An ‘Engineering’ Solution

Last week I was swearing over a project when Hubby wandered by. I looked up with a sigh and said, “This is driving me nuts. I bust my ass to get it done, and think, ‘There, it’s finished.’ Then I find out I should have done it differently. So I fix it and think, ‘There, now it’s finished and it’s right.’ Then I find more and better information, so I fix it again…”

By then, Hubby was nodding sympathetically. “Yep, that’s engineering.”

I gaped at him for a moment. Then I smiled. With one simple phrase, he’d made a seemingly futile process feel like a worthwhile endeavor.

I admit it: I’m a wannabe engineer. My tendency to overanalyze and devise solutions usually emerges late at night when I should be sleeping. My half-dozing brain is certain it’s invented something brilliant, until I come to full alertness in the morning and think, “What the ever-loving f…?!?” Worse, I grew up on a farm, so I inherited the ‘farmer fix-it’ mentality: It doesn’t have to look good; it only has to work.

And that’s how I came to be sitting in our mudroom a couple of days ago, keeping an eye on a stream of water from a partially-extended retractable faucet I’d taped to a 10-foot piece of central-vacuum piping, which went out the door to rest on a length of aluminum channel propped on a short segment of wooden I-beam and stabilized by a small rock. A chair held the door mostly closed, while a blanket, old jacket, garden sprayer, and small rug kept the cold air at bay.

Unless you’re an engineer, your eyes probably glazed over just from reading the description; so I won’t launch into how the design evolved. I will, however, answer the question most likely to be asked by any sane person: “For the love of God, WHY?!?

Well, once a year we have to sanitize our water lines with a dose of bleach, but we’re not supposed to run bleach into our septic system because it kills the good bacteria. (Although it seems to me that ‘good’ is a relative term when referring to anything that results from rotting shit.)

Anyway, the bleach-laden water has to be piped outside. A hose would have been a good solution, but our mudroom faucet won’t accept a hose fitting. Hence the Rube Goldberg contraption.

Somewhat to my surprise, it worked fine and we got most of the bleach out of the lines, although the next morning’s shower smelled a lot like a public swimming pool. (The chlorine scent, not the funky ‘somewhere in this room a wet towel has been rolled in a ball and left in a locker until it grows polka-dots’ odour.)

So our water is safe for another year; and my hair is only a few shades lighter from the mental effort and residual bleach. So far, so good…

Anybody else have an inventive week?

Book 16 update: Just when I think ‘it’s done and it’s right’, I find something else to fix. (Engineering, grrr!) I’m still at the 50% mark, but the early chapters are whipped into shape now. (I think hope.)

53 Comments

Filed under Humour, Life

53 responses to “An ‘Engineering’ Solution

  1. Love your inventiveness….I’m impressed!! I will be honest, I have never heard of having to run bleach through your water system annually (or ever for that matter). I will give you I haven’t grown up with well water or septic systems, but…..hold on….but I did grow up with people that had both…and then as soon as us kids left home, my folks bought a large house in the country and had both. So, I’m curious as to the reason “why?”…..nosey maybe…ok too nosey, but let’s stick with curious!!

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    • LOL! Curiosity is an engineering trait. We’re in good company, you and I. 😉

      Technically we wouldn’t have to run bleach through the water system. We test our well water once a year and so far it has never had any nasty bacteria that could make us sick. The problem is that a lot can happen between annual tests; and our well is only 27 feet deep so it’s much more vulnerable to surface contamination than a deep well. Since there’s no chlorine in our water, any bacteria that did get introduced would be able to grow unchecked. So we’ve just made it a habit that when we replace our UV sterilizer bulb and particulate filters once a year, we dump a bit of bleach into the system in case we’ve acquired any ‘unwanted visitors’ along the way. We’re being overly cautious, but I really don’t like being sick.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Once you mentioned the depth of your well I got it. Thanks for taking the time to answer…I was intrigued and feeling your pain going through the process! 🙂 My wife grew up on well water as did a number of my friends. Those were a lot deeper wells and that would make a difference. Have a great rest of your week and weekend!! Rain, correct?

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  2. Well conveniently I have an engineer in the house. So our usual conversations go like this.
    Me – “I have an idea!”
    Him – “Oh no!”
    I often have a vision of how something could work, I just don’t know how to make it happen. So bravo to you, even if you hair is a few shades lighter.

