Is the Office Open?


Snow sticking to a small Dogwood

That’s the grown-up equivalent of “are we there yet?

Last Friday, we had a snow storm in Connecticut. Actually, we had a forecast of 3-5” (for my overseas readers, “ stands for inches which would be 7.62 – 12.7 cm) of snow. That’s really not much snow for a New England state. I’m not sure I should use the S-word (storm). I don’t want to pull the old-guy card, but when I was a kid, they wouldn’t even had closed school for the possibility of 3-5” of snow, ending at 1:00 pm. My dad would have said:

It will be over before you come home and you’ll have plenty of time to shovel the driveway before dinner.”

As for work, I grew up working for companies that would say: “we’ll close the office if the Governor closes the State.”

In 1982, we got a freak snow storm in early April. It started snowing hard in the afternoon. The managing partner of our office got on the intercom… (Before cell phones and text messages, we used to have speakers in the ceiling and people could say something to the whole office. Yes, I know, quaint). He got on the intercom and said:

While we are letting employees leave early today, the smart thing to do would be to work late and wait out the storm.”

Six hours and 14” (35.56 cm) of snow later, he ended up springing for a bunch of hotel rooms and rumor had it that he replaced a few pairs of high heeled shoes. I threw caution to the wind and left right after his announcement. I was driving a Triumph Spitfire at the time, with four whole inches of ground clearance. I barely made it into the parking lot of my apartment building.

Although it’s a funny story in our house, (my wife worked for that same accounting firm), the decision to close the office, open the office late, let people work from home, crawl out of our holes and see our shadows or not, is never easy.

For reasons I won’t bore you with, the decision whether or not to close the office on Friday, was mine to make. I decided to ignore the weather and leave the “the office will be open during normal business hours today” message behind the voicemail/website/iPhone App versions of “Office Status.” I recorded that message, and I’m reasonably sure that it’s the sound that I make that frustrates more people than anything.

There once was a time when a melodious: “it’s a brand new day” frustrated my daughter enough to outweigh the combined frustration of 30 people who don’t want to drive in the snow, but those days are long gone. She now works for a company that closes when the Governor closes the State.


Our weather forecast.

Personally, I like snow, and 3-5” is a great amount. It’s enough to justify firing up my snow blower, but is not enough to force me to run it at a low speed. When I think back on shoveling snow as a child, I feel guilty about owning this machine. My father didn’t buy snow shovels. He and my brother and I used coal shovels to move the snow around. Those things were heavier when empty than a snow shovel is filled with snow. By contrast, my snow blower is outfitted with a storm cab to keep the discharged snow from blowing back on me, track drive that goes through anything, a headlight in case I’m out early and a cup holder for my coffee.

My daughter drove to work on Friday. She has a short commute, but in Connecticut, any distance in the snow can be treacherous because…hmm, let’s see, how should I say this…Oh, right, people are idiots! Since we haven’t had much snow, most people in the state forgot how to drive in it. Some still want to go 65 mph, even though the traffic in front of them is going 20. Some want to go 15 mph even though the road ahead is merely wet. Some have cleared their entire car of snow, while others carved out tiny portholes in the snow on their windshield. Some quake with fear at the mere thought of driving in snow and others can’t wait to get out there. My daughter might be in that last group. That might be my fault.

When she was young, I owned a Dodge 4-wheel-drive pickup. It was large and red and it had large tires with aggressive tread. I could easily drive that truck through 12” of snow without worry. If we were lucky enough to get a lot of snow overnight on a weekend, we would get up early and go for a ride: “before the plows ruin it” as we were known to say. We would drive to a town park with a steep narrow driveway leading down to an unplowed parking lot in which we could do donuts (spin the truck wildly in circles – that’s for Sharukh, who lives in India). The park had a back way out through the woods which was perfect.

On Friday, we ended up with about 8” of snow, and we closed the office early to let people struggle with the ride home that was also threatened by snow.

If you haven’t see a snow plow at work, the video below shows a small one.

