jayfurr: (Playalinda Beach)
This has been, by any account, a brutal winter in Vermont: third snowiest overall -- and the snowiest February on record. Great for the ski resorts. Not so great for Carole's mental health. It seems like every day a few more inches of snow fell; there comes a point where you just say "I know I live in northern New England I know we get snow. BUT ENOUGH ALREADY!" We were to the point where we wouldn't refer to 'plowing our driveway' or 'snowthrowing our driveway'. Excavating might have been a more appropriate phrase: we found ourselves just about tunneling between ever-climbing walls of snow on either side of the road.

It got so bad that when the official first day of spring arrived - the vernal equinox, in other words -- Carole was just about ready to snap. While I had been able to get out of town periodically for work, visiting South Carolina (in time for a two week ice storm), New Jersey (in time for an ice storm), Hartford (in time for a blizzard), Seattle (fine weather), South Carolina (again, but this time with wonderful weather), and Silver Spring, Maryland (also nice weather) -- Carole had been stuck at home in dark, snowy, cold, wintry, snowy Vermont. She'd been working a temporary job an hour from home -- a job that was okay as far as jobs go, but which required a drive that left her worn out and exhausted at the end of every day. So: come the equinox, with no travel on the horizon for me for the foreseeable future, and with Carole gibbering and experiencing visitations from Elder Beings, I told my boss I'd be taking a long weekend, got on Priceline, and booked a long weekend in Cocoa Beach, Florida.

The fun part of the vacation for me: not telling Carole where we were going. I only gave her about 36 hours warning that we were going somewhere... and it wasn't until Thursday evening, March 24, that I admitted we'd be flying and it would be to someplace where she wouldn't need cold-weather gear. She didn't find out that our ultimate destination was somewhere near Orlando until we checked in at the airport early on Friday morning. She enjoyed the suspense, to her credit, but said she was a little disappointed when she first heard "Orlando". I think she'd gotten it stuck in her head (with a little help from me) that we were going to some sort of "spa" -- perhaps one in Quebec that we could drive to -- and even after she found out we were flying she still thought "spa weekend". I guess I can understand that -- hanging out in a spa near Orlando really doesn't sound that exciting.

But when we got to the Orlando airport around 12:30 that day, I told her we still had an hour's drive in front of us -- and then we beelined it east to Cocoa Beach, immediately south of Cape Canaveral, the Kennedy Space Center, and Canaveral National Seashore. I'd gotten us a reduced-rate room at the Doubletree hotel on the beach and even though we were paying a Priceline rate and weren't eligible for a Hilton room upgrade, my Hilton Honors diamond status got us a whole souvenir can of Doubletree chocolate chip cookies and free admission to the "executive lounge" on the top floor. Meaning, snacks and drinks in the evening and free breakfast in the morning... and an almost unlimited supply of Doubletree chocolate chip cookies.

Why'd I pick Cocoa Beach? Well, two reasons: 1) it was a reasonable distance away from a major airport that I could get a good Priceline fare to, and 2) I knew it had a national seashore not far away. Carole doesn't always deal well with crowds, especially when she's tired and punchy, and I envisioned us basically spending the whole weekend hanging out on the beach. NOT doing miniature golf. NOT going to Disney. NOT trying to rush around and do as much as possible in as short a time as possible. And for the most part, that's what we did. We spent Friday afternoon on the beach and then had a very forgettable dinner. (But we found an ice cream shop across the street that had a karaoke machine! Win!) We spent all day Saturday up at Canaveral National Seashore and did a "3-Day Training Walk" on the lightly thronged Playalinda Beach... then had another fairly forgettable dinner. And on Sunday, we went to a GREAT breakfast/dessert brunch cafe, bought cheap boogie boards, and frolicked in the surf. We walked another four miles or so, this time through fairly large crowds on the public and hotel beaches in Cocoa Beach, then returned back via the main drag, Atlantic Avenue. And had another forgettable dinner. Our meals were basically, with the exception of that great Sunday brunch, absolutely not worth mentioning. I'll also spare you a detailed recitation of the tedious Monday we spent traveling home; rain, road closures, and a too-lengthy Priceline layover at JFK did their best to un-relax us but three days of perfect weather had left us sufficiently charged up that we arrived home feeling good anyway.

