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, June 23, 2022

Points of Focus

 

A bulleted list of thoughts this morning:

  • I ran 9.2 miles (~15 km) this morning.  That was a bit more than usual for me on the days I have to start teaching at 8:00am.  So, that is good.  I am on track that with at least 9.6 tomorrow, I can take the weekend off from running, and just walk instead because I will have hit my 55 mile (~89 km) a week running target.  
  • Cleaning and reorganizing one of my labs is going smoothly, and I am still excited about its eventual cleaned, refocused design.  Even though cleaning and rearranging is not something I like doing, I am staying focused on the benefits that will be readily apparent when I finish.... to help me keep motivated.  
  • My first air travel since the start of Covid is happening relatively soon.  Air travel is not my favorite to begin with, and so I am both nervous (about the air travel, with its normal myriad of hassles.... and of course the added Covid issues as well) and excited (about the destination) regarding this research conference I will be presenting some of my data at.  
  • I found in one of the drawers in the research lab I am reorganizing, a pouch of pipe tobacco that I had not thought of in quite a while.  When I opened it and sniffed deeply, I was reminded of the slight caraway seed aroma that it had.  I remember thinking how pleasant and unique this pipe tobacco was to smoke when I last had it.  And, its from-the-pouch aroma reminded me about this rather fun and gentle tobacco.  I remember the smoke was also very "textural" to me, having a hefty density to it that was grand.  
  • My wife is making a butternut squash casserole tonight for dinner, using a new recipe that she had found.  As is true with most recipes we try, I actively encourage her to double up on the spices as many recipes are spiced on the rather mild side because a lot of folks tend to be spice avoidant.  
  • We are likely going swimming again today, which makes for a beautiful conclusion to the workday!  Immersing my entire body in the cooling water is something so utterly refreshing, I cannot adequately describe it.  And, the lowering of core body temperature a bit..... relaxes and refreshes the mind.  
PipeTobacco

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Response to Unknown & More


 

A busy day ahead for me today in terms of some more of the cleaning and reorganizing of my bigger laboratory room.  Even though cleaning and organizing is NOT a favorite task of mine, I think I will be able to have a wonderfully rejuvenated space here when I am eventually finished.   The lab has been in its prior configuration for the better part of two decades (since my prior refresh) and it will benefit from a modicum of purging of some things and reorganizing others.  Some facets of my research equipment will find more space in this rendering, whereas other research equipment will be moved and shifted to less important positions in the lab as well.  The organizational schemata I imagine in my mind for how it will be when finished, will give me and my students more elbow room for the equipment we use most frequently and also more clean, unencumbered areas for creative development of new research tests/designs.  I doubt I will be able to finish all I envision in this one day, but I think I will be able to put a sizable dent in the project.   

I should also do some grading, but I am feeling more like moving around than sitting at my desk today, so I may postpone some of the reading/grading that I need to do until another day.  Hah.... it is fairly easy for me to find just about ANYTHING to do that is more enjoyable than reading some of these papers.  Unfortunately, while the crop of students I have this Summer is generally very active and attentive and willing to learn... and they are doing well for the most part in terms of learning CONTENT, they are collectively suffering from what may be called "pandemic prose syndrome".... their writing is rather atrocious.  I have had to use an ocean of red ink to try to show some of them a form of how standard grammar should look.  Fortunately, as this is a science class, there are only TWO papers.  I believe I would be despondent if I were an English professor and had something akin to one-to-two papers a WEEK to grade, of this caliber.  

