Bathroom remodel – January 2012

In my post about the kitchen sink upgrade, I mentioned the bathtub fail that happened in January.  I realized that I had not posted any photos of the work Joey did to fix the master bathroom and closet.

The pipe leading out of the bathtub, and the seal around the drain had rusted through, and water was leaking under the tub and into the wall between the bathroom and the closet.  Obviously the plumbing needed to be repaired.  However, there were a couple of related projects that arose because of the leak.  The closet carpet was soaked, and despite several days of running a fan, it became evident that ripping out the carpet was the only way to go.  Water had gotten under the disgusting linoleum, which, in all honesty, I had just been waiting for an excuse to get rid of, and it had to be replaced as well.

Back in 2007, Joey installed hard wood floors in the living room and front room, he also laid tile in the hallway and front bathroom.  The tile he used matched our kitchen tile.  Happily there was lots of extra tile, enough to cover the bathroom, vanity, and closet floor.

Once we realized we would have to rip out all the flooring, I suggested that “we” go ahead and paint the walls.  Joey agreed.  We spent several days painting pieces of dry wall in order to decide what color we liked.  Both of us were leaning toward a purple shade, but then we were watching Sherlock, and we saw a room on the show that was painted a light green-blue color.  We both pointed at the screen and said, “hey, what do you think about that color?”  After a few trial colors we found one we both liked, and then Joey painted the whole room.


Summer 2012 Vacation Highlights and Links

Joey has finished posting all of the photos from our vacation this summer.  We drove about 5000 miles, through eight states, and visited four National Parks.

Check out the map below for details of our drive:

View National Parks Trip – Summer 2012 in a larger map

Pictures are worth a thousand words, so here are some of my favorite photos from the trip.  Below you can find the links to all of the photos, which, if you know Joey, you know there are lots of pictures!

Joey and friend in Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Laura and me at Grand Teton National Park

Joey, me, Laura, and Jason in front of Old Faithful, Yellowstone National Park

“Dancers” at Beauty Pool in Yellowstone National Park

Avalanche Lake, Glacier National Park

Zion National Park

McDonald Observatory, Fort Davis, Texas

Visit with Monica and Sean Foley in Golden, CO

Jackson, Wyoming and Grand Teton National Park

Yellowstone National Park: Old Faithful and the Upper Geyser Basin

Yellowstone National Park: Yellowstone Lake and Hayden Valley

Yellowstone National Park: Mammoth Hot Springs and Tower Fall

Yellowstone National Park: Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

Glacier National Park

Zion National Park

Davis Mountains State Park and McDonald Observatory

Plumbing antics continue

Our house was built in 1968. Young if you are a person, but old if you are plumbing. The plumbing in our house has been attempting to get our attention for more than a year now. Back in February 2011 Joey repaired the drain basket on our kitchen sink, and then almost immediately had to put in a new seal around the faucet.

Sometime in the summer of 2011, Joey fixed the faucets in the bathtub of the green bathroom. The real insanity came in January of 2012, when the kitchen sink backed up, and the bathtub in the master bathroom developed severe leaks.

Here we are in October of 2012, and the kitchen faucet leak has reemerged with a vengeance.  Joey and I had agreed when he made the last repair that if it started leaking again, we would not try to fix it, but simply replace the whole faucet assembly.  As Misty commented, “Spraying water was that old faucet’s raison d’etre. It’s dead now. Shows what choosing an inconsiderate raison d’etre can do for one.”

We decided rather than paying money for exactly the same faucet, which we were not particularly fond of, we would upgrade to a taller faucet.  As it turned out we upgraded not only the faucet, but also our filtered water solution.  We got a lovely faucet with integrated sprayer, which left a spot for a separate filtered water spigot.  Fantastic!
New faucet


Remembering Kepler

Yesterday I was listening to This American Life.  I have not finished listening to the episode because one of the first thing Ira Glass said was, “…it involves two scientists, one you have definitely heard of, Galileo, the other you may not know, you may just vaguely recall, he is one of the iconic figures of early astronomy, Johannes Kepler…”

That was all I heard before I paused the show, and ran to find Joey and ask if he thought that a large population of people who were unaware of Kepler’s contributions to astronomy and physics actually exists.  Joey agreed with Ira, that many people might not know Kepler, and even if they recognized his name, they might not recall what he did.  It seems I live in a special, magical world where conversations about Johannes Kepler, Tycho Brahe, Fermat, and other great thinkers are almost as common as conversations about the TV show we are watching (Once Upon a Time), or the YouTube video we are obsessed with (Gangnam Style).

