Category Archives: Weekend Update!

The MRI

On Saturday I got an MRI.

I’ve had a lump on my shoulder for a really long time and recently it started discomforting me at night. I went to get it checked out a week or so ago, and my Doctor advised an MRI. Now that I’ve experienced it, I figured I’d share my knowledge so if any of you find yourselves someday strapped down and rolled into the mouth of the Magnetic beast, you will be fully prepared.

MRI: Magnetic resonance imaging

How does it work? The MRI uses colossal magnets to align all the polar stuff in your body. Then radio frequency pulses are fired through perpendicular to the newly aligned stuff. The frequency pushes the polar stuff out of alignment. When the radio is turned off, the now misaligned stuff spins back into alignment releasing energy. The energy is recorded. Different tissues release energy differently so the techs are able to “see” what’s inside. Basically it’s Magic.

What’s it like?

MRIs are big ticket machines so the scheduling, at least at our local facility, was pretty specific. I showed up at 3:40, filled out paperwork for 10 minutes and was promptly taken into the lab. Most of the paperwork was intended to confirm that I didn’t have any metal in my body (like pins, staples, or shrapnel). Since MRIs use seriously gargantuan magnets I can only imagine that having metal on/in your person would unanimously qualify as a bad day.

After my interview, the tech let me lock up my personal items and reviewed my clothing.

“you can keep your shirt and your sandals. Underwear is fine, but you’ll have to remove your belt and shorts.” He handed me a pair of light shorts with a fabric belt to wear instead. “And you can keep your ring on.”

I got changed and met the techs at the entrance of the MRI.

An MRI looks like a immense doughnut with a stretcher in the middle. I was invited to lay down on the stretcher. Since my shoulder was the point of interest, I put my shoulder into a form that looked like a medieval shoulder guard (fun fact: this type of armor is called a pauldron). I accepted an offer for an additional head pillow as the technician raised my legs atop a comfortable wedge.

Before the machine turned on, the technician presented me with some basic info:

  1. The machine is loud
  2. I was not allowed to move and would be strapped down to aid in this measure*
  3. The experience would last 30-40 minutes
  4. I can listen to music!

*throughout the event the techs would be taking pictures with the MRI. Since the pictures would be compared with one another they need to be as positionally similar as possible: the less the patient moves the better

“We have Pandora, what station would you like?”

“ooh, I’ll take Jazz please.”

lesson learned: never request general music genres. For some reason it seems that everyone else who thinks they have a jazz station actually have a smooth jazz station. This is a deep travesty. My 40 minutes was mostly Kenny G. For those unfamiliar with Jazz, this is like asking for Rock expecting Metallica and getting 40 minutes of Credence Clearwater Revival.

As the technicians left the room, the stretcher rolled inside the MRI tube making me feel like I was in a science fiction movie. It’s hard to describe the size of the inside. I’ve never been inside a tanning booth, but the MRI space seemed to be about that size*. I had maybe 4-5 inches from my nose to the inner diameter of the machine.

*Fun business idea: Tanning booth MRIs for people who are concerned about cancer but MORE concerned about looking hella sweet at the beach this Tuesday for Marcia’s annual beach volleyball meet-up.

My headset came alive with the tech’s voice

“We’re going to begin. Please remain still. The first picture will take 20 seconds.”

The music began and I winced with realization that this horrible synth intro would continue for 40 minutes.

And then they turned on the machine with a subtle whirring. The first three pictures (20 seconds, 2 minutes, and 3.5 minutes) all sounded like single tones at various pitches. It was loud, but not insanely so. No louder than if you were inside your car holding down your car horn. The remainder of the pictures were taking with bangs and bams in fast repetition. Kind of like a really loud sprinkler on it’s return, or a muffled jackhammer. Other pictures made a sound like what I imagine would arise if you threw a baseball inside a red six quart kitchen aid mixer equipped with a paddle and set to speed 8.

After 15 minutes, I was taken out and injected with some sort of dye that would create contrast in the blood. This was done so that if by some unfortunate circumstance my lump was a tumor, it would stand out. Tumors get blood. Fatty cysts, do not.*

*or so I was told by the tech

The process repeated for another 15-20 minutes after which I was pulled out and we were done!

Overall, the most uncomfortable part of the process was the smooth jazz. Occasionally parts of my arm felt tingly but this may have been the vibrations from the noise as much as the magnetic alignment and realignment of my tissues. I applaud the team at Shoreline Medical Center in Westbrook for their professionalism and attention to my comfort.

