Certain Vegetables and Fruit

It can be very awkward at times when you’re a) very very very familiar with the early 1980s song “88 Lines About 44 Women” by The Nails, and b) you’re taking part in a conference call and hear a participant introducing herself with one of the names from the song.

I’m on a conference call right now and as we were introducing ourselves at the start of the call, a woman chimed in, “Brenda’s here.”

And for the last ten minutes I’ve had the line “Brenda’s strange obsession was for certain vegetables and fruit” going through my head over and over and over.


(Thank God her name was “Brenda”, though, and not, say, “Tanya” or “Joan.”)

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Unsolved Mysteries

My life is full of mysteries. Some more interesting than others.

When I was in graduate school in 1988, a lowly candidate for the Master of Public Administration degree at Virginia Tech, I dutifully tried to do adult things like subscribing to the local newspaper. That said, I didn’t actually sit down and read the paper most days — I’d sleep until I had to rush out for class and then I’d come back much later in the day and brainlessly eat something and go to bed. Unread newspapers piled up in a big stack on my sofa.

One day I decided to throw them out. I picked up half the stack and headed for my recycling bin, then stopped and did a classic Hollywood double-take. Fanned carefully out across the topmost paper in the remaining heap were five crisp new $20 bills. If I’d split the stack at any other point I’d have missed them.

To this day I don’t know how they got there. My mother had a key to my apartment in case I ever misplaced my own copy, but I can’t imagine that she’d have decided that the best way to slip me some extra cash was to conceal it in a stack of unread newspapers.

The cash was clearly on top of one issue and below another, not tucked into a particular issue. And I can’t imagine how I’d have dropped a whole newspaper onto the stack if there were five $20 bills fanned out on top of the stack at the time. The only explanation that makes sense is that someone put the money there, but again, why would someone choose that method of delivery? It’d have been so easy to overlook the money altogether. (I did finally ask my mother; she denied all knowledge and seemed as genuinely confused as I felt.)

Less Twilight-Zone-esque, but still perplexing, is the matter of the going-away gift I received when my temporary position at Glaxo Pharmaceuticals ended in 1994. I’d been doing temp work at Glaxo for a while after giving up on my PhD program and moving to Durham, NC. Our department supported clinical trials on ondansetron, an anti-emetic used to prevent opioid-induced nausea, chemotherapy-induced nausea, and post-operative nausea and vomiting. When the powers that be decided there was no need to do any further clinical trials to support additional indications for the drug, I was surplus to needs.

So: on my last day in the department before moving on to another temporary position at Duke University, everyone wished me well and then one of the Pharm.D’s, Melissa, told me she had my farewell gift in her car. I thought that was a little odd — why hadn’t she brought it in? Mind you, I hadn’t been expecting a farewell gift at all; temps aren’t normally noted nor long remembered. But at the end of the day, as I was leaving the building for the last time, Melissa walked me out to the parking garage and retrieved my gift from her car.

It was a 24-pack (a “suitcase”) of Budweiser beer.

budweiserTo say I was a bit nonplussed would just about sum it all up. First, why a farewell gift at all for a lowly temp, and second, why Budweiser? I couldn’t recall ever even discussing alcohol and drinking with my former co-workers and I certainly hadn’t indicated a preference for the King of Beers.

I decided not to ask, though — best not to look a gift horse in the mouth, after all — and simply thanked Melissa and went off, suitcase of beer in hand, to my car.

Still, I wonder: what made Melissa think “Oh, right, Jay’s position runs out tomorrow. Better stop off at the store to get him some Bud”? I’ve even thought about writing her to ask — what’s the Internet for, if not for cyberlocating people you used to know decades ago and who’ve long since forgotten you?

But no. I think it’s best if I leave this mystery unsolved.