I am deeply saddened by the idea that a person who contributed so much to our understanding of physics and astronomy is not better remembered.  So, at least in my small corner of the internet, I hope to correct the situation.

Here is what I remember of Kepler. Johannes Kepler was a German (although Germany was not yet a unified country) astronomer and mathematician who was born in the latter half of the 16th century.  He was a contemporary with Tycho Brahe and Galileo Galilei.  Kepler was also an astrologer, and he looked for a higher meaning or divine structure to the organization of the solar system.  Kepler developed a model of the solar system based on the Platonic solids.  This work led to a correspondence with Tycho Brahe, and eventually the two men worked together.  Brahe had much more accurate data about the position of the planets, based on his meticulous observations.  Brahe advised Kepler, and with this support and further observations of the orbit of Mars, Kepler devised his first law of planetary motion: The orbits of the planets are ellipses, with the sun at one of the foci (pardon the paraphrase, I am doing this from memory).

Kepler also developed two other planetary laws (you will have to check out the wiki article for the details of these.  They are more math-y, and I cannot recite them from memory).  Kepler’s three laws of planetary motion are still understood to be correct.  Kepler’s laws of planetary motion were later explained and supported by Isaac Newton’s laws of motion and theory of [universal] gravity.

Kepler developed a theory about lunar motion, and was able to measure lunar eclipses.

Kepler also worked with optics.  He was interested in understanding the strange light and shadows surrounding eclipses, and would up studying atmospheric refraction, as well as the optics of the human eye.  Kepler corresponded with Galileo, and set out to describe how the convex and concave lenses worked together to create Galileo’s telescope.  Kepler later created his own variant of the telescope which has higher magnification than Galileo’s.

Well, that is what I remember about Kepler.  Given the premise that many people do not know Kepler, I am guessing I did not learn about him in school.  My thought is that my association with people who are interested in math and physics have exposed me to this information about Kepler.  Tycho Brahe is my favorite astronomer (please tell me other people have favorite astronomers), and I know that I gained some of my knowledge about Kepler through reading about Brahe.  I know no one who knows me is shocked to discover that my memory has held onto random information that drifted through my environment.

What I have written here is based on my recollections.  I have checked my work against the interwebs, and it seems my memory was pretty good, although I missed much of the more nuanced bits of the math involved.  If you are interested in reading more about Johannes Kepler, check out the wikipedia article about him.  It is quite thorough, and has a great list of references and sources.

The Mad Tea Party

A colleague of mine is battling cancer.  One of our former teammates decided to put together a book of fun pictures and get well wishes to cheer him up.  When I got the email soliciting funny photos I started thinking about what photo I should take.  What costumes did I have at home? What silly situations would be easy to set up and photograph?

Joey has had the Mad Hatter hat for many years.  He usually wears it for the All Saints’ Mardi Gras celebration.  My aforementioned love of tea means that I have lots of teapots and tea cups.  I decided that a Mad Tea Party was the way to go!

Mad Tea Party set-up

I pulled out a brightly colored table cloth, laid out my favorite tea things, and asked Joey to grab his camera.  Joey helped me arrange everything on the table.   We took dozens of test shots as we adjusted various objects on the table so that the scene looked awesome.  I have a new-found respect for people who dress sets for photo shoots and films.  Making things look good on camera is not at all the same thing as making it look good in person!

Staging the tea party

After everything was set up, I realized that actually pouring tea would add to the finished photo.  I made a pot of my favorite tea, Drum Mountain, which is a wonderful Chinese clouds and mist green tea.  Joey did not like the way it looked when I poured tea into the cup I was holding.  We decided it would look more “mad” if I poured tea into space – but I was not about to pour my favorite tea onto the table and floor!  That would be truly crazy.  So I got a bowl and arranged it so it was hidden from the camera, and that is where I poured the tea.  I naturally drank the tea between each set of photos!

