Ice Dams and Ambulances


When we went to bed Friday night, we discovered water dripping in around one of our windows. It was dripping on to my carelessly stored artwork from college. So we moved a bunch of stuff out of the splash zone and put towels around the window and went to bed.

I kept waking up in the night hearing the dripping and thinking about all the water that must be pooling behind the ice dam just a few feet above our heads.

Saturday morning I was sitting in the sun room with my coffee and breakfast and was thinking about how to defeat the ice dam when Brian pointed out an ambulance coming down the road.

I saw it disappear behind the barn and was looking for it to reappear just past my grandparents house. But it didn’t. Then I could see it just a little bit between the trees and at first I thought it was pulling in to the driveway across the street, but it wasn’t. It was pulling in to our driveway and stopped by my grandparents house.

So I abandoned my breakfast and coffee and went out to hopefully find out that everything was ok, or see what I could do to help.

They were there for my grandpa, who seems to be ok now, though they’re keeping him in the hospital for observation which he will probably protest vehemently in a very agreeable way. He doesn’t like being in the hospital. I guess… who does?

After they left and it looked like nobody needed me for anything we headed back home to try to tackle the ice dam.

IMG_3538It’s pretty easy to climb on to the lower part of our roof. That side of the house is partially underground so it’s really just about 3 feet off the ground. I shoveled a path up to the higher roof where the ice dam was. Brian started chipping at it with a cats paw but the ice was at least 11 inches thick not including the wall of icicles hanging off of it.

IMG_20150307_094618~2 IMG_20150307_091959

I headed out to try to buy some ice melter. Tractor supply had none. Walmart had none. I ended up buying 3 big “things” of table salt because I had no better ideas.

At the check out line an old man, probably in his 80s or so tried to let me ahead of him, but he had the same amount of items as me so I declined.

He started chatting with me though I couldn’t really understand much of what he said. First it was about the price of Popsicles. Then cancer. Where not to go if you need a hearing aid because… wherever he went ripped him off. His dogs, one was beagle. The health value of yogurt, brewers yeast, and black strap molasses. Then while he was hunting through his pockets for a picture of his dog he told me about how his beagle was torn to pieces by 3 coyotes and how, if he’d had a gun, they would be 3 dead coyotes. I kind of wish I’d been able to understand him better.
It was not a dull conversation.

When I got home Brian was making some progress with the ice but it was slow going. He had tried a dull saw and then moved on to an ax which was working ok until the handle broke. Then he found a pick ax and I climbed up on the second roof and shoveled snow while he hacked that the ice…. carefully of course.

I didn’t post any photos of the pick axe to facebook. My parents are on vacation and I thought it would worry my dad if he saw them. We were so careful.


Eventually we got enough of a trench dug that it started draining a bit and stopped leaking in the house. We poured table salt all over it for good measure and headed inside for a coffee break.

Later I found that they had ice melter at Secor so I picked up a bag on my way to visit my Grandpa at the hopsital. He was sleeping when I got there so I didn’t end up visiting, just went home and Brian and I threw ice melter on the the thickest parts of the ice dam.

I had posted some photos of the ice dam to facebook so my dad called with some advice when they got back into cell range. So, at least next time I’ll have some good ideas.

Maybe all the chaos of the day wore me down or the new ciders I was drinking were a little strong because I fell asleep during Saturday Movie night… before 10 p.m.

Almost Done with Couch to 5k

I don’t have a 5k planned but I’ve been doing a Couch to 5K training plan to get back in shape a bit.

Today I ran for 30 minutes without stopping for the first time since my shingles debacle in August. Actually I ran for 31.5 minutes because a good song came up on my running playlist at the last minute. It made me want to keep going. The right music can be a performance enhancing drug.

Also remembering to use my asthma inhaler before-hand was pretty helpful. That may actually qualify as a performance enhancing drug but since I end up coughing up my lungs without it, I feel no guilt.

I finished the same training plan back at the end of May, ran a 5k and kept running regularly. Unfortunately, when I got sick, I felt crappy for long enough that I lost some of my conditioning and the good habit slipped away. That happens so easily.

I had also planned so many things to stay busy and distracted that Fall while Brian was in Germany that I never really left any space to reestablish the habit.

I’m so happy that I’m finally almost back to where I was in May! Whoo hoo. I actually don’t hate running and it’s a pretty efficient way to get exercise.

Imminent Departure

Brian is leaving for Germany tomorrow, for 3 months. When people ask specifically how it going or about all the details I seem to get stressed about it but right now I’m more stressed about driving all the way to the Toronto airport and back.

My goal is to not get all teary when I leave the airport. I’m going to do my best but I’m not very good at that stuff.

I know I’ll be fine. There are so many ways we can communicate. If it was 20 years ago it would be different. Still it’s just a big change and it’ll take some adjusting.


My Disgusting Car

With Brian going to Germany for three months it seems to make sense to take one of our two cars off the road. Why pay insurance on it? So that car would be my beloved 2003 Pontiac Vibe.

It also has a few problems that I’ve been willing to overlook in order to not think about buying a new car. I hate car shopping. I’m pretty sure everyone does.

