You Peed in the Pool!

And we have proof. Swimming pools are full of piss but rarely vinegar.

Olympic swimmers do it. Babies do it. Elderly great-grandmothers do it. A 2012 U.S. study verified that nearly one-fifth of Americans do it and an American Chemical Society study performed at the University of Alberta confirms that everybody pees in the pool.

It’s just the amount that might surprise you.

At the same time, our beach club owners are bumping heads over whether to install an outhouse. It is not a trivial question. There is a real concern among beachgoers about people peeing in the ocean but our beach is a nice sandy lot with neither electricity nor sewer. Planning for accessibility, the engineering and construction costs, a sewer hookup, and running water and electricity are all significant issues.

Does it really matter if you pee in the ocean? Or your pool?

The environmental toxicology experts at the University of Alberta found a way to measure the concentration of urine in pools thanks to our lurve of sugary snacks, particularly sugary snacks at the seashore.

Calling Ace K. Snackbuster!

Acesulfame potassium, better known as “Ace-K,” is an artificial sweetener now commonly found in the much of what we eat and drink.

Sales of diet sodas have dropped by nearly 20% since reaching a peak of $8.5 billion in 2009 while energy drinks grew from $12.5 billion in 2015 to an expected $21.5 billion this year.

Whether your soda pop has sucralose or aspartame the chances are good it also has ace-K which is around 200 times sweeter than sugar. Other foods that contain acesulfame potassium include fruit juices, non-carbonated beverages, and alcoholic beverages, baked goods, cereals, chewing gum, condiments, dairy products, desserts, ice cream, jam, jelly and marmalade, marinades, salad dressings and sauces, tabletop sweeteners, toothpaste and mouthwash, and even yogurt and other milk products.

Acesulfame K isn’t broken down or stored in the body. Instead, it’s absorbed into your system and then passed unchanged in your urine.

The researchers determined how much of the water was urine simply by measuring the concentration of Ace-K in the water.

So how much urine is in your pool? Or my beach?

All of the pools and hot tubs the team tested contained urine. The study found that typical backyard pools contain about 20 gallons each.

Your kitchen trash can holds about 7 gallons. Imagine if one of your (very productive) friends filled it three times and dumped it in the pool!

We all know that urine is sterile but the other compounds we pass, including urea, ammonia, and creatinine, become dangerous when mixed with the pool chemicals. They can lead to eye and respiratory irritation and even asthma in those exposed long enough.

It’s worse in the ocean where they can turn the water green.

Beach Lady, Green Water

Mail It

Tales of a South Puffin headed North.

We’re south of South Florida and actually more comfy year round than the mainland (it’s sub-tropical down there in the Keys, so we do get a bit of temperature swing but it’s small).

I’m a sunbird. I stay there until the ocean gets warmer than the air, and then follow the cool air to North Puffin. I’ll be back before I have to start wearing longjohns and cutting a hole in the ice for supper up there. That’s a reference to ice fishing although I have never understood why people would spend a day sitting on a bucket to try to catch a block of ice. I mean Walgreens or Kinneys sells ice for a buck or two.

Today is the first day of Summer but my last day down south last week felt like summer. It was sunny, sunny, sunny and calm with a high of 91 or so which meant a heat index of about 108. The water temp was 90F at Station VCAF1 — Vaca Key — which is off Palm Island Drive on the Gulf side of Marathon. It certainly felt like bath water in the ocean. The “cold spots” were probably 85.

As an aside, 2016 is a very special year because the solstice coincides with the “Strawberry Moon.” Named by early American tribes, the Strawberry Moon is a full moon like any other, but the one that marks the beginning of the strawberry season. The two events coincide once every 70 years. It may be pink when I get the picture.

I have several chores to do when shutting down the house. Tell the cops. Turn in my !@#$%^Comcast devices (the high point of the day, you betcha), and (temporarily) forward the mail.

I generally did the latter at the counter, but the Post Office got all official-like and started making me fill out a form and mail it in. Last year, I actually handed it to our postal person, but the USPS probably charged itself for the “postage paid” response card.

