Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Hot Water ... Again

Let's see, when did we buy this water heater?   Looks like April, 2003.  ~10 years ago.

It's been a bit of a saga.

This is our tankless, continuous, on-demand water heater, a Seisco RA-28.  When it works, (which it has just fine except when it has sprung leaks) it works well.  The problem has been the leaks. The plastic has been prone to hairline cracks after 3 or so years.  And the circuit board is not protected from leaks.  When it's not working it doesn't just not work a little.  You need to shut it off to protect it.  And the danged thing cost $600+ in 2003, and it's $800- $1000 to replace today.

The plastic is something Microtherm developed with DuPont specifically for this application.  It's a special kind of nylon that is supposed to stand up to the rapid temperature fluctuations inherent in a unit like this.  But a while back they apparently had some quality control problems with the plastic.  It was being formed outside the country and imported.  Last I talked to them they said they built their own manufacturing facility right in their back yard in Texas and that those problems had gone away.

We had a leak in May 2006, Jan 2007, and I want to say again in 2009, when I replaced both two-cylinder chambers with new plastic.

The worst of it was in February of 2007 (read, COLD in Missouri), when we were without hot water for about three weeks.  We'd had a leak, I got a new part, installed it, and one ... single ... solitary drip dripped onto the circuit board and *BANG*.. so I had to order a new circuit board.

Now the service department was very responsive, and shipped stuff fast ... except the circuit board came in four days later than expected (not sure why that was), and warrantied the parts.  I just paid for shipping on most of it.  They even put me in their database as a tech, so I get to real live people who know stuff when I call.  As of 2007, I was the only guy within 150 miles who had any experience with them.

When I replaced the circuit board, I slipped a Ziplock bag around it and screwed it back on to it's mounting point, with small holes to run the wires through ... to help protect it against future leaks.

Well last Friday I got a call at work.  Vicki said there was a strange buzzing noise coming from the water heater.  I knew right away.  It was the leak sensor alarm.  Dashed home, and there was a fine mist spraying out of the output pipe, which, other than the input pipe which isn't subject to the wild temperature fluctuations the rest of the plastic is subject to -- is probably the oldest part in the unit. Hairline crack. Just like the previous problems I'd had.

I tried patching it with Sugru, but it didn't stick well enough to the plastic to stop the leak.  I ended up wrapping a washcloth around the output pipe to catch the leak and force it to drip to the floor and into the floor drain in the furnace room instead of spraying on the wall.  Or the circuit board.  But I leave it turned off except for when we need it.  Called Seisco and ordered a new output pipe.  $50 plus shipping.  Ouch.  Since then the leak has gotten much worse, but it's still controlled.  I'm wondering why that output pipe can't be copper.

I've been thinking about just having some parts laying around so I can fix things as they come up with minimal outage time, but I haven't ordered parts.  So I thought ... hey, let's just see if there are any parts, or maybe used units out there.

Checked Ebay.   A store in Arizona had had five NEW RA-28's, and was clearancing them out for half price.  $400.  I bit the bullet and ordered the second to last one.

I've been turning the water heater on only when needed, and even shutting the water to it off.

This morning, the water didn't get very hot.  There is water leaking onto the output temperature sensor wire on cylinder 4 (or the input temperature wire on the output pipe.  Don't know if that's the problem.  But clearly it's not a happy unit.  The error code on the unit is "135", which the trouble-shooting manual is reserved for "future use", but also says bad heating element in circuit #2.

So I'll put the new pipe in when it comes, hopefully today.  When the new unit comes next week, I'll install it and keep the old one for parts.  That way I should have a new unit under manufacturer warranty, to boot.

So ... it hasn't been as stable as a traditional tank heater, and it's certainly been more expensive.  However, it is the best solution for our house.  We don't really have room for a traditional water heater anywhere, and we do like the continuous hot water.  It also saves on energy.  Hopefully this new one will have well-formed plastic and last us many years.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Making Magic

We had our 5 year old grandson Trenton over today, babysitting. Before he got here, I had a fire in the fireplace, frazier fir scented oil in the little oil/candle warmer, and quiet Christmas music playing by 8:00 am. The house is a tasteful explosion of Christmas cheer. Not that I expect him to consciously notice these things, I just want them to seep in. A memory he won't quite remember where it came from, but a memory nonetheless.

