Month: January 2018

Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death

The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death are a series of dollhouses built to mimic real crime scenes. They were created as a teaching tool. A collection of tiny crime scenes created by Frances Glessner Lee, the “Godmother of Crime Science Investigation”.

In 1936 she gave a large sum of money to Harvard University to establish the first program of legal medicine.  The program trained doctors to become medical examiners. In 1945, Lee started and presided over week-long training seminars to teach police how to gather clues from a crime scene.

Given that it was logistically and legally impossible to visit real crime scenes during the training seminars, Lee decided she would build miniature death scenes for the police to study. Each one would be based on a real death.

A doll lays dead on the floor of a bathroom.

I learned about these studies from an episode of 99% Invisible from 2015. I noted at the time the Nutshell Studies were moved to the Baltimore Medical Examiner after Lee’s death but they were not on display since they are still active teaching tools.

In a chance reading of the Washington Posts “13 Things to do in DC this weekend” post, I learned they were on display at the Renwick Gallery. They have been on display since October but I only learned about it this weekend. Bill as “This rare public display explores the unexpected intersection between craft and forensic science” I couldn’t possibly resist.

My wife and I visited the gallery today and it’s a good thing we got there early. We arrived about an hour after opening for today and there was already a line out the door. The exhibit was elbow-to-elbow people and many were trying to solve the mysteries at the expense of everyone else behind them.

The crowd of people trying to see the dollhouses.

The staff did a good job of keeping people moving and trying to get people through but it was a losing battle with so many people trying to see such small objects, they did their best. Even with all the people, I had a blast seeing these works in person.

The level of detail was exquisite. The tiny bodies were burned, hung, shot and dead from all manner of unexplained circumstances. Each study had the original statement taken from the event they depicted. There was enough story to set their scene we were looking at, but there were no solutions. Since they are still used as teaching tools, that makes sense.

View from above of a multiple rooms of a house with dead doll bodies.

Government Shutdown: 2018 Edition

The last time the government shutdown, it was over healthcare. I was out of work for 16 days unpaid because I was a contractor and when my employer can’t bill, I can’t get paid.

I attended a first 100 event at Chick Fil-A and talked to a lot of people struggling.

There were parents which were not sure how their family would eat with both of then out of work since they were government contractors.

There was so much fear and desperation about making mortgage payments and student loans.

And no end in sight to the shutdown.

This time around, I still work for the government. Still as a contractor. Under the same Department though a different branch of it. There’s one huge difference.

I am going to get paid through it. I am going to be able to work. I will be making my mortgage payment and keeping my power on.

I will be OK.

But I know there will be thousands of families who will not. Thousands will be missing payments or making decisions about food or utilities.

Thousands of businesses that rely on government workers to stay open. Restaurants. Convenience stores.

Anything around the Capitol…

This shutdown, if it drags from week to week will cost some families everything.

The price tag for the 2013 government shutdown was about $1.6 billion a week, $300 million a day, or $12.5 million an hour.

The government is more divided than ever. The stakes are the health of children.

The task is clear.

Work together to compromise.
Work on a budget for the year.
You have no other concerns.
You’ve managed that by mismanagement.

Fund the government.
Don’t make us worry every month whether we will get paid.

Your constituents want you to do your job.
And you have all failed.

536 people.

They hold the lives of hundreds of millions of people in their hands.

Please do the right thing and work together to fund the government. There’s room for everyone to get what they want.

Frozen Pipes and Freak Outs

Today started normally enough. I had a plan for my day and I was excited to take it easy. I got out of bed when my alarm went off at 8am and I got moving and ready to enjoy my morning until work in two hours.

I got out of bed, stumbled into the bathroom… and that’s where my plan changed.

I turned on the hot water tap and nothing happened. No water came out. I turned on the cold water. That worked. Shut it off, turned on the hot again and… nothing.

I got up and went downstairs. The same situation in every room with a faucet. No hot water anywhere in the house. Just disappointment and a bit of panic.

After some searching online, we turned on the faucets a quarter turn. Annie crawled under the house (since I can’t fit down there) and didn’t see anything amiss. Not that either of us know what a frozen pipe looks like.

You want me to go where?

We turned the temperature up on the water heater which was another step we found online. Which may have been our undoing. A bit later, we were staring at a hot water heater spewing steam! The faucets in our bathroom and kitchen started gushing hot water so we fixed the blockage! The leak was was behind the heater, in the small closet where it lives so we couldn’t get behind it to get a better look. So we couldn’t tell where it had broken or which pipe had the hole.

I turned off the power to the water heater (and furnace) with the switch there and cut the water into the hot water heater. And eventually the steam and water stopped.

I went out front to find the water main shut off for the house and located it, but was unable to turn off the main due to the cold or the valve not being turned in years or ???? My wife called a plumber and we got an appointment for the same day.

Thankfully turning off the water to the water heater stopped the steam and leak.

The plumber showed up about 45 minutes after we called and I gave him the back story (including the turning up the water heater part since I’m a firm believer in admitting to the stupid things I did so the plumber knows what he’s dealing with).

He was very nice and helpful and located where the leak was quickly. Unfortunately it was under the house in the crawl space. So he got to crawl down there over the plastic and gravel and into the small pond that formed under the house.

He was able to find the leak and patch the pipe leading from the water heater to the rest of the house.

All in all, we were back in business by about 1:30pm. We had hot water. We did not have a steam room.

I called two companies that offered quotes on insulating the crawl space and booked appointments with them for later this month. However, since the cold is still here, it was time for my new favorite store!

I went to Home Depot to get insulation for the pipes along with some other winter items (ice melt, work gloves, tarps).

I got home and awaited my wife’s return. Since unfortunately due to the size of the opening to the our crawl space, I’m not sure I could get down there (and back out again). So my wife had the unenviable job of crawling under the house and wrapping the insulation around the pipes down there. She also sopped up most of the water with towels.

She got home, bundled up and crawled under the house like a champ and insulated the pipes where we had the problem today so hopefully we don’t have a repeat performance.

My wife victoriously emerging from the crawl space.

The cover to our crawl space is plexiglass with Velcro to keep it on and I found it sitting in the yard this morning. We made it through the coldest part of winter thus far without any mishaps. Today, it’s my best guess that the cover blew off and the cold air got into the crawl space and cooled it enough to freeze part of the pipe and it was weak enough to rupture.

Now we have glorious hot water throughout our house (but not in or through the house). It has been a very exciting day as a homeowner but overall it was a minor repair and not nearly as bad as it could have been.


ArtemisArtemis by Andy Weir
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I listened to the audio book read by Rosario Dawson.

It’s not The Martian. And that’s a good thing. Artemis is its own story in its own world. it takes place in the moon. There’s a city there in a series of bubbles.

We follow Jazz and what she gets up to and it’s a wonderful story. Not a deep cerebral novel, but a fun adventurous read about life on the moon.

I enjoyed the story and Rosario’s narration and choice of voices. I like the worlds Andy Weir creates and I want to keep living in them.

View all my reviews