Lemur Art

By | July 15, 2019

Carole and I spent Memorial Day weekend down in Durham, NC, where we lived in the mid-1990s. (I lived there from the fall of 1993 to the spring of 1998; Carole was there from early 1996 to the spring of 1998.) Though we’d been back for a few weddings in the late 1990s, we hadn’t been back just for fun in almost twenty years.

We did all manner of nifty things — we hung out at the Sarah Duke Gardens at Duke University (that’s where we had our wedding ceremony in 1997), we ate a lot of tasty Southern food that we really didn’t need, we attended a Sunday morning service at Duke Chapel, we toured the Oscar-Mayer Wienermobile, we visited with friends… and we got to watch lemurs finger-painting!

I used to volunteer (pre-Carole) at the Duke University Primate Center (now known as the Duke Lemur Center) and have always had a fondness for the place. It’s changed a lot since my days there in 1993-1995 — much nicer buildings and equipment, much better education programs, you name it. They’re also much more savvy these days about extracting money from well-meaning and lemur-loving donors.  For the right amount of money, you can be Keeper For A Day and experience feeding and tending to the lemurs; you can visit them in the woods and watch them merrily bounding about and climbing and leaping and stuff; you can ‘adopt’ a lemur and get periodic photos and updates of your special animal, and so on. (If you’re in the Durham, NC area and want a tour, click here. They have all kinds of cool opportunities.)

Aaaaaaand — you can paint with lemurs.

Which we did.

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Okay, you don’t actually get to do the painting. You get to pick two or three colors of lemur-safe finger paint and then sit back and watch while the lemurs track around on canvas boards trickled with the paint. The lemurs get bits of grapes to encourage them to get involved and they seem to enjoy it. A DLC employee named Faye did the paint-drizzling and grape-supplying and two black and white ruffed lemurs named Rees and AJ did the actual painting. It was a lot of fun.

Because we’re basically loons, we brought along some of our stuffed animals, which you’ll see in the photos above– two ringtailed lemurs (Mama Lemur and Baby Lemur), a Coquerel’s sifaka named Little Dude, and a slow loris named Lorelei. Faye wasn’t fazed by us walking in with stuffed animals; I imagine she’s seen weirder things.

As you’ll see in the photos, the lemurs crawled around on quite a few canvases but we were only allowed to pick three to take home with us. We took our three back home and had them framed. We assume the ones they kept will fetch high prices on the “lemur art” market.


By | July 9, 2019

Bear on my front porch this morning.

Yes, you’re supposed to take your bird feeders in during the spring so as not to attract bears coming out of hibernation. We’ve actually only had ours out for the last month or so.

Our reaction to the bear coming onto our porch today was “Hey, dammit, it’s JULY. Get lost. You’ve been awake for weeks.”

Parenthetically, it’s not illegal per se to have birdfeeders in Vermont. It’s generally accepted that you take them in at the end of the winter before bears wake from hibernation… but a lot of people put them back out again once late spring or early summer comes.

We checked the law, and the law says “it’s illegal to knowingly feed bears” — https://legislature.vermont.gov/statutes/section/10/113/04827a — and so that more or less translates to “if you know bears are raiding your birdfeeders, it’s illegal to leave them out.”

So, yeah, we’ll be taking them in until winter. It’s a pity, because our cats absolutely love watching the birds, but the law is there for a reason. You don’t want to train the local bear population to see human habitations as places to get a snack.

Stonewall 50

By | July 3, 2019

We missed the official anniversary of the Stonewall Riots by five days, but better late than never.

I’d like to keep this short and simple and just say two things:

  1. As far as I’m concerned, you can love whoever the hell you want.
  2. Anyone who says the battle for LGBTQ rights is all over and “won”, hasn’t been paying attention. We’ve come a long way but the fight is not over.

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2019 ACDA “Gather at the River” Conference

By | July 2, 2019

I took part in the 2019 “Gather at the River” choral conference hosted by the Vermont chapter of the ACDA (American Choral Directors Association) this past weekend at Harwood Union High School in Duxbury (quack) Vermont.

I was part of the Hawaiian music “chamber choir” in addition to singing in the massed choir. I really liked the Hawaiian music we sang, and I got permission from our director, Jace Saplan of the University of Hawaii – Manoa choral program, to share the videos of our performance with you. (For more about Jace, see this article.)

(Jay was sitting in the audience recording and stopped recording at the end of the three-section Hawai’i Island Suite, not realizing we had a fourth piece — ‘Oiwi E — that we were about to do — but he turned recording back on as soon as he realized what was about to happen.)

We (the massed conference choir) also performed “Dona Nobis Pacem” by Ralph Vaughn Williams. We had two wonderful soloists and a great all around choir and I was more than happy to just be a member and enjoy being part of such a terrific group.


