slot.  So, I scrambled back to the workbench and grabbed the key and inserted it.... and THE NORMAL POWER UP SCREEN APPEARED!!!!!!!!!! 

7.  But... I could not test it out quite then.  Over the multiple days of trying to create this fix, I had realized that all of my drilling, fussing, etc..... might have resulted in the release of a variety of metal and wood fiber shavings being released from all the drilling, filing, and fussing I had been doing...... AND.... if there were any of these within the mechanics of the machine, it could wreck havoc with the function of the motor, the belt and other aspects of the treadmill.  So, even though I wanted to turn it on to see if the belt and everything started as usual..... instead, I went and first brought down the shop vacuum from the garage and vacuumed every nook and cranny I could reach in and around the beast.  I then went and made a pail of warm water with some "Spic-N-Span Cleaner" in it, grabbed an old wash rag, and proceeded to wipe down... not once, but TWICE....  all of the surfaces of the treadmill, hoping to capture any harsh, stray shavings that might be lurking about.  I especially focused on making the rolling tread especially clean as I worried if there any shards of metal on there that they might be fed back into some of the mechanics of the beast, potentially causing failure.  

8.  By this time, it was 8:30pm.  Since I had not ran for either of the last two mornings, I was about 20 miles (~32 km) behind where I would normally be in working to accomplish my weekly goal of 55 miles (~88.5 km).  So, I went upstairs and changed into my running shorts, and went back into the basement.  I started the beast, and when I turned on the belt, it too began to roll in its predictable manner!!!!  So..... I started to run.

9.  I had envisioned trying to run 10 - 12 miles last night (16 - 19 km), but by that time of the evening, I was tuckered out and just did not have that much energy to give.  So, I allowed myself to stop when I reached 6.5 miles (~10.5 km).  I then went upstairs to eat and watch television with my wife.  

10.  I envisioned getting up this morning and pushing like hell to get a lot more miles in, as I was still WAY behind and was worried about hitting the 55 mile (~88.5 km) goal for the week. So, I got up early, and jumped into my shorts, and slipped on my clodhopper sized running shoes and went to the basement.  Again, I envisioned trying to play catch-up on miles.  I was just a few steps past the start of my 5th mile (~8th km) when my wife comes down the stairs...... with a big, burly, bald-headed fellow in gray coveralls (and wearing a mask) behind her!  


My wife had set up an appointment a few weeks ago to have our furnace company do their yearly inspection and testing of our house's heating system.  Not only was I nearly naked (other than running shorts, socks and shoes), but the noise of me running on the machine.... was just too much.  So, I turned off the treadmill, and quickly went upstairs to wash up and get ready to go to the U.   This means I am STILL ~20 miles (~32 km) behind in my weekly goal because today's and yesterday's runs were both prematurely truncated!  I am going to have to force myself to run a lot of miles today, and a lot of miles tomorrow if I have any hope of reaching the weekly goal.  And, truthfully, I do not WANT to run on Sunday, so I am going to try to run additional miles today, and will try to run any remaining miles on Saturday that I need to reach my weekly goal.  

So..... a couple of busy days ahead physically.  BUT..... BUT..... I can at least take a little bit of pride in the fact that I WAS able to repair this beast (still keeping my fingers crossed), and it only took around $20 of materials and a whole helluva lot of elbow grease, and careful thought.   That is about it..... I have to go and run a BUNCH more miles.


Thursday, January 13, 2022

Damn It.... Too Busy to Think


Truth-be-told, the failure of the infernal treadmill could not have happened at a more chaotic time.  When the damn thing broke it was the second day of the start of the semester.  The start of the semester always entails extra long hours with me fussing to get things started appropriately, and it also involves considerably more time than typical in addressing an array of student worries and concerns.  And, added to this normally hectic week is the considerably amped up workload I have due to profoundly successful fornication activities by my rodents.  I had set up some "meet-and-greet" opportunities between some of my younger rodents in hopes a few would become engaged (both "emotionally" and physically) with each other.....and that one or two litters might arrive around this time, but.... apparently my matchmaking skills surpassed even the wild success of the matchmaker in "Fiddler on the Roof" for I now have five litters of pups to measure and assess.... all born within 3 days of each other.  Typically, the births tend to be far more staggered, which gives me and my research students smaller amounts of measuring, testing, and assessing to do on a day-to-day basis.   But, five all at once makes for some long days.  

Normally the long days are fine if they need to occur.  BUT, I get home in the evenings now the last two days and have to ruminate, fuss, and finagle about the damn treadmill.  And, by the evening.... my ability to THINK deeply, carefully, and creatively..... is awfully damn scant.  I get home pretty exhausted, and trying to fuss with fixing the machine is not easy at that time of day.

