Sunday, March 04, 2018

Introducing Cyril

For years, we have been discussing and debating getting another dog. We considered adding a mutt to the family in order to avoid the myriad health problems associated with a purebred dog. We thought about getting a big dog, maybe a pit mix, since we have the space and both enjoy walking with the dogs. We perused the options endlessly on PetFinder before and after it was referred to as "something that resembles Tinder for dogs" on This is Us.

As an aside, in attempting to find a link to that clip I googled "Tinder for dogs" and came up with the following:

  • BarkBuddy: An app designed to help you "find fluffy singles near you," BarkBuddy connects people "with cute pups that need a home."
  • Tindog: This may or may not be defunct, but looks like it was an app to help people with dogs meet dogs (and their owners). It may or may not match both the dogs and the owners.
  • Dog Date Afternoon: More explicitly connects single people who want to date but want to make sure that their dogs are compatible before they invest any more energy into a potential relationship. 
  • Allpaws: Another app to facilitate pet adoptions.
  • Twindog: Looks suspiciously similar to Tindog, and I wonder whether there wasn't some sort of lawsuit that resulted in a name change here... 
After so much going back and forth and listing the pros and cons of getting another dog, we decided to move forward and applied to adopt another Boston Terrier. We wanted Walter to have a buddy in the autumn and winter of his years, and after we saw this little guy and realized that he had been returned multiple times due to behavior issues, we couldn't say no. We found him through the East Tennessee Boston Terrier Rescue. Having adopted Walter through the Midwest Boston Terrier Rescue, we were committed to a rescue dog. 

And here he is:

Cyril is a 2.5 year old brown/brindle Boston Terrier.

From the moment he arrived, he and Walter bonded over their shared love of blankets. They are shown here in the heated throw they both adore.

 In the morning sunshine, there's no need to burrow...

 And sometimes when Cyril gets too hot under the blankets, he hops out and sprawls out on the floor to cool down.

Of the cats, only Aleks has condescended to snuggle NEAR Cyril. I know he'll eventually learn that they can snuggle just like he does with Walter, but for now he's a bit standoffish. Eli has barely condescended to come downstairs since Cyril arrived... 

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Knits of 2017

At the beginning of the year, I like to reflect on the prior year's crafting. Not only does this tend to inspire me for the year to come, but it greatly appeals to the data analyst in me. You can find all of my knitting-related posts by clicking the "knitting" tag in the sidebar, or peruse the 201020112012, and 2016 lists here. Ravelry, which allows me to easily track my progress and record my projects, reveals the following yearly yardage totals that are 100% predictable when you consider how residency went:
  • 2014: 851 yards
  • 2015: 1,988 yards
  • 2016: 5,159 yards
  • 2017: 5,909 yards
The second half of 2017 was particularly productive, as residency was over and I had a bunch of cross-country drives during which to knit. The tally for 2017 is as follows:

  • 2 pair of mittens/gloves
  • 3 scarves
  • 4 hats
  • 9 baby sweaters 
The baby sweaters continue to dominate the knitting focus, and I anticipate that this will continue into 2018!

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Step 0: Address some small plumbing issues

One of the ongoing challenges of the house is the plumbing. Similar to other systems, (e.g. the electrical system and the decorating system) some corners had been cut over the past 85 years of rentals and repairs. Notably, before we moved in, the line between the house and the sewer was not working. This resulted in a rather unsavory situation under the porch and at another point in the crawlspace that has since been remedied.  This required digging up the front yard!

The digging was delayed by freezing weather, but fortunately was complete before Snowpocalypse (pictured here) came to Durham. 

Although that was the largest thing, we've had a few other plumbing issues come up.

1. It was clear after our home inspection that one of our bathrooms had enough water damage/rotting wood in the floor that filling the tub might result in a sort of cable-less elevator situation riding downward into the crawl space. We weren't sure whether the tub/toilet/sink in that bathroom had an ongoing leak, or whether it was old damage. We've subsequently had the toilet and sink cleared, and are deferring use of the tub until we can replace the subfloor and flooring and make sure that the walls are made of something other than mold.

2. The upstairs bathroom is just the sort of endearing space that I love and that normal height people cannot comfortably navigate. We've been somewhat uncertain as to whether water leaks from the fixtures here also, and so have limited usage in that bathroom.

Good luck peeing standing up, gentlemen over 5' tall...