Vicki had a doughnut ready for him. And while we played Star Wars Legos, the Polar Express soundtrack was playing.

I had Christmas music going all day. Occasionally he would break out of whatever he was playing and he'd say "I know this song, it's _____________" and he'd sing a few lines. And keep playing.

Took him to see "Frozen" this afternoon. Disney at it's modern best.

A light dusting of flurries fell all afternoon. He tried to catch them in his hands and on his tongue.

This is what it is to pass the Christmas Spirit on. To Keep Christmas, as Dickens put it.

Yes, he does know at some level the Reason for the Season, but he IS only 5, and he probably won't get "it" for several years to come. Creating the magic to wrap it all up in is exactly the mischief I'm up to.

We were in the lobby after the movie this afternoon. They have two air hockey tables. He wanted to play. The coin taker was broken. All it took was dollar bills. Which I was fresh out of. Oh, I had a $20, and I COULD have gone to the cashier and broken it, but we needed to get him over to Mom & Dad's so they could leave for Christmas at the Carletons.

After rifling through my wallet, I said I didn't have any ones and that we should probably go anyway, and this woman, a complete stranger -- came up and handed me a $1 bill with a gracious and knowing smile. I've done the same for others, and I knew a kindred spirit when I saw one. I thanked her. We played a game of air hockey.

He won.

Imagine that.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Orla Gartland

Orla Gartland on YouTube at 14
A few ago a very good friend of mine (happens to be the Art director for Kansas City Irish Fest) sent me a link to a youtube video by a young Irish ginger lass tagged with the simple message, "You're welcomed."  That young artist's name is Orla Gartland.

I can't even remember what that song was right now.  But I was impressed.  Just a young girl sitting in her room with a yellow wall behind her, and her guitar, and a good voice with a need to share.  (By the way, I did thank Cami.)

Orla was only 15 at the time, and already you could hear a maturity beyond her tender years in some of her lyrics, in her ability to turn a phrase and in her instinctive handling of the synergystic fusion of melody and emotion behind the lyric.

In a world of pop music devoid of melody and full of kind of coarse, "in your face" attitude, she's a breath of fresh air.

Though a slew of covers out there, she's been writing originals all along.  She's done a great job on covers (Bastille's "Pompeii" comes to mind - I actually like it better than theirs) but it's in her originals that she shines.  It's all her, and it shows.  She has a sound that is distinctly "Orla".  She also has a reputation for her strained mid-song faces and goofy selfies.

Many of her originals so far have dealt with the emotions that go with those last years you're kind of stuck in the middle between childhood and adulthood, which is perfectly suitable.  Write what you know, and it'll come out naturally.  She seems full of a contagious enthusiasm for life and friends and music and even in her more moody material you can feel an underlying sense of forward-looking optimism.

Orla's material runs the spectrum from whimsical to pensive, and as examples of those ends I'll put up my two favorites of hers, "All the Little Details" -- which brilliantly captures the awkward combination of fear and excitement that goes with trying to approach a crush (plus it's one of the cutest music videos I've ever seen) -- to "The Ground", which captures the fusion of defiance and brokenness that comes with rejection -- and from there to another of her best to this point, "Ripping at the Seams", revealing how observant she is of human nature and relationships.

She's 18 now, and while she hasn't shed the sheepish goofing kid image yet, she soon will.  Judging by the quality of her studio recordings and the official music videos for her songs, she's got some good connections in the music world.  She's a savvy marketer.  I think she's a smart girl who knows what she's doing. The yellow wall will fall by the wayside, and I believe she'll break out and have real success.

By and large so far I think a good chunk of her current fans are teens and tweens, but she also a substantial number of fans who are ... errrr ... uhhh ... old enough to be her father. :-)  I've been watching her kind of like a proud uncle, which is wierd because I don't really know her and I have absolutely nothing to do with any of her talent.  Go figure, I can't help it.  It's that infectious, she makes you feel like you do know her.

Orla Gartland in concert at 19
A recent still of her in concert gave a glimpse at a grown woman quite comfortable in her own skin.  I don't think her early breakthrough (from a YouTube artist) success is a fluke.  I think she's a gifted singer and a promising songwriter.  With each new song, I wonder if she's run out of ideas like some flash in the pan -- but when I hear them it's clear she hasn't.  She's just getting started, and she'll get better.  If she can keep her head on straight and just keep doing what she loves, I think she's going places.  Give her a listen and keep an ear out for her.