Our postal person was up to his eyeballs in customers when I went in for the form so rather than waiting in line, I decided to do it online. It’s easy peasy. Go to “ Find ‘Change of Address’ under ‘Quick Tools.’ Follow easy on-screen instructions to enter to enter your information.” And the easy on-screen instructions really were easy.

Until I got to the Identity Verification.

Identity Verification — Credit/Debit Card

We must charge your credit/debit card $1

In order to verify your identity, we process a fee to your credit/debit card. The card’s billing address should match either the old or new address entered on the address entry page. If your card is billed to a different address, you may enter it by selecting the “Enter a different address” option. This is to prevent fraudulent Change of Address requests.

Please note that the Internet Change of Address Service uses a high level of security on a secure server.

Wait a minute. What?

You charge a dollar to verify my identity? What, are you nutz?

Banks, which charge for everything, have figured this out; they don’t charge.
Paypal knows how to do it; they don’t charge.
I think my stockbroker put four cents in my account.

I stopped at the counter on my way out of town. Our postmaster is on vacation but our sub gave me the form to fill out. I did it on the spot and handed it back.

“You know you can do this online, right?” she said.

“You charge me a dollar.”

“That’s an ID check because anyone could go online and change your mail.”

I just shook my head and handed her the form.

“I’ll take this but it takes at least two weeks to go through.”

By the way, she doesn’t know me from Art. Didn’t ask me for ID, though.

<le sigh>


Mail Order

Both North and South Puffin are somewhere beyond the end of the rainbow so instant gratification is more than a little difficult here. When I was a child, my family would literally mail an order form to a company like Sears and they would send a box of goodies by parcel post the day after the order reached them.

Mail call was always like Christmas around the Harper household and planning was important because it generally took a few days for the (first class) letter to get to the vendor and more than a week for the package to get back.

Today, we click a button on a website and a fulfillment house somewhere generates a label for same day or next day delivery but the principle is the same.

And some of us still call it mail-order. Heck, I usually counsel clients to ship via the US Post Office. It’s easy, it’s cheap, and it gets there on time, I tell them. In fact, I shipped a box by parcel post to a business up north on Friday. It was in their PO Box this morning.

Confession: I take drugs.

The Thin, Gray, Plastic PouchThese days, of course, most people my age do. We take anti-cholesterol meds and anti-arthritis meds and blood pressure meds and anti-anxiety meds and anti-dizziness meds and anti-gout meds and antihistamines. We take drugs to combat osteoporosis and respiratory difficulty and heart attacks and sudden bladder symptoms. Then we take diuretics to help us pee. After all that, we really do need the antidepressants.

Anyway, our insurance companies train us all to buy by mail order to save us money and time.

I do.

I ordered my usual 90-day refill from the Humana Pharmacy in Phoenix on December 4, 2015.

12/7 email
Your Humana Pharmacy Order Has Shipped!
Order Number 120128889
Estimated Shipping Time: 3-5 days
Click on “Tracking id” under your order information.

Humana sends its mail order drugs by US Mail. They drop the bottle(s) in a thin, gray plastic pouch and send it off into the night from the Phoenix PO.

USPS Tracking PageI clicked the tracking link.

Humana sent the “preshipment info” to the US Postal Service the same time they sent me the email notification. The next thing I know, the package is in Essex, Vermont, just three days later. Nobody, least of all USPS, knows how it got there from Arizona.

Pretty good, eh?

Except it was supposed to be shipped to South Puffin, not North Puffin.

12/11 Tracking Page
Available for Pickup, North Puffin VT

12/11 Tracking Page
Forwarded, North Puffin VT

12/18 Tracking Page
Arrived at USPS Facility, Brockton MA

12/18 email
Your Humana Pharmacy order is on hold.
Our pharmacy team has contacted your doctor to get the information that we need.
Order Number 120128889
Order Status On Hold

From Massachusetts, the package went to Jacksonville and back to Springfield, MA.

12/27 Tracking Page
Departed USPS Destination Facility, Springfield MA

12/27 email
Your Humana Pharmacy order is on hold.
Our pharmacy team has contacted your doctor to get the information that we need.
Order Number 120128889
Order Status On Hold

Destination Facility? It was on its way back to North Puffin.