Other items:

  • It is SO MUCH easier for me to roust myself out of bed early on a day that I DO NOT have a timed deadline for arriving at the U.  I got up and hit the trail today at 4:52am and ran 13.1 miles (~21 km) this morning, and was still then able to get ready and get to the U and arrived at 7:55am.  But, yesterday.... when I HAD TO be at the U before my 8am class, I hemmed and hawed about getting out of bed.  I also had my first run of 2022 in "Sasquatch" mode (running without a shirt.... scaring damn near every person and other animal I would pass with my furry countenance).  Fortunately, at 5 am, there were only a few squirrels that I passed today.
  • My friend who goes by "Unknown" wrote in the comments yesterday that he "didn't think it would be right" to describe his experience with "Peter's Pleasure" pipe tobacco because he felt it would "deepen my internal conflict".  I would actually like to ask him to reconsider.  I think his describing his own impressions would NOT add to my conundrum in any sense.  I believe that if he were to describe how he found the leaf to be, that it would allow me to experience a modicum of either its wonderful beauty or conversely his disappointment if the leaf is not as amazing as it is described.  I do not know if Unknown has actually received the pipe tobacco yet or is still waiting for his order to arrive, but I sincerely hope he will choose to describe his impressions of it in robust detail so I may at least experience it vicariously. 
  • Last night, in the cool of the basement, I began to tear down an old, decrepit, grenadilla wood, five-piece alto clarinet I acquired more than a year-and-a-half ago.  It was in rough shape when I got the beast, but I am confident, that with patience, I am going to get it back to its former glory.  I am also trying to learn more of its history and precise age.  But, with the lower woodwinds, that is not always an easy task.  But, I shall persevere.  I tested one key that I removed already, and it is polishing beautifully, and the ancient, brittle pad on the key was removed easily and a new leather pad installed.  
  • It DID reach 100 yesterday, and it may do so again today! I suspect this will be wonderful for the garden.  
  • Oh, Unknown also suggested that I may want to trim my beard because of the heat.  My wife suggested the same thing.  However, for me, the heavier facial fur is helpful to protect my face from the sun, and truthfully.... the bushier I let it grow, it feels more cool in the Summer and more warm in the Winter.  So, I cannot see any benefit to trimming it down to its old, shorter length. 
PipeTobacco    

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Teaching


 

A busy day of teaching today, so only a brief post during a break:

  • I could only get in 8 miles (~13 km) this morning because (as usual) I did not get up as early as I had planned to in order to get more miles in before my very early start time on Tuesdays for work. I am rather frustrated at myself for NOT awakening as early as I should.  I hit the pavement for my run at 5:30 am.  I should have gotten out there by at least 4:45 am.  
  • It is going to be very, very close to 100 degrees (F) today (~38 C).  The U has raised the temperature on its A/C system to use less energy, which is a good thing.... but my building is warm and humid already at the moment.  
  • I am bound and determined to go swimming after I am done at the U today.
  • I have not been writing about it much, because I fear it is boring to folks, but I have been working through some very strong cravings for my pipes and pipe tobaccos again yesterday and today. Sometimes the thought of being away from them is so exceedingly difficult.
PIpeTobacco
 


Monday, June 20, 2022

Blackberries


 

The next day of our adventure was also very fun and enjoyable.  I was able to run in the morning throughout the town, exploring the downtown area and also in running through several very beautiful neighborhoods.  There were many beautiful, Victorian era homes, many of which had turrets as well during my running journey.  

Where my wife had to do her work, she met a friend that she had not seen in quite some time, and this friend wanted to eat dinner with my wife and me.  So, we did.  Sadly, this friend was not a particularly "food adventurous" type, and so we ended up eating at an Italian place that was a local establishment, but was designed to be very much like an "Olive Garden" but with a bit of a collegiate feel as well.  My wife and her friend both ate some of the usual "Italian-'Olive Garden-esque'" fare, but it seemed rather mundane to me, so I kept searching around the menu for at least something that was "different" at the place.  I ended up ordering a "wet burrito" and was able to modify it to my liking (no cheese & no beef..... do not get me wrong, I am not opposed to eating cheese OR beef.... but I was not in the mood for oily, melty cheese nor greasy ground beef).  So my wet burrito had beans and sauce (salsa verde) and a mountain of jalapeno pepper slices for added fun.  It was pretty enjoyable.  