Drinking tea

Joey and I had a really great time putting the whole thing together.  The final result was fantastic.  I set the photo as my cover photo on Facebook.  Tons of people liked the photo, and I also got lots of great comments.
Mad Hatter
The co-worker who is putting together the book of well wishes was thrilled. She asked whether all of the tea things on the table are mine, and where I got them all. Here is the answer…

The white china with grey flowers (like the cup and teapot I am holding) is my good china, which is Noritake, purchased for my grandmother while my Uncle Rick was on leave in Tokyo during his tour in Vietnam. I was luck enough to inherit this china. Along with a dinner service for 12, I have 14 cups and saucers, cream, and sugar. Joey got the matching teapot for me for my birthday a few years ago.

The brown and blue stoneware are my everyday dishes. Cups, saucers, and sugar. This is the stoneware I grew up with, and my mom gave it to me when I got my first apartment.

The blue and while flowered cups and saucers were a thank you gift (along with the big blue flowered tea pot that is just below my arm and the small creamer you see in the right foreground) from Sujata Prabhu Camp for being matron of honor at her wedding.

The blue pot at the very back of the table is actually an insulated pot. It is a Danish design, that I first saw on my friend Ellen’s table, and had to have one! I use it during the winter to keep my tea warm all day.

The silver kettle is my pretty electric kettle. It was a gift from my mother after I boiled all the water out of my regular kettle for the 900th time. I have two electric kettles – this one is prettier, so it made the picture. The other electric kettle actually lets you set the temperature to which you want the water heated. This latter electric kettle was a Christmas present from my sister-in-law, Christinne. Although I use the adjustable kettle more, I keep the one in the picture because sometimes you need to brew two pots of tea at once!

The green and white cups, saucers, cream, and sugar were a wedding present from my Danish friend, Ellen – they are Royal Copenhagen. The white teapot with knitted cozy is a chatsford teapot that I bought to go with the Royal Copenhagen tea cups.

The small green tea pot on the right with the knitted cozy (I made that cozy and the one on the white teapot) is actually Joey’s – I bought it for him b/c we like different tea in the morning, and the handle is wide enough to fit his hand.

The purple gourd with the metal straw is a matte cup from Argentina. I bought it as a souvenir when Joey and I went to Buenos Aires in 2004.

The big white cup with a blue rim (mid- table) is actually a soup mug with Winnie-the-Pooh on it! It was a wedding present from my godchildren’s mother, Rachel.

The light green pot with cherry blossoms and matching cups is something I got as a souvenir on my recent trip to Washington, DC. We went for the cherry blossom festival. Being such fans of tea, Billy and I visited the tea shop Teaism. This hand-painted porcelain teapot caught my eye.  I asked if they would ship it for me, paid for it, and it was waiting for me when I got home!

The Mad Tea Party was a mad success.  I got a fun picture to cheer up my colleague, a fun evening with Joey, a tasty pot of tea, and a trip down memory lane.  Time well spent!


Retiring a teapot

Poor tea pot has fatal cracks  and must retire. So long faithful friend!
You may have heard that I like tea.  Love it.  Drink multiple pots of tea most days.  I buy my loose tea at the Tea Embassy here in Austin.  I actually travel with a small travel teapot and a selection of tea, so that I am never forced to drink bad tea.

At home I use a white, six-cup, Chatsford teapot.  It is wonderful.  I have had it for many years, approaching a decade, I think.  I keep it inside a tea cozy that I knit for it.  Because of the cozy, you cannot see the actual pot most of the time.  It is not the only teapot I have, but it is the one I use most frequently.  Today I had the sad realization that my fantastic, hard-working teapot has fatal cracks, and that tea is actually seeping out of these cracks.  So sad!

After a few moments of grief, I went online and ordered a new teapot. Exactly like the old one.  But before the new one arrives, I thought I would take a moment to mourn for the retiring teapot.  So long faithful friend, you will be missed!

Smile when it hurts

Several weeks ago Billy and I began attending Body Pump classes at Gold’s Gym.  A couple of our teachers mentioned that they enjoyed having me in class because I smiled all the time.  One of the teachers even noted that I seemed to smile more during the harder parts of the workout.

After hearing these observations, I began thinking about why I smiled during Body Pump classes.  The most obvious reason is that I enjoy the class, which has upbeat pop music and movements matched to the beat of the songs.  There is a large group of people participating, and an instructor shouting instructions and motivation throughout.  All of the above are things that make my workout experience more convivial.  But it occurred to me that there is another reason I smile when my workout gets tough.

I swam competitively throughout much of my growing up, including my first two years of high school.  During the first few weeks of school each year, we did not swim during our workouts – we had what we called dry land training.  Running, pull-ups, bear-crawling up the stadium steps, sit-ups, push-ups, any crazy exercise you can imagine that doesn’t involve water… basically torture.

