Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Wasn't it Spring yesterday?

April 11 - temperature in the 70s, sunburn, sandals and t-shirts, gorgeous Springfest.



April 15 - snow covering the daffodils and hyacinths. Welcome to Indiana!


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

And Now For Something Completely Different

Spring has finally sprung, and to celebrate, Ana visited Purdue's Annual Springfest, featuring a Bug Bowl with cricket spitting competitions and an open house at the School of Veterinary Medicine. Purdue gets over 40,000 visitors, mostly families with children, for this event. It's packed. I only stayed for a short time and hung out around the vet school for the most part. I ate no bugs and spit no crickets this time, but there's always next year!



The campus was filled with yellow-and-white striped tents, all packed with parents and their children, run by student volunteers. The temperature reached the 70's and I got a bit of a sunburn while walking around; it was a perfect sunny spring day for Springfest. I headed over towards the petting zoo.


They had your typical llamas, goats, and rabbits. They seemed to be mostly hot and tired. There were fans in the barn, but the animals were just starting to shed their winter coats due to our extra-long, extra-cold winter and the day was just too much. The veterinary students had posters hanging by all of the animals discussing their proper care and general facts about them. They had a stethoscope with at least one of the rabbits so you could hear its heartbeat; that was surrounded by kids so I didn't get too close. They also had some ducklings and chicks to hold and pet. It was small, but really cool and it seemed to be a great learning experience for the kids. They also had a cow.


This is Buttercup. She seemed pretty done with the crowds and the day by the time I got there. She was the main attraction and had a pretty long line waiting to see her every time I walked by. Why, you ask? Do you get to milk her? Does she do tricks? Not exactly, but she does provide a very unique learning experience.


Can you see the appeal? Towards her rear, she has a fistula. What is a fistula? It is a hole. A hole between her stomach and the outside. It has a plastic ring around it and has healed nicely. This hole allows people to stick their hands inside her stomach and feel her digesting food. Yes, that's a human hand probing the cow's innards, feeling her stomach contract as it deals with the hay and grains she's eaten recently. Medically, this allows them to get healthy microbes to treat sick cows and gain a greater understanding of what might be going on inside a cow's 4-chambered stomach. It's also really cool.


Of course I did it too. It's creepy. Really creepy. But also really cool.


This guy is a retired greyhound. He's in his second career as a blood donor dog. He gives blood to have on hand at the animal hospital for surgeries and emergencies. This was an educational event, so they had a lot of really interesting exhibits to show what they do and to teach the community more about animals. Like these horses:


That is the digestive system of a horse, painted on its side so the general public can see. I couldn't tell you exactly what each organ was, but there they are in their color-coded, painted glory.


The second horse in that paddock had his skeleton painted on. I think this is a really cool idea, something I hadn't seen before. All in all, there were a lot of nice students presenting some very interesting and innovative educational experiences involving animals.

As I was heading home, I wandered through another set of nice students presenting educational experiences involving animals.


Yep, they're cooking mealworms for the audience to try. There was a cockroach exhibit and a few other things, but this one was the only picture-worthy exhibit I could get close to in the Bug Bowl area. If we have time, next year I'll drag Lee and make him spit a few crickets or try some mealworms. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

6th Full Day of Bathroom Renovations

Since the last bathroom update we've visited Buffalo and Louisville, submitted drafts of conference papers, and dealt with assorted other work and research stuff, but didn't really touch the bathroom.  Also when we got back from Louisville they closed all the roads (ALL the roads) to non-emergency traffic due to snow and extreme cold, which gives you a reason not to go to Home Depot for supplies for your next step.  There had been some minor touching up (I closed off the hole in the decking from moving the register box for instance) but the biggest difference was that all the wet nastiness has dried out completely, as far as we can tell.  All the wood that is still in looks good.

This is from before scraping the wood clean and drying it out - from before we left for Buffalo.

This is the after bleaching, scraping and drying - looks a lot better.

As you can see from the picture above, we decided to remove the plaster from the ceiling.  We originally hoped to keep that but when touching up some of the edges to try to get a flatter surface to mount sheetrock to, it became clear that significant areas of the plaster were already detached.  It was either drop the plaster or face the likelihood of a lumpy ceiling - we dropped the plaster.  The lathes look more level and they're holding up the insulation so I hope to keep those.

 Also I got serious about electrical stuff and put routing holes through the studs that should make putting in all-new wiring a snap, complete with nail plates so nobody like me later electrocutes himself installing a mirror or something.  One concern is that it appears that this room and like, half that side of the house are on a single circuit that MUST be original - it is cloth-wrapped and mounted on ceramic insulators and it goes all over the place.  As a lot of the attic floor is already up and I dug through insulation to find all the connections  (OK there are still a few missing, but I found a lot of them). I think we're going to go ahead and replace that monstrous circuit with about three separate smaller circuits that make more sense (ie, one per room for three rooms).  I will probably leave the old circuit in place, run new wiring where it needs to be, and when the old wiring is no longer connected to anything I'll just disconnect it from the source without removing it.  I will need to pull another 2-3 strategically placed pieces of attic decking, but once that is done I don't think doing the cable routing will be that bad - most of the walls are open to the basement or crawlspace and I already have several clear shots to the attic open.  I am going to need a lot more wire though.

