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.

Monday, September 26, 2022

Proctoring


 

I am in the midst of proctoring the first lecture exam for one of my big lectures..... ~200 students.  I need to roam around through the exam to monitor them,  So, I will be writing brief bullets today each time I swing back to this base area where the computer is located:

  • Ran 11 miles today (~18 km).  Ran on an indoor track because of heavy rain and it was cold (49 F / ~9.5 C).
  • PCS = 5.  It sure would be fun to smoke my pipe.  But I have not figured out a sensible and MANAGEABLE plan to do so without it feeling like "work" when I am so used to "free-forming" my pipe activities.
  • Back when I was an undergraduate, professors would often smoke during exams, and most of my professors who smoked, smoked a pipe.  I remember the fragrances fondly.   I only had one professor who was primarily a cigar smoker.  He taught organic chemistry, so by that alone, he was sort of an odd duck.  
  • I am reading two different books for leisure at the moment.... "The Daughter of Auschwitz" by Tova Friedman, and "The Dark Hours" by Michael Connelley.
  • I have a big research lab meeting with my students this afternoon.  I just recently assigned each of them to two of the five different research projects for this year in my lab.  Hopefully I can get them "fired up" to begin to work more independently and not have me do as much "hand-holding".  If I can get them into that mindset, they will become far stronger researchers even if they make some mistakes along the way.
  •  I haven't gotten a haircut in over two months, so I am starting to take on the visage of a disheveled, old, mountain-man.  I do  not mind it really, but it is TIME for a haircut.  When I get a haircut, though, I do not let the "groomer" cut my beard and mustache as I am seeing how "big" it may be able to become.  For the last several years, I have done my own beard and mustache trimming.... which has been as minimal as I can.  My goal with my trimming is to simply SMOOTH the ends so that it has a "professorial" appearance rather than an old, mountain-man, gold-prospector sort of look.  I am thinking I will make an appointment for this Friday as they have a deal where you can get a second haircut at 1/2 price after the first.... and I will get my younger son to go with me as he has been talking about trying to find time to get a haircut as well.
  • I still at this point have ~50 students still taking the exam.  A truism I have found in this large lecture hall is that the first 3-4 rows of students, when they see the exam, set their jawline, and get a diligent, determined look on their face.... and then dive in.  The middle zone students display a mix of worry and determination typically.  And, the far-back students in the center typically struggle a bit at first, but find their "groove" eventually.  However, there are two small zones in this big hall where students predictably aggregate who end up having rather shocked, "deer-in-the-headlights" look wash through their face as they begin to read the questions on the exam.  These two aggregate zones are the ten or so chairs in the far upper left and another ten in the far upper right locations of the lecture hall.  It seems as if always the smaller subset of students who are rather disengaged about the degree of study and work that physiology requires.... always sit in those locations.  Unfortunately, by midterm, probably 1/2 or more of those in those two aggregates will have withdrawn from the course. Many will try again, however, in a future semester.... and they usually come back with a more focused and energized perspective.   The image I use above is not my U, because of "HIPPA-esque" thoughts at the U, I do not post U photos.  This is just a classroom that I found that looks a helluva lot like mine in terms of numbers of students and even they layout and design of the room.
PipeTobacco

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Still....

 


 

I am still playing a bit of "catch-up" from during the time when I had the damnable ear infection and even a bit from the recovery from the damnable paper wasp sting to the forehead that had my whole face swell enormously.  

What the effects were on work from those two events can be summarized as follows:

1.  I put off SOME writing things I had scheduled to finish.... because I basically felt like crap.

2.  I put off SOME grading I normally would have already accomplished.... again because I basically felt like crap.  

But, perhaps the most stressful aspect was....

3.  Because I felt like crap.... especially my head in both cases.... even though I was here and present each and every damn day..... WHEN I WAS TEACHING (lecturing).... I inevitably went a bit slower in my presentations than I usually would have when filled with vim and vitality.  