Posted in New England Life, Photography | Tagged , , , , , | 73 Comments

My Poor Finger


From 2010 – Don’t worry

I’m not sure you know, or care to know how I handle my Saturday posts. Those conversations at the bar, they take a while to write. The more or less normal posts, like “Hand Crafted” are also planned pretty far in advance. When I don’t have something in the on-deck circle, I turn to Linda and her SoCS prompt. Before I get to Linda, I have to acknowledge my readers in other countries and my readers in this country that don’t follow baseball. I was reminded this week in some comments, that some of my phrases are uniquely American. I’ve used “on-deck circle” before, and I’ve received questions. In baseball, the batter in the on-deck circle is the next batter up. After the guy standing at the plate taking pitches.

So, why not just say “when I don’t have a post ready”? Well, I could do that, but Linda says that SoCS posts shouldn’t be edited. They should be, you know, a stream of consciousness, so you, the poor reader, have to follow the blabbering voices in my head, and they chose on-deck circle.

socs-badge-2015Back to Linda. So, here I was, comfortably working for a living, secure in the thought that at some point on Friday, Linda would deliver the Friday SoCS prompt. Then this happened:

Your Friday prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday is: “finger.”  Use it any way you’d like. Have fun!

Really? Finger? Linda, I just have to ask…On second thought, I’m not going to ask. This is one of those words that can go too many places, and not many of them are all that good.

Fortunately for me, I have a finger with a history and, if my finger could talk, it would say: “How about turning that spotlight on me?

The finger under the lamp? My left index finger. This poor guy has suffered mightily playing second fiddle to his counterpart on the right hand. It’s easy to understand, I’m right-handed. My left hand holds things. My right hand swings the hammer, pulls the knife and holds the torch. My left hand guides things. My right hand pushes the board through the tool. I’m not sure why this particular finger is my favorite target, but a brief history of left-index-finger incidents should suffice to convince you that it’s true.

Hammer-Tacker – A hammer-tacker is a stapler that you swing like a hammer. It’s great for tacking up those 10 foot tall continuous strips of Tyvek on a wall under construction. Left hand holds the Tyvek, right hand swings the hammer-tacker. Occasionally, the stapler mechanism doesn’t work properly and the staple is left half in and half out. The engineers who designed this tool knew this would happen. You simply turn the tool over and smack that staple again. I did this a few times every day while residing our house. One time, I missed the staple. I saw the hammer-end of the hammer-tacker covering my left index finger and I saw a circle of blood spurts all around the business end of that tool. I actually had enough time to think “whoa, that – is – gonna – hurt.”

Regular hammer – Yeah, just substitute “nail” for staple and “hammer” for hammer-tacker and you have the image of a series of smacks resulting in blood blisters, split finger nails and blood, always blood.

Utility knife – I am always, always, always, always, very careful with utility knives because they are very, very sharp. But, sometimes, you have to hold a very small thing while you try to make it just a little bit smaller. Sometimes, the thing you make a little smaller is your left-index-finger.

Speaking of smaller, my left-index-finger is smaller than its right-hand brother. That’s not a left-right thing. That’s not a malnutrition thing. No, it’s the result of running the left finger though the spinning blade of my table saw. A very talented young woman in the ER was able to stitch the pieces back together, but there was some material missing.

My poor finger still works. I can type with it, I can activate the button-thingies on my phone and if we still had a rotary-dial phone, I could dial a phone with it. OK, that’s not true. First, we actually do have a rotary dial phone. It’s a Princess phone and I bought it at an antique store for my wife for Mother’s Day. Yes, I am that romantic. Second, I cannot dial with this finger. Several years after having it reassembled, I can’t stand to apply pressure to the end of this finger. For those of you long-time followers, this is the finger that previously appeared in SoCS in the whipped-blood incident. ‘nuff said.

Posted in DIY, Home Repair, SoCS | Tagged , , , , | 73 Comments

Thursday Doors – Captain Benjamin Allyn II House

Allyn House

Allyn House

Are you ready to see a 346 year old door? Um, how about a 256 year old door? Confused? Yeah, so am I. So are a lot of people, including the National Register of Historic Places.

