Arachnids

By | May 4, 2019

Being me means things like finding a bag of plastic tarantulas in your bongo drum bag and going “oh that’s where I put those.”1I posted this to Instagram the other day and Carole thought it was really funny. So, I’m resharing it here to immortalize it, so to speak.

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. I posted this to Instagram the other day and Carole thought it was really funny. So, I’m resharing it here to immortalize it, so to speak.
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Aurora Chamber Singers Babylon

By | May 1, 2019

Hi, everyone! I’m a member of the Aurora Chamber Singers and our spring concert is coming up on May 11!

If you live within two days’ drive of Burlington, Vermont I hope you’ll mark your calendar and plan to attend.

This will probably be the single greatest, most exciting concert any of us will ever take part in, either as performer or as audience member.

Remember all those people who say they were at Woodstock, even though actual attendance was only 400,000 or so? If everyone who says they were there had actually been there… well, let’s just say there’d be a lot more 49-year-olds named “Flower” or “Sunshine” roaming around today.

The same is going to be true of this concert (we cannot guarantee an actual open-air “love-in”, but we can’t guarantee that this won’t happen, either) … and you want to be one of the people who can truthfully say “I WAS THERE!”, don’t you?

Of course you do. So please make plans to attend.

What’s on the program, you ask?

Crossing Borders

R. Nathaniel Dett Chariot Jubilee
Listen to the Lambs
America the Beautiful (Katherine Lee Bates)
Howard Hanson Song of Democracy (Walt Whitman)
David Conte Three Mexican Folk Songs
Frederick Piket Sea Charm (Langston Hughes)

The concert celebrates music with ties to Canada, the United States, and Mexico. The two 20th century cantatas by African-Canadian composer R. Nathaniel Dett represent our neighbor to the north. U.S. composer Howard Hanson’s Song of Democracy sets words by Walt Whitman, and Frederick Piket’s song cycle Sea Charm sets the deeply moving words of Harlem Renaissance poet, Langston Hughes. David Conte’s arrangement of Three Mexican Folk Songs completes the border crossings.

We’re talking “total consciousness expansion” here, people.

I don’t want to see any of you sitting around on Sunday the 12th weeping openly because you missed this once in a lifetime experience. Mark your calendars now!

Once again, that’s:

Saturday May 11th, 2019 7:30 PM
College Street Congregational Church, Burlington

Tickets available via flynntix.com or at the door.

 

Be there, or be square.

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A Thousand Miles, And Still Walking

By | April 27, 2019

October 3, 2008 — a thousand miles ago

2019 marks my 12th year taking part in the Susan G. Komen 3-Day 60-mile walks.

When I started participating in 2008, I didn’t really expect to be here 11 years later still fundraising. I don’t know what I did expect — did I expect a cure would be swift in coming? Answer: probably not. I’m a realist.

Did I expect that by 2018 I’d have walked a thousand miles (not even counting training walks) during Susan G Komen 3-Day events? Um, no. I think that’s a number I never dreamed I’d reach. (I walked my thousandth mile last fall in San Diego, for what it’s worth.)

Most importantly, did I expect we’d have made great strides in detection and treatment? I don’t know, but we have. Mortality from breast cancer is down and the odds get better each year.

I wish I could look forward over the next decade and know what the future holds… but obviously, I can’t. (If I could, I’d probably go bet a lot of money on the outcome of sporting events and/or buy a lot of lottery tickets, and then I wouldn’t need to fundraise because I could just donate my billions around like a house on fire and have done with it.)

Given that none of us have actual crystal balls with which to predict the future, all we can do is create the best environment possible for the search for a cure. It’s similar to how we till and fertilize and mulch our gardens in the spring hoping for a bumper crop of vegetables come summer and fall. I hope that money raised now will lead to research over coming years which will lead, in time, to the breakthroughs that will transform stage IV metastatic breast cancer from a likely death sentence to a treatable condition.

This year I’m going to take part in the 2019 Twin Cities Susan G Komen 3-Day as a walker (it’s in August) and then I’m going to crew the revived (back after several years off the schedule) New England 3-Day in September. As usual, I have a $2,300 fundraising goal to meet in order to walk.

I would be very grateful for your support. Thank you for all you’ve done to help make the world a better place, and thank you in advance for any fundraising support you can lend.

My donation URL is http://www.the3day.org/goto/jayfurr — and thanks!

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Weight loss update: Week 2

By | April 21, 2019

This is a follow-up to Weight loss update: Week 1

I did not lose any weight this week. However, I have decided that since I already eat a pretty reasonable diet — breakfast/lunch/dinner-wise, anyway, I’m going to focus on getting more physically active, and hope the weight loss comes along as a result of that.

