teflon tape hell
Saturday, May 13 2023
location: 800 feet west of Woodworth Lake, Fulton County, NY
As is normal when I'm at the cabin with Gretchen, I woke up earlier than her and made myself a french press of coffee. I also went off at some point to defecate off a cliff, which is not something I do when I have a cabin all to myself (but it's something I like doing in both the Catskills and the Adirondacks if it means there's zero chance of Gretchen hearing me lay waste to a bathroom, a concern I still have even after twenty years of marriage). At some point in the night, Gretchen had moved to the bed in the upstairs bedroom, which was glorious for her because she had the whole thing to herself (while the dogs kept getting on top of the bed clothes in my downstairs bedroom, making it difficult for me to comfortably get under the covers). I decided to join her before she got out of bed, and we ended up having a long rambling conversation about the relative utility of entertainment versus projects (both existing at ends of a spectrum). Somewhere in between lies reading, which Gretchen does a lot of. It is a project to read a book? Or is it just entertainment. I don't really read books anymore, but when I was younger I read a lot, something I credit for my nuanced understanding of English. In that respect (that is, its ability to educate), reading was more of a project, more like education. It left me able to do things I otherwise couldn't. For Gretchen, it might continued to have this feature, though I have a feeling there are diminishing returns after a certain amount of reading. (Also, I continued to read large amounts, though mostly short-form articles at various news sites and online magazines.) I didn't mention this to Gretchen this morning, but part of the value I give to reading comes from my understanding of how ChatGPT and other text-based AI systems are taught. Without digesting vast amounts of text, they wouldn't be able to do what they do. Similarly, a human's understanding of a language (and all the ideas conveyed with it) come from the stochastic training that comes from reading large amounts of text.
After some Spelling Bee and such in the great room, Gretchen headed off to to Woodworth Lake with various reading materials and I went down to the basement to install a one-way valve in the circulator loop (which I will only ever use to pre-heat water in the hot water tank using propane or with a hydronic solar panel).
I ended up caught in a hellish plumbing debugging loop of a kind I've experienced before, though not very often. The one-way valve had half-inch NPT connections that needed to be taped and screwed in. I did all of that before soldering it to the rest of its plumbing context. Then, when I pressurized the system, I thought I detected a very slow leak in one of the taped NPT threaded connections. So I tightened it further, but this only seemed to make the leak worse. I kept tightening and tightening until the nuts I was applying tools to started to break down due to the forces I was using. But the leaks, though slowed down, continued. So I decided to take the NPT joint apart and re-tape it. This involved rotating fittings out of the one-way valve and was possible only because the distant ends of the segment of plumbing I was rotating were PEX-based, and PEX tubing seems to happily rotate on fittings without ever springing a leak. When I had the fitting apart, I saw that my over-tightening had destroyed some of the threads in the brass body of the one-way valve. Why had the leak never stop leaking no matter how hard I had tightened it? I suspect the heat of soldering had damaged the teflon tape. When I retaped the threads, put the pieces back together and tightened it back up, it seemed to leak less. Or maybe not at all. I did the same with the other side of the one-way valve, but this time I decided to completely replace the male 0.5 inch NPT connection going into it, since its threads were all jammed with broken-off brash threads. In the end, I made the leaking almost disappear. But water still seemed to be escaping at a very low rate. I'm pretty sure I will have to completely redo it before I am happy with it, but for now I could leave it be.
I took a break from all that to walk down to the lake, where I found (as expected) Gretchen sitting on one of the zero-gravity outdoor lounge chairs reading a book. It was gorgeous day with temperatures in the upper 70s, though the water was still a bit too cold for activities like swimming. So I took the kayak out. I crossed the lake and then, due to higher lake levels, managed to navigate in a channel behind an old beaver lodge (43.121578N, 74.336886W) at the entrance to a boggy arm of the lake in Joel's parcel. There's a makeshift boardwalk crossing this bog, and had that not been in my way I could've navigated somewhat further up the channel. As I was paddling back to the dock, Gretchen surprised me by stripping naked jumping into the water, something she said was a sudden impulse decision. She was only in the water about twenty seconds before climbing out and toweling off. She then said it wasn't too bad, especially when compared to the "polar bears" who make a sport of jumping into bodies of water in the winter time. I padded southward along the lake's west shore until a large beaver (maybe the one we call "Madyson") appeared and started slapping her tail. I paddled back to the dock and took some photos of the beaver as she swam back and forth about 100 feet away. I'm not sure why beavers do this, because she was no no longer slapping her tail and was instead just watching us from a distance as she continued to move. Meanwhile, I could see at least one human sitting on the dock bench over at the lake's public dock.
While Gretchen went back to reading, I did some more cleaning of the shoreline just south of the dock, removing more pieces of wood that may have been stockpiled long ago by a beaver. I had to wade into the lake for some of this, and it wasn't too bad in there, especially where the water was shallow (the lake seems to already developed a sharp temperature gradient).
At some point Gretchen said she was hungry, so the both of us returned to the cabin to browse. We didn't have any sandwich bread, which made it difficult to make sandwiches. So I heated up most of the fiery leftover mushrooms tibs from the Ethiopian restaurant we'd visited on Thursday ate that. The heat seemed to have mellowed a little and I thought the flavor profile had improved, making for a pretty good leftover Ethiopian food experience. As I was heating the tibs, I modified a song Gretchen had been singing ("What About Love?" by Heart) to instead be "What about tibs?"
When Gretchen headed back to the lake, she wanted the dogs to come, but initially they were reluctant. So I walked down to lake with her, and the two of us had enough social gravity to pull the dogs down there. I took the opportunity of another walk to the lake to retrieve another piece of material no longer needed due to the finishing of the dock: a eight foot by about two foot piece of plywood that I might be using as a temporary retaining wall when I go back to installing styrofoam around the cabin's concrete basement wall.
Back at the cabin, I turned my attention back to the under-deck electrification project. While listening to classic rock, I ran romex 12-2 cable nearly all the way across the basement from east to west so the new light boxes I am installing will be on their own distinct circuit. Later, while Gretchen was cooking a strange meal of giant beans, tempeh, and green beans with a side of potatoes in cheesy sauce, I turned off the power and installed the wiring in the cabin's circuit breaker box. Then I wired up a new ceramic-base lightbulb holder (with grounded outlet) on the one electrical box I've installed under the east deck. I had a few issues with getting the ceramic base to fit, since it wanted to protrude into the space occupied by an overhead floor joist, but I manage to cut out enough wood to make it fit.
Madyson the Beaver in the lake today.
Looking southwestward from behind the old beaver lodge in the channel into Joel's bog. You can see Gretchen on the dock in the enlarged version. Click to enlarge.
Gretchen chillaxing on the dock, viewed from behind the beaver lodge about 750 feet to the northeast.
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