I drive by this house every time that traffic on I-84 West is a mess around 3:45 pm. That’s just about every day now that the State of Connecticut has decided to start messing with access from Rt-2W to I-84W. This forces me to take I-84 East to cross the river in Windsor. By the time I make it across the river, I’m fed up with highways and I exit into the Deerfield section of Windsor. I drove by this house and I noticed that the sign near the door says 1670 – That’s old! Of course, I knew I had to submit it for Norm’s Thursday Doors series.

I snapped a few photos from the road. I’m not sure if the house is occupied at this time, but I’m always a little reluctant to get too close when photographing private residences. The good thing about historic houses, especially the ones in Windsor, Connecticut, is that it’s easy to conduct some research. Well, that’s how it usually goes. This time, that’s where things sort of went off the rails.

Allyn House

That seems clear

The marker on the door clearly says “Built by Capt. Thomas Allyn in 1670.” The Historic Buildings of Connecticut website says that the house was built by Benjamin Allyn II, in 1760. Benjamin was a descendent of Thomas. The Windsor Historic Society list of historic buildings says the house was built in 1670, possibly 1690 by Thomas Allyn. Finally, the National Register of Historic Places lists the house as being the Captain Benjamin Allyn House 2nd, and /or The Captain Thomas Allyn House, and, as shown above, lists two possible dates.

Allyn House

Hmm, this is not so clear.

The controversy stems from a series of four iron tie rods that connect the internal wood framing to the brick façade. The tie rods had iron numbers at the end. The outer two rods have the numerals ‘1’ and ‘0’ attached. The center two rods no longer have numerals attached, but there is widespread agreement that the numerals that were there were a ‘6’ and a ‘7’. So, 1670 or 1760. I’m not sure where the Windsor Historic Society came up with a possible 1690.

The hard evidence, such that it is, points to 1760 as the better choice. The bricks are similar to bricks made in Windsor, by Thomas Eggelston who was born in 1741. He would have been a pretty young brick maker, but the story is plausible because the bricks are consistent with the bricks he made. Windsor was a center of early brickmaking, and brick manufacturing plants still operate on the east side of the Connecticut River in South Windsor.

Allyn House

‘X’ marks the spot

For those trying to follow this, there’s a confusing element that you need to understand. Windsor is on the west side of the Connecticut River. South Windsor is directly across the river on the east side. The town of East Windsor is north of South Windsor. I hope that clears things up.

The owner of the house says that stains on the brick indicate the date was 1670. A historian (Stiles) wrote a history of the buildings in Windsor in 1859. He is the one making the association with the bricks and he is the first to suggest that the date was 1760. There was a similar house in West Springfield, MA (about 20 miles north of Windsor) that was built in 1758.

The problem with making a comparison to a similar house is the fact that the Allyn house was remodeled extensively from its original form and again after damage from the 1938 hurricane. Throughout the life of this house, people didn’t keep very many documents to serve as records. Deb, over at the Front Door Project recently mentioned similar issues with documentation associated with The Sarah Whitman Hooker House in West Hartford, CT. I guess the builders and owners of these houses never considered that the houses would stand so long and become so important.

256 years isn’t nearly as long as 346 years, but, if the door is original, it’s powerfully old. The door and the narrow sidelights are very impressive, and I’m pretty happy to add them to Norm’s collection. You can check out the other doors this week by visiting Norm’s page.

Posted in Connecticut, History, Thursday Doors | Tagged , , , , | 73 Comments

One-Liner Wednesday – Outside

Timothy Leary’s dead
No, no, no, no, He’s outside looking in

– Moody Blues

This is the cover art for the album In Search of the Lost Chord

This is the cover art for the album In Search of the Lost Chord

On Sunday morning, I was listening to NPR when they started talking about the Iowa Caucuses and I kinda lost it. I can’t listen to any more politicians or political analysts. It’s just so much of the same stuff. I reached in the console and I took a CD and shoved it in the slot. For the next 8 months, plus a couple of months of post-election analysis, I’m done with radio. I may tune in on the hour, for a bit of news, but I’m done listening to politics.