Since we returned home, it's been, well, a fairly blah time. I haven't gone on any business trips. It's all been working from the home office in South Burlington, doing course development and distance learning classes, and doing what I can to encourage Carole to keep applying for jobs even though the large candidate pool and small number of jobs available keeps her on the outside looking in. Our local economy has rebounded, or so they say... but apparently, Carole is fighting a large number of accountants for the jobs in that field that come open. Or firms simply aren't hiring and are sticking to temporary positions. Or something. In any case, it's discouraging. And worst of all -- spring has been slow to come.

We had a week of teasingly nice days in the low 40s -- followed by threats of snow and chilly conditions barely above freezing. We went out one Saturday for a 3-Day training walk on the waterfront in Burlington and were so cold, thanks to strong breezes off the still-partly-frozen lake and temperatures that got nowhere near as high as forecast, that we bailed and went home after only four miles. And then it got cold and stayed cold for another week. Just plain frustrating.

And on Saturday, with temperatures rearing into the low 50s, we tried again... and stupidly (it's my fault) tried going for a training walk on the Stowe (Vermont) Recreation Path. We drove on snow-and-ice-free roads and streets all the way to the parking lot for the Path... then found out that the nice clean dry clear walking path we could see from the parking lot was actually mostly-to-completely covered by snow. (That explained why we saw so many happy cheerful people heading down the trail and coming right back 10 minutes later.) Dratted stuff, snow. Takes forever to melt even when the temperatures are in the 50s and the sun is out.

And on top of that I've apparently done some sort of damage to my left knee. I injured it running on a banked track in February and took it easy for a month, but on Friday I did a series of crunches on our crunch board and apparently strained my left iliotibial ... the result being incredible stiffness and soreness that left me basically hamstrung. I could hop, but the leg simply would not bear my weight if I tried to actually walk on it. It was better the next day, but the fact that a simple set of abdominal crunches strained it that badly worries me a lot. Walking hasn't caused it to flare up, but trying to run does and I'm afraid to even try bicycling. And that really bothers me because I'd been looking forward to it.

But none of the annoyances we've dealt with since returning from Florida trump the big one: basement flooding. Our gutters are clogged and very high up and not easy to get to, and rain the last few days has been bypassing the downspouts and just spilling over the sides of the gutters any old place. And melting snow and last fall's rains have caused some erosion at the corner of the house on the northwest side, right under our deck, and the wall there has been letting water in. We've had a few annoying days having to soak up water pooling on the basement floor with ratty old spare towels.

Today it rained so hard that we were down there putting down fresh towels every half hour all morning... and finally went to Home Depot and bought a LOT of topsoil in big bags to try to fill the eroded area and direct the water back away from the house. I made an impromptu little dam using plastic molding and waterproof caulk in the corner of the basement where the water's getting in so that at least it can't spread all over the floor and will stay confined to the one corner. And about the time all this was in place, today's hard rains stopped and the sun came out and the water stopped coming in. No idea if our patch job was sufficient (it probably wasn't). We really need to get someone out here with a TALL ladder (much taller than the extension ladder we already own) and no fear of heights to clean the gutters.

We made quite a few calls this afternoon and had one guy call to quote us a $65 per hour rate and another guy stopped by to give us an actual estimate of $180. Sigh. The alternative, unfortunately, is to buy a brand new and REALLY tall extension ladder AND rent a truck to get the thing home ... and I suspect that all might cost as much as the cleaning. And I'm not hyper-enthusiastic about climbing that high up on a ladder braced against vinyl siding and held at the bottom by my lovely wife... talented in many ways but possessed of an unfortunate tendency to get distracted at the worst possible moment. :)

So that's where we stand: not the most exciting life, but we did have a nice mini-vacation and the warm weather is (we think) finally on its way. Tonight is literally the first night all year it's been warm enough that we've had the windows open in the evening and the night air is full of the sound of spring peepers. Glad to have those little dudes back. It always cheers me up.


jayfurr: (Playalinda Beach)
This has been, by any account, a brutal winter in Vermont: third snowiest overall -- and the snowiest February on record. Great for the ski resorts. Not so great for Carole's mental health. It seems like every day a few more inches of snow fell; there comes a point where you just say "I know I live in northern New England I know we get snow. BUT ENOUGH ALREADY!" We were to the point where we wouldn't refer to 'plowing our driveway' or 'snowthrowing our driveway'. Excavating might have been a more appropriate phrase: we found ourselves just about tunneling between ever-climbing walls of snow on either side of the road.