It is now clear that we will not complete the renovation before the end of the break, in part because on Friday we're going to visit friends in Cincinnati.  Still, I am pretty sure we are not going to have a day as dirty as today again - that was the last of the plaster.  One of these days we're going to stop tearing things out and start putting them in.

We also spent a couple hours looking at vanities, fixtures, and fittings.  We bought some things, ordered some things, and haven't decided on some things.  Most of these aren't holding us up but the plumbing items are...Ana blames me for making the plumbing 'her' project, thus assigning it her luck instead of my own notably superior luck.  Everything we wanted or needed was out of stock everywhere, with expected restocking in March.  We won't be waiting that long and have chosen different components.  Not thrilled to pay more for stuff we like less but it will all be fine in the end.




Sunday, January 5, 2014

Mammoth Cave National Park

Haven't been bathroom renovation updates for a while because we haven't been at home.  I am sure everyone is waiting on the edge of their seats for more about that.  We went to Buffalo for Christmas, which we will not be blogging, and then to Louisville and Mammoth Cave National Park to meet up with my (Lee's) sister for a couple of days to hang out.  We drove down in a snowstorm but didn't drive into a ditch, stayed at a decent hotel in downtown Louisville, and ate at a couple of pretty solid restaurants. Since we're no longer in Japan and documenting food and whatnot we're only blogging Mammoth Cave.  A complete set of pictures is available here.


Mammoth Cave National Park is about a ninety minute drive south of Louisville and it wasn't a big deal getting there and back, so we signed up for both a morning and afternoon tour to see different parts of the cave.  The morning tour focused on history and went through areas of the cave that were explored starting thousands of years ago.  Apparently, Native Americans explored about 12 miles of the cave with torches thousands of years ago, which I think would be pretty scary - if you're 12 miles from the entrance and your torch goes out I expect it would be very challenging to get back to the entrance.  Fortunately for us, the trails have since been paved and lit with electricity so it was a pretty easy saunter for most of this tour.

This is the 'original' entrance that has been open for thousands of years

Our little handheld 'adventure' camera did really really well with pictures in the dark; more came out than didn't.  Mammoth is a 'dry' cave (meaning water is not still dripping through most of it) so while it is the biggest in the world by a large margin, it is somewhat less decorative than a wet cave that would have more stalagmites and so forth.

The clear path, lighting, and handrails made the cave feel almost like a fake cave, and disguised how far in and down we were - we went about a mile laterally underground and about 350 feet below the surface with a bunch of twists and turns.  Most parts were very open but in some we had to duck or contort to get through openings - they preferred to make the path fit the cave and not the other way round.


In some places the roof had been marked by candle or lantern smoke from 19th century explorers.


Fat Man's Misery was narrower than some other areas and the walls have been smoothed and polished by the passage of millions of people (literally).

Smoke from 1855

Many passages were...Mammoth...in proportions.

The "new" entrance was blasted by dynamite in the 20's or 30's.

Wooden stairs handled this entrance until the 60's but then they were so rickety they needed to be replaced and this entrance was closed for a while while they figured out how to best replace them.  According to the rangers, they went through a number of contractors that said it couldn't be done before hiring a company that generally fabricated submarines and knew a thing or two about stairs in confined spaces.  They weren't allowed to change the cave so the stairs spiral downward in elaborate and unusual ways.

Sometimes the stairs crossed through more open areas (this one has a BIG drop underneath it).

At a few points in both tours the rangers would stop and give a talk on the history and geology of what we were seeing.  Sometimes there were benches for people to sit on at these points, especially if the rangers planned to talk for a while.  Ana has a new record for distance below ground she has knitted of about 350 feet.  She was only knitting when seated, to keep hands free for railings, etc, the rest of the time.

Some walls had lichens on them but I'm really not sure how they survive down there.

We did see one area with dripstone formations that was pretty neat.




All in all I would recommend Mammoth Cave's tours as a relatively easy outing with good education about caves and geology.  We may go back for more tours and maybe the really difficult spelunking tour when they only take fit adults of less than a certain size (too big and you'd get stuck in a passage) sometime before we leave the area.  We'd also be interested to see some of the other notable cave national parks.

See Mom?  We didn't die.  

Sunday, December 22, 2013

4th & 5th Days of Bathroom Renovations

Day 4 was a little slow as Ana didn't feel well and I spent a lot of it at various hardware stores buying some things and picking up orders for others.  Also I ended up spending half the day working in the attic, following the trail of moisture from the sources up through the walls and into the between-joist spaces.