Ironically, the CD I popped in was a mix-CD I made several years ago featuring some of my favorite Moody Blues songs. It occurred to me that this is perfect for an election year. These guys running for office are trying to take us on a trip, trying to get us to forget reality, forget that they aren’t running for emperor and that they wouldn’t even be empowered to do half the stuff they’re promising us. For all I know, some of them are on drugs. One thing is certain, come November, most of these guys, people, candidates are going to be outside, looking in.

If you aren’t familiar with the Moody Blues, they were are (they have tour dates in 2016) a British Rock band with a unique and complex sound, mixing blues, rock and classical music with some very interesting lyrics. You can read more about them here. If you want to hear this song, you should know that the title is: “Legend of a Mind” not “Timothy Leary’s Dead” (as labeled on my CD) and you can listen to it here.

If you aren’t familiar with Timothy Leary, oh, where to start. Harvard professor. Thought that LSD could possibly have use as in psychiatric treatments. Famous for using LSD and advocating its use. Arrested. A lot. Well, read more about him here.

This post is part of Linda G. Hill’s One-Liner Wednesday series. If you’re not familiar with that, please slip on over to her site and join the fun.

Posted in Music, One Line Wed, Opinion | Tagged , , , , , , , | 63 Comments

Marketing Minds at Work?

With so many people fighting for our discretionary income, you would think that nobody would ever have to write about bad marketing or bad customer service. Yet, every six months or so, both of those themes surface here at No Facilities. It’s not like I’m passionate about stamping out bad marketing. It’s not like I’m anti-marketing.

Note: Scott Adams (Dilbert) might be anti-marketing. We’re guessing that he had a bad relationship with a woman in marketing. Seriously, search on “Dilbert marketing” or just click on this link. See what I mean?

I am actually pro-marketing. Our daughter is a marketing professional, and I am one of those people who appreciates a good ad campaign or a good commercial.

On the other hand, I have a real problem with bad marketing and bad ideas. I see them and I wonder: how they made it through any sort of review process without someone saying: “what were you thinking?

Recently, GoDaddy changed the login screen for their web-based email access. They changed it from something that was very GoDaddy-ish to something that looked like, well, nothing. In fact, it looked so much like nothing that we thought that someone might have hacked GoDaddy and was trying to skim our password. The funny thing is, we were pretty sure it was the real site, because those evil-doers usually do a better job. Seriously, the new GoDaddy site wasn’t as good as what a hacker would have built.

I called GoDaddy customer service, and I had the most amazing conversation:

Hi, I’m calling because we seem to be getting a really odd looking login screen when we try to access your web-mail service.”

Yes, we’re in the process of changing that screen.”

The one that we get, doesn’t have any GoDaddy branding at all, it looks like it might be a scam.”

A lot of people have shared that complaint with us. I’ll let the developers know.”

A few days later, it went back to the old site. Then, late last week, GoDaddy added a “we’re changing this screen” message to the old site with an option to preview the new, ugly site. On the new site, if you scroll all the way down to the bottom, to a section not normally visible in my browser, you see a tiny GoDaddy logo.

Maybe in next week’s Super Bowl ad, instead of Danica Patrick standing next to her black and green Indy car, GoDaddy will have an elderly man standing next to a white Buick. Maybe bland is the new sexy.

While I’m on a marketing bashing roll, let me share a few tips to the companies who are, at this very moment, trying to get my online attention:

To the folks at Starbucks and other coffee places, including those without a presence in New England:

My recent comments about Dunkin Donuts coffee do not indicate a general, exploitable interest in coffee. They indicate an interest in Dunkin Donuts coffee… period!

To my (former) car dealer:

The fact that I recently complained about the car I bought from you and the service you provided on that car, should not be taken to mean that this is a good time to try and sell me a new car. (Seriously, not only have I seen Google ads and ads on Facebook, these people actually called me to try and sell me a new car.)

