Thursday, January 26, 2017

I'm Yuuuge In Russia, Too

Every now and then, and not as often as I used to, I check the stats on my blog just to see if anyone is paying attention.  Surprisingly, they still are.  To be honest, I would continue writing this blog even if nobody read it but Kevin and my mother.  But people, most of whom I don't know, continue to check back now and then when I update.

I've had tracking data on my blog since the very beginning, nearly 12 years ago.  However, all the data prior to September 2013 seems to have been lost.  It was around that time that the URL for the blog changed from to simply, so it's possible all the previous data is tied to the old URL somehow and I can't access it.  So the information below is data gathered from September 2013 to present.

Overwhelmingly, I get most of my page views from the U.S.  But what is a "page view"?  There are 3 types of Web site statistics: a page view or pages, a hit, and a visitor or visits. Each of these measures something different:
  • Page Views / Pages – This measures how many times someone has viewed an entire page including all text, images, etc.
  • Hits – A single file request in the access log of a Web server. For example, a request for an HTML page with three graphic images will result in four hits in the log: one for the HTML text file and one for each of the graphic image files. While a hit is a meaningful measure of how much traffic a server handles, it can be a misleading indicator of how many pages are being viewed. Instead, advertising agencies and their clients look at the number of pages delivered and ad impressions or views.
  • Visitors / Visits – This is defined as a series of hits from any particular IP address. If any two hits are separated by 30 minutes or more, two visitors are counted. "Visitors" represent an extrapolated number.

Now that you know the difference, it's easy to understand that it's no surprise that the U.S. leads in page views.  What IS surprising is the list of countries immediately following: Almost 8,000 people in the Ukraine have read my blog.  I know this because I have the stats set to capture unique IP addresses, which means I know it's 8,000 different people as opposed to 2 people who have looked at it 4,000 times. So I am big in the Ukraine.

Nearly the same number of people in Israel have read my blog since late 2013, followed by Russia, then Canada rounding out the Top 5.

Now these numbers are nothing compared to the most popular blogs out there.  But I think they are impressive for a guy sitting at his dining room table spouting off his beliefs, interests, concerns, and sharing stories about his family a few times a month.  And they represent only a third of the historical blog numbers, which are unobtainable prior to 2013  In the early years of this blog - when blogs were at their most popular - it was not unusual for me to have a few hundred page views per day.

Countries not  listing enough page views to fall into the Top 10 List include Australia, Norway, Czech Republic, Thailand, Turkey, Brazil, South Korea, and Moldova, which only recently has come into the picture (but given their proximity to Ukraine, it was only a matter of time until my fabulousness crossed the border).

Friday, January 20, 2017

Our New Bathroom

The old bathroom inherited with the house.
It's been a while since I've posted anything about changes we've been making in our house.  We've been working hard on a few projects, one of which dominated most of last year: the buildout of the new master bathroom on the lower level.  The bathroom we WERE using was simply unacceptable.  It was 5' x 5', cramped and cold with the weirdest tile pattern imaginable (see right).  We knew when we bought the house that we wanted to change it.  At first, we were just going to somehow enlarge the space but then decided that the 10' x 10' room right next door being used as a combination laundry/storage room was simply under-utilized.  So we decided to switch the rooms.

Sounds easy, right?

We started the project just after New Year's Day 2016 and finished in August. When you only have evenings and weekends, it can take some time. Granted, we knew it would be a lot of work because we were going to have to run all new plumbing to a space that didn't already have it.  So we went into the project with high hopes and low expectations.  And it all started with opening the walls:

You know the old saying, "You never really know someone until you live with them"?  Well, that goes for your house too.  You never really know your house until you start opening up the walls to see how it's put together.  It always looks so easy on HGTV; a few hammers to the wall and then a good kick to knock the drywall through to the other side.  So simple.  So clean.  Not so.  Considering the previous owners of our house performed their own renovation at some point, I will either blame them directly for the mess we found inside our walls, or blame whatever Apple Dumpling Gang crew they hired to do the work for them.

In most areas, the drywall was not only nailed to the studs, it was also glued.  And behind the drywall, the previous crew used yardsticks from Crafty Beaver as spacers.  These yardsticks were also nailed and glued; nailed and glued onto another layer of plywood which was THEN nailed into the studs.