By | July 2, 2019

When I was 14 my father paid a doctor $250 to sedate me heavily and then had me shipped via air freight to a museum in Duluth, MN. The awkward part was, of course, that the shipping company disregarded the “THIS END UP” on the box and transported me with my head down and my feet up. When I arrived, I kinda looked like the old Dick Tracy comic strip villain “Flat Top”.

When I woke up five days later (heavy sedation, as I said) I found myself posed in a diorama of “Early Man” dressed in a funky-smelling fur, holding a spear, posed as though fighting off a local smilodon. At least, that’s what the placard in the exhibit said the thing was — my theory is that it was the local bartender’s big-ass tomcat, Sparky, also heavily sedated (if not worse). Cats can get to be pretty big in that part of Minnesota.

Final fundraising push for the 2019 Twin Cities Susan G Komen 3-Day

By | June 27, 2019

Dear reader, we’ve made major strides against breast cancer mortality in the last ten years, but there’s still so much work left to do.

It costs money to treat patients, conduct clinical trials, detect tumors, and educate at-risk populations. Donations from my friends, family, and co-workers have helped more than one might realize — the Komen foundation has been at the front of most major advances in the war against cancer in the last decade, and it’s because of people like you that we’ve come this far.

Jay and I are signed up to walk in a month and a half in the 2019 Twin Cities Susan G. Komen 3-Day. In order to walk, I have to raise a minimum of $2,300. Right now, I’m at $1,408 — so I’m just shy of $700 to go.

You can donate to Komen and sponsor me here: http://www.the3day.org/goto/carole

All dollars raised through from now until July 8 will directly fund the national Komen Treatment Assistance Program. Join the challenge today and help us make breast cancer treatment accessible for more people across the country.

I would be really, really, really, really grateful if you could and would sponsor me again this year. If you’re so disposed, you can donate by going to http://www.the3day.org/goto/carole — that link will take you directly to my fundraising page where you can donate and get a receipt for your taxes.

Thank you so much, everyone!

In memory of their sacrifice: June 6, 1944

By | June 6, 2019

Battles With Depression

By | June 5, 2019

The last seven years have been very bad ones for me, mentally speaking. I’ve been so depressed for much of that time that I’ve done a lot of stupid things, from procrastinating on things that matter, to putting on weight and not getting enough exercise, to spending money unwisely, to taking people for granted, to not saying “thanks” where thanks are due.

In that time, my father died and that didn’t help with my depression. My wonderful cousin Anne took on the vast, vast majority of the work involved with settling the estate, and I basically just let it happen and periodically wrote to say “Any word from the attorney?” And I’m sorry for that — for taking her for granted and for not doing more to help.

I have an aunt in Putney, Vermont that I grew up not knowing (my mom’s youngest sister Eva) but that I made connection with when Carole and I moved up here back in 1998. And even though Putney is only three hours (at most, depending on traffic, weather, and moose) away, I never, ever get around to reaching out to her. And I’m sorry for that.

Carole and I celebrated our 21st wedding anniversary last fall but I can’t say that things between us are great, partly due to my travel schedule having been extremely busy in 2018 (I was basically never not on the road) and partly due to communication problems. Carole loves to interrupt and talk over people and I’ve gotten so sick of that that I don’t even try talking to her some days. I kinda wish we could go to couples counseling, but one requirement of counseling is being able to attend counseling sessions and when you consider how much I travel for work, well, that’s a problem.

I’ve had a much harder time mustering the same balls-to-the-wall enthusiasm for the Susan G Komen 3-Day, and that’s sad too. I used to be so utterly gung-ho; raising money for the fight against breast cancer was practically intoxicating. And now I’m just mailing it in. I still care deeply about the fight against cancer, but I find myself going “I’ll compose a cool fundraising letter tomorrow. Maybe.” And now, today, I found myself thinking “Maybe I’ll take 2021 off.” And that’s especially sad, when you consider that I’ve … on so many occasions … sworn to never stop.

Some people drink when they’re depressed. Some people smoke. Some people binge eat and sleep a lot. I’m one of that last group of people. I’ve started working on the weight and have gotten myself down to the high 220s from a high in the mid 250s, but with the rainy weather we’ve had lately and everything else going on, I haven’t gotten in as much exercise as I’d like, and my weight loss has slowed somewhat.

I also have the problem of thinking that buying stupid-ass stuff off Amazon.com — usually books and things, sometimes food items that look particularly tasty but that I certainly don’t need, sometimes really impractical stuff (I’m still trying to figure out what to do with the 8′ Olmec stone head I ordered one day. It’s taking up half the garage1no, I didn’t really buy an Olmec stone head, although they do sell them.). I went kinda berserk recently buying new birdfeeders and stuff to put out on the front porch for the cats to look at. I didn’t need more birdfeeders, but as Carole has so often noted, one of my guiding principles in life appears to be “if it’s worth doing, it’s worth overdoing.” I also went seriously berserk this year on gardening supplies: new planters, new raised bed setups, lots and lots of tomatoes and pepper starts, you name it. And I’m sure it’ll all look marvelous for a month or two along about August when everything’s bearing, but did I really need all that stuff? Did it make me happy long-term? Answer: not so far.