SO.... #3 above became a PROBLEM, now.... as the first exams of the semester are rapidly approaching... and have been at the print office at the U for quite a while (they need an incredibly long turn-around time to make photocopies of exams).  And, because of my slower than typical lecture speed for a while, I am finding I have to do extra work to get all the lecturing in that I need to before these exams.  

What I have been doing is going through my remaining lecture slides ahead of time and inserting a very tiny red dot (like a period) in the upper right corner on those slides that have a mandatory point that I need to make... because I have an exam question based on it on the upcoming test!  Slides that do not receive a red dot are therefore ones I know are NOT going to comprise information for a specific question on the exams.  What this does is allow me the luxury of talking LESS elaborately about certain slides than how I would usually talk..... TO MAKE UP SOME OF THAT LOST TIME. 

I did this for TWO of my classes today that have exams next week.  Happily and luckily, I WAS able to sufficiently compress less essential slides enough to fit in everything I needed in both classes remaining lecture time.  

I have two more classes tomorrow where I have the same plan.  I hope it works tomorrow too.

I do not like to have to do this, as I much prefer a more free-flowing dynamic in my lectures.  I like to spin tales, I like to offer elaborate analogies, I like to espouse on interesting, related corollaries. Out of necessity, I had scant amounts of any of those things today.  

What did I talk about today?  Several different items:

A.  In one class I presented a full lecture about the electrical, signal conducting architecture in the mammalian (and of course human) heart. Highlights included an examination of the role of the Purkinje Fibers and their regulatory effect within the ventricles, a review of the origins and history of the electrocardiogram, lessons on how to read and interpret electrocardiogram data, and a discussion of a variety of conditions that develop either congenitally or through lifestyle choices that negatively effect the hearts neurocircuitry.      

B.  In the other class I presented an extensive look at principles of body tissue organization, both developmentally and in the adult.   I also focused on functional uses of various epithelial and connective tissues in the body, with an especially deep look at the role of serous membranes in the body and their use in decreasing wear-and-tear between adjacent organs.  

On the docket for tomorrow I will need to:

C.  Conclude a discussion of the various hierarchical types of stem cells that are found in the body at different times of development.  And, I will need to provide a variety of examples of how factors of cell-to-cell communication impact, drive and shape how an embryo will have its tissues and organs develop.

and

D.  I will need to describe the important endocrinological concept of the embryonic position effect whereby in animals that carry more than one offspring simultaneously, that the neighboring siblings exert a profound hormonal effect that impacts whole body development, but especially shapes differentiation of sexually dimorphic brain morphology.  

* * *

  • Ran only 12.4 miles (~20 km) today.  I had hoped to accomplish more (got up a bit late and did not hit the trail until 5:15am).     
  • My MIL went to a social party at the assisted living building yesterday.  She seemed to have a nice time from what she was able to recall.  I am hoping this is a sign she is beginning to like the place more, and I believe it is also an indication that being there is HELPFUL for her because it seems like her memory has stabilized, and potentially become a little bit better compared to when she was at home.
  • PCS = somewhere between a 6 and a 7.... so I guess I should say.... 6.5.  I vacillate a bit throughout the day... some moments I do feel that deep, strong yearning for a pipe, but other times I simply am feeling a pipe would be just very, very pleasant.  I have been at this 6-or-above level it seems for a VERY LONG time this time.  I now wouldn't mind having some undulations back to perhaps 3-4 for at least a while.  It seems a very long time since I have felt that lighter level of desire.  Perhaps I should never have griped about the up-and-down undulations of my PCS.  I did not mean for them to stick as they have... at least not at these higher extreme levels.  

