11 November 2006

The Humility of Plumbing

So, what does it mean to be unable to feel rested when one wakes up and regain any stamina at more than a snail's pace? That is the condition I found myself in starting in OCT 2004 and remains until this day. Now the worst of this tripped of a latent family condition towards narcoleptic/cataleptic states, in which this familial one is not a typical branch of that condition. The stories passed down of my great grandfather just slowly 'nodding off' over his lunch bucket in the fields is one that is a clear memory passed directly down to me via an eyewitness to this. The interceding two generations also had similar conditions of sleep disorders and other awake/sleeping problems. My reading up on this when I was young on the basic condition led to the conclusion that this allele would, hopefully, have finally gotten shaken out by the latest genetic mixing leading to me.

Learning about alleles, their passing into populations, how they propagate and such like is a direct linkage to evolutionary concepts and leads to evolutionary genetics. To actually understand the how's and why's of the allele formulation, their effects on individuals, propagation within populations and their spread or lack of same, requires that such things as climate, demographics, mutation, inheritance and the such be understood so as to help understand how a genetic change does or does not remain within a larger population group. Climate and environment play a key role in many alleles, such as those for thalassemia and sickle cell disease. Each of these alleles is actually of benefit in their climate and environment, to some extent, especially sickle cell disease which helps to combat malaria. Those each do take a toll on the body, however, but surviving to reproduce is the name of the game, and by helping to ensure to get to that age the allele is then seen as useful, even if it has longer-term deleterious effects.

Narcoleptic states and their brethren, however, look to be relatively neutral on the inheritance concept. Most of these states show up in early maturity and do not become deleterious to survival until they progress later in life. And, as we have moved from 'nature red in tooth and claw' to a more civilized world, the actual negative impacts upon survival were lessened. Falling asleep over lunch may deprive one of a meal, but shouldn't kill you outright. That said having the same happen while in control of a motor vehicle, as happened to me, is not only deleterious to long term survival, but a public safety issue and thus I am now off the road. Getting the symptoms addressed, or at least the worst of them, has helped to lessen the catalepsy.

Just a short description of it in my case to help one understand, as my condition is not the norm. There is a noticeable onset of lethargy in the body, some sluggishness of thought, then a slow loss of fine motor skills starting in the fingers and arms. That progresses, usually quickly, to encompass the upper and lower torso, neck, and head. All normal voluntary motor commands from the brain do *not* do much of anything to the extremities. What individuals take for granted in their daily life because they have trained and adapted themselves to the use of their body do not work. As a delightful sidelight I do *not* go unconscious during this! I have full sensory awareness and input, can listen to conversation, count numbers, and the such like while my body decides when it well get off of its break.

Now, I will shorten up the months of tests, and I have been cleared of absolutely every major and minor condition that could do this across the entire suite of infectious diseases, neuro-muscular disorders and the such like. Been there, done that, used up more blood than I care to talk about, been through sleep studies, been checked for epilepsy and its variants, had liver conditions looked into and on and on and on. It was an MRI that isolated the problem: some loss of grey matter, minor but noticeable in a non-age related way. An endocrinologist, that I need for by type 1 diabetes management, took me off of statins as all of this turned up a relatively minor liver problem and he there have been documented accounts of lipitor, which I was on, having similar, but recoverable effects.

By JUL 2005 I was on treatment with one of the anti-narcoleptic drugs that got a wonderful Schedule IV rating, because yuppies had used it as a 'keep awake' pill. So to all of those high-power executives that just *need* to get some extra hours in and can't afford to take a break: you have, personally, made my treatment more expensive so that you could live a higher life.

What this medication does not do, however, is allow my body to regain stamina at any but a rate that only outpaces continental drift in a fractional way. Now, you probably would like to know what *that* feels like. So, here it goes. Do you know when you have had a pretty long day, and have been dragged out? Really, bodily weary? Then you only get a few hours of sleep and really don't recover to well, but a 'good night's sleep' will get most of it back and two will do it for certainty? Know that feeling? Ok, now wake up the next day without any recovery and still having to expend energy. And no recovery that night's sleep. Wash, rinse, repeat. I have had some minimal amount of recovery, but a simple thing like actually going *out* to see someone for a half-hour or so will then require TWO DAYS to get that minimal amount of energy back.

The exercise/build stamina/recovery cycle is broken. I went from walking a good mile or so a day at the start of this, to where I could barely get 50' without having to stop and sit down due to dizziness. Time of decline: 3 months. I was physically healthy and capable before this and am now NOT due to something that has been lost in that regulatory cycle inside my noggin. I have *strength* although that is waning, but stamina to actually *use* it for anything more than a few minutes is gone.

Got all of that?

Now comes the lovely part: plumbing.

Toilets are, lets face it, something that Rube Goldberg would have troubles improving upon. This part here, lifts up. Water goes through that hole. Water moves to rim and circulates with downwards pressure. Water pushes down into "S" pipe causing siphon effect. Part comes down to close off water as it empties. Other part goes down with water to cause attached valve to open. Valve opens. Water flows into tank. Float goes up slowly closing valve. Valve closes water is at fill level and everything is good with the world.