But..... I now have the wooden brace securely connected between the two arms of the treadmill.  It is secured by a large number of 1/4 inch hex bolts, with sturdy washers and lock washers to increase strength and durability. I debated between using traditional hex nuts or if I should instead use locking hex nuts.  I ended up deciding on using traditional hex nuts with locking washers with the idea that once I get (hopefully..... fingers crossed) the damn beast fully set up and fully functional, I can go back to each nut attached to each bolt and put a dab of "LockTite" on it to further secure it together.   

Since I could not run again this morning (I feel physically lousy too, not running), I drove to the U and arrived at 5:00am, so I could get a lot of work done before lecturing for three hours later this morning.  By arriving early, my hope is that I can vacate the U perhaps by 2pm (if I have all the rodent work done), so I can get home earlier than usual to put a last, all-out effort to FINISH putting this damn treadmill back together.... and praying that it will work again, so I can RUN.  Come hell-or-high water.... I am going to get the damn infernal beast back together in some fashion today to see if it continues to work.  If I can run SOMETIME today, I will be only one day behind.  Being one day behind in my mileage is something I can catch up on with some brute force extra work.

As has been the case all week long.... my pipe cravings are back with a vengeance.....  I would rate my PCS (yes, the cravings are back in such a way that they again merit a score).... as being at an 8.  It is indeed a struggle again to refrain.  I keep thinking of and imagining... throwing in the towel..... and it sounds very inviting and tempting to do so.


Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Fussing & Finagling


In some circles, the word finagle suggests "dishonesty".  However, I am not using the term in that manner today in this writing.  Here today, I am using the term "finagle" to be a facet of having to repair, reshape, resize, or renew something that has broken so that it can be once again of use.  In this usage, finagle is the PROCESS of getting the broken pieces to once again be whole or at least of service. Some may say I should use "refurbish" but I would disagree in that "refurbish" is the ACT or ACTIONS of repair, whereas FINAGLING is the process in figuring out HOW to get the broken again whole.   

After visiting the lumber/hardware store.... when I finally arrived home around 6:30pm, I began the process of trying to trying to cobble together some sort of fix for the damnable broken beast that is my treadmill.  My wife was a tad aggravated about my having to spend a lot of the evening working in the basement in this attempted repair... but overall she was very understanding, knowing how I need a place to run in the winter that is safe.  Thus far I have:

  • dismantled (slowly and carefully) the myriad of screws, wires, various plastic pieces, etc. from the broken metal arm of the beast, so that if my plan is successful, I may be able to attach this arm to the wooden support I am crafting.
  • I have cut and crafted the wooden support and attached the appropriate braces (I hope) to this support.

All of the above does not sound like a helluva lot of progress, but it took damn near 3 hours to accomplish.  By 9:30, I knew I would not finish, so I called it a day, and went upstairs to eat and TRY to relax while watching a bit of television with my wife.    

Fussing and finagling with things is something I have done my whole life.  I have *usually* liked trying to repair, renew, and sometimes even improve or embellish things.  But, I do not really enjoy it so much when there is a looming deadline (the NEED TO RUN) nor when I am in an already extremely busy/hectic time. 

And, I can tell you trying to do this fussing and finagling WITHOUT a pipe is really quite difficult! When I am not stressed, fussing and finagling is something I am pretty good at, and I remember a lot of hours spent at various tasks of this sort (including my instrument rebuilds) where I would patiently, quietly, and contentedly fuss, massage, and get all sorts of pieces of various things to fit back together, or to fit together in a better way, or to repair something, etc..... always with a pipe between my chompers.  I think the pipe helped me to be calm and focused, helped me to be more thoughtful in how to finesse the challenge into some sort of workable solution, and.... of course tasted wonderful, pleasantly massaged my neurons, and felt for me to be such an utterly natural way to be and behave.

Now, I am packing it in for the day at the U.  I have to try to get home as quickly as I can so I can continue to try to get this contraption back up to snuff!  Please wish me well.  I NEED to try to get this done tonight!  I am already 10 miles behind where I SHOULD BE in terms of my running for the week.  If I cannot get it back to functionality, I will have failed in my running effort.  I missed running this morning.  I felt sluggish and tired most of the morning.   


Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Damn Treadmill Disaster


Although the image is not mine, I too have had to place an "Out of Order" sign on my treadmill. It has me worried.