It got so bad that when the official first day of spring arrived - the vernal equinox, in other words -- Carole was just about ready to snap. While I had been able to get out of town periodically for work, visiting South Carolina (in time for a two week ice storm), New Jersey (in time for an ice storm), Hartford (in time for a blizzard), Seattle (fine weather), South Carolina (again, but this time with wonderful weather), and Silver Spring, Maryland (also nice weather) -- Carole had been stuck at home in dark, snowy, cold, wintry, snowy Vermont. She'd been working a temporary job an hour from home -- a job that was okay as far as jobs go, but which required a drive that left her worn out and exhausted at the end of every day. So: come the equinox, with no travel on the horizon for me for the foreseeable future, and with Carole gibbering and experiencing visitations from Elder Beings, I told my boss I'd be taking a long weekend, got on Priceline, and booked a long weekend in Cocoa Beach, Florida.

The fun part of the vacation for me: not telling Carole where we were going. I only gave her about 36 hours warning that we were going somewhere... and it wasn't until Thursday evening, March 24, that I admitted we'd be flying and it would be to someplace where she wouldn't need cold-weather gear. She didn't find out that our ultimate destination was somewhere near Orlando until we checked in at the airport early on Friday morning. She enjoyed the suspense, to her credit, but said she was a little disappointed when she first heard "Orlando". I think she'd gotten it stuck in her head (with a little help from me) that we were going to some sort of "spa" -- perhaps one in Quebec that we could drive to -- and even after she found out we were flying she still thought "spa weekend". I guess I can understand that -- hanging out in a spa near Orlando really doesn't sound that exciting.

But when we got to the Orlando airport around 12:30 that day, I told her we still had an hour's drive in front of us -- and then we beelined it east to Cocoa Beach, immediately south of Cape Canaveral, the Kennedy Space Center, and Canaveral National Seashore. I'd gotten us a reduced-rate room at the Doubletree hotel on the beach and even though we were paying a Priceline rate and weren't eligible for a Hilton room upgrade, my Hilton Honors diamond status got us a whole souvenir can of Doubletree chocolate chip cookies and free admission to the "executive lounge" on the top floor. Meaning, snacks and drinks in the evening and free breakfast in the morning... and an almost unlimited supply of Doubletree chocolate chip cookies.

Why'd I pick Cocoa Beach? Well, two reasons: 1) it was a reasonable distance away from a major airport that I could get a good Priceline fare to, and 2) I knew it had a national seashore not far away. Carole doesn't always deal well with crowds, especially when she's tired and punchy, and I envisioned us basically spending the whole weekend hanging out on the beach. NOT doing miniature golf. NOT going to Disney. NOT trying to rush around and do as much as possible in as short a time as possible. And for the most part, that's what we did. We spent Friday afternoon on the beach and then had a very forgettable dinner. (But we found an ice cream shop across the street that had a karaoke machine! Win!) We spent all day Saturday up at Canaveral National Seashore and did a "3-Day Training Walk" on the lightly thronged Playalinda Beach... then had another fairly forgettable dinner. And on Sunday, we went to a GREAT breakfast/dessert brunch cafe, bought cheap boogie boards, and frolicked in the surf. We walked another four miles or so, this time through fairly large crowds on the public and hotel beaches in Cocoa Beach, then returned back via the main drag, Atlantic Avenue. And had another forgettable dinner. Our meals were basically, with the exception of that great Sunday brunch, absolutely not worth mentioning. I'll also spare you a detailed recitation of the tedious Monday we spent traveling home; rain, road closures, and a too-lengthy Priceline layover at JFK did their best to un-relax us but three days of perfect weather had left us sufficiently charged up that we arrived home feeling good anyway.

Since we returned home, it's been, well, a fairly blah time. I haven't gone on any business trips. It's all been working from the home office in South Burlington, doing course development and distance learning classes, and doing what I can to encourage Carole to keep applying for jobs even though the large candidate pool and small number of jobs available keeps her on the outside looking in. Our local economy has rebounded, or so they say... but apparently, Carole is fighting a large number of accountants for the jobs in that field that come open. Or firms simply aren't hiring and are sticking to temporary positions. Or something. In any case, it's discouraging. And worst of all -- spring has been slow to come.

We had a week of teasingly nice days in the low 40s -- followed by threats of snow and chilly conditions barely above freezing. We went out one Saturday for a 3-Day training walk on the waterfront in Burlington and were so cold, thanks to strong breezes off the still-partly-frozen lake and temperatures that got nowhere near as high as forecast, that we bailed and went home after only four miles. And then it got cold and stayed cold for another week. Just plain frustrating.

