The Thoughts of a Frumpy Professor

............................................ ............................................ A blog devoted to the ramblings of a small town, middle aged college professor as he experiences life and all its strange variances.

Friday, March 24, 2023

Response to my "Unknown" Friend

 In my comments, my friend who goes by "Unknown" asked me a question:

"Do you have a deep distaste for even the most necessary and helpful of confrontations?"

I can answer that I AM confrontation averse.  That is true.  But, I WILL confront folks when I feel that to do so is right, correct, and/or needed.  But, even in those situations, it DOES cause me significant worry and stress... even though I know I MUST do it, and NEED to do it.  

In regards to the situation with the reader at Mass..... there was absolutely no need for me to engage in confrontation with her.... as I was FINE with reading, but I was equally FINE not reading that vocal passage.  It truthfully did not matter to me.  

It DID matter to Father.  I can understand his reasoning, but in reality, over the many years I have been lector, there have been MANY times where the reader was of a different gender than the biblical character who was "speaking".  So, for me.... there was NO benefit to be confrontational with this other reader.  She is actually a very nice person.  She just has a trait that is a bit bossy at times, and that is widely known across the Parish.  

So, I was fine with reading, and fine with not reading.  I was NOT needing to be confrontational for something that was not my edict. 

* * * 

As far as the person I do not mention..... most of the interactions I DO have are on the "confrontational" side as I am attempting to get this person to think logically about some damn critically important things.  It is enormously taxing on me, though, and after each interaction, I am completely emotionally drained and physically drained as well.  But, again, I do not get into any specifics here any longer.

* * * 

Other updates:

  • Still running as usual.  Hit my 50 mile plus (~81km plus) goal this morning, so I can take two days off.
  • BIL was discharged without any endoscopy (neither upper nor lower) like he should have had.  The hospital said they did not want to do the endoscopy because he was found to have norovirus.  There is no reason to avoid endoscopic examinations due to norovirus.  I think they did not have a bed (due to nurse shortages) as he was in the ER observation the whole time.  I am anticipating he likely will have further bleeding and/or a redevelopment of pain and will likely be back in the ER this weekend.
  • SIL had a reasonably good report at her doctor.  The doctor is planning to keep the amputation stitches on for at least two more weeks, but fortunately the wound has no sign of infection.
  • MIL seems fine now related to Covid, so that is good.   
  • I feel like a robot.  I do not seem to have any opportunity to NOT be doing something that someone else needs.  I guess my run at 6am every weekday morning is "for me" but, the rest of the day.... not so much at least the last several weeks.  It is wearing me down mentally and emotionally.
  • I have to fly to Des Moines at the end of next week.   

Wednesday, March 22, 2023


I have been away.  It has been difficult.  Life feels like I am mired in quicksand.  Not much time, so a brief list of bullets.  I apologize if some of this may be redundant.  I did not check what I last wrote:

