Hiding behind the sheetrock



A few weeks ago, without effort, I broke an upstairs bathroom water line and flooded the house about midnight. When I explained the situation to the plumber at 1:00 am and $165/hour, I am sure he thought I was crazy and hiding the fact that I had done something completely idiotic. Seriously, the pipe just snapped inside the wall while just moving stuff around inside the vanity.

About an hour later, my wife and I are downstairs and she is watching me mop up the living room and pick up the sections of sheetrock that had fallen. (The largest piece falling my head is what actually woke her.) The plumber was upstairs capping the lines in the vanity and we both saw a section of pipe just fall to the floor. The plumber came downstairs holding the hot water valve in his hand.

“I’ve never seen that happen before. I grabbed the valve to cut it off and it just snapped.”

And it happened several more times.

So, while much of the ceiling is missing, we’ve had the plumber back of couple times to completely re-plumb the upstairs bathrooms. (Ultimately we will have all the water lines replaced this year.) He brought an assistant with him this week so the job wimageould go a bit faster. I asked him if the situation had been explained to him. “Sure, I’ve just never heard of that happening before.”

A little while later I got to watch as it happened to him.

“You thought I was crazy, didn’t you?”

So, these pipes have me freaked out a bit. They will all be replaced. It has also been pointed out that these same pipes have been connected directly to the water heater, instead of to 18-24″ of copper piping between the CPVC and the water heater.This a code violation that never should have been passed.

What’s behind the sheetrock is something we rarely see. In fact, when we buy a house, or choose a college, we do it largely on faith in the processes and adopted standards. We assume that any relatively new house (and ours was built in 1999) is built to the established building codes. We also assume (hope) that quality materials were used and used correctly.

Right now, that seems like an awful lot of (misplaced) faith.

For the record, I can do a lot of things. I started looking at the water lines thinking, “you know, I could replace those myself.” But, I’ve read enough posts on the plumbers’ fora to understand that “it takes more than a can of glue and a buttload of CPVC to be a plumber.” It does indeed, and I am okay with that. I would rather appreciate the fact the someone else has taken the time to master plumbing skills than to attempt to so myself.  I look at the new lines thinking, “It is a shame to have cover this up. It’s doubly a shame that no one else will appreciate this to the degree that I do.”




This below is what crap pipe looks like. Manufactured in January 1999, Flowguard by Charlotte Pipe. Maybe it was a bad manufacturing run, maybe it was mishandled by the original plumber, maybe the glue was flawed, or maybe it had spent too much time in sunlight. Maybe if Charlotte Pipe had at least acknowledge receipt of my email, i would not show the details. But this is the beauty of the open Internet. Someone may see this and tell me of a related case. Or maybe the manufacture will find this and respond. Google Flowguard CPVC and browse the results. Opinions on Flowguard are all over the map.

imageI saw this evening on Twitter that there is a bill, or at least a proposal, to allow states to create their own USED-recognized accrediting body. Historically that topic has come up in Virginia from time to time. It is an interesting idea, but not one I am interested in pursuing. While I could create a hell of an accreditation function with our data resources, it still would not tell us what is behind the sheetrock. I suppose we could peak under the sinks and grab the valves and give them a good shake, from time-to-time, but we have been here 10 years and nothing like this has happened before.

In the end, I don’t really have a good answers beyond trusting the process and knowing that sometimes things break and require fixing. All the metrics in the world won’t show me what’s behind the wall.





More than just buckets

To read much of the literature and coverage about various aspects of the “completion agenda,” I get the feeling that everyone pushing the agenda sees completion as simply filling the student bucket. You Three glasses of "sugar water and yeast"see, apparently to be successful college graduates, students just need to complete 120 credit hours for the bachelor degree (or half for the associate degree) . In order for them to do this efficiently, they need only to do so in proper order and always taking 15 credits a semester so they can do it on time.

That’s all. It’s quite simple.

Students are empty buckets to be filled. Nothing else needs to happen.

I don’t have any transparent buckets to make my point. However, in honor to the Chronicle’s coverage of student drinking on campus, I will use instead the “student as pint glass metaphor.” In the photograph I have three glasses of what is, at their most simple, three glasses of sugar-water, with yeast.

From left to right: a half a cup of white cane sugar, water, and yeast; 12 ozs of two-row Briesse malt, water, yeast, and hops; and finally, a delightful Black Sky PA (which also has alcohol).

What’s the difference? Clearly the first two are just raw ingredients dumped together. But they meet the standard of a certain amount of sugar, water, yeast, (and hops in the middle glass) to fill the empty container.The sugar water will someday result in fairly tasteless alcohol product. The second will result in a soggy mess absent any real brewing to extract the sugar from the hulls of the malt, with probably an unpleasant alcoholic taste sans brewing.

The third glass, the very black, very tasty IPA is the result of careful attention, requisite ingredients, and TIME. Time to ferment. Time to carbonate.

Time to be. Time to enhance. With care and monitoring throughout that time.

If the parallels aren’t clear, I’m not sure I can write enough words to help.

Education at any level is not a mechanistic, factory process. Even if filling the pint glasses according to a recipe was enough (and I doubt it ever will be), the glasses are able to get up and walk way, or change size, or be resistant.

Let’s try to remember that, okay?

Brew Days

gravity fed brewing station

My Brew-to

This is where I brew beer. It has the ragged, unkempt early spring look to it, but it is a nice place to spend an afternoon or evening. Or morning. It is a lean-to on the side of the shed where I store my outdoor gear, and my brewing set up. As you can see, I have two converted half-kegs with valves, site tubes, and thermometers.

The keggle on the upper level is just for heating water for the mash lauter tun, which is a modified Igloo Ice Cube. From the mash tun we go to the brewing keggle.

Everything is at a height to allow gravity to do all the work though out.

PVC pipe is mounted to the shelf to allow easy filling of the heating keggle and place to connect the wort chiller. This allows to run the hose over, hook it up, and put the water where I need it.

Maybe this summer I will pour concrete or put some other hard surface down.

Today I planted two pairs each of Cascade and Willamette hops rhizomes in the backyard. We’ll see if we get enough sun where I planted them to get a good crop. If it doesn’t work, I will plant some in the front yard next year.