Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Gutter change

So I've been worrying a little regarding my idea of inset gutters as I watched the ice melt from the roof of our current home and fill up our gutters. We definitely need an inset gutter in the previously mentioned problem areas, but I am changing my mind on having them everywhere else. There are few issues with having inset gutters everywhere:
  • They are inset within the roof and within the enclosure of the home, which really makes me worry about having ice build up there (regardless of whether we have heat tape or other heating method)
  • Since no contractor we talked to had done something like this before, this was going to take some planning, which translates into higher cost (likely higher than even standard gutters)
  • Maintenance is still an issue, as leaves and debris are caught in the gutters and need removal to prevent clogs, and many of these gutters would be high up
The original reason for wanting inset gutters was to remove the gutter as an eyesore on the outside of the home, and inset gutters definitely accomplish this goal. But the issues cited above called for a different solution.

Since I am a voracious web surfer and reader, constantly looking for low-cost home solutions, I have indeed found a different solution. The solution has no worries regarding ice build up, they are low maintenance, well-designed, and low cost. They are called rainhandlers. They were invented by an engineer (of course, and these immediately put them in good stead with me) from MIT, who injured himself on a ladder trying to clean out his gutters. The concept immediately made intuitive sense to me. Instead of gathering all the water coming of the roof and sending to one spot (which has it's own potential problems for foundation moisture and pooling), the rainhandlers take the stream of water and convert it back to "rain". Rainhandlers are spaced, curved fins that take the stream of water and spread it in droplets over a 3 ft. area of ground. (Click below to enlarge) Here's the set-up we would need for our home design:
In our case the "fascia board" is the entire outer wall of the home (we have no overhangs or eaves). We would need the "drip edge extender" to ensure the stream of water hit the fins of the rainhandlers. For any engineers out there, the fins are curved with an optimal design for spreading the stream of water, and the fins have to be mounted at a minimum distance below the roofline to ensure the water stream develops enough kinetic energy for the fins to create the 3 ft. spread of droplets.

The great thing is that from the street you really can't see these at all since you would be looking at them "on-edge". And the cost is roughly half of what you would pay for standard gutters (which means it's even more cost efficient compared to inset gutters). Maintenance-wise, leaves and debris rarely get caught in the rainhandlers, but if they do you just spray them off with a hose from the ground. Check out the website for a well-done video showing installation, as well as pictures of homes that have these installed. Call me a nerd, but I think these are cool :-)

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Catholic universities need to remain faithful to the Church's teaching...


As a close follower of the state of Catholic higher education in the U.S., and the deep problem of Catholic identity at the majority of Catholic Universities (where "academic freedom" masquerades as the ability to allow teaching against Church doctrine in the classroom and the undermining of Church authority), I was so very glad that the Pope said the following in his address to the presidents of Catholic universities today in Washington, D.C....
In regard to faculty members at Catholic colleges universities, I wish to reaffirm the great value of academic freedom. In virtue of this freedom you are called to search for the truth wherever careful analysis of evidence leads you. Yet it is also the case that any appeal to the principle of academic freedom in order to justify positions that contradict the faith and the teaching of the Church would obstruct or even betray the university's identity and mission; a mission at the heart of the Church's munus docendi and not somehow autonomous or independent of it.

Teachers and administrators, whether in universities or schools, have the duty and privilege to ensure that students receive instruction in Catholic doctrine and practice. This requires that public witness to the way of Christ, as found in the Gospel and upheld by the Church's Magisterium, shapes all aspects of an institution's life, both inside and outside the classroom. Divergence from this vision weakens Catholic identity and, far from advancing freedom, inevitably leads to confusion, whether moral, intellectual or spiritual.
Thank you Holy Father! In his ever-gentle way he has laid down the gauntlet for the future of Catholic higher education in America. If you are going to call yourself a Catholic university, you must uphold the teachings of the Church and her authority.

Closer to home, in Minnesota I can't think of one Catholic university in the state (including my alma mater, St. John's) that doesn't need to take heed of this message and make some changes to ensure fidelity to the Church. I pray that they listen and take action.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

We've got great news!

