All The Cool People

Green tea latte

So there I was, sitting in a very crowded Starbucks in terminal C of Newark Liberty International Airport. If you’ve been there, you know the one — right next to the United Club just after security. It’s typically a scene of complete pandemonium as travelers, flight crew, and TSA employees pack the line trying to get their caffeine fix on. It’s not easy to just relax there, but you can if you really try.

I was sitting at one end of the long bar-height table that runs the length of the store, drinking my drink and not thinking much about anything. I had about 90 minutes to wait until my connecting flight boarded.

A twentysomething woman came up to me and asked, apologetically, if she could put her stuff down to my right, at the end of the long table. I said “But of course. All the cool people sit here.” and scooted over a bit.

She stood at the end of the long table next to me, chatting with a friend she was apparently traveling with, drinking her drink. When I heard her comment that she was just about the only person she knew who ever ordered the Starbucks green tea latte, I looked owlishly at her and lifted the lid off my own drink, revealing that to be precisely what I was enjoying.

“Ohmigosh,” she exclaimed. “Someone else who likes that!”

I nodded urbanely. “All the cool people do.”

They went on talking and I went on ruminating and drinking my drink.

Then she happened to glance at my cup, which as per Starbucks normal practice, had my name scrawled on it. “Is your name Jay? My dad’s name is Jay!”

Imperturbably, I nodded. “All the cool people…”

She laughed. I smiled.

Sometimes it is possible to connect with another human being, even in the unlikeliest of places.



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“DNE” written on a whiteboard or chalkboard is supposed to mean “do not erase”. When I was a student at the University of Georgia, I saw it only infrequently, but it seems to have been more common elsewhere, or in any event, become so subsequently.

Randall Munroe, of XKCD fame, called attention to “DNE” usage with this strip several years ago:

I've seen advertisers put their URLs on chalkboards, encircled with a DNE. They went unerased for months. If you see this, feel free to replace the URL with

Recently, I decided to test for myself how sacrosanct something marked with “DNE” would actually be in practice:


When I added that, the board was full of random gibberish from various meetings that had been held in the room. Now it’s blank — except for my circled mystery code.

Two weeks and counting.


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Primal Scream Time: Atlanta Braves Edition

Screaming baseballI know most people on my friends list aren’t sports fans, and most of you consider a day without me saying anything on social media “a good day”, but I’m sorry, I just have to let loose a virtual primal scream here.

I know the Atlanta Braves are “rebuilding” with plans of being competitive again around 2017 or so, but … damn, do they ever suck right now.

I remember the 1988 season where the Braves had so little to show on the field that they simply used the marketing campaign “ONE CRAZY SUMMER” (and went 54-106 just to pound home what they were talking about). The Braves drew only 848,000 fans in that year, last in the majors by a wide margin.

2016 is starting to look like a repeat. The Braves went 0-5 at home the first week of the season … and now they head off to Washington to face the Nationals and their line-up of All-Star pitchers. As Jeff Schultz put it on the AJC Braves blog, “The Braves lost to the St. Louis Cardinals 12-7 Sunday. This allowed them to complete a perfect homestand to open the season — at least considered perfect in the infernal regions way, way south of here. They went 0-5, so they remain on a pace to go 0-162. That somehow seems appropriate in the same season the franchise created the deformed offspring of a hamburger and a pizza.”

I have to keep reminding myself that three years after that monstrosity of a 1988 season the Braves went worst-to-first and came one Lonnie Smith base-running screw-up away from winning the World Series.


My prediction for this season, by the way, is that the Braves lose over 100. I won’t be more specific — I have an ugly feeling that the Braves will exceed my projections of doom, no matter how grim they are.

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Sometimes I Pointlessly Take Things Too Far

For pretty much as long as such a thing as a Windows “desktop” has existed, I’ve had a visceral loathing for those people who use the desktop as their primary file storage location, creating endless desktop items and never filing any of them.

I used to have a boss who did that, and moreover, complained out loud that he could never find anything — without realizing that it was his own damn fault. I adopted the habit of going to his computer once a month or so (he never logged it out or locked it) and moving everything (except things like ‘My Computer’) to a folder marked “desktop”. I’d set the default view to “detail” and the default sort to “by date”. By the time he left us, a couple of years later, said “desktop” folder had about 6000 items in it, many of which I’m sure he had no need for but which I knew he’d keep until the end of time out of a sense that sometime, some day, they might be relevant.

Yes, Virginia, there is such a thing as a “hoarder” where the Windows filesystem is concerned.

I try to keep my laptop’s desktop extremely neat and tidy, with nothing there but immediate action items, and everything else neatly sorted into folders in the “My Documents” folder. And periodically, I go through and delete things that I realize I no longer need.