It has rust problems and smell problems. It needs new brakes. One of the tires needs air every 4 days or so. It has a bike rack possibly permanently rusted on to the back. Maybe that last one is actually a selling point. It has over 200,000 miles on it with the original clutch!  It’s full of junk because I’m a slob.

Because 3 months of no use in the winter will probably kill it I think that I should probably just sell it.

The engine runs great. It has cruise control, power locks, and a sun-roof. So there’s that. When I look up the Kelly Blue Book value it is laughably high so I have to figure out what to ask for it. And how to actually sell a car myself.

Oh and I should probably clean it out too.

But when Brian comes back, what then? Can we get by with one car or will I have to embark on the dreaded car shopping task?


Way back near the end of July, exactly one day after a standard checkup at my doctor, I started having some weird pain in my armpit. It felt kind of like razor burn but extra irritating. I kept checking in the mirror to see if there was a rash or something but it just looked like normal skin.

5 minutes later it still looked like normal skin.

5 minutes after that there was still nothing visibly wrong.

It went on like this for days though the territory of the skin discomfort expanding, and moving down my arm and eventually across my chest and back but only on one side. It was painful stinging kind of pain. The kind of pain that tastes like metal in your mouth… or is that just me?

I once learned a move in a martial arts class where you’d grip a little bit of the skin on the back of someone’s arm and yank down suddenly.  I would describe that as the most painful thing that ever happened to me in that class & it felt a lot like that. I feel like the look in my eyes probably matched the 8 or a 9 on the Hyperbole and a Half Pain Scale.


Because I have noticed  that I have a pattern of always rushing back to the doctor soon after I’ve had a doctor’s appointment certain I’m dying of something, at first I was thinking “Ok. I this is just a serious case of hypochondria. I just think that my arm hurts really bad and that’s why I’m walking around with it clamped to my side so it won’t move. I’m not going back to the stinking doctor because there’s nothing wrong with me. I’m fine. Oh god this is very uncomfortable.”

Helpfully Bulleted Scenario

  • Arm pain+ but no visible rash
  • Crazy pants hypochondriac having an epic internal battle.
  • Scratched by a 75% feral cat two or three weeks before
    (Did I forget to mention the cat thing? Yeah, I shoulda blogged about that. )

Based on the above facts, I decided that I most definitely had cat scratch fever. This actually seemed plausible when we looked it up on WebMD, even to Brian. For the most part if you’re a healthy adult they don’t really do anything for cat scratch fever so another tick in the “You will survive this so just suck it up and don’t go to the doctor” box.

I think I maintained the cat scratch fever belief for a few days but the levels of discomfort were just getting to be too much.

Then on Sunday morning, a rash started appearing, I was done trying to be tough. We drove to urgent care and were almost the first people in the door.

I described my symptoms to the doctor. I was disappointed that she didn’t even really look at my rash. I though she should look at the rash because it was really nasty. I wanted her to appreciate my achievement, even if it was really only the achievement of a virus that  had been lying dormant on the T2 nerve of my spine since I was six years old.

She said:

“You know what you have.”

“Well… I thought I had cat scratch fever.”

“But, you know what you have.”


“Yes, you have a bad case of shingles.”

She prescribed me antivirals and said I should call my doctor if the pain got worse. Brian said I gave her the saddest look in the world at that point, and she decided to go ahead and prescribe something for the pain right then.

It’s two months later now. The rash is gone. I still have almost no feeling in my armpit and on a patch of skin on my back. I’m still taking the stuff for the pain and I still feel tingling and sometimes stinging or itching but without any real intensity.  I tried to stop the medication couple of weeks ago but my nerves told me it’s not time yet.

I’ll try again next month.

If you’re old enough to get the shingles shot. Go now and get it.

If you’re not old enough to get the shingles shot I don’t have any real advice except to say that starting on anti-virals as early as possible is important so if you start having shingles symptoms get to the doctor ASAP.


To Be or Not to Be a Forty Sixer

At some recent family function Brian’s sister, Jodi, said to me:

There’s some Adirondack club with a number… 26, I think.

The Fortysixers?

Yeah that. That would be a fun goal!

I have to admit it. I have always thought it would be cool to say that I’d done all the high peaks. But I’ve never set it as a goal. I think it’s been a combination of the logistics involved, the planning, and maybe all the driving. I love being in the Adriondacks but I don’t love being in the car. I think maybe I thought, someday I’ll find a way to live up there and I can just go out and do them any time.

But life is short, and I don’t know how many places in the Adirondacks will be looking for a web person and a math professor in the near future.

So if she’s game, I’m game.

But since she’s never actually climbed a mountain in the Adirondacks, I thought we’d start out and do Cascade and Porter for a taste. If she’s still thinks it sounds fun after that maybe I’ll officially add it to my goal list.

Not sure what the next logical step from those would be.

So far I think I’ve only climbed 7 and most of those were when I was a kid.


3,950 Miles Away

In less than two weeks Brian will be arriving in Germany, to spend three months working on his Ph.D. in applied mathematics. Of course he’ll be working on the Ph.D. for more than three months, but he’ll in Germany for three months so for me that feels like the important number right now.