And on Saturday, with temperatures rearing into the low 50s, we tried again... and stupidly (it's my fault) tried going for a training walk on the Stowe (Vermont) Recreation Path. We drove on snow-and-ice-free roads and streets all the way to the parking lot for the Path... then found out that the nice clean dry clear walking path we could see from the parking lot was actually mostly-to-completely covered by snow. (That explained why we saw so many happy cheerful people heading down the trail and coming right back 10 minutes later.) Dratted stuff, snow. Takes forever to melt even when the temperatures are in the 50s and the sun is out.

And on top of that I've apparently done some sort of damage to my left knee. I injured it running on a banked track in February and took it easy for a month, but on Friday I did a series of crunches on our crunch board and apparently strained my left iliotibial ... the result being incredible stiffness and soreness that left me basically hamstrung. I could hop, but the leg simply would not bear my weight if I tried to actually walk on it. It was better the next day, but the fact that a simple set of abdominal crunches strained it that badly worries me a lot. Walking hasn't caused it to flare up, but trying to run does and I'm afraid to even try bicycling. And that really bothers me because I'd been looking forward to it.

But none of the annoyances we've dealt with since returning from Florida trump the big one: basement flooding. Our gutters are clogged and very high up and not easy to get to, and rain the last few days has been bypassing the downspouts and just spilling over the sides of the gutters any old place. And melting snow and last fall's rains have caused some erosion at the corner of the house on the northwest side, right under our deck, and the wall there has been letting water in. We've had a few annoying days having to soak up water pooling on the basement floor with ratty old spare towels.

Today it rained so hard that we were down there putting down fresh towels every half hour all morning... and finally went to Home Depot and bought a LOT of topsoil in big bags to try to fill the eroded area and direct the water back away from the house. I made an impromptu little dam using plastic molding and waterproof caulk in the corner of the basement where the water's getting in so that at least it can't spread all over the floor and will stay confined to the one corner. And about the time all this was in place, today's hard rains stopped and the sun came out and the water stopped coming in. No idea if our patch job was sufficient (it probably wasn't). We really need to get someone out here with a TALL ladder (much taller than the extension ladder we already own) and no fear of heights to clean the gutters.

We made quite a few calls this afternoon and had one guy call to quote us a $65 per hour rate and another guy stopped by to give us an actual estimate of $180. Sigh. The alternative, unfortunately, is to buy a brand new and REALLY tall extension ladder AND rent a truck to get the thing home ... and I suspect that all might cost as much as the cleaning. And I'm not hyper-enthusiastic about climbing that high up on a ladder braced against vinyl siding and held at the bottom by my lovely wife... talented in many ways but possessed of an unfortunate tendency to get distracted at the worst possible moment. :)

So that's where we stand: not the most exciting life, but we did have a nice mini-vacation and the warm weather is (we think) finally on its way. Tonight is literally the first night all year it's been warm enough that we've had the windows open in the evening and the night air is full of the sound of spring peepers. Glad to have those little dudes back. It always cheers me up.


jayfurr: (Kayaking Colchester Reef)
I don't deal well with inactivity. I prefer to be busy, busy, busy DOIN' STUFF.

Thus I think it's safe to say that today isn't going well for me. I'm in South Carolina to train customers on our software and due to inclement weather the customer decided not to hold training today. Probably for the best -- the local drivers absolutely don't know how to drive in ice and snow. So I'm sort of sitting around the hotel doing stuff I ought to be doing -- taking mandatory online training on topics that I'm allegedly supposed to know but in fact have absolutely no need for whatsoever, for example -- and just drumming my fingers.

To make matters worse: I was here all last week, but wound up only doing a half day of training on Thursday and none at all on Friday. (It was due to schedule changes and stuff. It happens.) Bored, bored, bored. I did e-mail, filed e-mail, responded to e-mail, emptied my inbox, and hoped someone would call needing my help on something. At 5 o'clock I said "ARGH" and turned off my laptop.

On Saturday I drove down to Atlanta in the morning, did a 9 mile training walk for the 3-Day with some members of my 2011 Atlanta 3-Day team, took a stuffed animal to see the World of Coca Cola tourist attraction, then drove back in the evening. (Yes, I did in fact take a stuffed polar bear named "Colabear" to the World of Coca-Cola. Since my wife and I don't have any kids, we have a variety of stuffed animals that we've assigned personalities to, and we sometimes take the whimsicality a bit farther than most people would. I'd say 'it keeps us sane', but I think that ship has sailed.)