When we left the next morning, my wife and I stopped at a small, quaint, sushi place for lunch.   I had a tuna roll, my wife had a shrimp roll (I am not fond of shrimp), and we shared a California roll.  This place made their own wasabi (which I REALLY enjoy.... and my wife avoids like the plague) and their pickled ginger was wonderfully fresh tasting and unusually crisp as well.  We made it home early in the evening on Friday.

Saturday, I needed to serve at Mass.... lector, communion (substituting for the person who was scheduled), and usher.  And because we had a substitute priest who was retired, and had walking issues, and limped with a cane... I was also altar server as well.  The priest was a really nice fellow, and I talked with him for 15-20 minutes after Mass as well.  After Mass, I traveled out to the cemetery where to place flowers on my father's headstone and my father-in-law's headstone for Father's Day.  As usual, I was saddened to see so very few plants or flowers put out for deceased fathers compared to what typically occurs with mothers on Mother's Day.  But, it is unfortunately typical that far, far fewer folks do this for Father's Day.   I miss both of them a lot. 

Father's Day, yesterday, was very nice as well.  ALL the kids were there and there was no drama either.  It was very pleasant.  My oldest daughter made me (us) a favorite.... ratatouille, and bruschetta, and a cake.  It was peaceful, fun, and no drama.    

I ran 15.1 miles (~24.5 km) this morning.  I started a little later than I would have liked because we were experiencing a very heavy rain at 5:00am.  I waited until 6:00am to start.... much less rain and eventually it stopped as well during my run. I am just eating my cereal at this late time in the morning, it has fresh blackberries in it in addition to the usual blueberries.   

PipeTobacco


Thursday, June 16, 2022

Variations & Intricacies


 

Well.... we are on our two day adventure.  My wife is working at the moment, and I am going to have a special electronic section for my class in a bit.  We are in the bit of a heat wave with temperatures nearing 100 degrees (~37 C) yesterday and today.  

On the drive here yesterday, my wife and I talked quite a bit about "beef wellington".  We both REALLY do want to try the dish some day... but we came to the same conclusion that $87.00 was just too damn much money to pay for a single plate of food.  I was feeling guilty about it, and so was my wife.  It was just too damn exorbitant and it seemed almost a "sin" to splurge on something so pricey.  The idea of doing so was making us both feel foolish, guilty, and we would be 'bourgeois-like" if we were to do this (I *think* I am using that silly word, "bourgeois" correctly).

Instead, after we arrived, we scoped out the city... and lo-and-behold, we found an Ethiopian Restaurant!!!!!!!  We were utterly delighted!  We had not had the pleasure of dining in an Ethiopian Restaurant since the start of the pandemic!!! And, while we had made some of our own Ethiopian food at home during the pandemic, it was never as good as real, legitimate Ethiopian cuisine.  It was SO very wonderful, hearty, filling, and flavorful!  The beautiful texture and flavor of authentic Injera bread is difficult to describe, but it delighted every corner of my mouth with each bite!  All of the samplings of side dishes were richly spicy and loaded with flavor and texture with every mouthful!  It was the perfect meal!

After I get through my electronic class, I may mosey around a bit.  I happened to notice that there is ONE tobacconist somewhat nearby.  From on-line photos it looks like it may be mediocre, but you never know.  It will be fun to glance around even if it is only mediocre.  I might find something delightful, though, so who knows.  It is always a bit of a surprise what there may be.  Smoking my pipe in a new city was always especially enjoyable with the new sites as I would meander around.  I would often meet and talk with some very nice folks along my journeys.  I will still meander around.  But, it is not as fun without my pipe.    

I ran 8 miles (~13 km) this morning.  It is always fun to run in a new place.  You get to see so much.  

When my wife gets finished with what she needs to today, we will likely go explore.  Perhaps find an ice cream shop or a cupcake shop.  