I should find out my results this week!

The Board Room

In doing research for no-technology February I stumbled upon a Board Game cafe in Middletown called “the board room”. For a $5 cover, you go in and can play any of a TON of games that they have on the shelves. On top of that, they have a counter where you can buy tasty gaming treats like cookies, coffees, and mac’n’cheese. Check out the website for more info.

What a clever idea! I’ll let y’all know how it is.

Doors are complicated.

This past weekend my father in law came over and we worked aggressively on building the doors for this biggest of big summer projects: The Shed of 2015.

Prior to the final website post which will hopefully show up next week (if I’m done with the shed by then), here’s a quick approximation of the amount of time for each portion of this project:

Foundation: 18 hrs
Framing: 20 hrs (almost entirely prep time)
Siding and roofing: 8 hrs
Shingling: 12 hrs
Windows: 6 hrs
Trim: 12 hrs
Door: 8 hrs
Trips back and forth from the local hardware store to pick up the random forgotten fastener: 7000 hrs

The most surprising part so far? THE DOORS TOOK AN ENTIRE DAY TO BUILD.

I’m stunned at how complicated doors are. Granted, the doors that I designed were a bit more elaborate than your run of the mill plywood doors. These were constructed as tongue and groove cedar planks with z-battens on the back and attractive trim-stuffs on the front. BUT STILL! A whole day for two 24″ wide doors? I’m genuinely surprised.

So what’s left before I can post the full recap? Not too much. Corner trim, door hardware, and edge trim for the exterior. The interior only requires some final window work, peg-board, and perhaps a shelf or two.

We are CLOSE.

Long Flights vs. Short Flights

For me there is one very particular difference between a long and a short flight. It’s more potent then the time in the air, the TV in the back of the seat in front of you, the jet lag or the mediocre dinner options (“and for you sir? Pasta mush or chickenish bits?”)

It’s acknowledgment of the length.

On a 2-4 hour flight, I’m constantly looking at the time. How close are we? How much longer before descent? Why is this coffee so bad? For a 10-15 hour flight, I’ve skipped over the first four stages of grief and started right in at Acceptance. I’m cool with this flight. I know I’m going to be here for what seems like forever so let’s just try and enjoy the ride. Yeah, my seat is absurdly uncomfortable and I’m suffering from dehydration but this was expected. Oh, what? Well would you look at that! Only 6 hours left!

The same can be said about my current home project: Shed Construction.

The patio? the vegetable garden? Both small projects compared to this shed. Each of those small endeavors was a trial of sanity as I struggled with not meeting my personal deadlines and going over budget. But the shed? This is a PROJECT. It’s HUUUUUGE. It feels a lot like a 15 hour flight. This is going to take forever and it’s going to cost way more than I expect. So let’s just go with it!

I started planning the shed maybe 6 weeks ago. It’s been a slow trudge through the planning process: picking designs, buying supplies, and eventually starting construction. I’ve had help the entire way which has made everything much more pleasant. Dad D assisted with the foundation, Jen with the wood prep, and my father in law (Dad G) with the framing. It has been genuinely fun. Admittedly my scheduling has been overambitious but the project keeps heading towards its destination and right now I’ll likely get there before the first snow fall. And even if it goes past that? Totally cool. I recognize that this is the biggest construction project I’ve yet embarked on.

If you’re considering building a shed, I strongly encourage you to proceed. It’s far different from typical home projects and mostly in a good way.

Peaky Blinders

A week ago Jen and I started watching the Netflix original show Peaky Blinders. Huh? You ask? What on Earth is Persnickety Biscuits? Well, good friend, Pesky Blunders is a 1920’s mob story with character depth, excellent music, and a fast moving plot. I am entirely convinced that if this show was named with some title more memorable than Pasty Blithers than the world would be very much aware of its stunning execution.

In full disclosure, not everyone loves Peachy Balloons. Sander was turned off by the parallel plots and the accents, which at times feel like they need subtitles. That said, if you have Netflix and you like dramatic crime, put Party Bingers on your short list. At the time of this post there are 12 episodes online, each about an hour long.

Let me know what you think!

Castle

Gillette’s Castle

Long before Benedict Cumberbatch, Actor William Gillette made famous the world of Sherlock Holmes through his theatrical depictions. Quite a bit different from King Camp Gillette, creator of the face shaving razor of fame, William Gillette built a weird-sauce castle in CT made of fieldstone and eccentricity.

