Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Back from Samsonville yesterday. It was a wonderful Christmas, hard to imagine better. We made it to Samsonville in time for Christmas Eve at my sister's. Bob and I went to midnight mass. Christmas Day was at my parents', and on Saturday we hosted Bob's family at our house.

Getting back into the working groove will not be easy. I didn't use the computer very much, and so I had about 100 emails, and only a (relatively) small proportion were spam. Answer them is all I did today, tomorrow it will be back to the other stuff. Luckily, I made the grading deadline on the 23rd, so there is no student evaluation still pending. Of course, there were two emails from students asking "why did I get this grade, I deserved better?" (Which always makes me think, why didn't I ever think to ask that question of faculty when I was a student?)

I got a nice new digital camera, which probably means I'll be using more pictures here. Eventually, that is...when I figure out how to use it. I didn't take even one picture in Samsonville, and we already took the tree we had there down!

I got many books this year...several novels by Margaret Atwood and Sandra Dallas, and a calendar with William Wegman photographs. And a silly little cat and dog joke book.

Monday, December 22, 2003

The tub drain in our Castleton house refuses to be tamed. Sometime in about 1948 someone got the idea that the house needed indoor plumbing. The kitchen was moved to the basement, and as a part of this renovation, a small addition was built for a bathroom. Problem is, this little separate room has to withstand the elements without much help from the main house. Then, in the 1970s or early 1980s, it suffered the indignity of a car driving down the hill, and crashing into its side. The collision knocked the tub across the room. Maybe as a part of the repair, the old clawfoot tub was replaced by a more modern variety. So now the second problem is, the tub has an under the floor trap and drain, which often freezes.

The tub had heat tape around that difficult pipe when we moved in, which we promptly removed for safety reasons. The bathroom has been extensively renovated in the years we have lived here, and even the tub drain pipe has been replaced, but the under the floor design is the same. We've insulated, fixed cracks, replaced windows, and added new heat. It is better, but still, any time it gets below 10 degrees or so the risk of freezing is there.

Generally, we get one freeze per winter -- then we never forget to leave the fawcet dripping in the tub any time the temperature drops. It is a wasteful solution, that works. On our long to do list, is replacing the tub with one of the antique clawfoot variety (which we have in Samsonville, and we might get new there and use that one). But there are quite a few projects ahead of that one.

We've been lucky this year, for although there has been plenty of snow, the temperature has not been too bad, and there have been no freezes. Unfortunately, we learned this morning that a bit warmer than 10 degrees will freeze it, if a few days pass without the tub being used. We spent Saturday night in Samsonville, and so there were no Sunday showers in Castleton. Bob informed me of the situation this morning, as he left for work. "Will you unfreeze it today?" he asked, for he was probably already late.

I protested. Couldn't it wait until evening, and we could both work on it? "Did you bail the bathtub?" I woke up enough to ask. "No," he said. Ugh. So if I wanted to take a shower, I'd have to bail that water first, or defrost the drain. "I thought maybe the warm water would melt the ice in the trap," he offered on his way out.

I dragged myself down to the bathroom after he left, took the ceramic cube heater from the closet, set it up in the bathroom, and (though I knew it was futile) hoped that would do the trick. After two hours of the cube on full blast in the bathroom, sort of pointed at the tub drain area, the room was like an oven (because it is not all that cold outside today) but it did nothing to the tub ice jam, and the foot of water in there now was ice cold. Even though it was above freezing outside, it needs to be really warm to unfreeze the drain once it has frozen.

Unfreezing the drain involves putting the ceramic cube heater in the crawl space under the bathroom. There is a small door to the crawl space in the foundation, on the other side of the fenced area. I debated my options over coffee. If I waited until evening, it would be dark, and colder outside. So, I hunted, cursed, and finally found (actually with less difficulty than usual, as we have gotten fairly organized) and gathered all the needed elements, suited up, and went out there. Discovered that the gate is snowed shut and cursed some more. Considered going down the stairs near the garden and getting there from the other side - discovered a mountain of waist-deep snow all down the stairs. Cursed some more. Then I chopped the gate out with the snow shovel and got over to the crawl space door.

I opened the crawl space. It wasn't that bad - I mean there were a lot of awful looking dead spiders (and I even saw one live one), there were a few tiny mouse turds in the insulation, but not that much evidence of rodents etc. and it was dry, and not too dark, improved even more by a flashlight. The pipes themselves looked fine. I really couldn't get very far into the crawl space - there is too much snow to kneel in it for very long, laying down was out of the question, and I am not all that limber any more -- although I couldn't remember how far I used to go in, maybe not that far? Anyway, I set it all up, went inside, and fifteen minutes later the tub drained. When I was retrieving all the junk from outside, the phone rang. Why does that always happen? It was Bob, wondering if the warm water in the tub had melted the ice jam? Umm, no.

