Anniversary

Today (May 18) is the 18th anniversary of me starting my current job, at what was IDX Systems Corporation and is now GE Healthcare IT. The job has evolved, but technically it’s still the same position I started in way back when.

The 16th was the 18th anniversary of our move to Vermont. Hard to believe sometimes that we’ve been here so long.

 

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Drowning

Drowning

Though this is not going to come as a newsflash to anyone who knows me, I’ve been suffering from severe depression for a few years now. Of late I’ve been so depressed that at the end of each working day I’ve simply gone home (or to the hotel, when I’m traveling for work), eaten something, and then gotten into bed in a dark room to surf Wikipedia on my tablet. Nothing else. Same thing every day.

I am scheduled to walk in the 2016 Susan G. Komen 3-Day in Seattle this September, and I haven’t even started my fundraising, because I’m so damn depressed. Every week I say “perhaps this weekend I’ll compose a fundraising letter and send it out” and every weekend I do anything but. (If you want to sponsor me, though, you can do so here: http://www.the3day.org/goto/jayfurr — but for what it’s worth, this whole blog post is not intended to get donations by sounding absolutely pathetic.)

Four years ago, I was doing a lot of running. Then life took a few ugly turns, and I lost all my motivation, and since then I haven’t run at all. The last time I even tried to run in a friendly local race I was so far behind everyone else that I wound up dropping out. It was a 10K, which I didn’t have a lot of experience with, and I wasn’t feeling at my best, but regardless, I have to say that the overall weight of depression didn’t make things any easier. And after that debacle of a race, I just basically stopped.

Five years ago, I had gotten my weight down to 180 pounds. On a 6’2″ frame, that actually made me look skinny — for the first time since high school. But then depression hit and now I’m back up at 240. I have suits I bought when I was down at 180-190 that I can’t wear any more, but I can’t face the prospect of buying new, larger ones again because that’d be the final blow — a way of absolutely surrendering to the weight gain. As long as I don’t buy new suits, I can pretend that one day I’ll fit into the Slender Jay suits again.

My father died at the end of March, so now I guess I’m technically an orphan. That didn’t depress me as much as I’d have thought it would’ve, because, frankly, his death meant he didn’t have to suffer for years in a state of relatively severe dementia. If I recall correctly, it was only eight months or so from the time he was admitted to a nursing home (as a result of frequent periods of confusion and disorientation) to the time he passed away. Some people aren’t so lucky and linger for decades.

Still, it does sadden me to think that he’s gone. He and I didn’t see eye to eye, and I can’t recall him actually ever directly praising me for anything, but I respected him and I think he came to respect me and actually felt a little bit bad about how abusive he’d been when I was younger. I wish I’d had more time to get to know that Keith Furr — the one who looked back at a long life and wished he could have been a better father.

Right now, today, I’m in Phoenix, Arizona — in town to do two days of training at a local customer and then to present a session at my company’s national conference. I had a perfectly fine day today, training-wise, but I spent most of the day privately wishing like anything that I could just go back to the hotel and sit in a dark room. I doubt the customers ever realized I was thinking anything of the sort, but behind my cheerful, professional mask was a deep gloom and the thought that it would be nice if some sort of emergency (say, a tornado alarm, or an alien invasion) happened to occur.

Toward the end of the day I happened to mention that, hypothetically, I might be interested in going to see the Arizona Diamondbacks play the Yankees tonight… and for some reason all the folks present seized on the idea and started looking up ticket prices and giving advice on taking the train to the stadium and this and that and the other… and the whole time I was thinking “why did I mention that? I’m way too depressed to go back to the hotel, change into casual clothes, and go out to a game.”

I am taking medicine for my depression: citalopram, buproprion, and trazodone (which I don’t take every night because it’s so heavily sedating that I feel groggy the next morning). I think the medicine helps somewhat — I don’t find myself waking up with panic attacks and so on, for example, but it’s certainly not making it possible for me to have a regular life. I’ve tried other medications as well, and none have made much difference. I imagine that if I started getting a lot of regular exercise, that’d help tremendously, but there’s basically zero chance of my going back to the hotel, changing into exercise clothes, and going down to the fitness center to pound out a few miles on a treadmill.

I don’t know what to do. I feel like I’m just plain drowning.

Drowning II

 

 

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Laughing Out Loud In Church (London Edition)

Thanksgiving at St Paul'sLast Thanksgiving, I decided to treat myself to a spontaneous, random trip across the Atlantic to London, England. Just me. (Carole has been to London already — she spent a few weeks there when she was an undergraduate at Harvard.)

I had an awesome hotel just around the corner from Westminster Abbey and Parliament. I spent a lot of time just walking around, visiting parks and the Tower of London and the London Eye and Westminster Abbey. It rained a good bit, but that was okay. It was late November in England; what else would you expect?

There were two high points of my trip.

One was that I got to sit in the Visitor’s Gallery in the House of Commons during a debate over British policy toward ISIS in Syria. Normally, foreigners don’t get to sit in the Visitor’s Gallery during Question Time when the MPs are grilling the Prime Minister, but for whatever reason the session that day didn’t count as Question Time. Members of both sides of the aisle took turns peppering Prime Minister Cameron with policy questions, and unlike our own deliberative body, Congress, everyone was actually polite. And educated. A member of the opposition referenced the Kantian imperative during a question and everyone knew precisely what he was talking about. I doubt the same would have been true of Congress.

IMG_1602

The second was that I got to attend a Thanksgiving service for Americans at St. Paul’s Cathedral. It’s an annual event and from what I could see a beloved one — the sanctuary was full of American expats and tourists. The choir was wonderful, the message (delivered by the American ambassador) was funny in parts and solemn in parts, and above all, whenever one got bored, the incredible architecture of St. Paul’s was there to be marveled at.

IMG_1609

But the best part of the service came at the very end. After everything was done and people were standing up to go, the massive St. Paul’s organ launched into what someone must have thought a very proper American piece of music: Sousa’s “Liberty Bell March”.

Yes, the Monty Python theme. That Liberty Bell March.

No, at the end, they did not end with the usual loud flatulent “splat”. But that didn’t stop me from laughing anyway.

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DNE Again

May 3, 2016

Five weeks and counting.

(See “DNE” for more detail.)

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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

“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 xkcd.com.

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

DNE

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.

Sigh.

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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