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hotsy totsy

          Some weeks ago I went for a hike with Allie and Chance on a cold, sunny Sunday, and coming home, I was cheered by seeing the relief valve on top of my solar panels emitting steam. When I got home I went immediately into the control room to see what sort of temperatures were out and about it the system. I was thrilled that the panels had reached 104 degrees Celsius, showing that even though it was cold out, the sunniness was producing some admirable heat. I felt like calling Dick Cheney up in person, and telling him a thing or two about how to stop invading dusty countries.

          What I found out yesterday would not have changed what I wanted to tell D.C., and by extension, his sidekick, but it made me completely reevaluate how happy I was to have seen the steam puffing out of my solar panels. It turns out that it meant that the glycol in the system was just boiling off, and, subsequently, there wasn’t enough volume in the system to create enough pressure to cycle through. In short: the solar panels were doing nothing. That sucks indeed, but what really sucks is that it took a month before I figured out that the panels weren’t contributing to my home’s heat. I had to get an astronomical power bill before I understood.

          So I got yet another opportunity to chat with Pat down at R.E. He, by the way, must be just about the most emotionless, inexpressive, humorless engineer of all the humorless, inexpressive, emotionless engineers of all time. Either that or he’s shy. I want to call him Eyore, but Eyore at least had pessimism with which to flush out his personality. Interlocution with Pat is significant only for its spectacular monotony. He takes mono-tonal-ism to new and unexpected heights, but he knows his business. He’s no slouch in what he does, no matter the delivery. But the emotionlessness, which has its advantages is, to me,  a clear and deliberate gauntlet thrown down with force and conviction: I can barely pay attention to what he’s saying because I’m just desperate to get a giggle out of him. See how I am? Come on, Pat, I want to say, gimme a jeer! How about a derisive little snort when I say something stupid? I’d be happy to accept that deadpan delivery if it conveyed a droll witticism, or even a sardonic aside, but Pat strays not one millimeter from his engineering script. I bet you could make his head explode by tying him to a chair and making him watch you fold up a road map wrong.

          A regrettable lack of polytonalism aside, Pat figured out my problem quite quickly, but he also posited that it was a problem that called for the services of a professional. So I also got to talk with Cap’n Nemo again, albeit from a distance, since he was on vacation at Fort Peck. Cap’n Nemo was going fishing. He’s not only the kind of guy who likes learning new things like how to put together a solar thermal system, but he also likes killing things. Late last year he took a vacation to North Dakota, where he slaughtered a bison, and left the blood all over the back of his pick up for months. Now he’s bludgeoning enormous pikes and sturgeons, probably with a baseball bat. Don’t ask me why. I know it isn’t the beer, which, let’s face it, is the draw for 99% of ice fishermen. The Cap’n, being a tee-totaler, seems to rely on blood lust for his draw toward the ice. On the one hand I’ve got monotonal Pat, who probably has to use photoshop to get blood into his cheeks, and on the other I’ve got the Cap’n.  It’s a wonder I’ve been able to hang on to sanity for this long. Or… have I? Its not clear at this point.

          What is clear is that Cap’n Nemo-the-Barbarian is done with me. His aversion to ever coming back here, now that he has been paid is so strong, he achieved brilliance. Pat said I had to recharge the system with a pump and all sorts of nuclear-type devices, which only a professional plumber would have, but the Cap’n knows his way around fancy equipment. Quite sensibly, he pointed out that I didn’t have to pump the fluid up into the system, but I could dump it down from the top. Then all I’d need to do is pressurize it, which I could do with a washing machine hose. It took an extra washer on the washing machine hose (suggested by my putative suitor, who came by with a valentine, of all things, and still doesn’t understand “no”, but has good ideas when it comes to washing machine hoses and pressurization of solar panels), but the system got pressurized to 1 bar, which seems to be doing the trick. Since then, when the sun shines, my panels routinely read 125 degrees Celsius, and that all-important word appears regularly on the readout: heat.

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