To the marking knuckleheads at NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL headquarters:

Because the demographic information you’ve collected about me indicates that I live in New England doesn’t mean I’m a fan of the Patriots, Red Sox, Yankees, Giants, Bruins, Mets (the Mets? seriously?), Jets (unless they’re playing the Patriots), Islanders or the Knicks. I’m all Steelers, Pirates, and Penguins. I don’t follow NBA basketball at all, but, If I did, I’d root for the Celtics – I’m not completely anti-Boston.

While I’m at it, to the college sports knuckleheads:

I graduated from West Virginia University and The University of Pittsburgh, you know, the former Big East teams. I am quite capable of living in Connecticut and not being a fan of UConn sports.

To Amazon, the king of online marketing and sales:

The stuff I searched for before Christmas has either been purchased or scratched from the list. That microwave I searched for last week, it was for the office. I was actually only looking for dimensions. I bought one at Target ‘cuz people couldn’t wait another day.”

To every online travel site:

The fact that I asked for directions to Washington, D.C. doesn’t mean I’m going there. It means a friend in India wanted to know how far last week’s epic snow storm was from Connecticut.

Last, to the marketing department at Sleepy’s:

Don’t wrap your ad around the Sunday comics if you ever hope to have me read it.

For a quick look at an ad that I think is good, click here to see Watson and Ken Jennings, or this one of Watson and Bob Dylan.

Posted in Humor, Marketing, Rant | Tagged , , , , , , , | 91 Comments

April A-to-Z – Really?

For the love of beer

The perfect place and beverage to share some casual conversation.

If we were having a beer you would question my sanity right from the start.

“Are you actually going to participate in the April A-to-Z blogging challenge?”

“I am.”

“What were you thinking when you agreed to do that?”

“I’ve wanted to do it ever since I first followed Damyanti through hers.”

“No offense intended, but Damyanti is a, ahem, a real writer…am I right?”

“She is, and she encouraged me to do this.”

“Have you considered your poor readers? I mean, seriously, 26 posts from you in one month might be a little more than I can take.”

“I considered that. In fact, that’s very important to me. I can’t reveal my theme yet, but I’m working on the theory that my word-count won’t be that much higher than normal.”

“But what about Thursday Doors? I love your Thursday Doors posts.”

“Not to worry. I wouldn’t have a Thursday without a door.”

“Will we be having a beer?”

“Absolutely. I won’t be so busy that I won’t have time for beer.”

“What about your editor? Is she good with this? ‘Cuz you know, ‘happy wife – happy life’ isn’t just a funny saying.”

“I think she’ll be OK. Again, I’m planning short posts. Low word count.”

“Low word count? You? You’re kidding, right? You wrote three paragraphs for One-Liner Wednesday!”

“Ha ha. Yeah, that will be tricky. I may have to skip One-Liner Wednesday during the A-to-Z Challenge.”

“You know, there’s a ‘Wordless Wednesday’ challenge too…maybe that would be good for you.”

“Thanks, but I’m up for a challenge. Can I keep people interested? Can I not bore them to death? Can I work a theme around things like Thursday Doors? I should be able to do this, I’ve been blogging a long time.”

“You’re wondering if you can avoid boring people to death…did you consider just asking me and Cheryl. I think we could save you a lot of trouble.”

“Oh, stop picking on him. He’s not boring. Well, his appetite is boring, Yuengling and chicken wings. By the way, are you guys going to order any food today? We have a new appetizer menu. We’re really not here for the snappy banter…just sayin.”

“Maybe, how about another round for now Cheryl. You want a challenge? How about 26 different beers in April? A different beer for each letter of the alphabet.”

“He’s got ‘Y’ covered, and that’s one of the hardest letters.”

“Amstel, Blue Moon, Corona, Dos Equis…do you have Dos Equis Cheryl?”

“We have Amber, in a bottle.”

“E, I’m stumped.”

“We got nothing starting with E.”

“So, it’s settled. He can write about beer and stop after four posts – everybody wins!”

“Are you two done? I’m not writing about beer, but I’m sure there’s a beer that starts with ‘E’. Google it, or I can text my buddy, he knows every beer on earth”

“No! No texting your buddy and NO Google! You people are ruining the bar experience with your technology!”