And when I say nailed, I don't mean they drove a nail every 18 inches or so.  I mean they nailed the shit outta everything.

Look at those pics above.  Look how many nails are in those boards.Those black dots in the picture on the left are nail holes from where we had to remove 3" nails.  This picture is indicative of the rest of the room.  And check out the picture in the middle.  It's not like we live on a fault line!  I don't know anything about construction but I know that's excessive support!

This project alone took the first couple of months.  We mostly broke down our responsibilities of Kevin doing demo and me coming in to clean it all up.  And it worked out well.  Once the walls were open, Kevin ran new electrical for outlets and an exhaust fan (the only item I specifically requested in the build out).

Kevin's folks came out one weekend to help install insulation, built a soffit to hide a gas line, and install new studs on which to apply new drywall.

Once all the walls were down and insulation was installed, it was time to run the new pipes, which meant jack-hammering a concrete floor in order to run the drain from the shower and connect the toilet to the main.

What we learned from moving the water main in the guest room last year was that the concrete floors on our lower level are thick - SUPER thick.  So we braced ourselves for a long battle with the floor.  Our plumber was generous enough to allow us to use his jackhammer for the project.  So over the course of about two weeks, the constant rat-a-tat of that tool permeated the house and surrounding area, as did the ensuing concrete dust.  I don't know why we didn't get a picture of ME using the jackhammer, but I will account for doing most of the work on this (I can say this because Kevin did most of the work on the rest of the bathroom).

We then called in the pros to run all the pipes and tie them into the stack.  This was the one thing we knew we needed help with.  After the pipes were run, the plumber built in the corner pan for the 4' x 3' shower (the the 7.5 foot high shower head!) and then filled the concrete back in with cement once again.

Then we took the project back over again.  Kevin and I installed cement board in the shower area and drywall around the rest of the bathroom.  Everything went swimmingly until Easter Sunday.  I had stopped working to put a turkey in the over for Easter dinner when I suddenly heard, "Bun, I cut myself!"  While trimming the cement board, Kevin slipped the utility knife and sliced through the thumb on his left hand - deep enough to require a trip to the emergency room and several stitches.

All thing considered, we had gone over 100 days without an accident.  Not many construction sites can boast that accomplishment.  Happy to say this was also the ONLY accident we experienced.  It might have ruined a turkey, but it saved a thumb.  And we have our very own "Out, damn spot" under the tile.

And speaking of tile, that's what came next.  We knew we wanted white subway tile in the shower and a charcoal tile on the floor.  We found the tile we liked the most in Home Depot and would always look at it every time we were in the store, which was at least once every weekend.  On the day we decided to just go buy it, our tile was significantly marked down without our knowing it.  Call it "tile kismet".  But before the tile could go down, we laid floor-radiant heating - crucial for a bathroom that is below grade.  Kevin's parents have lots of experience tiling, so they came back out to provide pointers and guidance.

We wanted the tile on the shower floor to be the same color as the floor, but that tile didn't come in smaller sizes.  But that didn't stop us.  We took a few of the remaining 24" tiles and Kevin cut them down into 3" x 3" squares for the shower floor.  Perfection.

The over the next few weeks, we painted the walls pale grey, the same color as the walls in our master and guest bedrooms on the same level.  Then we shopped for furniture, towels, rugs, etc.  And the last thing we did was cover the window in frosted paper to let in light but block the view.

The final look is below on the right.  For comparison, the before picture (taken from the original house listing 2 years ago) is on the left.

We couldn't be more satisfied and proud.  Big shout out to Pat and Dianne Byrne for their guidance and assistance.  Stay tuned for pictures of additional changes we've made in the past year.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Motion Sickness Is Genetic

For as long as I can remember, I've been the victim of motion sickness.  It was difficult for me to ride in a car as a child, sitting in the back seat, crushed between brothers and a sister, with little to no view of where we were going.  Hell for me was the obligatory weekend sojourn just about every summer of my youth through the winding roads of West-By-God-Virginia to "Camp".  Mom tried everything from having me sing songs to take my mind off of the trip to eating saltines.  As I became more familiar with the ride, the motion sickness lessened.  It wasn't long after that Camp got sold and we never went back.  Such is my life.