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  3. if it worked, what the hell. Very ingenious.
    I am sure we did some jury-rigging on the farm but examples slip my mind. We did one Rube Goldberg in Ukraine many years back. Two of us on a project were sharing a flat and the catch on the toaster would not hold. We put a kettle full of water on a frying pan with the handle on the toaster lever. The kettle kept the frying pan steady. Then we put a 2 liter bottle of Coke on the handle when we wanted the lever down. We had to watch it but better than having to hold the lever every time.

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    • That’s a great solution! There’s nothing more annoying than a toaster that won’t latch. In fact, anything that delays or interferes with my breakfast is A BAD THING! Once I’ve got food in me, I can generally face the day with good humour; but before that, look out. (And you don’t want to reach in front of me when I’m chowing down on my toast, either. It’s a good way to lose a finger.) 😉

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  4. So, you think and write like an author and act like an engineer? I think that’s a pretty unique combination! My husband is the engineer and I’m the writer, but, while I can’t ask him anything about spelling (yet, he’s the native English-speaker!), I am often able to help him with dilemmas and projects, because – even though I analyze my own thinking – when it comes to solutions, sometimes, the simpler the better.

    All that being said, I totally have the same “condition” as you when it comes to brilliant ideas at night and, by morning, they seem too stupid. Or, more likely, I forgot and the world didn’t get saved because of it!

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    • That’s right! Dang it, how many times could we have saved the world with our brilliant (and forgotten) ideas? (I suspect I know the answer to that question.) 😉

      My husband is an electronics engineer, and we often bounce electronic design ideas back and forth. Even though I only know the basics of electronics, sometimes it helps him just to describe his ideas out loud. That gets his brain going in different directions and he finds new solutions.

      My Hubby is similar to yours in that spelling isn’t his forte, but he’s amazing at identifying the tone and rhythm of my writing. He’s always the first reader of my drafts because he’s so good at picking out subtle narrative changes. He may not be able to articulate exactly what the problem is, but he can unerringly say, “There’s something wrong with this piece, it doesn’t flow the way it should.” And he’s always right!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Are you kidding? Hubby is medically high risk for COVID and hasn’t worked since March. All we DO here is have inventive weeks! (It almost keeps him out of trouble.)

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    • That must have been a heck of an adjustment for both of you! Now I’m visualizing Tim Taylor-style inventions: Has your Hubby invented a vacuum cleaner with nitromethane boost yet?

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      • No but it just wouldn’t even surprise me if it happened! Anything over-engineered is known here as being “Younkerized”. He designed and “Younkerized” a wheelie-bin enclosure for us (he hates it when I call it that, since apparently few in the lower 48 use that phrase!) and is now working on changing the raised bed tomato planter outside the Tiki Hut (i.e.screen porch) into a scale model of the front of a pirate ship, complete with a mast for us to fly a Jolly Roger, because, you know…
        The adjustment hasn’t been as bad as I had thought it would be as I already was a full time telecommuter, and his work in retail was a bit seasonal so he was part-time in winter and around a lot. And in retail he worked weekends and had weekdays off, so I just had to adjust to a bit more time around, but it hasn’t been too bad at all. We’re lucky we like each other [grin].

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  6. Chris Leitch

    Today I used a leftover piece of a garage door opener install attached to vice grips and 2 chisels to remove ceiling tiles in the basement that had way too many nails used.

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  7. davidmeaney@aol.com

    Answer to your water problem Fit a new Faucet in your Mudroom 🤣 P.S. I am on book 14 second time around so hurry up and fix book 16 lol Dave M

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    • LOL! I’m on it! Although if you’re already on Book 14 for the second time, it might be a bit of a wait for 16… 😉

      Despite the $100 price tag, I’m seriously considering a new faucet. The one we’ve got not only doesn’t have a hose thread, it’s also one of those annoying low-flow ones. Low-flow is fine for a shower where you don’t want to waste water; but totally useless when you’re hoping for more than an inch of water in the sink before you grow old and die.

