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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Adventures in Plumbing

One of the disadvantages of working from home is that after a long day, you are right there to address challenges around the house.  Today's after hours challenge was the upstairs toilet.  Besides the fact that the flusher has been finicky lately (it sometimes needed two or even three tugs on the handle), the fill valve would no longer shut off.  So I was constantly running water.  This is a major distraction downstairs where I can hear it running.  So, I went off to the hardware store.

Now, as every do-it-yourselfer knows, every project requires three trips.  First to collect the parts that you think you need.  Second to collect the part or tool you didn't know you were going to need.  Finally, to get the part you should have known you needed but decided you could do without, or to get the part that you broke putting it all back together.  I joked about this with the hardware store clerk.  He said in parting, "See you later!" with a grin.  I was bound and determined to avoid three trips.  So after disassembly, when I couldn't get the big nut off the bottom with my hands, and couldn't find my wrench (yes, there is a tool for that), I improvised a big wrench with a C-clamp and a block of wood.  No way was I going back 3 times. So I won, and got it off.

Getting the fill valve off was a lot harder.  The problem was that it was still attached to the tube that went down to the shut-off valve.  That tube connects to the shut-off valve with a compression fitting.  It was much easier to disconnect that then the ancient and corroded metal pipes that came from the bottom of the fill valve.  Try as I might, even with all the right tools (how many people have 50-year-old plumbers wrenches in their basement), I could not budge the corroded pipe.  Hacksaw I thought, but that meant I was going to need another connector from the shut-off value to the fill valve.  Still, it's only two trips I though.  So off I went.  The clerk and I had another discussion about the number of trips as I purchased a universal connector.  This is the last piece I need I declared.  I thought about getting new washers for the tank bolts, but I had plenty of washers in my tool kit at home.  We joked about breaking hacksaw blades when I explained to him what I was up to next.  I told him I had three hacksaws and plenty of spare blades.

So, I started hacking off the fitting on the fill valve.  After a few minutes of hacking, I got nowhere, sure enough, that blade was very dull.  So I replaced it with another blade.  Off it came easy.  I put everything back together and then began to test fit the new connecting pipe to the shut-off valve.  It didn't fit.  The connector was WAY too big.  Dang it, I thought.  This is supposed to be a universal connector.  But this piece doesn't work.  I remembered some adapters that I still had left over from my dishwasher installation.  I went down to find them only to discover they were the wrong gender.  They were male-to-male or female-to-male,. but I needed a female-to-female size reducer.  I came back upstairs.  I looked at the tube.  This packaging I was about to throw away but saved in case I needed to return it was sitting right there.  "I swore this said universal" I declared, holding it up.  Out fell a bag of three female-to-female adapters.  One of them was the right size and I managed to nearly finish the job.

I reassembled everything, did a test fill, and everything seemed to work.   Then I flushed.  Clean water went everywhere.  I'd forgotten to put back an important rubber washer at the base of the new flapper.  So I disassembled again, put that back on, and reassembled.  It worked, but I had a drip.  And I couldn't find washers of the right size.  The clerk laughed at me when he saw me return.  This is the last trip I said.  Don't worry he said as I departed, we close in another half hour.  You still have time if you need us.

So, I put on the new washers, tightened everything down, and ruminated on the adapters.  Of course I saved the extra parts, I always do.  You never know when you might need one of those things again, and it could save me from that third trip to the hardware store.  Having the right adapter in place for the right purpose is a really good idea.

I'll be proposing a new profile proposal for IHE IT Infrastructure next week.  It's essentially like that  plumbing adapter.  It supports connecting mHealth devices to an XDS Registry/Repository.  It accounts for the fact that on those devices, you don't often have access to a SOAP stack, and that simpler XML would be easier to work with as well, as the best you are likely to have is an XMLHttpRequest object.  That is after all, a standard fitting. Perhaps IHE should have an adapter for that in its toolbox.  We'll see how it goes.


P.S.  My wife is calling me.  I need to go re-tighten those bolts.  She hears leaking.  I hope I get it right because the hardware store is closed now.


  1. The basis of civilization is division of labor in the community. So the most civilized solution is to call a plumber, while you focus on what you do best.

    I only wish that Health IT were as civilized. :-)

  2. Ah, but then you have taken away the joy of accomplishment in completing a task that I'm not necessarily best at, and so reduce my sense of independence. Also, it denies me to have an opportunity to have strange topics to write about that I can connect with what I do best.

  3. Now I understand why my husband keeps leaving in the middle of projects. This was hilarious, thanks,

  4. “One of the disadvantages of working from home is that after a long day, you are right there to address challenges around the house.” It could also serve to your advantage, right? When you’re always there and updated on the condition of your home’s premises, you’ll be able to prevent any problem from getting worse. Anyway, kudos for the work you’ve done!

    Darryl Iorio

  5. If I were in your situation, I would definitely freak out, especially when the water went everywhere! Haha! I really don’t trust myself when it comes to plumbing. :’) This is the reason why I always ask for the help of a professional. With that, I wouldn’t feel scared because I am confident that he will do the job right!