“What the… I didn’t realize I was treading on sacred ground here.”

“Well, you are. Conversations in bars are special. They should rely on the facts that people have chosen to remember, or misremember or at least stuff they’re willing to make up. There’s no room for the Internet.”

“So, you’d rather be lied to? You’d rather I tell you that I once had a craft beer called Emmentaler while visiting a brew pub in western Oregon ?”

“Yes, but if you’re going to lie, make it a good lie, Emmentaler is a cheese.”

“Hey guys, speaking of cheese, Mozzarella Sticks are on that new appetizer menu.”

“Do they include Mozzarella? ‘Cuz McDonald’s Mozzarella Sticks don’t.”

“Ours do. Tell you what, you order some and I’ll top off that wine.”

“Sounds good. What about him?”

“I’ll top off his Yuengling, if he promises not to email me the story about McDonald’s deep fired empty breading carcasses.”

“Actually, I was texting my wife to see if she wants me to bring her an order of the Mozzarella Sticks when I head home.”

“That’s a good boy. If you’re doing that A-to-Z thing, you better treat that woman like a princess.”

A2Z-BADGE [2016]

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Posted in April A-to-Z, Blogging, If having a beer, Writing | Tagged , , , , | 95 Comments

Thursday Doors – The Big-E

Rhode Island Building

Rhode Island Building

I mentioned the Big-E back in October in a conversation I was having with my buddy at the bar. I had hoped to feature some of the doors, but it was simply too crowded to get any good photos of doors. I realized that my daughter and I always go back to the fairgrounds in January for a woodworking show, so I tabled the doors until now.

I explained in a footnote in October that The Big-E a.k.a. The Eastern States Exposition a.k.a. The Great New England Fair is the 5th largest agricultural fair in the United States. I didn’t explain that it’s the only state fair that involves more than one state. New England has six states, and six states are featured in the Big-E.

The fair was the brainchild of Joshua L. Brooks in 1916. Brooks wanted to bring together all six New England states in one location in order to foster communication and to improve regional agriculture. The first Eastern States Exposition took place in 1917. Not only do all six New England states participate in fair, but you can actually visit all six states while attending the fair. This was another idea put forth by Mr. Brooks.

During the Big-E, you enter the exhibition grounds, specifically, the huge dirt parking lot through Gate-9. During the rest of the year, you enter through Gate-5. As soon as you pay your $5-10 parking fee (price fluctuates with the events being held) you find yourself on The Avenue of the States. Here, each New England state was asked to construct a replica of their original Statehouse. I can’t speak for the other five states, but the Connecticut building is, in fact, modeled after the Old Connecticut State House in Hartford. My understanding (from Wikipedia) is that the New Hampshire and Vermont buildings do not resemble their historic state houses at all – what can I say, you never know with those two. Also from Wikipedia:

“Much like national embassies, the statehouses and the land on which they sit are owned by the respective jurisdiction. Through an arrangement with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, they are administered by representatives from each state’s police force during the Fair. Due to this distinction, tickets for each of the six lotteries can be purchased among the houses.”

‘Cuz nothing says “Welcome” like buying a lottery ticket.

The Big-E fairgrounds is located in West Springfield, MA, which is only about 15 minutes from where we live in CT. Like every agricultural fair, you can see animal exhibits, learn about the industry and agriculture of each state, ride rides and play games on a midway and visit hundreds of vendors selling everything from hot tubs to Magic Mops to cookware. And, of course, you can eat. You can eat the blueberry pie from the New Hampshire Building that my friend and I talked about in October, and you can eat a Lobster Roll from the Maine Building, apple pie and cheddar cheese in Vermont and anything and everything dipped in batter and deep fried.

In the gallery today are the State Buildings, and their doors. I hope you enjoy this contribution to Norm Frampton’s fantastic Thursday Doors series. Please consider joining us. All you need is a photo of a door and, well, actually, that’s all you need. You have until Saturday at noon to post your door, visit Norm’s site and click the linky-thing. He’s made it very easy.

Posted in Connecticut, New England Life, Thursday Doors | Tagged , , , , | 68 Comments