* * * 

The photo I top this entry with is an "old-timey" photo of an illicit still from the prohibition era.  I cannot tell the liquor, but it is either bootleg gin or bootleg moonshine I guess, because the elixer is clear.  Whiskey would be brown in color.  Initially I used "still" in the title of this entry to signify I am still playing catchup.  But, as my mind is often apt to do, while I was typing, my mind also drifted on its own merry path and started thinking about a) how a nice still drink or two would be really pleasant now (and of course a pipe to go with it), and b) how an "old-timey" Prohibition Era image of an illegal still is often really interesting to look at look when I have previously perused old photos.  I tend to really enjoy looking at old photographs of folks "doing things".  I like the fellows' various hat styles from that era.  I have several similar hats myself.  And, I like the mustached fellow's bulldog style pipe he is gripping with his chompers as well.   

PipeTobacco

Monday, September 19, 2022

Run


 

In a big picture way, it doesn't mean a whole helluva lot, but I did accomplish a goal of sorts this past Friday... I "Ran the Year" meaning on this past Friday I completed running 2,022 miles (~3,254 km... although it does not seem as exciting a number in kilometers) in 2022. 

To get to where I am at, it means I ran an average of 55 miles (~89 km) every week so far this year.  I am hoping to potentially reach 3,000 miles (4,828 km) by the end of the year if I can muster it.  

+ + + 

My MIL had a pretty good weekend this past weekend.  She willingly became involved in a few activities.  So, we are hopeful.  Taking a shower was still quite a struggle, however, as she was quite resistant.  We are hoping for that to improve as well.  

+ + + 

PCS - 7.... On Saturday, I had a long drive (a few hours) to a meeting for one of the science societies I belong to as I am on their Executive Board.  En route there and home, I would be passing nearby an exit where with a short 15 minute drive, I would be able to be at a quite special and nice pipe shop that I have always relished but its considerable distance had limited my visiting said establishment to perhaps once a year or so.  I took a pipe and pouch and lighter with me on my trip the Executive Board meeting thinking that perhaps.... just perhaps I could  without much risk or worry, stop by this beautiful, distant shop and indulge in a bowl of beloved pipe tobacco in congenial like company.  With its shear distance, I know that I could not develop a "habit" of going there to smoke a pipe excessively.  So, I thought it might be quite a lot of fun.  The only risk I could see (still an important risk to consider) was what if it felt so wonderful at the shop that I simply said "to hell with it".  With the hope that I *would not* do that, I still brought a very stylish pipe, and a pouch that was pleasantly chubby with a very beautiful leaf.... just in case.  Sadly, the beautiful foray turned out to be unworkable and unmanageable, for the damnable Executive Board Meeting went far longer than needed, and by the time I approached the exit to this commercial Nirvana, even if I broke the law with considerable speeding.... at best I would get perhaps 10 minutes.... 15 minutes maximum to rush into the store, etc.  It just did not seem like it would promote the blissfulness I had in mind.  

I have been listening to Lee Morgan when I have had time in my office today (basically I have stayed glued to my office computer except when I was lecturing in class).  One song I was not previously familiar with was song "Soft Touch".  It is wonderful. I need to listen to more Morgan.  I only have a limited background into his music.  

Thursday, September 15, 2022

Too Tired


 

I am too tired to write much today.  It has been a very long week with all sorts of taxing endeavors.  I have had a lot of extra work as well this week with needing to help the cadre of adjuncts that "co-teach" a class with me up to snuff.  They WERE NOT up-to-snuff in any way shape or form, so it was an elaborate and lengthy week of effort.  

My MIL is refusing to do most things when the care folks offer to have her go to lunch or dinner or the art projects or the movies or the weekly social, or the three baths she can have assistance with each week.... UNLESS one of her kids encourages her to go... then she goes willingly.  Yet, of the siblings, only ONE is conscientious about being there or calling my MIL to encourage her to participate.   Can you guess which sibling IS conscientious?  Yes, you guessed correctly.... my wife.  The others are pretty much useless in that regard.  So.... my wife is gone doing these tasks a whole helluva lot of the time, and many of these things occur in the evening.  It makes for a lonely existence at times.  It is also making it very difficult for my wife to accomplish her own work as well.  I participate in many of these things to help too, but it is not the same sort of emotional sense of being a couple in my MIL's assisted living venue as it is when my wife and I are at home.  