Castle For years the external appearance of the castle turned me off. Frankly, it’s ugly. The fieldstone is quirky beyond my comfort level. Still, it’s considered a major CT tourist spot so I’ve had it on my list as something to see.

IT WAS AMAZING.

Honestly, the fieldstone facade was a major distraction from the real awesomeness: the beautifully carved wooden mechanisms that filled the house and the picturesque landscape spooning the Connecticut river.

All of the light switches, doors, door handles, etc were designed by Gillette and carved by his master woodworkers. No mechanism was duplicated, every one was unique and filled the house with a playful atmosphere. The tour guides were more than willing to demonstrate the operation of the mechanisms and the engineer in me loved it. Each new room had me on a scavenger hunt searching for clever mechanisms.

Unlike the external face of the castle most of the interior was wood, accented with stone set in colored grout. The attention to detail was obvious. Each component of the house had purpose from the uneven stonework of the chimney column (for planters) to the hanging decorative edging of the table designed as a playtoy for Gillette’s cats.

Main Hall

The Castle sits on a huge plot of land full of hiking trails. Gillette had a affinity for railroads so he built his own mini-railroad. The rails are mostly gone off the property but the retired rail passes make for wonderful trails including a train tunnel.

Tunnel

I strongly recommend checking out the castle if you’re in the area.

Storm King!

At the recommendation of Dr. Scott, Jen and I took Saturday to head east to New Windsor, NY to visit the sculpture garden Storm King. In addition to a ridiculously awesome estate name, this 550 acre garden located about an hour North of Manhattan sports over a hundred sculptures and stunningly beautiful vistas.

Menashe Kadishman, Suspended 1977

Menashe Kadishman, Suspended
1977

Jen and I got there around 11:30, had a small picnic at their picnic tables and then got to walking. Within the last three years or so the park started renting bicycles to make travel easier, but they are absurdly priced at $40/rental. The park will not allow you to bring your own bikes. I’m sure that this rule is to make sure that no one mars their lawns with thin tires – but to me it mostly seemed overprotective.

Mark Di Suvero  Mon Pere, 1973-75 Beethoven's Quartet, 2003 Pyramidian, 1987-98

Mark Di Suvero
Mon Pere, 1973-75
Beethoven’s Quartet, 2003
Pyramidian, 1987-98

While the large pieces were sprinkled across the landscape, most of the smaller sculptures were clustered around the centerpoint of the park: a beautiful little museum that housed a focal exhibit. The museum, being atop a hill, also provided what may have been the best views of the estate.

Columns

Perhaps the most exciting sculpture was Andy Goldsworthy’s Storm King Wall (1997-98). It was a five or so foot tall wall that wound its way in, out and around a row of trees then through a lake and up a hill.

StormkingWall

To me, the artfulness of the piece was its embrace of surplus. The effort required to build this piece makes my brain hurt.

Winding Wall

It took us about three hours to walk the landscape. The grounds were hardly flat, as I think you can tell from the pictures, so we were admittedly pretty tired after tromping around the landscape. They have a tram that anyone can hop on and hop off anytime, but we chose to walk since it was the perfect late summer day.

Mark Di Suvero - Jambalaya 2002-06

Mark Di Suvero – Jambalaya
2002-06

Alexander Calder - The Arch 1975

Alexander Calder – The Arch
1975

From central CT, its about 1h45m to Storm king – and well worth the trek. I would imagine that it would be particularly spectacular once the leaves start to change color. Try to get out there, it’s mega-fun. Thanks for the recommendation Dr. Scott!

Mansion the Fifth

Jen and my last stop on our Newport mansion tour was the Breakers. This was the summer home of Cornelius Vanderbilt and is the quintessential gilded age mansion. The house is INSANE. Pretty much every surface is gold, silver, or platinum.

The Breakers

One thing Jen and I enjoyed about all the houses were their kitchens. The breakers was designed to be fire proof since the first version of the home burned down. The kitchen is testimony to that with its cooktop that has no exposed fire. The parties were so huge at these places that the broth pots couldn’t be moved once they were filled – they were far too heavy. So instead they had spigots on the bottom of the pot. Awesome!

It helped that all the pots and pans were beautiful copper. Although I’d hate to have to be the staff person to have to polish those up every night.

Overall, I strongly recommend you go check out the mansions of Newport. Of those that we saw, the only one I think I’d pass on next time around was the Chateau sur Meh. The other four are must-sees.

Also, all this talk of mansions has me thinking of new house names. I know that my final house shall be called “The Keep”. But if I end up owning an intermediate home – it’ll need a name. Any recommendations?