PipeTobacco

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

We are Going to be Hicks


 

We are going to get to go on the two day trip later I mentioned yesterday.  It will occur later in the week.  We are both looking forward to it.  

For many years, my wife and I have wanted to try a classic "hoity toity" culinary dish called "Beef Wellington."  To our imagination, it harkens back to ideas of very upper crust, Brittish cuisine where tuxedoed men and gowned ladies of near royalty would dine in the 1800s and early 1900s.    

When we see beef wellington served on television, it looks beautiful and rather ornate.  And, over several years we have looked on our various travels to see if there would be a nearby resturaunt that would serve this dish.  We have had a couple of "near misses" in this regard over the years:

1.  One time we found a restaurant that had it listed on their menu, but during our stay, the resturaunt was temporarily closed for renovations.  

2.  One time another restaurant in another city we were visiting had this dish on their menu, but we could not make a reservation as the place was fully booked on each day we had available.

3.  A third time, we were hunting around for a restaurant that had this dish, and unfortunately, the city had TWO STREETS WITH THE SAME DAMN NAME.... and you can guess, we did not realize this and spent quite a while walking up and down the wrong street looking for the restaurant.... only to find out about the second version of this street elsewhere in the city.... and by the time we figured it out, it was too close to closing time to be able to get to the resturaunt.

BUT, finger's crossed, we are going to be able to try out this dish later this week.  However, there is an interesting aspect to this upcoming adventure:

The RESTAURANT is horribly damn expensive! 

A single serving of beef wellington costs $87.00 !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Single salads run in the $35.00 - $45.00 price range !!!!!!!

A single beer is $17.00 and a single glass of wine is $22.00

Entrees run the gambit in equally stratospheric prices, as do desserts.  

If my wife and were to eat a typical meal there, the meal for the two of us would end up being in at least the $300.00 - $400.00 price range.... before tips!!!!

That is not something I can handle/justify.  Nor can my wife.  

But, my wife and I ARE going to try beef wellington.  We are, however, going to be like hicks:

We are going to order ONE single order of beef wellington and ONE glass of wine.  We will then share the dish and the wine so we can see what this dish is like.......

.... Then after we have finished with this adventure, we will walk somewhere else down the street and have a regular, normally priced meal elsewhere.  

Yes, I know we will be like hicks doing this.  But we will be financially careful hicks.  

  • Only ran 8 miles (~13 km) this morning because I had to teach so early.
  • Still would very much like Peter's Pleasure Pipe Tobacco.  Still do not know if I should or not.

PipeTobacco

Monday, June 13, 2022

Banal Banana

 

Bananas are and have been a part of my workweek lunch routine for more decades than I want to count.  I have over the years, tried a large array of banana-type fruits (plantains,  miniature bananas, etc) but those variations have been eaten in other venues/times/places/contexts than the workweek lunch routine.  For the workweek lunch, it has ALWAYS been the "standard" grocery store banana.  But, even these "standard" bananas have undergone changes across the decades.... mostly due to growing issues related to a pathogen that can sometimes take hold of the plant and kill it.  This pathogen is regularly thought to be near the point of starting a "pandemic" across banana trees and potentially wiping out the population. 

The "standard" banana is usually referred to as the "Cavendish" banana.  I learned this perhaps 2-3 years ago while reading a news report about the risk banana trees were facing.  When I first learned of this moniker, it pleased and bemused me.... as "Cavendish" is a very common style of pipe tobacco.  Cavendish pipe tobaccos have been cured by a gentle heating process (often steam, but sometimes other heating methods are used) and this particular curing process leads to creating a pipe tobacco with a sweeter flavor and texture to its smoke.  I have enjoyed many, many Cavendish pipe tobaccos over the decades.  They are usually very grand and pleasant, although for some reason (perhaps due to the steaming process, but probably at some level it is just tradition), they are often overly moist (to my preferences anyway), and I typically would let them air dry somewhat for one to several days in a glass pie pan I use for such purposes, prior to smoking these tobaccos.  But, patience with drying has given me the opportunity to have many beautiful pipe-fulls of various Cavendish-es over the years. 