We're expecting! Blessing number 5 is due December 17th!

Looks like we have someone to occupy the nursery in the new house next year :-)

We are so blessed by our children and praise the Lord for His continuing guidance of our family. We would appreciate so much your prayers for the health of the baby and for Molly throughout the pregnancy.

Welcome to the U.S.!


A most sincere welcome to the Holy Father, and a happy birthday! The Pope turns 81 today. I've read his address to President Bush this morning and look forward to reading his homilies from the masses he is celebrating, as well as his address to the United Nations. From what I've read so far, he will be focusing on the concept of true freedom, meaning the freedom to do the good and the right, (as opposed to license, which is the freedom to do whatever you want, whenever you want, which is a false concept of freedom), creating a culture of life and protection of all life from conception to natural death, and on the aridness of moral relativism. His homilies will no doubt focus on his theme for this visit of "Christ our hope."

Monday, April 14, 2008

Koop family connection to the Papal mass in D.C.


My dad, who is a permanent deacon, was called out of the blue this past week (after just getting home from a vacation in Italy with my mom, including seeing the Pope in Rome) asking if he'd be willing to be a minister of communion at the Papal mass in Washington D.C.! He's a surgeon, so he had to get out of some surgeries that were scheduled, but he is indeed flying out to participate in the mass, and he even got a ticket to the mass for my sister, Allison, who lives in D.C. Hopefully they can e-mail pictures, and I can post them here. What an opportunity and an honor!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Holy Father's pre-visit message to the United States...

It's great to hear his message in English!

I pray for the success of his visit, the Church to be strengthened by his presence, and for all of America to listen to his message.

Some pics from preparations in D.C. from Thomas Peters...

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

A must read!


As we in the United States wait in anticipation for Pope Benedict XVI's visit next week (I am psyched!), the Washington Post is covering his stop in D.C. and published this article on a Catholic family in Virginia living as the "domestic Church"! (Thanks to the tipster who e-mailed :-)

It's a great article, and check out the video too...

'We Live It Every Day': Pope's Visit Cheers Young Conservatives Who Reject 'Cafeteria Catholicism' in Favor of the Full Menu

(That's one of the best headlines I've read in a long time)

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Update on "Vatican Splendors" exhibit in Minnesota...


I posted previously about a touring Vatican exhibition of rare art and artifacts that is coming to Minnesota, one of only three stops in the United States (here's the awesome Vatican Splendors website). I now have the details of when and where this exhibition will be. It will be at the Minnesota History Center in St. Paul, MN starting September 27. Here's an article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune:

Vatican treasures coming to St. Paul

I previously couldn't think of where this exhibit would end up other than the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, but the Minnesota History Center certainly could handle the traffic. I didn't realize they had expanded their mission to include all history, not simply Minnesota history.

If anyone needs any incentive to go, how about a recreation of the tomb of St. Peter (the real tomb is located directly beneath the altar of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome) including a reliquary containing actual fragments of the bones of St. Peter himself!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

My first drawing from life!


After all my work learning to draw, I had finally reached a level where I wanted to move to drawing from life (instead of drawing with the aid of a picture as a reference). Following the classical atelier methods, I read up on the sight-size drawing technique using such books as Drawing Course, by Charles Bargue, Cast Drawing Using the Sight-Size Approach, by Darren Rousar, and Classical Drawing Atelier, by Juliette Aristides. There are lots of websites that also aided me, such as here, here, and here. It's a fantastic way to train the eye to notice the most minute details of the scene being drawn and to truthfully render it.

Sight-size methods are often used in schools and ateliers to teaching "cast drawing" and "cast painting." For such a drawing, a cast statue is used as the subject with a light source at an oblique angle to create a shadow over a portion of the statue. Cast statues and busts are ideal for learning to draw because they are generally white in color with dark shadows and can be rendered solely with a combination of white and black tones. Casts also don't move, so a scene can be set up (a complex task that usually takes a day) and then left in place for weeks or months while the drawing is done in spurts (Molly's laughing now, because I made use of the "months" part of that).