  • MIL acquired Covid.  She recently came out of isolation.  During isolation was difficult because of her dementia. Fortunately, her Covid symptoms stayed mild. 
  • I know I already mentioned the garage door opener breakage.  That took a lot of wind out of my energy as well.
  • SIL was hospitalized.  She had a foot infection.  The clinicians said it had spread to a bone, and part of her foot had to be amputated.  The infection is related to the neural and vascular decline in her extremities due to poorly regulated diabetes.  The amputation was very traumatic for her and for all of us, especially my wife.  My SIL is home now and recuperating as best as she can.
  • Spent most every day and evening last week (other than class, hospital visits, limited sleep, 6:00am running, and Mass) working well into the post-midnight timeframe with students in order to get them prepared for this past weekend's research talks they were to give.  
  • Went to the Conference (and the Executive Board Meeting of the Conference).  Chaired my section and listened to a lot of research talks, including my student's talks (some of which were in my section, a few in other sections of the conference).  I had to apologize and scurry to another building twice during my section to go hear my own student's talks.  I am fortunate that the vice-chair of my section actually attended the afternoon session this year (in the past, she has been rather spotty about attending).  So, when I had to scurry away, she took over for those brief periods.
  • The conference was ~4.5 hours away by vehicle.  That meant I did a numbing 9 hours of driving in the span of a few days.  I am not fond of long-distance driving..... especially since I have been refraining from my pipe.  
  • Our priest caused a "kerfuffle" at Mass.  We have a variety of folks who read the first and second readings at Mass.  We have laypeople do this, and the Priest reads the Gospel reading prior to his Homily.  Our priest wanted an especially long reading of the "blind man" passages this past weekend and wanted to have this Gospel read with voices of Narrator, Blind Man, and Christ.  Normally when this happens (usually near major Church holidays), the readers of the first and second readings divide the Gospel's narrator part and the Blind Man part (or other part if it is a different reading) and the Priest reads the portion where Christ speaks. One lady who is  a regular reader was one of the people designated for reading the first reading and another lady the second.  But, Father spoke to his secretary and asked her to tell ME that he SPECIFICALLY wanted ME to read the part of the Blind Man.  He wanted a deep, resonate, male voice for that part.  The secretary texted me that information.   However, one of the two lady's who was set to read then non-Gospel readings is a person who is a little bit "bossy" and she decided that SHE and the other non-Gospel reader would decide which of THEM would read the part of the Blind Man.  Honestly, it made no difference to me, so I said.... "Sure."  I knew it would keep the peace as I know how rather grumpy this one person gets if her idea is not adopted.  It was not any big deal to me.  Father's secretary heard our conversation and went to let our Priest know of the change.  Father was NOT happy.  He came to me and said that he wanted ME to read (for the reason I stated above) and that he was going to go and talk with the "bossy" lady.  I actually asked him to NOT do this, as I knew it would cause her to get actually grumpy.  But, he was insistent.  He went over and talked to her, and she WAS grumpy.  I am not sure if she is grumpy at ME or our Priest, or BOTH.  I will see how it goes this weekend.  I am hoping she is not irate at me.  I was not involved in this, other than to read the part Father had asked.  
  • The meeting preparation put me behind in my grading of exams. I am now working late, late into the night to get those caught back up too.  
  • During this time, we had TWO unfortunate challenges with the person I can no longer talk about here as well, which made things even more stressed.  
  • NOW, as of this morning, my BIL was admitted to the hospital today.  Significant blood in the stool.  Stool is pitch black, suggesting an upper gastrointestinal cause.  He is scheduled for an upper GI and a lower GI tomorrow.  He is in significant, unremitting pain.  His abdomen is distended as if he were carrying a pregnancy.  CT scans show no blockages.

I am tired of stress.  I am tired of worry and anxiety.  I am tired from less sleep than usual, and usually I am under-rested.  The above is a brief glimpse into my life since I was here last.


Thursday, March 09, 2023

Brake or Break?!?


A brake can be something to help stop a vehicle, but there is also the alternate spelling of "break" which is somewhat different.

A "break" can be a time away, a peaceful refuge, a time for quietness, or a time for frivolity.

And both "break" OR  "brake" can can be used in different contexts to relate to the snapping of wills, the collapse of energies, the disassociation of thoughts due to exhaustion.

Technically, we are in the midst of "Spring Break" at the U.  

Unfortunately, this "break" is not going as I had envisioned. I had HOPED for a bit of down time, and a bit of relaxation.  Unfortunately, a variety of situations have prevented that vision from occurring:

1.  My elderly mother-in-law's Covid.  VERY FORTUNATELY, she is only experiencing very mild PHYSICAL symptoms of the pathogen.... a bit of a runny nose a bit of a feeling of tiredness.  Rather UNFORTUNATELY, a pattern is seeming to be occurring that when my MIL has some sort of illness/situation that causes a bit of an inflammatory response (like happened when she fell, and now has happened with Covid).... it causes her memory to return a fair amount (a good thing), causes her to be more interactive (also a good thing), but also experience hallucinations (a very bad thing).   In the case of Covid, she is required to be alone in her room, with her room door shut.  This also aggravates her as she likes her door open and likes to interact with other people in the hallway, and she and her two neighbors leave their doors open like this 95% of the time.  It has been rough goings on since the diagnosis.  My wife goes to visit her (wearing an N95 of course and takes a shower upon return home), but the visits have helped but she cannot be there 24/7, nor would I want her to be, and worries about her getting Covid are stressful.  And, worries that Covid could also transmit to me are worrisome, especially with the upcoming research meeting I am attending with students

2.  Preparing my students for this meeting is also not going as I had envisioned.  It has been a lot of long, more arduous work than I had been hoping for.  It has been causing me quite a bit of disgruntlement and stress. 