This past week I walked from work to rehearsal of the Aurora Chamber Singers rather than driving, and walked back at the end to pick up my car. Round trip about a mile, but that’s something. And then today Jay and I walked 4.5 miles.

I really, really, really want to get back in the habit of doing a daily walk at lunch and to doing yoga classes after work. The reason I haven’t been is twofold: on Mondays and Tuesdays, when I could’ve gone to a class or something, I’ve been too lazy and tired after work to trudge the whole block to Sangha Studios on Pine Street in Burlington for yoga. And on Wednesdays and Thursdays I have rehearsal of musical groups I’m in. And on Friday, I guess I tend to want to leave that open for doing something with Jay. Of course, I could do yoga on the weekends.

“Concert season” will be wrapping up soon with concerts of the Aurora Chamber Singers on May 11 at the College Street Congregational Church in Burlington (information here) and Me2/ Orchestra at Lamoille Union High School in Hyde Park, VT on May 18. (information here). (There’s also a concert of Me2/ Orchestra in Montreal on May 11 but I can’t go because of the Aurora Chamber Singers concert the same night.) Once rehearsals wrap up for the summer, it’ll be a lot easier to get exercise in.

It’s also easier when Jay’s in town because he can guilt/harangue me into going to a yoga class after work or come by and drag me out on a walk. Burlington (where I work) has lovely walking trails, especially along the waterfront, and I work a block from the waterfront.

Then, too, I plan to start aikido lessons once the concerts are over. I’ve already got my gi (the white jacket and pants that you wear while out on the mat) and made connections at the local dojo on Pine Street (also a very short distance from my office).

So I do have plans. I just need to stop making excuses to myself and carry them out.

 

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Diet Update: Week 2

By | April 21, 2019

This is a follow-up to Diet Update: Week 1.

On Sunday of last week, my weight stood at 243.8. I weighed myself after coming in from gardening this afternoon and my digital, WiFi-enabled scale dutifully registered my weight as 237.4. For what it’s worth, my weight two weeks ago was 252.2.

I know. That’s impossible. No one loses fifteen pounds (okay, 14.8 pounds) in two weeks unless they’re on the Bataan Death March.

There are factors that can skew the numbers — am I hydrated or not? Have I, er, been to the bathroom? I have to assume, given my results just now (again, 237.4, down 6.4 pounds from a week ago), that I am:

  • somewhat dehydrated
  • er, “empty”

At the end of the day, I do have a theory. I’m losing weight because:

  • I’m crash dieting, eating 1200-1600 calories a day of mostly vegetarian protein sources
  • I’m getting a bit more exercise (multi-mile walks twice in the last seven days)
  • I’m shedding the excess water that my blood pressure medications have caused me to retain.

I know water retention due to medication is no joke; last summer they tried me on a drug called Bystolic and I promptly put on about ten pounds. In one week. They took me back off it — the excess weight almost immediately went away.

So here’s my theory: something is causing my body to start shedding the excess water it’s been retaining ever since I went on those meds. Maybe it’s the longer hours of daylight. Maybe it’s the significant reduction of my food intake. Maybe it’s getting a bit more exercise — I’ve gone for walks twice this week (and I should have done more).

It’s a mystery.

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“The Frosted Pop-Tarts of Credit Unions”

By | April 21, 2019

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you a tale of silliness.

Whereas:

  • Carole hates processing her personal email. A lot of it is stuff that’s only somewhat important, if that, and she finds it frustrating to have to sort through it all.
  • I read incredibly fast. I can’t sing worth a damn and I’m overweight and un-athletic, but I can read really, really fast.

So… Carole has me process her inbox for her and let her know what’s actually important. I draw the line at reading all the email content — I go by the sender, subject, and the first-line preview that Gmail gives you. So if you’re wondering if your private emails to Carole are getting read by me first — actually no. I just mark things that look unimportant “read” and leave the rest for her to follow up on.

There are, however, a few exceptions to this process. Chief among them are the “customer surveys” that various organizations and merchants send out now and then. I know Carole’s never going to do any of ’em, and I know that in the long run, what one person says in response to a “how do you like us” survey from one’s local supermarket (for example) isn’t really going to matter much.

So I fill out the surveys Carole gets in her email, and I tend to be very, very silly.

My attitude is that “some poor bastard has to sit there reading all the responses to the free-text comments at the end of surveys, and I might as well give them a little dose of surreality”. For example, I went through a period a year or two ago where my answers to just about every survey had to do with the pending zombie apocalypse (and I say that as someone who’s never seen a single episode of The Walking Dead — I just thought it was funny).

Generally, I do all this with no expectation of ever hearing back from the merchant or organization who sent out the survey, even if I tick the checkmark that says “you can contact me about my responses”.