Even today, it is sometimes hard for me to be a passenger in a car.  So far, though, I've never been sick on an airplane or a cruise ship.  However riding on the L makes me nauseous, now and then; there are times I have to step off the train for air, then wait to catch the next one.  Certain rides in amusement parks are strictly off-limits.  And I am persona non grata on Space Mountain in Disneyland a few years ago.  

Last year, the consumer genetics firm 23AndMe issued the first ever genome-wide association study of motion sickness. The study, published in Oxford Journals’ Human Molecular Genetics is the first to reveal the genetic variants of motion sickness and involved 80,000 consenting customers who had submitted material to 23AndMe to be genetically analyzed.

That's right - you can blame motion sickness on your parents.

Given that roughly one in three people are affected by motion sickness, the study is obviously valuable—and given the highly hereditary nature of motion sickness effects, mapping genetic effects of motion sickness is a perfect fit for 23AndMe. Results from the study have estimated that up to 70% of the variation in risk for motion sickness is due to genetics.  And it found 35 genetic factors associated with motion sickness that are statistically significant when compared with the whole human genome instead of just looking at particular genes. 

Many of these factors are in or near genes involved in balance and eye, ear, and cranial development—meaning motion sickness likely triggers effects in these areas. They even found that several of these factors had the potential to hit women harder, potentially tripling motion sickness' effect on those systems. The study also confirmed that people suffering motion sickness are more prone to migraines, vertigo, morning sickness, and are poor sleepers. Overall, the results pointed toward the importance of the nervous system in motion sickness and a possible role for glucose levels in motion-induced nausea and vomiting.

My brother Matt is afflicted with motion sickness as well, but to my knowledge, our younger brother Mike and sister Kim are not.  Genetics is a fickle thing - just like I am the only one with green eyes, heart issues, and hair loss.

But I am the best looking one.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

So It's Not A Tooth Root After All...

If you've been following my blog for the past 6 months, you'll know my never-ending story about my sinuses (cue Limahl and the Luck Dragon).  You'll also know that the "sinus story" evolved into the "dental story".  For more years than I care to admit, I've consciously put off going to the dentist due to either my unrealized fear of them or the realized fear of not having all my teeth.

I've been to the dentist three times now.  The first time was just a cleaning, no big deal.  The second time was a root canal.  I was prepared for the worst but it actually turned out to be not too bad.  There was minimal pain.  The third visit, on December 30th, was quite a bit different for several reasons:

Visit 3 was extraction day.  Not proud to admit it, but I needed to have 4 teeth extracted - teeth that were beyond saving, all on the bottom.  These were teeth that either due to my teeth grinding or medications I've taken or oral infections were reduced to either mere nubs or were down to the roots.  The act of having a tooth pulled is invasive at best and violent at worst.  Because I expected a reaction similar to the one I experienced in my ENT's office, I asked for the nitrous oxide, which in the end did absolutely nothing for me.

I was able to hold it together through the appointment.  Kevin picked me up afterwards and as soon as I got in the car, I lost it.  I mean, really lost it.  This was worse than what I experienced in the ENT's office.  Again, I have no understanding or reason as to why I am so emotionally tied up in my mouth/face.  But I cried - almost to the point of hysteria.  And despite Kevin's best efforts to comfort me, nothing was going to pacify the emotions I felt.  I had to just let it out.  For a good 10 minutes or so, I bawled unashamedly.  If anyone has a clue as to why, I'm all ears.

But perhaps the biggest revelation from Visit 3 was that my dentist confirmed that the thing in my mouth that has punctured my sinuses is actually not a tooth root, as hypothesized by my ENT, but some kind of cyst that has grown in my gums.  I'll now have to go to an orgal surgeon to have the cyst removed, biopsied, and to have the hole it's created patched.  I'm dumbing down the procedure in my mind so as not to get completely freaked out about it, but I'm guessing it's a big deal of some kind.  I go next week for a consultation.