I was running on the damn beast this morning.  I had just reaching 10.6 miles (~17km).... I was aiming to complete 11.1 miles (~18km) for the day.... when...... BAM!!!!!    The top bar (the electronic gizmo holding part that includes the handles, the heart monitor stuff, the electronics to adjust the speed) simply fell off!!!!  Luckily it DID NOT topple onto the the running belt/track where I was running.... but instead hung suspended in mid-air by the wiring of the electronics.  If it had fallen onto the track itself, I probably would have gone tumbling myself and either crashed into a concrete wall, or I would have fallen back - HARD - onto the basement linoleum.  But... the bigger issue is that the treadmill IS NOT USABLE because of this damnable tray breaking off.  That means I have nowhere to run come tomorrow.

Looking at the piece that broke off..... there was even more stressful news.  What had happened is that the top piece was built with a steel tube that had the plastic gizmos attached atop of it in a sort of shield-like arrangement.... but the steel tube had welded on pieces to insert into the long arms of the treadmill that went from the running surface upward to hold the gizmo shield-tray.  If you look at the labeled image below (which is much newer and fancier than the treadmill I have, but it similar in design), the plasticity part with all the gizmos (Where the heart rate sensor, cup holder, and 5" LCD Display, and Safety Key are located on the image below) on it has the steel bar running across the gizmo section (underneath the gizmos).  The METAL WELDS holding the steel bar of the gizmo tray to their point of attaching to the legs is what broke..... the damn metal welds.  So, it is not repairable by any simple means:


It was extremely disheartening and frustrating to have this failure. With the snow and ice, I have really no safe options for running at the moment.  I had happened to be at a store around the holidays that sold treadmills.  The more "budget friendly" (I tend to think of this as a sort of "Orwell-speak" if you ask me) treadmill was running for roughly $2,500.  I will not and can not justify spending that amount of money.  When I got this infernal machine roughly a year and a half ago, I had been scouring around for a used one and this fit the bill.  I believe I paid either $175 or $200 for it back then.  And, I only bought it because I needed somewhere to run in the Winter and could not run on the indoor tracks I had access to due to the damnable Covid situation.  But, who knows how the hell long it may be before I can locate another used beast?  

I think I will have to try to figure out some sort of way to jury rig this beast back together.  The only problem is that I do not have a helluva lot of time, especially with this week being the first week of the semester.... with that often meaning I cannot get out of the U until perhaps 6pm or 7pm even if I push as hard as I can to be quick.  There are just too many time consuming, nit-picky things to do this first week.  

I am going to try to stop at Lowes or Home Depot or Menards (the three "big box" lumber & hardware stores in my neck of the woods) on my way home to pick up some supplies:

  • 1  2X4 piece of lumber
  • 2 heavy-duty metal brackets... "L-shaped"
  • a huge array of heavy bolts, nuts, washers and locking washers.

I am imagining POSSIBLY being able to create a 2X4 "arm/ledge" between the two downward running legs.  If I drill holes in the legs at positions where there are holes in the metal bracket, I may be able to attach this wooden arm/ledge to the legs and have it span between them.  THEN.... POSSIBLY, if I dismantle all the gizmos and plastic shield materials from the steel bar with the faulty welds, I may then be able to drill holes in the steel bar AND 2x4 to allow me to bolt the steel bar to the 2X4.  IF THAT WORKS, I *might* be able to reattach the gizmos to the bar.

Damn it!  This is not how I want to spend my time today.  I have too, too many damn things to do at work.  I feel tired and exhausted from just THINKING about this plan for repair that MIGHT work, or may simply be an effort in sheer futility.  

Please wish me luck, and keep hoping that I might have success with this.  If I do, then I can run tomorrow.  If not.... I do not know what the hell I will do about running.

You would NOT believe how much I would like to pick up one of my pipes and smoke 3,4, 5 or more bowlsful of heavy, hearty pipe tobacco right now.  I do know that my pipes have always helped me cope with stress.  Do not get me wrong..... my pipes and pipe smoking were more than stress relievers for me.  They were friends in happy times and in harsh times.  But, right NOW, I am feeling the want/desire to have a pipe to sooth me and help to decrease my stress.  Running is the only other activity that has shown a similar level of consistently helping me to feel reduced stress. 



Monday, January 10, 2022

Hoarse Horse

 I am a hoarse horse at the moment after lecturing for 4.5 hours straight, but I think my lecture and two labs went well.  They are in smaller rooms, so no microphone use is possible (rooms not equipped), but talking through a double mask (one an N-95) is not easy. 

I finished everything I set out to do today, even in my research too.  And, I have things set to hopefully go smoothly tomorrow.  

We’re having a Chinese chickpea dish tonight with lots of vegetables and other good stuff.  Now time to shower and relax.  I really missed having a pipe as I drove home tonight.  It would have capped off a pretty damn decent day.