But… well, we got this card:

And inside we found this:

And we opened it and we found this (click to enlarge to full size):

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

 

But it gets better.

They actually called up as well and left a voice mail thanking Carole for “her” survey response.

Apparently, “Carole” really made their day.

You know what, though? I have no idea what I said in that survey.

Except, of course, that apparently it involved frosted Pop-Tarts.

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Weight loss update: Week 1

By | April 14, 2019

My weight is down about 2 pounds from a week ago. Sounds good I guess, but I don’t think it’s anything to shout about. I’ve weighed myself several times this week, and I’ve seen the numbers go down a little, up a little, down again… I know that it isn’t really valuable to weigh in every day; I know that differences of a pound or two from day to day aren’t significant and that they represent the weight of water, undigested food, etc. I also know that net pounds lost only tells half the story, because a pound of muscle lost is worse than useless. I’ve got to pick up some resistance exercises to keep from losing muscle mass.

I haven’t been keeping an obsessive log of my food intake because I know that, for the most part, I eat healthy food and not to excess. Although maybe I should keep track; it’s hard to know how much over diet I go on a given day because of eating out once or getting free bagels at work. Free snacks, especially carbs (which is what most freebies are), are my weakness.

What I really need to change is my activity level. I have been trying to do that this week. Last Sunday Jay and I went for a 4-mile walk outdoors. On Monday I treadmilled for about 20 minutes. On Tuesday I rode the exercise bike for about 40. It’s hard to keep track of all these things, even with a Fitbit watch to record my activities…because for the most part, it doesn’t record them automatically. I have to stop and start the record. I nearly always forget. But I’ve started manually entering all my activities into Strava, in hopes that seeing a record of it will give me positive reinforcement. It’s been a good technique for me before.

Oh yeah, I also did a few exercises with barbells on Friday. Bicep curls, deltoid extensions. I need to get more systematic about that and add a whole range of exercises.

 

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Diet Update: Week 1

By | April 14, 2019

One week ago I weighed 251 pounds. Today I weighed myself mid-afternoon and the scale read 243.8.1I’m using a WiFi-enabled digital scale that automatically logs my weight to the WeightGurus website.

I know that seems impossible, barring surgery.

I’ve been really watching my caloric consumption for the last week and I’ve tried to exercise: a half hour on a stationary bike, a half hour on a treadmill, a couple of walks. Somehow it added up to precipitous weight loss.

I think the key is that I’ve been eating a high-protein diet (with some vegetables; I’m not insane) composed largely of things like MorningStar Farms meatless patties, Quorn patties, and so forth. They fill you up and they taste pretty good and consequently my body accepts getting only 1,600-1,900 calories or so a day.

It’s a bit easier to diet when I’m on the road for work — there’s no pantry full of snacks in my hotel room and I can control my intake by buying my meals at the grocery store one day at a time. I eat about 400 calories of some sort of ominous meat substitute for breakfast, skip lunch, and then have 1,200 calories or so of beans and meat substitute for dinner. (Skipping lunch sounds dangerous and scary, but the fact is, when I’m working I’m usually not hungry at lunchtime and I’ve been skipping lunch for over twenty years.) I would have liked to have gotten in more exercise after work, but one night I had dinner with my work teammates and another night I just plain wasn’t feeling well.

I am somewhat proud of myself for what I did the night we all went out to dinner. We wound up at an Italian restaurant and multiple cheesy appetizers got ordered. I kept passing the plates as they went by and didn’t indulge. Then people ordered big-ass plates of pasta and so on — I ordered a spinach salad. I knew that a few forkfuls of some giant cheesy pasta dish — or almost anything else on the menu — would have been more calories than I’d allotted for the entire day. When we were done and returned to our respective hotels, I topped off that spinach salad with some more Gardenburger-equivalent patties.

I was hoping to lose two pounds this week. I knew that to lose more, I’d have to do a lot more exercise than I wound up doing. And somehow I lost over seven pounds. The only explanation I can come up with is that some of that weight loss must have been water weight.

Ten years ago, when I last went on a huge diet and lost sixty pounds, I found that it was absolutely essential to track my caloric consumption meal by meal, food by food, using an app. And that’s what I’m doing again this time. If it goes in my mouth, I enter it in the MyFitnessPal app. If the food in question isn’t already in their database, I add it. It’s virtually impossible to enter the calories for a giant plate of restaurant food, so I tend to avoid restaurants while I’m trying to lose weight. (Well, that’s what I did last time I lost a ton of weight, ten years ago, and that’s what I’m trying to do again this time.)