Until, of course, something goes wrong. The flapper degrades over time due to exposure to water and chemicals. You try to flush too much and the stuff gets stuck in or after the "S" curve, then the next flush backs up. The valve corrodes over time so it no longer closes fully or doesn't open. The anti-siphon system clogs up. The float system doesn't go up properly. A gasket in any of the water input stem, valve, seal around the input stem or a few other places, goes bad over time due to water exposure. When there are water stoppages, stuff in the pipes gets dislodged and then moves until it either comes out or gets *stuck* in a filter or small opening like that fill valve.

Yes, Rube Goldberg would be PROUD!

These things are a nuisance and can sometimes be put off by manual manipulation of various parts. Jiggle the handle to pull on the chain to get the flapper to seat properly. Take the tank top off to move the swing arm or other similar on the valve. And, if you can GET to the filters, take them out and clean them.

Ten or eleven years ago I had the lovely time of replacing the old ball/swing arm assemblies with the newer cylinder float systems. It took me untold hours to do so for each toilet as they all failed one right after another, and getting the new mechanism to seat 'just right' was a problem.

Why is that? The filler pipe was solid piping. Yes, that little pipe leading into the tank or equivalent was a solid metal pipe coming from the shut-off valve. This is a problem as the entire assembly was installed when the house was NEW and everything aligned *perfectly*. Houses 'settle' as the foundations slowly shift as the underlying soil and rock structure move to take up the overburden. This is shifted throughout the house structure in an uneven fashion and you will hear that as a creak here or there in the woodwork: that stress builds up until the fasteners and wood or wood on steel or steel on steel (then you get a grating noise or 'ping') overcomes the resistance of friction and shifts a thousandth of an inch or so. Some areas will shift without noise if they have anything that has water in them to start with that compresses as the water evaporates or transpires. Like that wonderful tile floor with the underlying paste/grouting/mortar which can do so in your bathroom. Add in humidity to wood over time and suddenly a decade can shift the entire thing by a non-trivial amount.

So, after expending *lots* of energy and getting to know the toilet tank, its position, the position of the feeder pipe and the non-alignment of the two *intimately* I did what I was doing throughout. I took a break. Working on the floor, on your back is already conducive to such things and I took a few of them throughout this. Plus answered the door to get my delivery of goods from Denmark via Hjemve (which was a wondrous selection of coffees, some non-salt licorice for my lady and some dark chocolate for us both), getting some free Dumb Looks from the cat, and cursing the building contractor who had made the place and the architect who needs to work with things in a realistic manner. Left it in a state of disrepair and turned to the #1 resources of knowledge, which is an internet search engine.

I wanted 'flexible toilet pipe' and lo!

It was made by many!

Delivery time would be days, however, and I was wasted for that day but *knew* that once gotten the actual install would take *minutes*. I checked the closest building supply Big Box and while they seemed to be able to outfit everything else in the house, they did not list this singular item. I related this to my lady and slacked off into the land of Grey. The previous couple of posts were the result of that.

She came back and put it on her shopping list and I told her that for the house we would need four of same. More Greyness ensued. When she returned, the amazement was that not only did the Big Box have it, but by different makers! She got the best that looked good and came back to much rejoicing and hugs, and a necessary cup of coffee.

Thus today it was *finish this damned thing* day.

Of course this required the dismantling of all prior work as, well, that's the way things go, isn't it? Use a bit of pipetape on one gasket 'just to make sure', put the new filler assembly in, used their mounting ring... now here I do wonder about somethings: why put out the filler pipe screw on mount when every damn pipe I have ever SEEN has it so made that only the one that came with it will stay with it, forevermore? That said, install the flexible pipe on the valve stem, put the other end on, do the leak test with just a *teeny* bit of pressure.

Nope, the mount on the pipe was not seated properly on the assembly. Turn off water.


Take off hose, realize that as it is stainless steel (so the cats will not find it a tasty delight) it has force that resists bending and thus a proper seating on the assembly. The partially stripped starter thread is testament to that. The solution: take hose off of shut-off valve as THAT is metal to metal, not plastic to plastic, attach the mount to the assembly (with a bit of pipetape to make sure the partially stripped thread would not leak) 'hand tighten' that to a fare-thee-well and then do the final and most difficult part of getting the metal joint valve screwed back onto the shut-off valve.

Much effort later and making sure I was *not* going to strip those, and much fiddling and hose coming loose and trying again, I finally got it started, hand tightened it down and gave the necessary 1/4 turn with the wrench.

Cross fingers and let a bit of pressure through. Heard it flow through things and into tank. Watched closely and increased pressure a little. Going good! A bit more, about 1/4 pressure when things will either catastrophically give or you are Golden.

I was Golden.

More pressure and more and more. Full pressure, and then observe the new system to make sure IT works as it is NOT a Rube Goldberg contraption.

Water quietly fills. Gets to the opening that regulates the water intake. Water stops!


Flush a few times to make sure and will keep an eye on it for a day or so.


I know the equipment, I know the method and it now works!!

It Works!

Korky 4010 Replacement kit

It only took me 6 MONTHS to get the energy to a level in my body where I could even attempt this.

One down!

Yes, the upstairs master bathroom toilet is my next nemesis. And an evil one it is with its modernistic contraption refusing to stop filling due to a faulty internal valve that you cannot get to.

Your takeaway message: the idea of everything fitting perfectly when *building* your home does not mean that it STAYS that way. Getting a new home constructed? Make sure you realize that some leeway is needed in future repairs for it will all have shifted out of alignment by the time you need to do them.

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