Rumor Mill

Every now and then I still get asked to fill in for a pastor who’s going away somewhere. Last Sunday I was in South Glens Falls filling in for our friend Regina, the QuakerPastor.

But that’s not what this is about. This is about what happened while I was away, after church here where Brooke is the pastor.

At the doughnut-fest in the church basement after the service, one of the church members who is older, whose wife passed away last summer, whose been sick for a while and not in church — this church member, let’s call him Steve, showed up (as was his habit before he got sick) not for services, but just in time for doughnuts.

When Brooke sat down to ask him how he was doing, he went through his litany of aches and pains, of how it was all he could do to take care of his horses and dogs. Then he asked, “So, have you heard from the Bishop yet about your being moved?”

Brooke had not. And as of today, we still have not heard anything about this. And if we haven’t heard, it would be highly unusual for anyone else to have heard. Among the Methodists, this sort of information is highly classified. Like NSA classified. You need to petition a secret Methodist FISA court to get it. (Not that Steve isn’t the sort of person who would do just that sort of thing.)

“No,” she said. “I wonder where you heard that?”

But Steve didn’t answer. Instead he changed the subject. (His wife was a lawyer, and he was her paralegal. Very cagy.)

“Do you remember when Caspar’s parents came to visit a couple years ago, and they came to church with you?”

“Yes,” Brooke said.

“Well, you know,” Steve said, “when I was talking with Caspar’s mother that day, she said it was a shame that Caspar had to give up the ministry so you could be the pastor here.”

“She said that?” Brooke asked.

“Why, yes, she did,” Steve said.

“Well, if that’s what you remember, I guess she must have said it,” Brooke said. “And I guess I should expect a call from the Bishop about a move any time now.”

I can understand Steve wanting Brooke to get the message, loud and clear, that he doesn’t want her to be the pastor here. Steve and his wife were devotées of the former pastor and objected to anyone replacing her.

When Brooke told me about it, I said, “You don’t suppose he called the Bishop’s office and asked for your removal?”

It’s been known to happen. But when it does, the pastor is supposed to be informed it’s happened that same day. It’s a Methodist FISA protocol. We were not so informed. I suppose sometimes “mistakes are made,” but we have no prima face evidence that they were in this case.

And of course, I didn’t give up the ministry so that Brooke could be the pastor here. It was not a career sacrifice. I gave up the ministry because it was the right time to get out and try some other things. When I made the decision to retire from ministry, Brooke asked for an appointment and the Bishop sent us here. Sure, it’s felt over the last few months like being sent to Siberia. But as soon as it thaws out and we can sit in the sun on the back porch looking across the river at the mountains, it’s going to be just fine. And I get to do what I like most days. We like it here. And, as it turns out, I’m still as much in the ministry as any pastor’s wife ever is.

I can only surmise that Steve came out of his hibernation to get the rumor mill going around the doughnut-fest that the Bishop and I, and even my mother, object to her being the pastor here and change is blowin’ in the wind. But we don’t expect to hear anything from the Bishop.

Not that it couldn’t happen, of course.

On the Map

Our little town, Jay, NY, made the news this week.

A Father and Son from Jay robbed a bank in Plattsburgh on Monday afternoon.

They were arrested while eating breakfast Tuesday morning at the Noon Mark Diner in Keene, right across the street from where Brooke goes to the gym and a block down from the kid’s school. We drove right by there on Tuesday morning on the way to somewhere else. It must have been before the commotion, because we sailed right by, oblivious.

Everything You Never Wanted to Know about Freezing Pee

Chemical composition of urea
Urea: CH4N2O

Last week I wrote that the kid had asked me how cold it has to be before your pee freezes in mid-air.

There’s an ongoing legend (you can’t call it an urban legend here because it’s just not urban, not by a long shot) in these and many parts of the northern US that if it’s cold enough your pee will freeze before it hits the ground. I think it’s perpetuated mostly by the Boy Scouts who want to impress their friends after their winter camping trips.

Anne asked what I gave the kid for an answer. For the record I told him, “I’m not sure of the exact freezing temperature of pee.” But what if there were a way to really know the answer to the kid’s question? This may be a question better left to the brilliant Faraday sisters, I’m going to take a shot at it.

For starters, let’s consider the ordinary freezing point of pee. Freezing point depends on the chemical makeup of a liquid, which, in the case of pee, can vary from one person to the next. It so happens that when they were sending astronauts into space for the moon missions, NASA commissioned a detailed study on pee back in 1971.

I’m not going to presume that you’re interested in reading the whole thing, so let’s just cut right to the chase. According to the summary on Wikipedia:

Urine is an aqueous solution of greater than 95% water, with the remaining constituents, in order of decreasing concentration urea 9.3 g/L, chloride 1.87 g/L, sodium 1.17 g/L, potassium 0.750 g/L, creatinine 0.670 g/L and other dissolved ions, inorganic and organic compounds.