This weekend Carole and I basically just ate meals from Blue Apron. Their meal kits supply reasonable portions and don’t give you the option of going back for seconds… and conveniently, they tend to already be listed in the MyFitnessPal food database. This coming week I’ve got another trip — all the way to Phoenix and back. The plan, again: calorie tracking, calorie tracking, calorie tracking. Lots of protein and foods with fiber. Exercise as often as I can manage it.

I don’t expect to be sitting here a week from now bragging about losing another six to seven pounds… but I do hope to be down at least two more. Wish me luck.

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. I’m using a WiFi-enabled digital scale that automatically logs my weight to the WeightGurus website.
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Wherein: We Are Fat

By | April 8, 2019

Jay and I are fat.

We’re suffering from the same fate that afflicts a lot of prosperous First World people with demanding jobs and insufficient get-up-and-go: ample “padding” and clothes that don’t fit any more.

It doesn’t help that:

  1. Jay suffers from major depression
  2. I suffer from depression and a certain amount of media addiction (translation: I watch way too much TV)
  3. We both suffer from seasonal affective disorder to a certain extent — we tend to cocoon during the long dark winter months and get almost no exercise
  4. Jay travels for work and isn’t here at the end of the day to kick my ass and get me to exercise
  5. Jay travels for work and so he’s not here at the end of the day so I can kick his ass and get him to exercise
  6. We snack too much
  7. We’re both really, really, really good at making excuses

Thus, we’ve decided to take the dramatic and possibly futile step of publicly sharing our attempts at losing weight. We’re planning on posting weekly weight and exercise updates … hoping that sharing our progress with the world will keep us honest.

We have every app in the book (MyFitnessPal, MapMyWalk, Strava, Fitbit, Google Fit, MyRally, Mindbody). We have Fitbit Ionic smartwatches with GPSes. We have a smart scale that syncs our weight automatically to four of those apps. We have a treadmill. We have a stationary exercise bike. We have actual bicycles that we could, you know, use once in a while. We have kayaks for when Lake Champlain gets above 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Jay has fitness centers in all the hotels he stays in. We have free weights — dumbbells and mini dumbbells in various sizes.

None of those make a bit of difference if we don’t use them.

We know diets can work if you have enough willpower. Back in 2009, Jay got … a bit zealous and dropped his weight from 238 (or so) to 178. He did this by strictly limiting his calories to about 1400 a day and spending an hour on an inclined treadmill at 4.7 miles an hour. Obviously, that’s kind of extreme. And it led, in Jay’s case, to a slow rebound back up, via various plateaus every ten pounds or so, to where he is now. Neither of us expects to repeat that kind of monastic discipline; we’re ten years older and have ten more years’ worth of bad habits. But still…

I’m not going to say what I weigh now. Let’s just call it X. My goal is to get down to X-30, ultimately. And X-10 this year, preferably by the end of the summer.

Jay told me to go ahead and share his actual weight – as of this morning he’s at 251 pounds. He’s 6’2. He wants it to be noted, furthermore, that based on his height and weight he’s got a BMI of 32.2 and that means he’s obese. If we wants to be out of the “overweight” zone on the BMI scale he’s got to get his weight down below 195. (Yes, we know the BMI concept has its flaws.) So that’s Jay’s goal long-term — to get back down south of 195. And in the short term, he wants to get back down below 220. So, a loss of 30 or so pounds for him as well.

We’re both planning on walking the 2019 Twin Cities Susan G Komen 3-Day in mid-August and we’re planning on doing as many training walks as possible. We did a four-mile walk yesterday on a chilly, but not cold, day. We’re going to increase our distance week by week until we’re doing 13 miles and 15 miles and so on. Last time we jointly did a lot of training (again, back in 2009) I got in much better shape. So that’s the ace in our sleeve – we’re going to do a crazy amount of walking.

We apologize in advance if our posts about our weight loss progress become annoying — but it seems like holding ourselves publicly accountable is the only option we have left. Thanks in advance for your understanding and support.

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Anyone looking for a wedding officiant?

By | April 2, 2019

For what it’s worth, if anyone out there is looking to tie the knot this summer (and has a willing partner lined up) and wants to hold the ceremony in northern or central Vermont, I’m a legally elected Justice of the Peace (which you can check here) and am empowered to conduct weddings. I’ll even do the ceremony for free (schedule permitting). You want me to wear a rubber octopus on my head and wear sun-god robes, that’s fine with me. I mean, I’d probably need you to chip in toward the cost of the robes, but otherwise, I’m up for pretty much any bizarre freak-out-the-grandparents thing you might want to concoct.

My front lawn is available if you’re not particularly choosy, but there are any number of parks and things in the area that would probably work as least as well. I live in Richmond, VT and so am within a short drive of Burlington, Montpelier, Waterbury, Middlebury, and so on. Contact me at [email protected] if you’re interested.

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