Running has been very, very challenging to accomplish with all this extra work and efforts.  I only managed 8.5 miles (13.5 km) this morning before I had to get to the U.  I feel very behind in my weekly target and I feel at risk of failure this week.   

My face is still very puffy and swollen from the damn paper wasp.  My face is also quite itchy which is a further aggravation.  I feel so, so very tired.... much like the fellow who's photograph I have posted.  You can see the tiredness in his eyes and in his visage.  I feel similar.

PCS = 7.... Even though I have very little time, I do keep slipping into my imagination where I am smoking my pipes.  The urge for their peacefulness and also their calming gentleness is quite strong.

PipeTobacco


Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Botox Party

 


 

This morning, I was relaying this information to my secretary at the U.  I am writing what I said as accurately as I can recall:

"Yesterday afternoon, my wife and I were doing some yard work (in our yard), when our next door neighbors stopped by to chat a bit."

"It was a rather convivial discussion, just about random items as we had not seen them in a few weeks.  John said that my yard was looking pretty good overall, and I complemented him that his newly painted deck looked nice too... in the new color he had used. He then told me that he did not paint it, but that his wife, Lynn had spent the time painting it.  I was impressed to say-the-least, as I thought perhaps he had some company come and paint it, not that they had done so."

"But, the real interesting thing is that Lynn came over and told us that she and John were going to be having a Botox Party that evening (yesterday evening), and they said that we could come to it if we wanted.  I raised a furry eyebrow quizzically towards my wife, and she thought about it a few moments and shrugged her shoulders at me."

"I looked back at John and Lynn.... and said "What the hell?  Sure!  Lets do it!  It sounds like fun!""

I then proceeded to show my secretary more closely my face by taking off my hat and my glasses so she could get an up-close look at the results.  My forehead was fully smooth and wrinkle free.  The wrinkles under my eyes and around my eyes were also gone!  My face was as smooth as a baby's bottom.    

My secretary looked at me a bit quizzically.   My skin WAS very, very smooth and wrinkle free.  But, as I expected, my secretary also showed a little bit of hesitation and confusion about the idea that I actually...  attended a Botox party.  

"Yes, your skin IS very, very smooth."  she said... at a bit of a loss on how to continue the conversation, since I had surprised her a bit with this revelation.  

* * * (a few moments later)* * *

Then, I couldn't hold my composure any longer and grinned an especially wide, furry-faced grin.

"Actually, I am just teasing..... This is not a result of Botox.  My wife and I were out in the backyard last evening.... and a damn paper wasp flew up and stung me on the forehead!"  I said, chuckling.

"When I went to bed last night, there was some swelling on my forehead.  But, when I woke up this morning, I found it had spread to my entire face, giving me the "Botox" sort of look...  via inflammation." 

My secretary then laughed at my silly prank, and then wondered if the issue was serious and suggested that I should go to a "Redi-Med".  I dismissed the idea telling her it seemed stable enough this morning and that I was able to complete my run, so it should probably be OK.  My wife also had me take one Benedryl tablet this morning.  

Overall, it was much more fun to have a semi-humorous story to explain my smooth, swollen appearance, than to just say I got stung.  

* * * * * 

Other items:

  • I only ran 10 miles (~16 km) this morning.  I had wanted to do more, but I had some very early meetings I had to get to at the U.  
  • We are still having some significant challenges with my MIL's new living arrangement.  I am a bit too tired (and already rather long winded here) to explain it now.  I likely can outline more of it tomorrow.  
  • PCS = 6.  I noticed that during the time I was very ill with the damnable middle ear infection, that my PCS plummeted to pretty much a "2" or a "3" most days during that 11-or-so day span.  I guess I can tell when I am feeling better physically, because the desire for a pipe increases. I think it would be utterly delightful to have a pipe today.     
PipeTobacco
 