We really had only one cast that we owned that would serve the purposes of this drawing, and it was an "Our Lady of Grace" statue that we have outdoors in a garden area. So I brought that in and set up shop in the only place in the house I could, the laundry room. Molly loved the fact that I did this :-) and left my set-up in place from about November to yesterday. I got charcoal dust all over the place, blocked off access to the water softener and some shelving, and used her favorite bed sheet (black flanel) as my background. Hey, it needed to happen.

So here's some pictures from the set-up after I finally finished last night (click either of them to enlarge)...
Unfortunately, due to the fact I had to take the pics in the dark and couldn't use a flash, they aren't quite true to the actual appearance (it's hard to see the subtleties of the shadows on the cast, for instance, as our cheap camera couldn't pic them up). And the background behind the cast was lighter in real life, more like what you see in my drawing. But, you still get a feel for the scene I was drawing, and I am ecstatic with the final artwork. Once I get it framed it will definitely be a prized piece of ours.

Here's closer pics of the drawing itself, which I could take with a flash (click either to enlarge)...
Cast Drawing of Our Lady of Grace, by Brendan Koop
Vine charcoal, compressed charcoal, and white chalk on gray Canson Mi-Tientes drawing board, approx. 16"x36"

I'm thinking a permanent place for this in our new house will be in the library, due to the quietness that's exuded in the picture and the fact that there is a fireplace there that would suit out-of-view light source of the picture.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Proudly, my undergrad alma mater presents part of the St. John's Bible to the Pope today!

The Benedictine Abbey of St. John's University in Collegeville, MN, my undergraduate alma mater (class of '98, Physics), presented Pope Benedict XVI with a portion of The St. John's Bible today! The St. John's Bible has been commissioned by St. John's as the first hand-written Bible in the world in the last 500 years, and probably the most famous illuminated manuscript since the Book of Kells 1,300 years ago (which I have seen in person at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland). The Bible is a multi-year project and is still being completed, but I must say, way to go Johnnies! The Pope called it "a work for eternity."

Here's video of the Pope being presented with a portion of a rare reproduction of The St. John's Bible.

And here's the story from St. John's, which has links to coverage from local and international media at the bottom.

My parents are in Rome right this moment on a vacation tour of Italy facilitated by St. John's, so they are very excited about this. My dad is also an alum, and my mom is an alum of the nearby College of St. Benedict.

Excellent article from 20/20's John Stossel on the home school debacle in California...


John impresses again with an astute analysis of the situation in California...

Threat to Homeschooling

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Home Renderings, Volume 4


Continuing in the series of renderings, this one is a little less dramatic, but still very useful. The point of this rendering was to show a different angle from the front of the house, and to show the sightline straight through the front door and out to the wetland as one approaches the house. This sightline not only adds drama but gives a visitor a sense of the "thinness" of the volumes of the home and the connection of the home to the surroundings. Click to enlarge.
My brother finally got Clara in there!

An immediate question I had was whether we would really have a front door with that much glass. Not that there aren't front doors with lots of glass, but in Minnesota you typically would see a heavily insulated front door with maybe a small pane of glass toward the top. My brother really insisted (because of the sightline) on the need for a door with a lot of glass, and it could be one with double or triple panes for insulation. This I will have to research. Molly also thought, is such a door less secure? For example, couldn't someone just break the glass to enter the home? But, given all the other glass we have, I guess if the front door is solid they could just move over to a window if that's really what they want to do. Another potential issue is privacy, with any visitor having the ability to look right into the home from the front door, but this is where the brilliance of my brother's design comes through. The main volume of the home has small dividing walls that separate the kitchen, dining, entry, and homeschool room areas, and so the front door really only offers a view into the entry area, which I think is appropriate. Other areas of the home are visually separated and contained.

Another thing my brother felt strongly about was that the entryway be white so as not to distract from the view through the home. I think it makes sense, and the shelves you see to the left of the entry are just simply bookshelves from IKEA or similar, aligned side-to-side. These could be used for displaying family pictures and other such things.

Anyway, that's the renderings we have to date, my brother is currently working on two more: the interior of the chapel (something we'll have lots of discussions with my brother about, no doubt) and the interior of the master bedroom. When we get them, we'll post them!