I Feel So … Dirty

AlabamaYesterday I had occasion to place a call to the membership/enrollment arm of my health care insurer, Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Alabama.

I work for a very large Fortune 500 company. Our HR department insures us via an ever-changing network of health insurance plans. It’s actually kinda rare that I have the exact same carrier for more than a year or two, and as of the beginning of this year, my fellow Vermont employees got switched this year from MVP (a New York and Vermont insurance provider) to BC/BS of Alabama. For all I know, next year I’ll be enrolled with Cosmopolitan Health Insurance of Pago Pago.

Still, it’s not that big a deal: the actual benefits remain the same from insurer to insurer. This is the advantage of working for a megacorporation who can say “Here’re the benefits we wish to offer, what rate will you give us? Low bid wins.”

So anyway: I placed my call to the customer service number on the back of my member ID card and promptly got through to a friendly female employee whose voice couldn’t have been more Deep South/Heart of Dixie if she’d tried. Let’s put it this way: there was no question of this being an offshored call center employee somewhere in Hyderabad.

I had the mad urge to ask her where in Alabama she was and make some random reference to the giant statue of Vulcan in Birmingham, but a voice inside me said “Confuse her after she’s helped you, not before.” So I told her what I needed to have changed in my records; she promptly made the change and asked if she could help me with anything else.

I said “No, thank you so much!” and then the Devil got a hold of me: against my better judgment and the good solid values I learned during my undergraduate years at the University of Georgia, I betrayed all that is right and proper and said … “Roll Tide!”

The nice lady on the other end of the call paused for a second, then, sounding surprised but very pleased, responded “Well, Roll Tide to you too!”

I feel so dirty. I think I’ll go hide somewhere now and conceal my shame.


Who knew?

TriglyceridesI just got done with a fasting cholesterol check at my family doctor’s office.

It turns out that even if you are taking drugs for high cholesterol, curling up in a fetal position in a dark room after working hours every day and getting absolutely no exercise DOES NOT HELP KEEP TRIGLYCERIDE LEVELS DOWN.

Who knew?



Twilight in winter

Carole and I went for an absolutely purposeless drive this afternoon. It wasn’t an especially pretty afternoon: overcast and gray, with scattered patches of snow and mud. But it was better than sitting around the house staring at the wallpaper, you know?

We drove down south to Middlebury, had hot drinks at “Carol’s Hungry Mind Cafe“, then walked around a bit in the cold and looked at ice floating down Otter Creek. When that got old, we decided to head back north and in the general direction of home. On the way, I suggested that Carole check in with her parents to see how they were doing. (What did we do before cell phones when we had idle miles to travel and not much else to do?)

During the ensuing conversation, ancestry.com came up; Carole and her parents have been working on Carole’s family tree fairly steadily since Christmas. I could only hear one side of the discussion, but apparently they were chatting about strategies for tracing certain branches of the family. At one point, Carole said “Yeah, Jacksonville is rich ground for finding Earles and Cockes.”

During the pause that followed, as her parents replied, I found myself muttering “… just a nihilist”.

And Carole grinned, slapped me on the knee, and said “That’s exactly what I was thinking.”

(For five lemur points: explain the connection.)


You know you’re depressed and down and out of good ideas when you actually stop and contemplate mailing a letter to the Unabomber, Theodore Kaczynski, to ask him what he thinks of Donald Trump.

And then think “… and how the Kardashians fit into his societal analysis. I should ask him about that too.”

I’m bored and depressed in part because two consecutive out of town work trips got called off. I like to keep busy. A bored Jay is a sad Jay.

On the positive side, our efforts to save electricity have worked so well that Green Mountain Power just mailed us back $245 because we’d built up such a balance with our set-in-August annualized monthly “budget plan” payments. I suspect our next budget amount is going to be a lot lower when next August comes.

And we just got a heat pump installed today for our enormous living room. That will definitely help lower our heating oil bill and the air conditioning and dehumidifying will be great come the summer. So we have that going for us, which is nice.

Heat pump


I don’t know how those of you who live outside major media markets stay in touch with current music — since I don’t watch TV or listen to commercial radio and am not exposed to it on the subway and so on, I’m kind of in a vacuum.

I’ve been working at home the last two weeks because absolutely nothing I’ve had to do has required me to be physically in the office, and so I’ve been trying to keep music playing to keep from being absolutely despondent with wintertime depression blahs.

Today I’ve been playing the 2015 Grammy nominees for Best Folk Album — starting with Eliza Gilkyson’s “The Nocturne Diaries”. I’ve never heard of Gilkyson before now (she evidently has managed to get along just fine without my notice; she has been releasing albums steadily since 1969), but so far, I like what I’ve been hearing.

I’m fond of our Amazon Echo and Amazon Prime subscription. I can just speak clearly and tune to whatever suits my mood, adjust the volume up or down, skip to the next tune, whatever. If out of a clear blue sky I decide I really need to hear Devo performing “Whip It” or the Ramones doing “Blitzkrieg Bop” I can, just by speaking clearly and loudly and bam, instant gratification. The Echo can also play music from Pandora, provided I can provide a decent ‘seed’ song to work from, or play radio stations from around the world via IHeartRadio or TuneIn. I can’t say that I’ve ever wanted to hear the local Catholic radio station in the French Pacific island possessions of Wallis and Futuna, but if the urge strikes me, it’s all a clearly enunciated request to Echo away.