Tuesday, September 13, 2022

It


 

(sigh)

 

So, what has been going on?  Not a whole helluva lot, but then again.... actually a whole helluva lot.  Let me try to elaborate:

  • The Friday of Labor Day weekend, I started to feel considerable discomfort (in other words, a helluva lot of pain) in my neck, my lower jaw, and in my ears.  
  • Initially, I thought the pain was simply my TMJ (temporomandibular joint disorder) acting up.  
  • So, Friday afternoon and evening, I went through all the different exercises, machinations, and what-not that typically cause my TMJ symptoms to abate. I figured with a good night's rest, the pain would subside by morning.
  • On Saturday morning, I awoke, and all the symptoms remained, but were INTENSIFIED and added to.  Now I also had a splitting headache, in three different areas of my head, my neck felt very stiff and painful to move, and my lower jaw and especially my ears were especially painful.  But, with the normal TMJ treatments having proven ineffective, I then began to suspect perhaps I had wax build-up in my external auditory canal.  I have had wax accumulate occasionally where it stiff, hard plug.  I went to try my "tried-and-true" method to get the was out.... which involved a sink of warm water with some hydrogen peroxide in it, and a large, rubber bulb to lavage my ear canal.  
  • Unfortunately, it turned out that my rubber bulb for this purpose (~15 years old) had degraded somewhat and the side-walls of the bulb leaked (squirted out) fluid when I would squeeze the bulb.... and the net effect was the fluid pressure was greatly reduced.  No ear plugs came out.
  • Still in pain, I went to Saturday Mass (I had duties at Mass) in the late afternoon/early evening, and then on my way home, I went to three different pharmacies before I found one that had a large volume, ear bulb like my broken one.  They also had an ear lavaging syringe with a special ear tip as well, so I bought both.  At home, I again filled the sing with warm water and peroxide, and lavaged my ears again using both the new bulb and the syringe, fully expecting to see one or more giant blobs of ear wax leave my ear and fall into the sink.  
  • Unfortunately, nothing came out.  But, my head seemed to feel a little bit better, so I was hopeful that with rest, it would be resolved by morning.  
  • Sunday morning, I felt reasonably "normal" as long as I did not move.  So, I laid in bed, not moving.  I started to move to get up, and my neck hurt like hell, so I laid back down.  I took a home Covid test... out of fear, because these symptoms just made no sense to me.  Fortunately I was Covid negative. 
  • My wife informed me I was snoring the prior night (I typically do not snore, according to my wife), so I decided to attribute the neck pain to that since nothing else was making sense.  
  • By Labor Day itself, I was feeling so ornery and rather despondent that couldn't stand it anymore.  The headaches moved around, sometimes in my sinuses, sometimes at the top of my head, sometimes at my temples.  All the TMJ symptoms were fierce.  My neck and shoulders ached.  I was fearful what my blood pressure might be, and was also afraid to actually measure it.  
  • So, around noon, I forced myself out of bed, and dressed and drove myself to a "Redi-Med" for evaluation.  I dreaded the whole drive and the whole process.  But, I hurt like hell.   I had to wait in the waiting room for about 90 minutes before I could be seen by a nurse practitioner.   

The regular nurse came in first to record my basics (heart rate, temperature, blood pressure, etc), and then I had to wait about another 30 minutes before the nurse practitioner came in.  I went through all the background as I could regarding my symptoms and ended by asking her to check my ears with her otoscope.  She did, and reported that the canals were very clean and free of wax, but that she could see a buildup of fluid in right, middle ear, and this fluid was cloudy.  

From that information, I knew even before she told me her diagnosis, that I had a middle ear infection.  Yet, I was quite shocked, surprised and confused, as this didn't feel like any damn middle ear infection (ear ache) I have ever experienced before.  I have had sporadic ear aches my whole life (I had tubes implanted in my eardrums as a young boy due to CHRONIC ear infections... following the surgery, they became more manageable.... sporadic).  So, I KNOW what ear aches feel like for me.  This DID NOT feel the same at all.  Usually, I would experience a sharp, "beating" pressure in my middle ear.  This was feeling so different that I never imagined a middle ear infection until she told me of the information about the visible, cloudy fluid behind my ear drum.  