I looked to see how far apart we’ll be.

3,950 Miles.


For some reason my mental measure of large distances is from my home to Albany, 200 miles. So that’s almost 20 Albanys.

That’s a lot of Albanys.

It will be really cool to hear all about all the challenges and interesting things that happen when you’re trying to make your way in a different country. I know a lot of seemingly little things will probably be challenging but I hope not terribly frustrating as a whole. It will also be really cool to visit.

Old Family Photos

I stopped over to my grandparents house a couple of weeks ago to get their spit for some 23andme dna tests. I finally decided it would be interesting enough to get their data into 23andme that I’d buy them kits.

My grandpa started telling a story about his Great Uncle Delos and his bayonet from the civil war. Then we talked about Delos’s brother Carl, who was a meat dealer that liked to eat raw sausage. I wonder if he mostly did that to freak people out. My grandma went to find some pictures of Delos and Carl. There were some awesome pictures of Carl.

Carl Sherwood by his meat wagon holding a knife

Carl Sherwood holding a big knife next to his meat wagon

Carl Sherwood with meat wagon

Carl Sherwood and his meat wagon

I also spotted this photo. The hats and hairstyles were interesting so I took it home to scan. I spent the next week obsessively figuring out who the people in the pictures were. A few months ago my aunt found a transcribed copy of a diary by 12 year old, Orsamus Gilbert in 1812. If I hadn’t seen that, and tried to figure out who he was, I never would have puzzled out these people, because they were part of an undocumented branch in our family tree.



Here it is with the labels from the back superimposed over the people.

Vine Brown Gilbert family photo labeledAfter spending a week on wikitree and familysearch I fleshed out the family tree a bit more and now I’m confident that I know all but one of the people in the photo. John Gilbert is probably Vine’s son but I can’t find any solid documentation aside from other people’s family trees.


Vine is my great great great grandfather.
Mary Isabelle is his daughter and Oliver Avery is her Husband.
Mary Louisa is their daughter, my great great grandmother.

Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head

Recently Brian and I ordered a new lightweight backpacking tent and some other schmancy camping gear. We haven’t been backpacking in a really long time and we’ve been wanting to do more of it. We’ve also been contemplating trying some overnight kayak camping too. So there was a mini gear binge recently. It’s that time of year.

We were anxious to get out and battle test all the stuff but at the moment we’re still a bit short on time because Brian is closing in on his Master’s Thesis. We decided to pack our packs and hike up to the woods (about 1/2 mile) for an overnight gear test. The weather was going to be perfect, nice enough to sleep without the fly on the tent.

It’s been a wet spring. The mosquitoes were celebrating what a great year it has been for them by swarming all around us as soon as we put our packs down in the woods. Usually we don’t stop moving through there, so I barely notice them. We decided to try to find a different less buggy spot to set up and after eliminating a bunch of potential sites we found one with minimal poison ivy.

We set up the tent and all the gear and decided to take a nap because we used to have time for naps. Those were nice times.


Every once in a while little drops of water were falling on me from the tree above. It wasn’t raining. I was trying to figure out if it was sap from the tree or… what I didn’t know. But the water evaporated quickly and wasn’t sticky. It didn’t seem like sap. I was sort of stumped. Every time I was just about to fall asleep another tiny drop of water would hit me somewhere.

It turns out the tree we were camping under was infested with spittlebugs, and little drops of liquid from the spittlebug nests were dripping out of the tree on to us. It seemed harmless, if a little gross, and I was determined to sleep with the fly off the tent because that opportunity seems so rare. I just put a hat over my face so it wouldn’t wake me up all night.


The mosquitos continued to be very aggressive and we ended up hiding in the tiny backpacking tent drinking beers (it was a short enough hike to carry beers) eating cheezits and playingThe Struggle for Catan. We figured it was safe to eat in the tent in this part of New York.


Doomsday Freakout

The cold war was still going on in my formative years. I have always attributed my life long obsession with post apocalyptic fiction and very real fear of world war three, to this.

The words “Dead Hand System” strike fear into my heart on the rare occasions when I hear them.

As my adult life has gotten more mired in daily routines and responsibilities, I’ve devoted more of my worry to these things, as I should. They are things I have some control over.

My whole life, everything has been pretty good. I’ve been lucky. Yet I’ve always felt like that can’t last an entire lifetime. I wonder if there’s some statistic on how many people in history have managed to live their lives in an uneventful time at an uneventful location. Hopefully I can continue to be so lucky.

This stuff in the Ukraine is makes me nervous. Was it making me nervous before I listened to the last two episodes of Dan Carlin’s Common Sense?

I really don’t know.

But my vague fuzzy fear of apocalyptic things has been brought back into uncomfortable focus today. I need to remind my brain that it has no control over these situations, so it should just shut up about it, and go back to being happy.

At least this episode of Planet Money, The Fight Over Ukraine’s Gas Bill was just interesting and didn’t cause me to start contemplating the feasibility of building a bomb shelter.

Random notes on my life, my bike, and my world