But today isn’t a punk kind of day. Electric folk seems to be what’s working, and I’m not gonna argue.

Moronitude. Moronicity. Whatever

Some people say I’m fairly intelligent. (And incredibly annoying and irritating, but that’s a subject for another time.)

But I’m not always that way. I have a confession to make.

If you put one of these


in front of me, on a plate, along with other items of food, I will plunk the entire thing in my mouth. Just because.

It’s not that I don’t know what it is. I do. I simply remain convinced that it won’t ever be “that bad” to eat an entire glob at once.

It always is.

You’d think I’d learn after the fortieth or fiftieth coughing, weeping paroxysm.


I never do.


My annoying sense of humor

My wife Carole says my sense of humor is incredibly annoying and irritating, and consequently, I’ve tried to rein it in somewhat. But once in a while I do or say something that I find amusing enough to share, even if most people will just look at it and go “how pathetic”.

Yesterday one of our two cars was at the mechanic getting its annual Vermont inspection. Carole had the other car at work in Montpelier, which meant that I was more or less stuck at home for the duration. (We don’t live near public transportation and the mechanic is 15 miles from our house).

I got a call from the mechanic’s wife/office manager mid-afternoon letting me know the car was all ready to be picked up; they’d tried calling Carole’s number but she had her phone on do-not-ring for some reason. Since calling her wouldn’t work, I pinged her on Google Hangouts:

Google hangout chat 12-28-2015

I dunno why, but that just tickles me. Perhaps it’s because our mechanic, Alan, is a famously laconic and dry New Englander, and I can totally hear him going “Yeaaah, we got a bit of a problem. See, your car split into one evil car and one good car like in that one Star Trek episode. The good car’s here, it’s fine, but it won’t start or go anywhere. Ann’s off chasing down the evil car, I’ll give you a call if I hear anything.”

(Winooski, by the way, is a small city just west of our mechanic’s office in South Burlington.)


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Random anecdote:

I recently walked the 2015 Seattle Susan G. Komen 3-Day​, a 60-mile walk to raise funds for the fight against breast cancer. While en route walking the streets of Seattle and Redmond and Bellevue and so on, I happened upon the usual numbers of dogs one is likely to encounter while in an urban and suburban setting, including a decent variety of corgis.

I adore corgis.

I’d see a corgi and exclaim “CORGI CORGI CORGI”, which I admit is kind of strange for an adult male to do, but I guess you’ll just have to write it off to my general eccentricity.

Toward the end of the walk, I happened upon a corgi cheering walkers on along with its humans, but other walkers were already petting said corgi. I waited my turn, got impatient, and said “Hey, man, don’t bogart that corgi.”

The corgi’s owner looked at me and said “You are way too white to say that.” And laughed.

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.


Painting the Shed

The shed, almost finishedI’d like to be able to say that I spent today on my sofa watching college football, but no.

I drove to Killington and back this morning so Carole and I could have breakfast with one of Carole’s out of town friends who was visiting, and then this afternoon it was back to working on the shed.

Our weathered, unpainted shed has been worse and worse each year. It was probably stained when the previous owners had it built circa 2000, but over the 13 years we’ve owned the house it’s been getting more and more weatherbeaten and faded. It’s still structurally strong, but it had that “derelict barn” look to it.

The shed, circa December 2014Each winter I look out at it sitting there in the snow looking forlorn and I think “when the warm weather comes this year, I’m going to re-stain or maybe even paint that thing.” And then each year flies by and boom, it’s November and too late to be doing outside painting.

This year, I finally decided to stop saying “I should paint that some year” and went ahead and did it. In stages. A bit at a time when I was in town. What with frequent out of town work trips, a Susan G Komen 3-Day, and a sick headache or two, I just couldn’t seem to get much done on it at any one time.

It soaked up three two-gallon buckets of primer — that was some thirsty wood. Then I began putting the paint on — I got the front partly done two weekends ago, did the sides up to where I couldn’t reach last weekend — then ran out of paint. This weekend I got out the stepladder and got the rest of it done. Er, except for the back, which I only got 1/3 done before running out of paint again. I’m getting to be an old hand at rattling off the specifications and color code for the Behr “Mermaid Sea” greenish blue paint I for some reason decided to use.

Tomorrow it’s back to the store for one more gallon of paint, then I’m going to try to finish the back and prime the unpainted trim, and then maybe I’ll be lucky and next weekend will be warm and sunny and I can get the trim painted as well. For some reason known only to my subconscious, I picked Behr “Bronze-Green” for the trim. I have no idea if the two colors will actually look good together, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

Why write about painting a shed? Well, because I’m so glad I finally got off my can and did it, mostly, and also because this is actually the first real painting project I’ve ever done. I’ve helped out here and there, but never had to plan and execute the whole thing from start to finish. Perversely, even though I know it’s not really a big deal, I have a sense of vague accomplishment.