So I hosed off the dead bugs from my hair, and ran the hot water in the tub for a while, and we're back in business. And I learned that we will absolutely have to shovel the gate at least a little after future snowstorms, also remember to leave the fawcet dripping when we will be away overnight in the winter - even if it isn't that cold. Maybe the tub project should move up a few notches on the to do list?

Saturday, December 20, 2003

A friend sent me this link. Usually I find this sort of site kind of hokey, and I am not that into circulating "FWD" emails (not that this was a FWD, this was sent just to me). But this is a beautiful, thoughtful, well-designed and tasteful site. Happy holidays!

Monday, December 15, 2003

Another nor'easter arrived today. The snow is heavy, almost the consistency of sand!

Here are two charities for animal lovers that are worthy of donation: The Catskill Animal Sanctuary rescues farm animals. The North Shore Animal League is a large no-kill shelter for cats and dogs.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

I found out today that I got the new assignment. Hooray! So this means I'll be teaching 5 classes plus graduate student advisement in the Spring. I don't know why I'm so happy, because I will be so busy! The life of an adjunct...but I do know why I am happy, it is new, and interesting, and a challenge. And I will have 4 graduate students and 20 undergraduate students to help with the two new classes (I'm guessing the enrollment must be fairly large).

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Monday, December 08, 2003

Yes, the snow came, and the total: somewhere around two feet. Rudy rolled in delight at 6 inches, but once there was more than a foot his enthusiasm waned. He resumed rolling after we cleared the patio a little, once it stopped snowing.

Our teenage neighbor spent all day Saturday shoveling, the storm had mostly tapered off by Sunday afternoon, Troy didn't cancel the event, so we retrieved the truck from off-street parking and went to the Victorian Stroll. The roads had been plowed and weren't terrible, but it still was great to have 4WD.

The Victorian Stroll was great! All that snow made it even better. It was beautiful, it slows everything down, and it brings out the best in everyone. We visited the craft fair at the Atrium, the greens show at the Rensselaer County Historical Society, and the tree lighting at City Hall. There was a silent auction at the Historical Society, and we got a beautiful wreath. Afterwards we ate dinner at Monument Square Cafe, where Santa was playing the sax! His picture is in the Times Union story. I took a few pictures too, and I'll post some eventually.

Friday, December 05, 2003

Snow is coming. We were going to go to Samsonville tonight, and come back early Sunday to go to the Victorian Stroll in Troy, but we'll be staying in Castleton this weekend instead. The Stroll is still a possibility, but at this point, that remains to be seen. I guess we'll clean (it needs it) and get a Christmas tree, and maybe I'll even get totally caught up on work...permissions, student essays, updating my c.v. Well, at least it will make the end of the semester easier.

The first major snow of the season is always exciting. Soon Rudy will be rolling in the snow.

Monday, December 01, 2003

Busy more-than-week. I finished the education book late Wednesday-early Thursday (that means 2 a.m.) after several half-days (that means 12 hour stretches). Late Tuesday's-early Wednesday's ended at 4 a.m. I'm an owl but I'm not as up to all-nighters as in the past. But, I made my deadline. When I emailed Wednesday morning, I got an "out of office" for the holiday (until today!) message back from the editor. So I suppose I could have delayed sending it until today, but I wanted to be done with it, and I didn't want to work on it while in S'ville. (Almost managed it, I did have to revise the invoice, as I had undercharged them by $25 on the original.)

So, I have a bunch of other work that piled up in those days - a batch of essays to grade for the online class, a few letters of recommendation for graduate school for former students, and a booklet from Gully Brook Press (my operation is print-on-demand). The internet access for my university account seems to be down - so on campus duties will have to wait.

I started the work marathon with some fun - we saw Noises Off at the university on 11/22. It was great! Fun set. I am impressed with the theater department's productions. This time, the play was in the larger auditorium at the performing arts center, and that space is more comfortable than the small theater where the last performance we saw was held. Tonight, we are going to see A Christmas Carol at Proctor's.

Thanksgiving was especially nice, and over the weekend we made some progress on finishing the house. (The swimming pool guarantees no work is done in the summer.) We got a fireplace!

Here's an important link (thanks Ma) to a letter-writing campaign to Congress, from the ASPCA. You can email in support of H.R. 857, which will ban the slaughter of horses for human consumption and the domestic and international transport of live horses or horseflesh for human consumption.