Apparently this was some particularly odd type, as she prescribed for me a very LARGE, atypical antibiotic to take.  The antibiotic wiped me out completely.  I took these large "horse pills" every day for the last seven days and finished the last one Monday morning.  Other than lecturing my classes at the U, forcing myself to get in my damn running miles (for which I was horribly, horribly slow, and achy beyond belief from the antibiotic), and eating a bit..... I slept the whole week after Labor Day.  

But, gradually, the antibiotic did succeed in combating the damable pathogen, and I began to feel a bit closer to normal by Wednesday and Thursday.  It still hurt every muscle in my legs to run, but I forced myself to stay with the goal.  

Now, it is Tuesday, September 13th, and it is 11 days since I started to feel sick from what ends up being a very odd middle ear infection. 

I would say I am now about 85% of my usual, old-guy self.  Running is still not the most pleasant, as the aches and pains, while getting more mild, are still there.  I think it may take a few more days to get virtually all the residual antibiotic out of my system and I am *HOPING* that leads to the leg pains finally disappearing.  

PipeTobacco

Thursday, September 01, 2022

MIL


 

In regards to my Mother-In-Law, there have been quite a few positives and negatives relating to her move to an assisted living apartment thus far:

  • It is nice having her closer to us than before. (positive)
  • She has been eating more consistently. (positive)
  • She has already been seemingly a bit less confused. (positive)
  • She is taking her medications more reliably (positive)
  • When she goes to activities (art, bingo, dinner in the dining room, movies at their theater, church, etc) she enjoys the activities. (positive)
  • However, my wife is spending huge amounts of time there coaxing, cajoling, and insisting that she participate in these various things. (negative)
  • When my Mother-In-Law is left to her own devices, and the staff at the complex come and ask her to go to dinner, or go to a movie, or go anywhere, my mother-in-law refuses.  (negative).
  • My mother-in-law has taken more showers than from when she was at home, where she would refuse to do so.... sometimes for weeks. (positive).
  • However, my mother-in-law has only taken showers when the aide AND my wife were there.  The last time, my wife could not be there due to a work obligation she could not reschedule, and when the aide came for the shower, my mother-in-law refused. (negative).  
  • For the lion's share of things, my wife's siblings are not doing a damn thing to help. (negative)

My wife cannot be there 24/7.  It is very, very frustrating that her siblings are so aggravating and unhelpful.  It is frustrating that my mother-in-law refuses to do most things when my wife is not there. It is frustrating in general, and I hope that it can move into something more stable and reliable.  My wife is there SO MUCH currently that it is frustrating.  I have been there a lot as well.  

  • Ran 10.3 miles (~16.5 km) this morning.  I have been a bit ahead of schedule, so I could run this shorter amount.  And, on Friday, I only have to run 4.7 miles (7.5 km) to reach my weekly goal of 55 miles in a week (~89 km).  
  • PCS = 8.  I think I have to try to outline here my ideas about the risks and benefits of returning to my pipes.  I guess, I am thinking more of the risks and benefits of trying to establish a prescribed, limited pattern of being allowed to return to them.  By this, I mean, I have to try to examine what I believe may be comfortable, and compare that with what I believe would be as close to worry-free as I could be, and see how divergent or convergent those two scenarios may be.  Perhaps I will try to flesh that out tomorrow or at least in the next few days.  Hopefully, that may help me see with a bit more clarity, realistically my options or lack of them.
  • In my younger days, I very foolishly believed when I would reach "grey-haired, old codger" status like I am now..... that I would "have life all figured out".  Unfortunately, THAT was just an unrealistic pipe dream. I am just a confused/conflicted grey-haired, old codger. 
PipeTobacco