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  8. Maggie Jackson

    Okay – lived on a farm for several years, shocked the well water annually. Learned one thing – the best way to rid oneself of the bleach water is to use the laundry room washer cold water infill faucet. The infill faucet was the correct size for a standard hose. I just ran the hose out the nearest window after removing the screen. Or, you can be an engineer if the challenge appeals to you and you have a slow day. Something to check out for next year – sorry I couldn’t help this year.
    Maggie
    p.s. as a 4th class power/steam ticket holder valves and things might be of unnatural interest to me?

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    • You’re a 4th class power/steam ticket holder?!? You’re my new hero! 😀

      And dang, I could’ve easily run the water out the window from the washer line. Although… I really did want to use the mudroom faucet since it was at the opposite end of the system from where we introduced the bleach, and I wanted to be sure it would circulate completely through the system. Still, we let the system sit for 2 hours so theoretically the chlorine would have distributed itself anyway. Hmmm.

      I guess this is why I’m not a real engineer. I get too caught up in figuring out how to make my screwball idea work, and I zoom right past the simplest solution!

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    • Maggie Jackson

      Oh… and we also isolated our filters for the whole chlorine process.

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      • Maggie Jackson

        Diane – you know the 4th class is the lowest ticket, right? Just so I was allowed into the plant to do the grunt work? SAIT is first class in teaching power engineering – even by correspondence, like I took the course. I worked as an operator for a number of years in my 30’s to 40’s and am 65 now so I have no doubt I have forgotten more than I remember. But valves etc. still fascinate me.

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      • D’oh! *slaps forehead* I should have isolated the BIRM filters… although I’ll have to check and make sure they’ve been plumbed with shutoffs from the port where we introduced the chlorine. They should be. But we had some real clowns working on this house, so ‘should’ doesn’t mean much. I really wish we’d acted as our own general contractor!

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  9. jenny_o

    I am in awe of your talent, to be honest. I have two tools in my aresenal – duct tape and packing tape. If those won’t do the job, forget it 🙂

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  10. Rudy™

    I can’t say I engineered any fixes, but I did use a new paint roller system to paint a bedroom. I don’t know what it is about being in my mid 50s and reading instructions. It seems that the whole process of preparing the pump for paint has some long list I have to follow. Even when it’s broken down into simple steps, it seems I’m sitting on the floor, cussing at it for a half hour until I finally seem to make some sense of it.

    Are the instructions that poorly written to where they’re more complicated than they should be? Or am I just more stupid as I get older? So it’s one of these situations where, in hindsight, I realized that all I was really doing was priming the pump, then the hose and roller. Cleanup was the opposite, with 4 oz. of Pump Armor so it doesn’t rust internally.

    I “over-engineered” one of my last written articles, though, massaging it and “perfecting” it. A month later, I realize I left out the highlight I was going to center the article around. 🙄

    I’m chalking it all up to middle age…

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    • Middle age works for me — that’s the reason I’ve been using lately, too. It just seems as though everything I do takes longer to figure out and longer to subsequently accomplish. I guess that’s why our bodies slow down as we get older: It’s a protective mechanism to make sure we don’t outrun our brain’s processing power. 😉

      And you were painting walls? Blech! I loathe painting. I painted this house when I moved into it, and it’s going to stay this colour until we sell it or they carry me out feet-first. I’m good at drywall patching and paint touchups, so I just keep doing that. If I live here long enough, theoretically the whole place will have gotten a complete new coat of paint…

      Liked by 1 person

      • Rudy™

        If you like power tools, you might enjoy a power roller for painting. 😁 I don’t care for the job much either, but it made quick work of our upstairs bedroom. I was supposed to paint the outside of the house, but Michigan Gloom and Cold has hit us.

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  11. My father said that something which didn’t work properly COULDN’T be considered beautiful. Which might have been because he was a master at bodgy fixes. However he has successfully passed that one on. If the teapot dribbles it is a failure. Decorative is simply not enough.
    When looking at the ‘influencers’ (and how in the name of all that is holy did that get to be a job description) on television I am glad that he isn’t alive to see them and simultaneously very sorry that I cannot hear his acerbic comments.

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    • I completely agree with your father’s opinion. Especially when it comes to teapots! I love teapots, but a drippy one isn’t worth keeping.