So along with having mold growing in my sinuses for I-don't-know how long, I also have a cyst growing in my gums.  I doubt any amount of antibiotics would help me at this point, but that doesn't stop every doctor from prescribing them for me.  I just finished my 7th round of antibiotics since June 2016.

I expect more emotional outbursts as I continue to navigate this weirdness inside my head.  And fortunate to have friends, family, and most of all Kevin to keep me calm, sane, and level-headed.

Saturday, January 07, 2017


I recently took a personality test - StrengthsFinder from Gallup, developed by Donald O. Clifton, Ph.D.  I've taken many of these kinds of assessments through the years, but this was the first time I've taken this particular one.  The goal for StrengthsFinder is that by answering about 50 questions, they can determine my top 5 personality strengths.

The outcome was pretty fascinating.

Kevin had taken this same test about 3 weeks earlier at work and shared his results with me.  Not surprisingly, his results centered around being a strategic thinker, goal-oriented, being futuristic in thought.  So when my office asked me to take it, I was interested to see how we would compare.  My top 5 strengths in StrengthsFinder are:
  1. Consistency
  2. Context
  3. Intellection
  4. Discipline
  5. Harmony (this one is a surprise)
If you know me at all, you'll agree that these are probably the best 5 words in the English language to describe who I am.  Below I'm providing abridged versions of the theme descriptions, and bolded some things that stand out to me particularly.  Here's more of a peek inside me:

Balance is important to you. You are keenly aware of the need to treat people the same, no matter what their station in life, so you do not want to see the scales tipped too far in any one person’s favor. In your view this leads to selfishness and individualism. You believe that people function best in a consistent environment where the rules are clear and are applied to everyone equally. This is an environment where people know what is expected. It is predictable and evenhanded. It is fair. 
You look back. You look back because that is where the answers lie. You look back to understand the present. It is only by casting your mind back to an earlier time, a time when the plans were being drawn up, that the present regains its stability. The earlier time was a time of blueprints. As you look back, you begin to see these blueprints emerge. You you make better decisions because you sense the underlying structure. You become a better partner because you understand how your colleagues came to be who they are. And counterintuitively you become wiser about the future because you saw its seeds being sown in the past. Faced with new people and new situations, it will take you a little time to orient yourself, but you must give yourself this time. 
You like to think. You like mental activity. You like exercising the “muscles” of your brain, stretching them in multiple directions. This need for mental activity may be focused; for example, you may be trying to solve a problem or develop an idea or understand another person’s feelings. You are the kind of person who enjoys your time alone because it is your time for musing and reflection. 
Your world needs to be predictable. It needs to be ordered and planned. So you instinctively impose structure on your world. You set up routines. You focus on timelines and deadlines. You need precision. Faced with the inherent messiness of life, you want to feel in control. The routines, the timelines, the structure, all of these help create this feeling of control. Your dislike of surprises, your impatience with errors, your routines, and your detail orientation don’t need to be misinterpreted as controlling behaviors that box people in. Rather, these behaviors can be understood as your instinctive method for maintaining your progress and your productivity in the face of life’s many distractions.
The last strength, Harmony, makes complete sense in my professional life, but not necessarily in my personal life.  Professionally, I am at most times a mediator.  I am the middle man between front line staff and organization leadership.  I listen and advise as needed.  I don't make decisions in my profession; I make many suggestions on how to proceed, then trust the the best option is selected by the other party.  But personally, I LOVE a good debate and I am not shy about sharing my opinions.  Of course, StrengthsFinder is a professional tool.  So this is an interesting case where the professional me and the personal me are not the same person:

You look for areas of agreement. In your view there is little to be gained from conflict and friction, so you seek to hold them to a minimum. When you know that the people around you hold differing views, you try to find the common ground. You try to steer them away from confrontation and toward harmony. When others are sounding off about their goals, their claims, and their fervently held opinions, you hold your peace. When others strike out in a direction, you will willingly, in the service of harmony, modify your own objectives to merge with theirs (as long as their basic values do not clash with yours). When others start to argue about their pet theory or concept, you steer clear of the debate, preferring to talk about practical, down-to-earth matters on which you can all agree. In your view we are all in the same boat, and we need this boat to get where we are going. It is a good boat. There is no need to rock it just to show that you can.