Hey, Honey!

It’s pathetic, really, but I still get warm fuzzies thinking about the time I called Carole from a crowded downtown Seattle coffee shop (one with a green and white mermaid logo) and loudly exclaimed “Hey, honey, they have Starbucks here in Seattle too!

You could have heard a pin drop anytime in the next ten seconds. It was just perfect.

Good times.

Strangeness at Night

Last night I woke up around 2:30 am, sitting upright in bed, with the light on, having been dreaming of trying to sign someone up for Vermont Health Connect. I think I was trying to sign my cat Starlight up for health insurance, only she already has it, so that’s okay.

I knew it would happen sometime. I’ve been doing this (signing people up for insurance, not somnambulating) forty hours a week for I guess about 3 months now. That stuff gets into your head.

Splitting Firewood

Sometimes I miss splitting firewood.

When I was a kid Dad (Keith Furr) attempted to heat our house in the mountains of Virginia with a wood stove and blower system. (It didn’t work that well from my point of view; my bedroom was at the opposite corner of the house and in the winter it was not uncommon to get up and find that my bedroom thermometer read 58°.)

Our house outside Blacksburg was surrounded by woods; some oak, some pine, some poplar, other stuff too. Dad spent weekend days out in the woods with his chainsaw and we kids spent our weekend days hauling it up to the house. At a certain point in my teenage years, it was explained to me that I was perfectly capable of wielding a sledgehammer, axe, and wedges, and splitting the larger logs.

At first I didn’t much like it. I had the knack for wedging our two available wedges deep into a partially split log and then having to use the axe head as a third wedge to get the other two back out. But I eventually got the hang of it, and depending on the density and grain wood in question, I could usually account for a decent pile of split logs in the matter of an hour or two after school.

It was a small accomplishment for a kid who had nothing else to brag about: my grades were awful because I never did homework, I washed out of concert and marching band due to an abysmal lack of musical talent, and if I wasn’t at the absolute bottom of the “guys I’d like to date list” for the average girl my age, I was certainly close enough that I could ask the guy who was to pass the Clearasil.

My house in Richmond, Vermont doesn’t have a fireplace. We have an oil furnace and a ductless high efficiency heat pump (recently added). In other words, there’s no need for me to wander out back and spend an hour or two working up a sweat by a pile of logs. Sometimes, though, I miss it. I have to think it did some good to release tension and stress. And in any event, it was nice to have something I could avoid failing at.

It’s been pointed out to me that I could go get some logs, split them, and donate them to someone who needs them. The thought’s occurred to me, but I don’t own a pickup truck and thus I wouldn’t be able to get that many logs… not enough to make much of a difference. And in any event… due to my work schedule, I’m never around. I enjoy traveling for work as much as I do, but it basically costs me the opportunity to contribute via volunteering and charitable works. But, if I traveled less so I could pitch in locally, I’d lose the job satisfaction of traveling and doing my job well. I don’t know if it’s precisely a Catch-22, but it’s certainly frustrating.

Pooch’s-Eye View Of The World

I’ve been having fun with my Ricoh Theta S 360 degree camera since I got it. It lets me take still or video panoramas using a pair of fisheye lenses, then upload them to places like Youtube, Facebook, or Google Street View.

I happened to have my camera and small tripod with me today in Burlington as I walked from a Vermont Lake Monsters (short-season A minor league baseball) game to Noyes Automotive, where we’d had Carole’s car extensively detailed. As I walked down Ledge Road heading west toward Pine Street, I noticed that some nice homeowner had put out a large bowl of water with a sign reading “WATER STATION” at dog’s-eye level.

I took a photo of it with my phone, but then reconsidered — a still photo just showing the bowl in isolation didn’t really do the situation justice. Out came the Ricoh and tripod. This was the result (click and drag the image with your mouse). Now just imagine that you’re a thirsty pooch out for a walk with your owner. Awesome, right?

The Politics of Dancing (Waring Blender Edition)

Waring Blender
Just killed my red Waring bar blender trying to make Carole a smoothie with skim milk, frozen berries, and frozen yogurt chunks (which she’d prepared in advance in a silicone cube tray). Apparently there are some things that are too much for a Waring blender — deep frozen 1 inch cubes of frozen vanilla yogurt, for one, and Warren Zevon for another.

Note the Oxford comma there.

Anyway, the thing gave me 11 years’ service, so I’m not too broken hearted.

I went to look up and order another and to my horror, the blender arms race has gotten a bit out of control; they make Waring blenders that go up to almost a thousand dollars. I assume those are for making the Bruce Banner smoothies out of pitchblende, carnotite, basalt, and, of course, skim milk.