      The concept of ‘influencers’ is something I don’t dare examine too closely in case it gives me nightmares. Some of them are genuinely knowledgeable people, but others… yikes! *shudders*

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  12. I would have changed out the mudroom faucet because I am not an engineer. I think Rube Goldberg must have been one.The average plumbing issue is solved by about 5 trips to the hardware store if one knows what one is doing. For most others it is about 7 trips before calling a plumber to fix the damage and correct the original problem.
    I am pretty sure, from evidence I have witnessed, that Canadians have an extra segment on their engineering chromosome. Using Red Green as a point of reference, of course.

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    • LOL! I love Red Green. Should I be concerned that I watch his shows nodding along and going, “Okay, that makes sense…”? I used to love Junkyard Wars, too — what a great show! I was sad when they cancelled it, but I guess they must have run out goodies to hide in the junkyard.

      A trip to the hardware store for a different faucet would probably have been a better solution, but it irks me to pay nearly $100 for a crappy faucet. Not to mention the fact that the bleach was already in the lines when it occurred to me that it would also spread backward into our BIRM filter, which can be wrecked by chlorine. I had to quickly create a small outflow at the opposite end of the system just to keep the chlorine moving in the right direction. Maybe I should have lain awake the night before to plan all that out in advance. 😉

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      • Long ago I had a part time gig with a well drilling company. Running chlorine through the well and the rest of the house was sometimes a bit tricky, but after it had enough contact time getting it all back to normal tasting water took a little while. Most homeowners were understanding, fortunately.
        Yeah, I hate to part with my hardly earned money, too, if it isn’t absolutely necessary.

        Liked by 1 person

  13. Yup, makes you an engineer – especially the thinking about a problem late at night or when you should be doing something else.
    %70 is saying, “That didn’t work”
    %20 is saying, “This could be better”
    %20 is saying, “Let me think about it”
    %20 is saying, “I think I got the math wrong”

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  14. Paint

    Not just engineers. I’m a designer and the only difference is I make my fixes beautiful too (well, I think so). My Dad once spent a whole afternoon finding the bits, and glueing them together and sanding down the button that you push down to lock the car door (in old cars) then he was really cross when he found out they cost 20p at the hardware store.
    On another note, I bought a Virtual Reality headset to be my gym during lockdown. I fantasised about being super user and throwing myself off Ayden’s mountain only to come up like Peter Pan, because I can fly. Or instead of walking down the corridor to the file room, I would swim down it in a spiral – just because I can. Well, I can’t. I can’t even do the roller coasters in VR. I have vertigo and my eyes and my inner ears have a dog fight and I end up on the floor. I have to stick to boxing and sword fighting. Just thought I’d share.

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    • Oh, bummer! Your VR plans sounded so great, too. I’d be right there with you — I can’t even go to 3-D movies because I get motion-sick. But at least you get to box and sword fight, woohoo! What brand of headset did you get?

      Your poor Dad. I’ve been there, too, when a ‘simple fix’ ends up costing more time, effort, and money than if I’d just bought a new item. Grrr. At least you make your fixes beautiful. I don’t seem to have that talent… or maybe I lack the patience. Either way, nobody’s ever likely to compliment me on the beauty of my solutions! 😉

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      • Paint

        I have Quest 2 headset. BeatSaber and FitXR are the games.
        I needed PJ bottoms, but only had white sheets and no dye. So I painted them like theatre curtains complete with ruffles. My friends just looked at them and said ‘Gorgeous, but why?’ My answer ‘why not – lockdown’.
        You make words into beautiful things. Horses for courses – can’t have everything, I guess.

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        • That’s true, and thank you so much for the compliment! 🙂 Your PJ pants sound awesome.

          I just watched the demos for BeatSaber and FitXR, and OMG I WANT TO PLAY, TOO!!! My laptop has the bare minimum system requirements, though. More research is required…

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  15. Hubby is SO right!! The process is euphemistically called an iterative refinement process. Another term, and equally accurate I might add, is pain in the ass. Just sayin’…

    An ‘inventive’ week? Nah, not really. That’s my story, and it’s sticking to me. Further, deponent sayeth not. 🙂

    I’m glad to hear that Book 16 (that still completely blows me away!) is progressing. Another bright spot to look forward to. And if nobody’s told you today that you rock, please allow me to be the first. You SO rock, Sista!

    Liked by 1 person

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