I originally went up into the attic to pull up a board to determine what I had to work with for between-joist space for a vent / fan and light setup for the shower.  Found more than I was looking for - some of the attic decking had to come out as there was no way to dry out and clean the space otherwise.

It appeared to me that the water vapor from the shower went up through the walls, passed through the insulation, touched the cold attic floor, condensed, and then fell back on the insulation.  Some of it was sopping, and this was more than three days after the shower had last been used.  I pulled all the boards with mildew on them and all the insulation, but the plaster under the insulation was dry.  This could have been so, so much worse if the plaster was soaked and the joist rotted through. As it was, some bleach, drying time, and better moisture management ought to fix the problem without requiring structural changes or bringing the ceiling down (we're planning to put fresh drywall over the old plaster for the ceiling).  I can replace the cut decking with pieces off the sides, it isn't even for some reason so it won't even look strange.  Won't look quite good as new due to the cut line, but it is an attic, not a living room - will be good enough and a lot better than it would look distorted by water and rot.

For day 5 I redid the register box in the room to be in the wall, not half-in-the-wall-and-half-in-the-floor, we pulled the tub, most of the floor, and some additional lathwork, and discovered that one of the major sources of moisture problems we've been finding is that the shower plumbing straight-up leaks.  This has probably been like this for years and was definitely the source of some of the bulging plaster.  With the tiles buckled, that allowed the moist air up the walls into the ceiling.  I am not sure why this problem didn't come to a head when the previous owners had the place - must have build up over time and then maybe reached a critical point recently that made things worse faster.

Ana looked up pictures of various forms of mildew and mold on the internet and determined that ours are of non-toxic varieties (good), are surface-dwelling and generally don't compromise structures (really good), and can be killed with bleach and scraped off without replacing boards (best).  So while we have already junked some scungy laths, we should be able to salvage most of the big stuff and have reason to believe that after we finish evil will not be undoing our work.  We're going to bleach and scrape twice, with about a week's drying time between them when we're going to pause and go to Buffalo.  First round of bleach went on today, so first round of scraping is tomorrow.  Will probably work on something else as well, haven't decided what yet.  With only one more day before driving to Buffalo I don't think going after the plumbing or electrical stuff is ideal, we'll see how it goes.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

3rd Day of Bathroom Renovations

Once you've removed the plaster, you have two options for hanging drywall. You either hang it over the laths, as long as they are still in decent shape and uniform enough, or you can remove all the laths and mount it directly on the studs. We're planning to do the former for most of the bathroom, but the laths on the outer wall were far too nasty for that. Day 3 included pulling out the insulation and laths from the outer wall so we can see how damaged that it really is and prepare for drywall as well as tidying up laths around the room, removing the medicine cabinet, and some other cleaning-up tasks. We also did some school stuff and didn't spend too much time on the bathroom.

Now with added towel for privacy!

As you can see, the wall beneath the window is still pretty gross. We're going to let it continue to dry out and consider our options once we've got the ventilation, wiring, and ductwork fixed. For Day 4, some of those are up for grabs.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

2nd Day of Christmas...Bathroom Renovations

Update from the front - plaster is off the walls and hauled out, probably 700-800 pounds worth given the number and weight of the bags.  I think carrying that out was more work than getting it off the walls.  We went full bunnysuits and respirators for today and that was a really good idea - super super messy and anytime the plaster was overhead some would come down on us.

I talked to a glass place about the window and it is kind of a specialty need, so we're getting a custom-made shower-glass-on-the-inside-double-pane-for-insulation unit made for us, seems like a good deal for $120 for more than six square feet.  I will still need to build a new frame around it and we won't have it for a month (I didn't want to do anything until I'd seen the internal structure there so we couldn't order until now). We'll have to work around the existing window for a bit, but I feel good about the eventual outcome. The new one will be somewhat bigger than the existing window and we're going to use some of the extra width from removing the counterweights to actually center the window (currently 2 inches closer to the left wall than the right), which will make tiling easier and better-looking. Overall it should add a lot of light, especially since the whole thing is frosted and we won't need to have blinds over the window all the time to obscure the shower and toilet from the neighbor's front-door view.

 The joke around here is that if we liked that rustic look we'd be done. We are not done.


Tomorrow there are  a number of projects to potentially undertake, including clearing all the little plaster bits out of the lathes, pulling down the ceiling (don't even know what it is made of yet), pulling out anything and everything with mold on it, moving the tub, and installing an in-wall register box for the vent unit. Almost certainly won't finish all of that but we'll see how it goes.


Also the roofers were roofing today and it scared the cats half to death. They ended up cowering in the 'cat cave' made out of a blanket draped over a chair. Sometimes they would sit on the seat (under the blanket) and sometimes on the floor but they never went far from it from 8-5, and since Ana and I were still working in the bathroom until ~6, they weren't really calm until we packed it in for the day around 7. Ana put out food and water for them near the cave. They will definitely not like tomorrow either; the roofers will be back in force. Between the noise they're making and the noise we're making, it is properly noisy around here.