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Spectacularly bad

depressingDepression is rarely boring, despite what one might expect. I woke up Sunday morning (having slept in while Carole went off to church) with a full-on the-world-is-ending I-am-utterly-alone panic attack. I literally felt as though I was drowning, gasping for breath, my heart pounding in my chest like a jackhammer. Carole came home in the middle of it and had absolutely no idea what to do. I begged her to listen to me … I don’t know what I wanted to say… but I think I just freaked her out instead.

I made it to Chicago for this week’s work, having pulled myself together enough to make it past the TSA and onto my Burlington to O’Hare flight. I made it to the customer today, a half hour late, because it was almost impossible to get out of bed. I survived work today, but was certainly not my most productive. And now I’m sitting in my hotel room looking out on a lovely sunny evening, and all I can think is, how absolutely miserable I feel.

Biochemistry sucks sometimes.

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Berry season

So I’ve just discovered that berry season has begun. And it looks like a good one!

I went outside for a few minutes, to check my raspberry and blueberry plants. The raspberries are now bearing abundantly enough that there are too many to eat for a single morning snack. It’s time to go out there with the Tupperware.

And the blueberries! All the plants are bearing. I was smart enough to cover them all with bird cloth a couple weeks ago. And my prize plant is producing berries almost as large as a quarter!

So from today until it’s done, I need to spend at least an hour out there daily. There is picking to do and there is weeding to do. (Some of my plants are in what’s practically a wild field now.) And I’m gonna have to wear a whole lotta DEET.

Photos will follow.

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Richmond Community Band in 360 Degrees

I am oddly fascinated by 360 degree photos and video. Things like Google Street View, that let you see buildings and landmarks and streets in 360 degrees, as though you were standing there at the time and place the photo was taken.

A few months back I bought a Ricoh Theta S 360-degree camera and have used it to take photos at some local Vermont landmarks that Google Street View cars couldn’t get to, but yesterday was the first time I used it for a lengthy video. My wife Carole is a part-time member of the Richmond (Vermont) Community Band, and yesterday the band played in the annual 4th of July parade from the bed of a haywagon pulled by a large tractor. How could I miss the chance to take a band’s-eye-view video of the parade?

I walked alongside the haywagon — sometimes on one side, sometimes on another, sometimes ahead, sometimes behind — filming the parade with the Theta S camera. If I do say so myself, it came out pretty well. See for yourself, above. Click and drag with your mouse to pivot the point of view of the video in any direction — including up and down. The video goes up to 1080S HD if you have the bandwidth for it.


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Run For Empowerment

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I wanted to thank everyone who sponsored me in the 2016 “Run for Empowerment”, a fund-raiser event to benefit Women Helping Battered Women. The run took place a couple weekends ago on June 18 and raised over $20,000 for the WHBW programs.

Thanks to my 35 sponsors (wow!) I raised $1025 for the event. This was enough to make me the second highest fundraiser. I can’t thank you all enough for your support. You helped make possible the many programs WHBW offers — their emergency shelter, their 24 hour hotline, their support and counseling programs, their legal assistance program, and so on, and so on, and so on… it’s a huge list and it all costs rather a lot. You are all amazing and I’m so glad you appreciate how important WHBW is to our community.

(Technically speaking, WHBW doesn’t exist any more — they changed their name to “Steps to End Domestic Violence” right after the event. But at the time, they were still WHBW!)

Most people who took part in the walk were 5K or 10K runners. I’m not much of a runner, so Jay and I walked. Amusingly, we got recognized for being fastest in our respective age groups, and Jay was fastest overall male walker… out of two. But we got ribbons!

Thank you again, not for making me the second ranking fundraiser, but for the wonderful support you’ve provided for families affected by domestic violence!

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From the “Stupid Things That Will Probably Amuse Only Me” Department

In an email exchange with a co-worker, the co-worker said:

“Have you confirmed that you have access to the db and that there is sufficient test data?”

I replied:

“At this point, I’m multitasking on so many things that for all I know in a few minutes I’m going to get a call asking why I’m not at the convention center judging the Miss Oak Brook contest. Could you please send me connection details?”

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