A Dose of Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh, A Dose of Silly

34028198 - calf leg pain, man holding sore and painful muscle, sprain or cramp ache filled with red pink bright place. person injured when exercising or running

Observations on a Saturday:

  1. There is nothing quite so bracing as lunging for one’s alarm clock at 6:30 in the morning, only to suffer a spontaneous and extremely painful cramp in one’s right calf. I know exactly what to do when a cramp happens: grab one’s toes and pull up and toward you. This lessens the pain enough that you no longer wish to die, but not enough that you can just go “TRA LA” and go on about your business.And if you let go too soon, the pain comes right back.And the whole time, the alarm clock is going “BLATT BLATT BLATT” and getting increasingly loud.Nothin’ better than that.
  2. There’s nothing to make you feel silly as sitting through the age group awards at a 5K run/10K run/5K walk, waiting patiently for the organizers to get to the awards for top fundraisers, and then hearing your name called out as the Top Male Finisher for the walk. Which they said they weren’t going to time. And having all the runners who did the 10K in 38 minutes and the 5K in 17 minutes clapping because you finished the walk in 45 and a half minutes.I was not only the first male to finish, I was also the first male in the 40-49 bracket, which meant I had to get back up and claim a second ribbon, alongside Carole, who was first in the female 40-49 bracket and thus got a ribbon as well.I wanted to sit right back down and and try not to meet anyone’s eyes, but we were firmly directed off to one side where a photographer was waiting to photograph our greatness.Carole and I had decided not to run the Run for Empowerment, benefiting Women Helping Battered Women, because we needed to get in a training walk for the upcoming Seattle Susan G Komen, because I’ve let myself get out of running shape, and because Carole’s never liked to run anyway.I think, all told, there were 13 walkers. Two of those were men. The other guy was in the 60-69 age bracket. But YAY I WAS THE FASTEST oh god kill me now I’m a 48-year-old and I just basically got one of these:participant
  3. On a much more positive note, the Run for Empowerment raised something like $17,000 to help fund the programs of Women Helping Battered Women, which is awesome. Carole raised $1025 on her own, which is really awesome, when you consider that she did it in ONE WEEK. Social media can work amazingly well for fundraising, if you know how to use it.RFE2At the end of the event, they announced the top fundraisers, and we were startled and confused when Carole was announced as the #2 fundraiser. There was another participant who had a few hundred more dollars raised who we expected to be announced second, but instead they called for Carole. We both looked very startled and started semaphoring to the staff member from WHBW who was doing the announcing that Carole was third, but said staff member firmly shook her head and said second.rfe2It wasn’t until it was all over that she told us that when it came to “offline” money actually turned in at the start of the walk (as opposed to raised via the website), and all tallied up, Carole had actually finished 2nd. I have no idea what happened to that person who’d been ahead of Carole all week, but hey, being 2nd-place fundraiser is pretty cool. And again, thanks to wonderful generous friends and acquaintances, Carole pulled all that off in ONE WEEK. (She says “THANK YOU SO MUCH” and will be writing her own blog entry later.)
  4. On a more negative note, it turns out that if you’re going to go crazy buying hanging pots of flowers to make your back yard look more festive, you’ve got to remember to water them. I was out of town (in Illinois) for work this past week and it was hot and sunny back here in Vermont … and Carole was busy working on a very detailed and complicated government security clearance application… and oops. Carole caught it today and watered everywhere and everything, and we hope the flowers rebound. One of these days I’ve got to win the lottery so I can afford a personal landscaper. We’re definitely pretty incompetent at it.


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.



Fun with radioactivity

So, I’ve had a box of uranium glass marbles sitting around the house for a decade or so, but it wasn’t until recently that we got a black light and could see them glow. Uranium glass is glass with uranium mixed in, duh, which gives it a pretty green color. Under ultraviolet light, it fluoresces.

I was sitting at the dinner table and glanced at the shelf where the box of marbles sat. A thought popped into my head: “You still have that black light for spotting urine where Starlight peed inappropriately, right?”

Carole affirmed that we did, and the rest is history.

Here’s what that box of marbles looks like in regular light:


Here’s what it looks like in ultraviolet light.


Treetop Obstacle Tour

My wife and I spent Labor Day afternoon on the Treetop Obstacle Course at Arbortrek Canopy Adventures in Jeffersonville, Vermont. It was arduous, difficult, and enormously fun… right up until my upper body strength gave completely out on the last, extreme-difficult obstacle and I had to be rescued by the staff. (Rescued = rappelled to the ground) We’ll be back. Highly recommended. The staff were ultra-professional and very attentive to participant questions and needs.


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So, The Helpdesk Has My Laptop and I’m Sittin’ Here Workin’ On The Lite-Brite