12/28 Tracking Page
Forwarded, North Puffin VT

12/29 email
Your Humana Pharmacy order is on hold.
Our pharmacy team has contacted your doctor to get the information that we need.
Order Number 120128889
Order Status On Hold

That was the last email from Humana which still may think they haven’t heard from my doc. It was also the last we heard from USPS for a while.

They did turn up ten days later. The USPS tracking page reported they “arrived at our USPS facility in JERSEY CITY, NJ 07097 on January 7, 2016 at 8:54 am. The item is currently in transit to the destination.”

Unbelievable. Jersey City is *never* in the routing from North Puffin to Springfield MA to Jax to here. Humana shipped December 7. Humana, btw, keeps emailing “Your Humana Pharmacy order is on hold.”

My drugs went to Phoenix.


Really? Phoenix?

When they arrived at the “facility” in Phoenix, I called my friend Liz Arden who lives out there somewhere. She promised to look for them. No joy. Meanwhile, I used the “Contact us” link on the tracking page to send them this nastygram:

“USPS has forwarded this package
everywhere except to me. The
package contains prescription
medication that is now almost
a month overdue.
USPS needs to find it and get it
here by January 15, 2016 even
if you have to send it by FedEx.”

On January 16, my drugs were in California and I had not heard from USPS.

I hope they really are the drugs I ordered.

Philadelphia on January 18! It will be interesting to see if the drugs turn north or south; odds on they’re headed for North Puffin again. On the other hand, the postmaster in Marathon called and left a message. She had gotten my nastygram from the website. She didn’t leave a phone number, though. I tried to call back at the phone number given on (and at 1-800-Ask-USPS) but the number has been disconnected. Except when it’s busy.

The tracking page said my drugs were still in Philly on January 20 but I did finally reach the Marathon Post Office. A nice rep there said she would send a slip to a supervisor. She also suggested I call USPS customer service.

After 33 minutes on hold at the 1-800-CallUSPS number, the lovely Sammy came on the line. Sammy sounded Chinese which made me wonder. We do know USPS outsources a lot of functions, particularly truck transportation of mail, so I figured it’s possible. I found lots of tin hat sites saying that USPS outsources their call center but no real evidence. One fellow posted this:

“So here’s the deal – I called the USPS to get information on a lost package I had shipped. After 20 minutes of miscommunication, on both ends, I asked, ‘Are you working in India?’
“Response – ‘Yes.'”
“For shits and giggles, I called 1-800-ASK-USPS a few hours later. Had a brief conversation about the tracking of the same package. The accent prompted me to ask, in a pleasant voice… ‘What country are you working out of today?’
“Response – ‘China’.”

Anywho, Sammy promised to have a supervisor find my package, take it out of the forwarding system, and manually send it to me. Yeah, you’re right. That didn’t happen either.

The post office (eCustomerCare National @ emailed me January 23 and apologized for “the inconvenience that you have experienced in regards to the delivery of your package.” The tracking page had had no updates since the drugs arrived in Philly. eCustomerCare National suggested I ask Humana to send a replacement order.

1/28 Tracking Page
Arrived at Post Office, North Puffin VT

1/28 Tracking Page
Forwarded, North Puffin VT

The North Puffin Post Office received the drugs and forwarded them before I knew they had left Philly.


Still, when I called, the clerk there said she’d find them on the truck. She called the Swanton PO to divert them, tracked them down on the truck, had the driver hand the package to a clerk in the Swanton PO. The Swanton clerk had prepared a Priority Mail box so she dropped the bag of drugs in the new box and sent it. They departed the Swanton Post Office at 3:18 pm. The North Puffin clerk called me back with the tracking number. Expected Delivery Day is Monday, February 1, 2016.

Air Mail Package in the Baggage CompartmentJanuary 28. The cool news of the day is that, 52 days after Humana shipped them, a human bean found my drugs put them in a new box, and sent them by airplane.

January 29. According to, my drugs arrived in Nashua this morning … and stayed there. isn’t very good at updates.