But sometimes, when I’m feeling especially cranky and annoyed, I take things a little further:

Gone Too Far

It still works, though — since I have ‘My Documents’ right there in my Start menu, and I keep My Documents nice and tidy.

The main reason I do it, though, is in hopes that one of the desktop hoarder types will see my desktop and shriek in agony at its pristine and total tidiness.

Look, aren’t I lame?

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Huck On The Run

Our tabby cat, Huckleberry, has a perpetual case of wanderlust despite our repeatedly telling him that the woods around our house are just full of owls and fishers and other critters that would just love to eat a tasty tabby. Once in a while, despite our best efforts, he makes a desperate bid for freedom and must be pursued, corralled, and returned to confinement.

This is his story.

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Aaron Keith Furr, 1932-2016

Aaron Keith Furr, 1932-2016

Aaron Keith Furr, 1932-2016

Dr. Aaron Keith Furr, 84, of Brooksville, Florida passed away on Thursday, March 31, 2016. Born in Rowan County, NC on March 5, 1932, he was a longtime resident of Blacksburg, VA before retiring to Florida. He was the son of Carl Albert Furr and Sue Howell Furr and grew up in Salisbury, NC. He attended Catawba College, Emory University, and Duke University, graduating from Duke in 1958 with a PhD. in nuclear physics. The love of his life was his wife, Dora Mondon Furr, of Brooksville, whom he met at Duke and was married to for over 50 years, from March 22, 1958 until her death on September 1, 2011. Dr. Furr is survived by his daughter, Elizabeth Furr of Brooksville, his daughter Julie Furr Youngman and her husband Paul and their children Alex, Madeleine, and Lily, of Lexington, VA, his son Joel Furr and his wife Carole, of Richmond, VT, and his son Rob Furr, of Calgary, AB. Dr. Furr spent his entire career at Virginia Tech, as Professor of Nuclear Science and Engineering and then as director of the campus environmental health and safety department, retiring in 1998 to Florida. Dr. Furr loved books and reading, science, cats, and sharing his firmly held opinions on a variety of subjects both serious and trivial. He had his silly side, periodically tormenting his family with caterwauling renditions of the song “Blood on the Saddle” and other classics. He will be missed.

A memorial service will be held on Saturday, May 28 at 2 pm at Dr. Furr’s house, 201 Sunset Drive, in Brooksville. In lieu of flowers, donations are encouraged to Jericho Road Ministries (, the Hernando County Public Library (, or the Southern Environmental Law Center (

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Farewell, Dad

Mom, Elizabeth, and Dad

Mom, Elizabeth, and Dad at Mom’s 70th birthday party in 1999

My father, Keith Furr, is, to put it bluntly, dying. He has been suffering from pretty severe dementia for several months now, not recognizing anyone and not really knowing where he was, and showing no signs of improvement. However, in recent days he took a severe turn for the worse. He has had only very short periods of consciousness, and has refused food and water, and has been suffering from pneumonia. His physicians have placed him on palliative care, meaning no drugs other than what would keep him comfortable, no food or liquid.

Over the years, he has repeatedly expressed wishes that he not be kept alive after all hope has gone, and we feel this, the palliative care and quiet end,is what he would want. He has been very sad in the four and a half years since my mother, Dora Furr, passed, and though he was never very religious, in recent years he spoke of having something of a change of heart and hoping that he would get to see her again.

Dad reading to me after work when I was about three years old

Dad reading to me after work when I was about three years old

Dad was a good man. He was the only child from his family of four to make it out of the North Carolina Piedmont and to college and wound up with a PhD in nuclear physics from Duke University, where, incidentally, he met Mom. He spent his entire career working as a professor at Virginia Tech, first in physics and mechanical engineering, directing the Virginia Tech research nuclear reactor, and then, when the reactor was closed down, switching to head the university’s occupational health and safety services program. Under Dad’s leadership, the Virginia Tech campus safety department became a model for others across the country. Dad authored many publications during his career, but one he was particularly proud of was the CRC Handbook of Laboratory Safety, which went through multiple editions and sold very well.

He was married to Mom for over 50 years and when she passed, he was never the same. They argued and fought as any couple likely does, but at the end of the day they knew they’d always have one another.

He is in a nursing home in Florida. My siblings and I just said our goodbyes via cell phone, with the exception of my sister Elizabeth, who lives in the same town as Dad. We’re very grateful to our cousin Anne Bartlett who’s been there through thick and thin for Dad, and who has been acting as a go-between and many other things besides to keep us informed and in the loop and aware of how Dad is doing.

My sisters Elizabeth Furr and Julie Furr Youngman, and my brother Rob Furr plan to hold a memorial service for Dad, very likely at the end of May. We will all miss him very much, and we’re very sad that his time has come.

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