3. The other downstairs bathroom, which we referred to as "the functional bathroom" prior to confirming it was safe to use the toilet and sink in the other downstairs bathroom, is also a work in progress. All of the fixtures seemed to work, which we considered a win, but there was only a tub and no shower. Eli, who likes to drink from the tub preferentially, did not mind, but it was not working well for Lynn and I. 

Although Lynn has done the lion's share of the house work, I did participate in the conversion of the tub to a shower! I learned more about plumber's putty and pipe joint sealant than I ever really wanted to know, and can now recognize "the plumbing guy" at Home Depot. Prior to completing this, I was drawing a "quick" bath each morning before work, which is not really a thing that people do... Now I've installed the shower and Lynn has hung the shower curtain, which was really the much more significant task. We removed a hideous cabinet from the wall and have learned a great deal about mounting things to plaster. 
 The faucet removed from the tub. You'll notice that part of the metal is spontaneously disintegrating because it's so old and corroded. That curved water spout piece was the closest we had to a functional "shower" for a few weeks...

Eli looks disparagingly at the disassembled faucet. 

Removing the cabinet revealed several interesting prior paint choices in the bathroom. You can also see where there was a different shape of window previously. 

The upside-down bathroom cabinet is a temporary stand-in for pantry shelves!

And the shower works!

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Step 3: Remove the ugly/dangerous/dirty things from the ceilings.

It had not previously occurred to me that there were so many ugly/dangerous/dirty things that could be on ceilings. I think I'd imagined that anything dirty would fall down from the top of the room, rendering the floor filthy, but somehow leaving the ceiling pristine. Not so. The original ceilings in our place are bead board - planks of wood with rounded edges and a groove in the middle such that it looks like twice as many smaller boards. On top of the [undoubtedly lead based] paint on these gems was a layer of wallpaper (likely with asbestos), and then eight inches of cobwebs and random wires and extension cords, and then a drop ceiling. As those things have come down, we've only found one hole in the ceiling, and it's small. 

Work-life has been busy, so this step has been almost entirely conducted without me present, but still consulting on the phone and demanding constant photos of the progress. Here's how things are looking:

The bedroom with the drop ceiling tiles removed, but with the frame still up and the wallpaper underneath. It almost looks like a geometric pattern, but it's really just water damage...

The ceiling revealed, including a small hole...
The bedroom in its current glory. This time it's the air scrubber sitting jauntily by the fireplace. You can particularly appreciate in this photo that the white paint on the walls stops where the drop ceiling was placed. It now gives this wild edging effect wherein there is white paint, and then about six inches of unpainted faux-wood paneling, then a gap with crazy looking wallpaper, then the picture molding, then the ceiling. Somehow beyond shabby chic...

The living room ceiling is the same material, but a slightly different color of blue-gray. Also, there is still peel-and-stick linoleum in there. I think the previous residents kept the linoleum company in business. There are miles of it...

Overall the bead board is in good shape, and it's beautiful. Once it's scraped and repainted (with lead-safe masks, mom, really) it will be restored to it's former glory. 

I'll leave you with a funny list of how this move has altered my search history in my phone seemingly irrevocably. When I type the word "Durham" into Google, it prompts me for the following items:

In fairness, I did once Google the toilet rebate program after seeing an ad for it on a television in a lunch place. Only in recent weeks have I heard "Do you need a more water efficient toilet?" on a television and thought, "Why yes, I do!"

Friday, December 22, 2017

Step 2: Connect the top and the bottom floors

When the house was built, it was used as a rooming house. Judging from the holes and patches in the walls, it seems that at some point it may have been configured as a duplex. Most recently it was set up as two separate apartments, a larger one on the first floor and a smaller on the second floor. In order to achieve this, the stairwell in the middle of the house was boarded up. There were a series of two-by-fours, two-by-eights, and two-by-unclear-slightly-larger-amounts which were nailed to a frame of two-by-fours, and then plywood was nailed over the whole thing. The general approach to building this separation seems to have been that more and larger nails were better - no need for screws or other building materials that are easily removed. 

The first of the plywood comes up. As an aside, we don't have any lights upstairs right now, so this stunning photo shoot lighting is from a phone and the crack in the "floorboards". 

Lynn uses the sledgehammer to remove another board. She's kneeling on a weird long step/platform that was also built in, presumably for some security purpose I cannot fathom. 

The stairwell revealed!

Completely connected!