3.  My wife's work with her siblings regarding my MIL's house has been chaotic, as now one of them is wanting to NOT prepare the house for sale and it is causing more stress 

4.  My wife and I had PLANNED to take a day trip to the Capuchin Retreat Center we like that is several hours away.... on Wednesday.  We had both blocked our schedules to be free.  Tuesday, mid-morning, my wife was leaving to go to my MIL's house to meet with the siblings, and as she was leaving, she pushed the garage door closer in her car, and the door closed... only half way.  She kept pushing the button and then got out to investigate.... and the mechanics of the garage door opener were smouldering!  She ran into the house and in a panic ran to my den, where I was working on things for this upcoming meeting.  Of course, I ran out with her, saw the smouldering mechanics, and had to act... I got out a ladder and unplugged the damn contraption from its plug in the garage ceiling.  It stopped smouldering, fortunately.  My wife went to her Mom's house, and I had to try to troubleshoot.  I played around with the mechanism a bit, and everything was free moving, so I plugged the damn thing back in and it started smouldering again.  I unplugged it and called the garage door people we have used for a couple of decades.... they set our appointment for WEDNESDAY, negating our trip.

5.  I figured the door opener had gone belly-up and was not repairable.  It was 45 years old, so it had served its job well.  I also new it was of a manufacturer that was no longer in business (I had worked to get new remotes for the opener a few years ago, which was very difficult) so replacement parts would likely be non-existent.  

6.  Waiting around for the door repair folks all day Wednesday was not fun, and as expected, the mechanism was no longer repairable.  They then showed me models to replace the device, and I picked a pair of a medium priced model (we have two single garage doors, and like to have our remotes with two buttons so we can control both sides.... so the opener on my side of the garage would also be replaced... it too was 45 years old, and although working fine, we did not want to have two remotes in each vehicle, and with the age of mine, it was likely not going to work too much longer anyhow).  

7.  They scheduled this installation TODAY.  It has been a most-of-the-day affair.  I have been trying to do work while they work, but I have been unfocused and out-of-sorts, so I was not particularly productive.  

8.  Between late night tonight and tomorrow (Friday) we are scheduled to get ~7 inches (~18 cm) of snow (sigh).   So, tomorrow will be spent with much of the day having me dig us out.

* * * * * 

  • Ran 10 miles (16 km) this morning.  I am a little bit ahead, so IF I can get to the track tomorrow, I only need to run ~7 miles (~11 km) to complete what I need to hit my weekly goal.  Hopefully I will be able to get there.  
  • PCS = 8 again.  Just a strong desire to have a pipe and enjoy how it is helpful in letting me relax a bit.  Sometimes I wonder if I should just "go with the flow" and do what I hedonistically want to do.  I feel discouraged about life at the moment.  So, that may be part of it.  
  • My work was so tedious and not what I wanted to do, that I found all sorts of distractions to avoid doing it.  I did have fun, however, on a comment board I used to participate in a great deal.  I really should NOT have been involved with it today, but I had been meaning to return to this board because I did miss the camaraderie.  

Monday, March 06, 2023

Just Plugging Away....


It has been a rather disjointed and dis-articulated last few days. I have been paddling like a frantic dog just trying to keep my head above water:

  • Thursday, I spent every moment I was not in class "big voice lecturing" on trying to revise and update my vitae.  I was able to get the beast done and sent out by 4:27pm.... it was due by 4:30.  It is now current, and is 14 pages.  Now that the damn thing is out of my hair, I will simply sit back and see how it goes.  It would be rather nice to be recognized.... but as with most things at the U, it is also a rather "politicized" sort of thing.... it may very well be that someone who plays the political game far more elegantly than I is already earmarked for the award and my and other's vitae's are being requested simply to "legitimize" the competition as a facsimile of an actual "race".  I despise political wrangling, and am therefore not considered an "insider" to the powers that be at the U, so if the award is being used as a political tool this year, I haven't got a chance.  But if it is an actual award this cycle, I *might* have a small chance.... although there are some folks here who are very strong.  I often think I am more akin to whom Foghorn is describing in the above image.
  • Friday, I spent the entirety of the day writing out new exams for all of my courses and updated the electronic classroom materials for all my courses.  I also built an array of PowerPoint slides for a cadre of my research students to take as a template to develop the specifics of their upcoming research talks they are preparing for. 
  • Saturday, even though we had a fairly large snowfall Friday evening, I ended up on a bus Saturday morning, and traveled half way across the state to a Community Band Festival.  This event is somewhat akin to the Solo & Ensemble Competitions and School Band Festivals  that are a mainstay of major events for students who are in high school band.  However, this Community Band Festival is an annual event that draws in most every regional and local wind band, wind ensemble, etc from across the state for performance and competition.  I and the other members of our band boarded the bus around 8:30am and spent the non-travel times listening to other community bands, performing our own concert, receiving a formal critique of our work, participated in a teaching session for us as a community band, and also had a specialized teaching session based on instrument group (I was in the woodwinds group, of course).  We arrived back at the parking lot ~9:00pm and I drove home by ~9:15pm.  
  • Sunday, besides Mass, my wife had to go to her Mom's house as the siblings were yammering and wrangling to try to get my wife to move onto cleaning and ultimately selling my MIL's house.  My wife has been against this, because she did not want to upset Mom, but one of the siblings demanded something be done about the house and that this sibling had "talked to Mom" and she was "a-ok" with it.  I (very happily) was NOT invited to participate as it was meant to be the siblings alone... no spouses.  While my wife was a way, I worked at cleaning our house stem-to-stern because a variety of house messes had accumulated and general upkeep had gotten away from us during the last several days.  As you might be able to anticipate..... the gathering that my wife had with her siblings was not a smooth, silky, "kum-ba-ya" sort of affair.... and is typical for such an activity, my wife came home angry, in tears... and was rather grumpy at me and at everything.  
  • So, now my wife is back at my MIL's house with her siblings again, today, Monday.  We will see how that goes, although I am expecting a repeat of yesterday.