Her first EP, "Roots" is available for pre-order on iTunes

Friday, September 20, 2013

Pushing 50

So, I played softball today.   Sort of.

Thought back.  I probably haven't *played*, as in gone through all the motions, since high school.  Which is probably over 30 years.  Which is literally painfully obvious.

Oh, I've slapped a few balls around with a bat, and thrown a ball around and played catch.   But I've always been sucky at fielding flies.  And apparently, it's been a long time since I've tried to literally sprint.   For one thing, I forgot to stand up after I tipped the first pitch lamely about 6 feet in front of me.  I looked at it and thought, "crap, really?"  But I then thought, "no way am I just going to give this to them."

So I started running.  But it wasn't the way I remembered.  Turns out you do need to straighten up a bit before you start running.  I almost lost balance.  Next 5 or 6 strides I spent mostly trying to accelerate while recovering my balance, which I'm sure wasn't pretty.  I tried to turn on the afterburners, but apparently they're all clogged up with carbon or something.  I was just about at First, and the throw wasn't there yet, so I tired to lean into my last step to hit the base before the ball got there (I knew where it was, I don't know how)  .... and that was a bit of a mistake.  You should really run across the bag, which I didn't.  Spent too much effort trying to push the foot down to land on it sooner.

The unexpected shorter stride (and WHY should it have been unexpected? Duh!) caused me to stumble, almost trip (flat footed?  how?  I dunno, I apparently managed) and I fell and rolled on my left arm and shoulder.  The ball beat me there, I already knew.

I'm really glad nobody was filming it.  Nobody was filming it ... right? :-)

So I have a substantial bright red raspberry on my left elbow, and a bit of a scratch through the shirt on my left shoulder.   I was out.  It was my only at bat (we lost by the 10 run rule).  My lower back hurts.  And I was generally tuckered out running around within about a 30 foot ellipse in shallow right field from my second base position.

Man.  I thought I kinda sucked in high school.   I'll be 50 in a few months.

I probably should have done more of this earlier in life.

And I should take up running a bit.  Just for practice. In case I need to get away from a rabid porcupine or something.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A Neighborhood Story

Several years ago, an older single lady lived up the street from us.   She was a firecracker.  She'd been a bail bondsman, she wasn't afraid to tell you what was on her mind, and there was a young woman inside that body, breathing supplemental oxygen through a tube, that had never lost its drive, and there was some frustration and a bit of associated grumpiness apparent in her.

Every now and then she'd need some help with something, and I and/or a couple of other men in the neighborhood would go put this up or move that piece of furniture or reach something for her.  She was always talkative and appreciative.

Her health continued to deteriorate.  At one point she got one of those motorized tricycles that older and otherwise mobile impaired people get....

And then something happened.

This older man showed up.   She told us about him.  They had been high school sweethearts who had lost track of each other, married other people, had families, grew old ... and they were both single now.   They got married.

The motor-trike disappeared.  She got off the oxygen. Didn't need it anymore. She could walk around on her own just fine.  She had a new spark in her eye and a spring in her step.  They were often seen holding hands, and sitting on a concrete bench in front of their house, talking to neighbors.  She said she'd never been happier in her life.

We live in a neighborhood with an Association, and rules about paint colors.  But Joy liked yellow, and she fairly defiantly painted the trim on their brown house yellow after installing a bay window in the front.  There were a few grumblings, but I never said anything to them.  Frankly I didn't think it looked that bad.  But a few years later -- she died suddenly.  Heart attack, stroke, I don't remember.

Since then I somehow got wrangled into being on the board of the Association, and a bit later somehow I defaulted to being president when the president resigned.   And I was recently asked why the board has never pushed to have that paint addressed.

The answer is a little complicated ... for one thing it was done before I was on the board and the previous board did nothing about it.  We also have bigger fish to fry -- but the main reason I am reluctant ... is that I know the human story behind it.  These are not my subjects, they're my neighbors.  And to ask Bob to paint over that trim would be like asking him to paint over the memory of Joy, his love.  I just can't bring myself to do it.  It's a little yellow paint.  In the grand scheme of things, I think it means more to him, and frankly to anyone who knew Joy ... than it does to the curmudgeons who want it painted over.  I know they don't like that answer.