I'll have to make a point tomorrow of taking a picture of the sawed-off banister that is hot glued into the wall. 

Step 1: Remove the ugly/dangerous/dirty things from the floors.

There are so many ways to define the beginning of adulthood. Those of us who are still trainees in our 30's tend to spend a lot of time justifying that we transitioned to being "real adults" when we graduate from college, started supporting ourselves and our scholarly endeavors, moved away, became a "real doctor," or completed all of the training necessary for licensure and board certification. I will stand by my insistence in all of these milestones as markers of a truly adult existence, but will qualify that by staying that I've come to believe that there is not really a firm threshold to cross from young person to adult. 

And then we bought a house. As a milestone, it's out of reach for so many that adulthood certainly can't be predicated on home ownership. In the setting of the recent financial crisis, frankly, it seems imprudent to even suggest that signing for a mortgage is a right of passage. Nonetheless, I don't know that I've ever felt more like an adult than when we sat and, rather anticlimactically I might add, signed on the dotted lines and received the keys to our new home. 

As soon as the deed was registered, we started on the massive project that I anticipate chronicling here: restoring a 1933 gem to it's previous glory. There are layers of tile and carpet over the hardwood floors. The paint on the door frames and baseboards is so thick that they appear rounded in places, and there is certainly lead in the deeper layers. There are likely asbestos-filled wallpaper and tiles in many rooms, and although less medically ill-advised, the decor choices in most of the rooms were not good. 

Step 1: Remove the ugly/dangerous/dirty things from the floors. 

 Distressing carpet gives way to bright green carpet pad, which is stapled to thin wood paneling over the original hardwood floors. Oh, and some of what were supposed to be delicate nails holding the tack strip around the edges are actually 2.5" carpentry nails. 

 The first real glimpse of the hardwood floors. 

The shop vac poses jauntily with the fully uncovered hardwood floors. 

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Down dog, a meditative cat, and a mystery

I'm truly settling in to fellowship life! Leading indicators:

1. I have been able to make progress reading a novel in more than 0.5-1 page increments before I fall asleep.  I've been reading On Beauty by Zadie Smith. I highly recommend it.

2. I've started getting back into yoga. I'm not yet back to my Ashtanga life, but I've been using this app called Down Dog that will put together a series of poses that actually make sense for almost any time interval. The dog generally sleeps through any yoga in the morning, but the cat is very keen on joining me.

3. I completed my 50 mile bike ride, and learned of an amazing mid- or post-ride snack: a spoon full of peanut butter rolled in a mixture of M&Ms, mini peanut butter cups, and pretzel bits. This was quite possibly the highlight of a rather rainy and gray ride. The sunniest bit is shown below. I have also made a new cycling friend in the triangle, and I've got plans for more rides in the coming weeks. 

We took Walter to the ocean after my ride, even though it was a rainy and gray.

And finally, unrelated to my progress toward normalcy, there is a mystery involving Clyde. He had been thriving, and even had leaves that looked variegated in color like his old self. Then, one day last week he abruptly lost all of them. We hadn't had rain in a bit, and I'm not amazing with the watering can, but I really don't think that I would have offed him that quickly. I'm pretty sure that some creature ate the stems, because I saw one laying in all of it's green and purple glory next to the pot. I'm starting again from scratch, and hoping that he can make another comeback. 

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

First training ride, and a Clyde update

Today was my first official training ride for Bike MS: Breakaway to the Beach! I rode a little over 10 miles, exploring some of the parts of Chapel Hill that I haven't seen before. Turns out the UNC golf course is fancy... and to put the hills in perspective, on my usual little 14 mile loop around San Francisco I would gain approximately 1,600 ft of elevation, whereas my 10 mile loop today was just shy of 500 ft. Despite the grade not even approaching that of San Francisco, I am out of shape enough to shift down significantly and pant my way up even the little ones around here!

And in case you were hoping for a reminder, here it is: Click here to help to meet my fundraising goal of $1000! Thank you so incredibly much to those of you who have donated already.

There are a bunch of lush bike paths all over Chapel Hill. Here's one I hit on my ride this morning.

In addition to doing my part to get to a world free of MS, I'm also contributing to the beautiful greenery that defines the North Carolina summer landscape! Here is my most recent photo of Clyde, who has really been flourishing in the rain. He even has some of the darker color in his leaves now!

Still not quite filling the pot, but looking more like a normal plant every day.