The coach who oversaw these parent and school sanctioned torture sessions was a man named Bill Thomas.  I am smiling as I type his name.  Coach Thomas loved to have us go through an obstacle course which we alternately called the Tour de Force, Tour de Torture, or Tour de Thomas.  I actually cannot recollect if it had any official name, or maybe those were the official names!  At any rate, Coach Thomas relished making us swing from the monkey bars, do pull-ups, inverted push-ups, and probably a lot of other exercises that I have blocked from my mind.

Here is the thing.  We complained at the time, and I am complaining now, but the truth is, it was excellent training, and I am absolutely certain that it made me stronger and ultimately a better swimmer.  Frankly if Coach Thomas had continued to be in charge of my exercise regimen beyond high school, I would not need Weight Watchers or Body Pump now, because I would be completely fit already!

So back to the smiling.  Coach Thomas would assign additional exercises if you looked too pained while you completed any task he had set for you.  I actually trained myself to smile when he looked my way, so he would not get the idea that I needed anymore sit-ups with the medicine ball, or whatever.  Basically, I taught myself to smile when I had exercised to the point of hurting.  It seems that I learned the lesson so well that I am still smiling when it hurts twenty years later.

Coach Thomas, thank you for teaching me the value of grinning through the pain, and pushing myself to accomplish more than I thought I could.  This lesson has served me well in the gym and in life.

The Physics of a Yarn Stash

So a few days ago, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (aka The Yarn Harlot) posted about the troubles that knitters might encounter when packing for a trip (pretty much it boils down to not enough yarn, or incorrect tools for working with the yarn you have).  There are two obvious solutions: carry huge volumes of knitting related items with you at all times or purchase new knitting items while traveling.  I engage in both of these behaviors.  The latter often leads to the increase in the volume of the yarn stash.  One of the comments on Stephanie’s blog was extremely amusing to me, and I just had to re-post it.  It seemed to me the perfect union of knitting geek and “traditional” geek sensibilities.

The string theory involved with calculating the mass of your stash can be boiled down to – you must maintain either the volume or weight, which ever is greater or the universe will become unbalanced. More complicated calculations come into play when adult children move out and free up space, creating a vacuum that causes the stash to expand.
As a result, yarn stashes can only grow and never truly decrease. So the expanding yarn stash is not truly the fault of the knitter but is simply the equalizing of the universe.

-Posted by: kim at July 13, 2012 10:54 AM in response to Applied Experience on the Yarn Harlot’s blog

Kim’s comment put me in mind of an XKCD comic, entitled Depth.  For no other reason than it also makes a passing reference to string theory (or at least to  Brian Greene, its champion) who is depicted as a knitter in the comic.

Hope you enjoyed these two tidbits as much as I did.

Waterlogged afternoon

Joey, Elias, and Satchel - uncertain
Sujata and Aaron invited us over to meet Elias Aaron Camp, the newest member of their family on Sunday.  We took BBQ and went over for the afternoon.  We played with Satchel and held Elias.  We took a dip in the totally awesome salt water swimming pool.  As we were getting out of the pool, the weather went from lovely to quite threatening, with loud thundering.  The party moved inside, where we ate dinner, talked, and watched Thomas the Train.  By the time we left, the sky had opened up and was pouring rain.  Joey got us home safely and pretty quickly given the weather.  I am really looking forward to our next opportunity to visit the Camps.

Exercise: 02 Feb – 16 Jul 2012 Recap

I have been on Weight Watchers since February 2012.  I have lost almost 25 pounds, which I am pretty excited about.  I want to lose roughly 25 more pounds.

My exercise regimen has been less consistent than I would have liked.  I was working out about 3 times per week during February and March.  I started hiking about 3 times per week with Laura and Elanor in March, and that has pretty much continued since, with the exception of times when I was out of town.

Two weeks before we left for our trip to Yellowstone, I added Body Pump and yoga to the hiking.  I did 11 workouts during those two weeks.  While we were gone, I got exercise hiking around the parks.

Last week I did yoga once, and hiked three times.  This week my goal is to add a couple of Body Pump classes to the mix.  I feel like two weight lifting workouts, two hikes, and two yoga sessions would be a perfect workout week.  I am planning to build toward that goal.