Pee is mostly just water with a little urea, a trace of salt and even smaller traces of other stuff. Both urea and salt cause the freezing point of water to be depressed. Since most of the 5% of pee that’s not water is urea, let’s assume (hey, I’m was a physics major, we make assumptions. You’ve heard the one about the square chicken, right?) the urea concentration is a little less than 4%. Or, better yet, since we can find an actual experimental result for it here, let’s say a molar concentration (formular weight of solute per 1000 grams of solution) of 3.389. At that concentration, the freezing point compared to pure water is depressed by 5.594°C.

So the ordinary freezing point of pee is around -5.6°C (21ºF).

This makes sense. If you put pee in your freezer next to the bottle of vodka (I’m not recommending that you actually try this at home, just that you could) it freezes way before your vodka does.

21º isn’t all that cold of course, but to freeze in mid-air, it would have to be a lot colder. For one thing, your body temperature is 98.6°F (37°C), which means your pee needs to cool by 76.6ºF (42.6ºC) in a very short time.

Let’s assume that you’re out with your Boy Scout troop at winter camp. Let’s say you and your friends decide to try mid-air pee freezing and you can manage to pee upward high enough to give your pee a generous 1.5 seconds from “exit” to ground. The cooling rate would need to be 28.4ºC/sec.

Newton’s Law of cooling tells us that:

T(t) = Ts + (To - Ts)*e^{(-k*t)}


t is the time in the preferred units (seconds, minutes, hours, etc.)
T(t) is the temperature of the object at time t
Ts is the surrounding constant temperature
To is the initial temperature of the object
k is a cooling constant for whatever substance is involved.

In our case, we know that:

t = 1.5 seconds,
T(t) = 22ºF,
To = 98.6ºF

We want to find Ts (the surrounding constant temperature). The problem is that we have no idea what the cooling constant k is. The cooling constant for water (or any object) varies, depending on it’s mass, surface area chemical make up, etc. So the only way to figure it out is to get an actual reading on the temperature of a stream of pee after a known time at some other known ambient temperature. Unfortunately, I’m not finding on almighty Google where anyone has reported (admitted?) actually doing that.

So, in the absence of any actual data, let’s make a few more assumptions, shall we? (Is that an unfortunate pun?)

First, let’s assume, since pee is mostly water, that we’re basically talking about freezing water.

Second, I found a report by Laura Lowe from an experiment she did as a student at the University of Georgia where she found the cooling constant for some water (we don’t know it’s volume or surface area) was 0.0293. Now, that was probably for a beaker of water sitting in a lab. A stream of pee would have much less mass and much more surface area. So, let’s say that alters the constant by a factor of about 10. So we can assume a constant for moving pee at around 0.3.

With an assumed k = 0.3, we can solve Newton’s law of cooling equation for Ts, and we get -112ºF (-80ºC).

That actually sounds about right. When we used to play around with the liquid nitrogen in the physics lab in college, we froze lots of water-based things in less than a second, but the temperature of a liquid nitrogen bath is about -320ºF. Freezing a little bit of water in a second and a half could be done without going to that kind of extreme.

Still, -112°F is colder weather than I care to go out and pee in. And it’s colder than most Boy Scouts go winter camping in. I’m not saying it’s never happened. The other day it was -110 (counting wind chill) on the top of Whiteface Mountain, 7 miles from here. But that’s counting wind chill. Maybe it happened to Ernest Shackleton when he went to the South Pole. The record low temperature there is -116.

Other than that, though, it seems as if the kid’s hopes of experiencing mid-air pee freeze are going to be disappointed.

What can I say, it’s a tough life sometimes.

Eggs Benedict Arnold

Eggs Benedict Arnold
The Kid’s Eggs Benedict Arnold

A month ago now, we were watching Worst Cooks in America one evening on the Food Network. On that episode, contestants were given the assignment to make eggs Benedict for their coaches.

The kid watched this with rapt attention. Eggs Benedict (or Eggs Benedict Arnold, as he called them when he was smaller — and I’ve called them that ever since, even though he’s stopped) are one of his favorite meals, breakfast or otherwise.

After the show, he said, “We should have eggs Benedict.”

“We agree,” we said right away. “And if those worst cooks in America can make them, so can you. And yours would probably be even better.”

“Ok,” he said.

So the next Saturday, I coached him. I just gave him step by step instructions and tips along the way. He did the whole thing. And he did it. The whole thing: poached eggs, hollandaise (“holiday”) sauce, Canadian bacon, toasted English muffin. It was delicious.

And, he liked it so much himself that he made it again the next Saturday morning, too!

But just when we were getting used to having eggs Benedict Arnold every Saturday morning, he went on a sleepover at a friend’s house last Friday night.

We pointed out that we’d missed his cooking on Saturday afternoon when he got home. He promised to make them again this Saturday.

Life is good.