“USPS is definitely not good at updates and communication,” Miz Arden said. “I rarely get information about USPS-based shipments, except those via Amazon or similar company that will themselves track the package and provide the updates. Sometimes USPS provides an update (I suspect the company who shipped with them worked that out with them), but it’s usually the day they ship, and then the day after the carrier placed it in your parcel box.”

They seem willing to tell us when things arrive at (some) entry points but seem to have no idea of departures and waypoints.

This package started in Phoenix, AZ. It went to North Puffin three times, to Florida twice, back to Phoenix, and surfed in California once before winding up in South Puffin after 54 days. You should see all its passport stamps!

US Mail AM107, a 1942 DC-3 in Ozark Airlines liveryJanuary 30. My drugs arrived! A day ahead of schedule and 54 days after they shipped. And all it took was a real person who put her hands on the package to rip it out of the forwarding system. The thin, gray plastic pouch inside the Priority Mail box looked like it had been ravaged by wolves. And I have no idea what Humana was talking to my doctor about.

At least we now know how to get a package from Phoenix to South Puffin, now. It has to go by way of the Ozarks.


Laboring for Service

This is a story of people laboring at their jobs. Or not.

The Post Office
The North Puffin branch Post Office no longer has a postmaster; we lost that distinction when the Postal Service decided we don’t rate service. Or at least not full time service. Our postmaster is in massive Puffin Center where, obviously, metropolitan rules must, must, must be enforced.

Our address here has been
P.O. Box 1
North Puffin VT 05990

for about the last umpty-seven years.

The North Puffin office has no real “Box 1” but our longtime postmaster set that up for us. In fact, we “share” the vanity box number with another, even longer-time resident. “It’s easy to keep straight,” she told me then.

We have a new clerk and she was ordered not to hand any mail across the window (I believe that means she’ll have to cut any packages up and fit them in our box) and to return any mail that is misaddressed. Especially mail to a “custom” box number.

In addition to our custom PO Box, we also have some mail that comes addressed to various forms of our street address. That’s fairly common in rural areas but it is increasing in these days of FedEx, UPS, and Amazon drone dropping boxes on the porch. Or the Porsche (our UPS driver left an ultra overnight envelope on the car seat once.) I’m thinking there will be a lot of pissed off campers if their credit card or cable bills or their car registrations get returned. After all, most credit card companies, cable companies, and DMVs have historically required street addresses.

“We all used to aim high. As a country we don’t aim high any more. We are too protective.”
— Walter Issacson.

Not to mention the fact that we have 37 years of precedent. And the Tyler Place, arguably a slightly larger mailer than the mighty HarperCo, has used PO Box 1 probably for longer.

Customer service? We don’ need no steenkin’ customer service. This is the Post Office, not a labor of love.

Story #2: Calendar Listings
This year is the 25th anniversary of our Summer Sounds concert series so we’re having a Big Blowout Benefit Music Festival with continuous music on Sunday, September 20, the last Sunday of summer.

The Town of Highgate, Vermont, was the original home of Summer Sounds and we’re having this bonanza in part to say “thank you!” The festival will raise money to build a band shell in Highgate for the next 25 years of music and will support programming at Camp&nbsp;Ta-Kum-Ta.

I posted listings for the Festival on the Free Press and Seven Days calendars. It took almost two hours each because the sites kept rejecting the entries for technical glitches. And each time they did, I had to fill in the info again.

It was so like my (and Vermont Health Exchange) experience, I wondered if CGI designed their forms.

Story #3: Internet Mail
I transferred a customer’s dot-com domain name from my old registrar to my business account at last week.

Simple, right? Get an AUTH code, click a few buttons, and away we go. It’s the kind of job that should need no human intervention.

Well, no. Finding the EPP request on the old site was a little time consuming but I did that without human intervention. Then I spent 1:39:00 on the phone with my tech support folk at making the transfer actually happen.

First the automated transfer page told me was “not available to transfer.”

Say what?

I called. The phone number on their site was out of service.

Uh oh.

Googled for another number and got through. Started explaining the problem. Got put on hold. And the call quietly evaporated. Called again. Explained the problem to a knowledgeable tech. In the Philippines, I think.