  So, other than that..... lets see:

  • I happily hit my mileage goals for the week, last Friday, and had two days off.
  • Today I hoofed 10.5 miles (~17 miles) on the track, and was there at 6:03am.  I listened to Sunday's Capuchin Mass and prayed the rosary while I ran.  It was not the most rapid nor joyful run for me today.  I felt sluggish.  I did not want to get out of bed this morning.  Even though emotionally, I had been feeling more positive the last several days, this morning..... I felt blue and out of sorts.  I tried to sort it through in my mind, to little avail.  I tried to focus on the Capuchin ideas of living a life of gratitude.  But it did not really stick well, this morning.  
  • PCS = a surprising drop to a "6".  This means that if I actively think about my pipes and pipe tobaccos, they seem enjoyable and fun, and I would willingly participate.... but... thoughts of my pipes and pipe tobaccos do not right now enter my mind.... unless I purposefully think about them.  In other words... for whatever reason, today, I am not having unexpected thoughts/memories of my pipes randomly jumping into my mind's field of view today.


Addendum.... just as I was getting ready to submit/publish this to blogger... I have received a phone call from my wife.  My MIL has tested positive for Covid... in the weekly test all residents must take.  (sigh) 

Wednesday, March 01, 2023

Hmmm.... Nice, But...


Yesterday, late into the afternoon, I received an e-mail that was both pleasant and yet also adds work to my already busy plate.  I received an e-mail that told me that I was a finalist in the major research award that is given at the U.  Apparently some cadre of folks at the U nominated me, and a preliminary perusal of my research by the awards committee suggested to them that I was to be one of these "finalists" which means I am in the finalist group of three that this committee pares down to from all the folks who had received some minimal number of nominations.  The last time I heard about how this secret committee works, they apparently would do this preliminary perusal for anyone who received at least five nominations.  Being a finalist (the group of three folks who are finalists) means I would have roughly a one-in-three chance of being chosen for the award (depending upon variances of U politics, of course).

So.... while this is pleasant news.... I am happy to be considered a finalist.  It does add work to my plate, because the committee has asked for an up-to-date vitae from the finalists, and it needs to be turned in by the end of the day, Thursday (today is Wednesday).  Unfortunately, I am not always that "up-to-date" on keeping my vitae polished and ready to go.  At this stage of my career, the need to provide a vitae for anything is near zero.  I have been promoted to full professor long, long ago, and really now-a-days the only "vitae-like" document I ever need is an ABBREVIATED vitae that has to fit in its entirety on two pages.  These abbreviated vitae documents are what is requested in every grant application I have submitted in AT LEAST the last 15-20 years.  

But, the U Committee is requesting a FULL vitae.  That document will likely be at least 10 pages in length, but I have not updated the one I have in at least 10 years if not longer.... so I have a helluva lot of work ahead of me to get it up to snuff.

Part of me has been thinking about the various homilies I have been hearing since Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent. Most of the homilies I have been hearing speak of the sin of pride and the virtue of humility.  In some ways, I am wondering if I should simply decline to submit my vitae.... it would be in keeping with those ideas to a degree.  But, part of me also thinks it more likely would better represent my inherent laziness, because I do not want to update my vitae.

But, I guess I *should*  submit the damn vitae since it was asked for.  I will try to eek out some time (which is very limited) to update it and then submit it.