One thing that cheers me up — temporarily — is taking fun vacations. We just had a mini-vacation to central North Carolina to revisit old haunts from when we lived there in the mid-1990s and to see friends, and that was fun while it lasted… but now that it’s over, I’m back into my funk. We’re taking another mini-vacation over July 4 weekend to go down to New York City to see a couple of Broadway musicals that have been on Carole’s bucket list for some time, and I’m looking forward to that… but at the same time, I’m absolutely not looking forward to all the frustrations involved. (Carole is sort of the human embodiment of inertia; it is very hard to get her organized and out of a hotel room in under two hours.) And while I hope that the balance of accounts on that trip is weighted toward the fun and away from the “OH MY GOD WILL YOU STOP DOING THAT” I tend to do my share of the squabbling and sniping. It’s wrong of me to do so much finger-pointing and not look in the mirror from time to time as well.

Bad habits are hard to break and depression causes me to do a lot more bitchy, petty stuff than I have any right to do. When a computer doesn’t work reliably, you reboot it or power it off and back on, and a lot of the time, everything starts working just fine. I wish there was an equivalent for the human brain.

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. no, I didn’t really buy an Olmec stone head, although they do sell them.

Continued Dumbassery, Duke Chapel Edition

By | June 2, 2019

Friends, consider the video embedded below. If I’ve done things right, clicking it should cause it to start playing at the 13 minute and 50 second mark. When the video cuts away from the the Rev. Dr. Carol Gregg encouraging us to share the peace of Christ with one another, look to the front row on the right. You’ll see a couple of idiots — a man and woman both wearing loud Hawaiian shirts — dutifully smacking each other on the forehead. You can’t hear what they’re saying (it’s probably best that way), but it, um, might have been a cheerful “Ja-HEE-zus!”


Carole and I were in Durham, NC over Memorial Day weekend.

We used to live in Durham (me, from 1993 to 1998, and Carole from 1996 to 1998) and would go to Duke Chapel now and then, usually for special music, like performances of Handel’s Messiah or for a Christmas concert by the Choral Society of Durham (Carole sang soprano). You really can’t beat it for quality of music and for the ambience.1I’ve been to a Thanksgiving service at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. Nice, but not better than Duke. Services are your basic ecumenical Christian, but people of all faiths are welcome.

It would have been easy to sleep in on Sunday morning, but I insisted we get up and go to the Chapel for the 11:00 service. The place is enormous and I wanted to see well, so I grabbed us seats close to the front. I hadn’t considered that the services are web-streamed every week and that, by sitting up front, of necessity we’d be on camera every time they pulled back to a shot of the audience, but there we were.

All told, it was a really nice service. Nice sermon from a visiting minister and Duke Divinity grad, Dr. Michael Brown, former chief pastor at the Marble Collegiate Church in New York City. Wonderful music. You can watch the entire service if you want using the video link. The program for the service is here.

Oh, you’re still wondering about the head-smacking?

Well, I grew up in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia where fundamentalist ministers were thick on the ground. Any number of ’em had weekly TV shows that permitted the pagans among us who didn’t go to church to turn on the tube on a Sunday morning and watch with perplexity and befuddlement at their faith-healing antics. These pastors all had their weird little customs and habits, but the head-smacking comes from a particularly amusing member of their clan (I think it was Ernest Angley) who was very fond of smacking people on the head and saying things like “You are HEALED!” and sometimes just “Ja-HEE-zus!”

Carole, bless her soul, missed out on that sort of thing by virtue of a) growing up in Ohio instead of the mountains of Virginia and b) attending Christ Church Kettering (Methodist) each week. But her heart apparently cried out for such a thing, because after I told her about my childhood experiences with TV preachers in general and that one guy in particular, she started smacking me on the head each week during “Sharing The Peace of Christ” at our church here in Vermont and, not to be unkind, I took to returning the favor. (I suspect the other members of our church regard us with mild confusion and alarm, but no one’s said anything about it yet.)

So anyway. We’re immortalized on the Duke Chapel webstream for last Sunday, for some definitions of “immortal”. (I haven’t watched the service end to end for fear of what else it might have caught us doing.)

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Footnotes   [ + ]

1. I’ve been to a Thanksgiving service at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. Nice, but not better than Duke.

Sometimes I say silly things…

By | June 1, 2019

Answer to Are people friendly in Blacksburg, VA? by Jay Furr