Sunday, December 20, 2009

Testing Yourself

The doctor gave me a definitive diagnosis: it's Rheumatoid Arthritis. He said that it looked to him like my body would respond well to treatment, and he was right: every week I am a little stronger, and with rare exceptions I don't need to take anything for pain.

The recovery has an eery nick-of-time precision. And it's a good thing, too. First came the snow; I was strong enough to handle it, barely. It felt good to be outside working.

Friday night, my wife and I were watching a DVRed episode of Law and Order, one with an exquisitely complex plot. She had a glass of wine, but I was settling for the contact high, having given up alcohol because I am taking too many drugs that are hard on the liver. This was an easy decision, especially for a moderate drinker, about as easy as "no more winter IFR over the Cascades in singles." But that's another story.

An odd background noise caught my attention. Not a helicopter, not a truck, maybe something from the rail yard? No. A neighbor doing something? No, not at 11pm.

I went down to the basement. Is it the water softener? No. The noise was coming from the furnace.

I got some tools and started poking around, and pretty quickly decided that it was the exhaust blower fan. I fooled around with it, but the disassembly was more than I felt like tackling at 1am, and, besides, I didn't have any spare parts, so what was the point? We shut the whole thing down. We shut the furnace down. The night's predicted low was 20F.

But we have a backup or two. This is one of my big lessons to my flying students (I had to get to flying somehow, right?). I remembered the time I was shooting the GPS approach into Jackson Hole, WY [KJAC], night IMC. At that time, the GPS approach was an overlay for the VOR/DME approach, and I had written in the company training manual that in such cases, workload permitting, the pilot should set up both. Which I had. When the RAIM failure came, all I had to do was punch one button tand keep flying.

My wife and I got down to work lighting the fireplaces and the wood stove. I had turned off the gas to the gas fireplace, and went down to the garage to turn it back on. When I came back, she had stacked some half-split logs on the back porch. "I'm not too good at splitting these," she said.

They were way too big for either the fireplace or the wood stove. So I went out to split some logs. Being a good Yankee, I kept saying, "Best thing about a wood fiyah is that it wahms you twice!" Which it did. While I was outside I made note of a broken gutter, which I fixed this afternoon. If I recover much more I might put on a new roof or something.

The furnace guy came out in the morning and confirmed my blower fan diagnosis. He disassembled it, and found three broken impeller blades. We tried to run it with the missing blades, but the wheel was too imbalanced. Kind of like United 232, but way less deadly.

"We don't carry this part," he said, "We'll have to order it." So I went out to split some more logs. Not bad, considering that 6 weeks ago I couldn't erase the blackboard.

But we had some luck; he found a blower fan, and came back to install it. The furnace is running nicely, everyone is warm, and the bill is in the mail.

Still, it would have been nicer to fix it by pushing one button...

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