* * * * * 

  • I was able to hoof out 11.2 miles (~18km) this morning.  It feels nice that I am a *little bit* ahead in my progress to my weekly goal of 50+ miles (80 - 82 km).  And it is always VERY nice when I hoof the last step in the run for a day.  
  • PCS = 9..... A deep.... DEEP yearning for my pipes and pipe tobaccos today.  I must have been having some rather long and detailed...  and vivid pipe smoking dreams last night, for I can recall three different, very brief snippets of dreams from last night.  In each, I was smoking my pipe.... but in each snippet I was smoking a DIFFERENT pipe.  And, in each snippet, I was wearing different clothes.  Each snippet that I remember seemed only a few brief seconds long, but the different pipes and different clothes have me guess each snippet may have been a longer, much more elaborate dream.  And, the cravings are such right now, that if I give myself a few moments to let my mind wander and not stay on task..... I am quickly and deeply into a daydream of smoking a pipe..... and I can feel myself salivating like a Pavlovian dog (although I do not drip... as I keep my mouth tightly closed... remember, I have TMJ).  
  • I also wanted to thank Anvilcloud for the link to the photograph he provided.  I saw it just a few minutes before writing this blog entry today.  It is a very artistically pleasing photograph, and you are correct, the subject matter is indeed of interest.  I have a pipe of a similar shape/style as his.... but mine is stained a lighter color.... unless the darkness of the bowl is merely a result of subtleties  of the B & W nature of the photograph. 
  • My wife & I are set to go to our Parish’s first "Wednesday's of Lent" soup supper...  including a film and discussion group session afterwords. 

Tuesday, February 28, 2023



Today became far more busy than its already typically hyper-busy Tuesday.  More issues regarding students who have received special "accommodations" from our U's Disability Office.  But, it is especially frustrating as it a) again concerns students who have "qualified" for extra time and "prompt cards" (aka "cheat sheets"), b) again also concerns students who have "qualified" to take their exam in an isolated spot without other students, and c) and it includes a laboratory practical exam taught by one of my adjunct instructors IN THE LABORATORY that is scheduled with back-to-back lab sessions all damn day, every day.  

TO ADD the CHERRY onto the top of this situation.... the student notified us TODAY, with her lab's exam being set for Thursday.  They are supposed to notify us of these requests for accommodations at least two weeks ahead of an exam.... but the damn Disability Office will not enforce that rule.... and in fact... has told several of us in the Department that if we refuse to allow these "accommodations" even at less than the two week ahead of time notification, that they will not support us if the student becomes litigious. 

Now... again, PLEASE keep in mind that I support rights for the disabled, support rights for all those with issues.  BUT, dammit, it is a) NOT legitimate to have a cheat sheet, and b) it is NOT appropriate or possible to have hundreds and hundreds of students requesting exams in isolation, especially not for lab practical exams. 

* * * * * 

  • Ran 10 miles (~16km).
  • PCS = 8.  


Monday, February 27, 2023

Bit of a Mistake


Yesterday, when I was writing about my journey in Chicago, I accidentally hit publish even though I had planned to write a bit more.  You can even see what I published left off mid-sentence.  That was not intentional, so I apologize.  

When I accidentally published prematurely, I thought perhaps it was an indication that I really should get back to work... which is what I did....grading a HUGE array of papers that had accumulated across all of my classes.  I still have a few left before the next onslaught of papers arrive.  So, today will be brief (hah, unintended but recognized pun):

  • I was especially tired last night, having been grading so much during the day until ~6:30pm.  I ended up oversleeping a bit after my alarm light and clanging alarm sounded.... so I ended up only being able to get in 10.3 miles (~16.5 km) this morning at the track before I had to leave to get ready for the U day. 
  • On this past Saturday, my wife and I splured and were able to go see a bit of an "art" film.  It was one we had seen previews for before the pandemic, and it finally arrived here.  It is entitled "Marcel the Shell with Shoes On".  It was an animated film.  It was a pleasantly gentle, happy, whimsical film.  We were both very happy to have been able to see it.  The link takes you to the movie's trailer on YouTube.  
  • PCS = 8.5.... with my tiredness today, I have often when I felt this way in the past, enjoyed the seemingly impossible... to people not familiar with the joys of a pipe....  but believe me that it is true..... the truthfully beautiful dual simultaneously invigorating and simultaneously relaxing aspects of enjoying a bowl of pipe tobacco.  Today would be a perfect fit for experiencing that dual impact.