Back to bananas for a moment.... it is interesting to me that people have so many different preferences of WHEN they consider a banana to be at the perfect level of ripeness for eating.  I know some folks who prefer their banana to be rather considerably green.  To me, the banana is too hard and under-ripe at this stage.  My own preference is to have a banana be uniformly yellow with NO brown spotting at all.  To me, this stage is when the banana is at its peak of flavor and texture.  When bananas start to accumulate the level of spotting that is shown in the photograph I have at the top of this entry.... then.... to ME, the banana is TOO ripe and has an unpleasant, almost spongy texture.  Even though I have eaten many bananas of this "spotty" style over the years, I have mostly eaten them because that is what my wife gave me in my lunch and these "spotty" beasts were the last banana or two of the bunch before our next shopping trip.  To me, I feel these spotty beasts are better left for freezing and use in my healthy oatmeal "cookies" my wife and I make and bake up in large batches and freeze in packages she can drop into my lunch everyday as well.  

Other items:

  • I ran 18.1 miles (~29.5 km) this morning.  I *HAD* planned on TRYING to reach 20 miles (~32 km) today (which would have been a new record distance for me in a single run) as it was a very nice morning.... but I foolishly had forgotten to plug in my "gizmo" watch (the one I inherited from one of my sons when he wanted something "fancier").  By not plugging in the damnable "gizmo" watch last night before bed, today I started to get flashing warnings about impending doom (the watch would no longer track my miles) starting at about mile 16.  I made it home at 18.1 and the watch had only 1% of its energy reserves left.  Perhaps next Monday, I WILL try to reach 20 again.
  • Depending on what my wife finds out today, there may be a possibility that my wife and I can travel away alone for TWO days later this week as she has a potential trip she may need to go on for work about 5 hours away.  With the previous success of leaving our dog under my youngest son's care last time, I am hopeful to not be overly worried this time... if we get to go on the trip.  
  • I keep debating on ordering a few ounces of "Peter's Pleasure".  I REALLY want to.  But, I keep worrying that  it may be too much of a temptation for me.  My "UNKNOWN" commenter friend, however.... has decided to order some for himself.  I am hoping that when he does receive it that he will write a detailed description of his opinions of it.  I look forward to hearing if he finds it as grand as it seems to be from its paper description.  
  • At Mass this weekend, we had a substitute priest as our parish priest was at a conference of some sort.  As this weekend was the "Solemnity of the Holy Trinity" this priest was talking quite about about the mystery of the trinity in his Homely.  I happened to also be substituting for a lot of folks at Mass as well and was a lay lector, a Eucharistic minister, and also an usher at Mass.  After Mass, I asked this priest if he might have a recommendation for a book that delved into the theology and philosophy of the Holy Trinity, since I found his perspective in the Homily to be especially interesting and well developed.  I gave him my phone number, and he said he would look on his bookshelf when he returned home and give me a couple of suggestions on ones he especially valued.   I am hoping to hear back from him today.  
  • My wife and I are in the midst of another "decluttering" campaign at our house.  Our plan has evolved into picking a particular room/closet and starting by envisioning how we would WANT the area to look and function.  We then try to imagine what we need to do to get that level of function back, and then try to take a very critical look at what things we NEED, what things we like and want to keep, and what things are just taking up space and we no longer find useful.  Each of us were able to take a trunkload  of useful items (that we did not need/want) to our local Goodwill.  Not only did we make the two rooms we have gone through more comfortable and usable, we helped in some small way, the workers at Goodwill.  And ultimately,  as these things will eventually be sold there at budget prices…. these items may be able to help some folks in need.  We are hoping to continue this trend to every other room/closet in our home this Summer.  

PipeTobacco