“OK,” he said. “Just send the AUTH code to me at”

Say what?

Apparently the mail system they give tech support is very slow. They use as a workaround. I had him send me an email from that address. It came through after getting hung in Gmail’s spam filtration. So. After the rest of that first hour passed, we got the transfer started. A couple of hours later, I got the “confirm transfer” instructions from I clicked the link.

Nupe. It went to the right page. I clicked the big green CONFIRM button and it faded and quit.

I called the other number and got through. Just started ‘splaining to the tech rep when the phone went back to the autoattend. I called in again and got a very nice lady in Connecticut in what sounded like her kitchen.


She transferred me back to the Philippines. Nice fellow. First level tech support so he was slow and had to consult but he got it done. 39 minutes later.

An (automated) email from this morning announced a “Successful change of provider for the domain”

This was a tale of people laboring at their jobs. Or not.

Story #1, the Post Office, is entirely a story of people at work, working hard to make a simple task harder for their customers.

Story #2, an Internet form, is a story that needed people at work, so an online form with no help desk person to back it up failed and failed for the customers.

Story #3, an Internet service, is another story of people at work, but this time working hard to make a simple task that unfortunately failed into a success for their customers.

Happy Labor Day, everyone. Liz Arden is back home from Burning Man and will labor all day to clean alkali dust out of every crevice. SWMBO and I are off to a picnic.


Sex on the Beach


According to Wikipedia, there are two general types of the cocktail: one made from vodka, peach schnapps, orange juice, and cranberry juice and one made from vodka, Chambord, Midori Melon Liqueur, pineapple juice, and cranberry juice. The former is an International Bartenders Association official cocktail but the latter is listed in the Mr. Boston Official Bartender’s Guide.

Both come with the warning that “this drink is not the for the faint of heart.”

A Google search for “sex on the beach” turned up about 313,000,000 results in 0.27 seconds.

Sex on the Beach
Apparently, that’s not for the faint of heart, either.

A Florida couple convicted in May of having sex on the beach up in Manatee County faced up to 15 years behind bars and must register as sex offenders for “illicit public sexcapades.”

The jury deliberated for about 15 minutes after watching sex-on-the-beach video during the 2-day trial.

A grandmother on Cortez Beach in Bradenton filmed the couple in what we once called “in flagrante delicto.” The prosecutor showed the video in court. The Associated Press reported that the video “showed [a 20-year old woman] moving on top of the 40-year-old caballero] in a sexual manner in broad daylight. Witnesses testified that a 3-year-old girl saw them.”

Illicit public sexcapades?

The couple declined the prosecutor’s plea deal offer. “We gave them a reasonable offer, what we felt was reasonable, and they decided it wasn’t something they wanted to accept responsibility for,” the prosecutor told The Miami Herald. “Despite the video, despite all the witnesses.”

A Google search for “sex on the beach video” returned only about 213,000,000 results in 0.25 seconds although none of them were the Bradenton grandmother’s production.

Ya gotta wonder about that granny, shooting a bad porn video on the beach. Why wasn’t she prosecuted?

A different bad guy attacked and stabbed a person he had followed home from the Wells Fargo in Sarasota. Cops believe the suspect is a white male in his twenties with short dark hair who drives a mid-nineties 4-door Mercedes Benz.

Not caught. Not prosecuted.

On the other hand, a Manatee County couple will spend time behind bars animal cruelty at their Manatee County shelter. The couple was charged last year after sheriff’s deputies raided the Napier Log Cabin Horse and Animal Sanctuary and confiscated some 300 animals. Convicted in February, she was sentenced to 270 days in county jail followed by three years of probation. he got 36 months followed by four years on probation. Both are also prohibited from owning or possessing animals.

Ya gotta wonder about a prosecutor spending a couple of days at trial and pushing for 15 year sentences on a couple making love. I guess they were the low hanging fruit, far more important than stabbings or abusing 300 animals.

I’ve never figured that sand was particularly lubricious, but if SWMBO or Caitlin, or Fanny, or Liz, or Missy wants to try geezer sex on the beach, I’m sure we can find a spot where Bradenton Granny isn’t around to shoot porn with her video cam.