On Sunday I sat around the hotel room and did NOTHIN'. Bad weather was in the forecast and I didn't want to risk getting stuck an hour from the hotel by a sudden onslaught of icy freezing rain or something, so I stuck it out here, watched some Netflix episodes of "My Name Is Earl", and mentally cataloged all the things I could have been doing if I were at home.

I don't often stay on the road for more than a week, but when I'm two flight legs from home in an area with few evening flights, there seems to be little point flying home just to do laundry and turn around and fly back 12 hours after I arrive. If I'd flown home on Saturday I'd have gotten home around 1 pm, literally done laundry and maybe cooked another week's food for Carole, and then I'd have flown back down here yesterday. So: I stayed put.

Okay, so, it's easier on me to not spend all that pointless time on an airplane breathing recycled air and other people's germs, but on the other hand, sitting in a hotel room boredly web surfing and wishing it was nice out or that I was in some area chock ful of interesting things to see and do... that's not so fun either.

I thought about going out to a used book store and buying a random book or two, but I read so damn fast that I'd have them read in about 90 minutes and been bored again. It was hard to get up the get-up-and-go to go do that. (This is why I don't own a Kindle or Nook: I'd bankrupt us buying e-books.)

I wonder if the predicted freezing rain and "wintry mix" we're scheduled to get the rest of today and tonight will keep the customer closed tomorrow? I may just have to start carving a life-sized bust of Sitting Bull out of plasticine or something like that or just plain go crazy.


jayfurr: (Kayaking Colchester Reef)
I don't deal well with inactivity. I prefer to be busy, busy, busy DOIN' STUFF.

Thus I think it's safe to say that today isn't going well for me. I'm in South Carolina to train customers on our software and due to inclement weather the customer decided not to hold training today. Probably for the best -- the local drivers absolutely don't know how to drive in ice and snow. So I'm sort of sitting around the hotel doing stuff I ought to be doing -- taking mandatory online training on topics that I'm allegedly supposed to know but in fact have absolutely no need for whatsoever, for example -- and just drumming my fingers.

To make matters worse: I was here all last week, but wound up only doing a half day of training on Thursday and none at all on Friday. (It was due to schedule changes and stuff. It happens.) Bored, bored, bored. I did e-mail, filed e-mail, responded to e-mail, emptied my inbox, and hoped someone would call needing my help on something. At 5 o'clock I said "ARGH" and turned off my laptop.

On Saturday I drove down to Atlanta in the morning, did a 9 mile training walk for the 3-Day with some members of my 2011 Atlanta 3-Day team, took a stuffed animal to see the World of Coca Cola tourist attraction, then drove back in the evening. (Yes, I did in fact take a stuffed polar bear named "Colabear" to the World of Coca-Cola. Since my wife and I don't have any kids, we have a variety of stuffed animals that we've assigned personalities to, and we sometimes take the whimsicality a bit farther than most people would. I'd say 'it keeps us sane', but I think that ship has sailed.)

On Sunday I sat around the hotel room and did NOTHIN'. Bad weather was in the forecast and I didn't want to risk getting stuck an hour from the hotel by a sudden onslaught of icy freezing rain or something, so I stuck it out here, watched some Netflix episodes of "My Name Is Earl", and mentally cataloged all the things I could have been doing if I were at home.

I don't often stay on the road for more than a week, but when I'm two flight legs from home in an area with few evening flights, there seems to be little point flying home just to do laundry and turn around and fly back 12 hours after I arrive. If I'd flown home on Saturday I'd have gotten home around 1 pm, literally done laundry and maybe cooked another week's food for Carole, and then I'd have flown back down here yesterday. So: I stayed put.

Okay, so, it's easier on me to not spend all that pointless time on an airplane breathing recycled air and other people's germs, but on the other hand, sitting in a hotel room boredly web surfing and wishing it was nice out or that I was in some area chock ful of interesting things to see and do... that's not so fun either.

I thought about going out to a used book store and buying a random book or two, but I read so damn fast that I'd have them read in about 90 minutes and been bored again. It was hard to get up the get-up-and-go to go do that. (This is why I don't own a Kindle or Nook: I'd bankrupt us buying e-books.)

I wonder if the predicted freezing rain and "wintry mix" we're scheduled to get the rest of today and tonight will keep the customer closed tomorrow? I may just have to start carving a life-sized bust of Sitting Bull out of plasticine or something like that or just plain go crazy.


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