New address!

August 28, 2010

For several reasons, Fighting Chaos is now living at

The content, layout, and address will all improve because of this change.  Thanks for reading!


Over the past month, the whole world has watched a tragedy unfold in the Gulf of Mexico.

Amidst the ‘why’ and the ‘what next’, and the ‘lets not let this happen ever again’ there is a sentiment seems to be rising to the top that concerns me:


‘We can never forgive BP’


Long ago, humans made an error in a pristine garden called Eden. This error has been the source of all others.  A pattern emerges: Make an error, Seek a scapegoat, Repeat.

Like Adam and Eve, BP and the other groups culpable for the oil spill will have to pay in kind, but lest we forget how we got where we are, remember that grace is something required by all.

We will continue to make these mistakes until perfection is restored at Christ’s return.  Until then we must do our best to avoid error in whatever our work.  We are capable of no more.  It is in our nature to make mistakes, to attempt to make others look worse than us, and to fail to see our own shortcomings.  As Jesus says to Peter, forgiveness must constantly be offered.

Water heater repair

May 31, 2010

Water heaters sit alone in a corner of the house, completely abandoned and ignored.  Often silent, they provide a basic necessity with no notice until something goes wrong.

My wife (who insists on showers hot enough to cook some foods), recently informed me that the shower was no longer staying warm.  It turns out that it was indeed getting colder much faster than normal.

Of course, all the places I have lived so far put the heater in the least accessible place…

Essentally water heaters are just tanks of water with a heat source in them.  Mine happens to be electric.  This was the troubleshooting process:

1) Turn off the power.  It is an electric water heater, meaning that it is plugged in.  It is also plugged into a much higher voltage than outlets.  Electricity can (and does) kill.  This didn’t  scare me off, but it is a good reason to be careful.

2) Take off the insulation around the heater.  The sides may not feel hot, but it is losing heat, especially if it is in an unheated area.

4) Remove the covers from the two panels, these cover the back of the elements and the thermostats.

5) Remove one of the two wires from each of the two elements (they are the large hex nuts with wires coming out of them)

6) Using the multimeter, check the resistance of the element.  For a 4500W heater like mine, the value is  ~13Ohms.  If the reading is really high, or reads OL or something like that, the element is ‘open’ and needs to be replaced.

7) If the resistance of the elements look ok, check the thermostats.  They are the little boxes above the elements.  After reconnecting the wires to the elements, turn on the power to the heater.  Now I have to be extra careful.

Measuring the voltage at the elements will show whether they are getting power or not.  When the tank is all cold, the top element will be on, once the water at the top heats up, the bottom element cycles on, and runs until the water at the bottom is warm enough before turning off.

Basically, the goal is to make sure that each element is getting power. This is done by checking the voltage at the top and bottom elements with the thermostats cranked hard over each direction.  If no power is found at one or both elements after checking all combinations, chances are that there is a problem with one or both of the thermostats.

As a side note, I made sure that the thermostats were actually contacting the tank, if they are not, they will inaccurately read the water temp and not heat correctly.

8 ) The thermostats passed the test, so lastly I checked the dip tube.  This is a plastic pipe that extends down into the tank at the cold water inlet.  It allows the tank to fill from the bottom up with cold water, keeping the hot from mixing and giving you cold water right away.  To do this, the cold water inlet is unscrewed from the tank. A plumber significantly stronger than I (or a chimp) installed the inlet, outlet, and anode on the tank, and it took a tool of considerable size to get the cold water inlet off.

The dip tube sits on a lip just below the inlet.  My tank had about .125″ of the ~40″ tube left.  Ah ha!

Dip tubes can be purchased for about $3.  I got one, cut it to length, installed it, and the problem is solved!  Showers are now hot enough, and we don’t have to take turns with the dish washer to ensure there will be enough water.

OTHER) It is a good idea to drain the tank periodically if it is not self cleaning.  If the anode can be removed, it should (according to the manufacturer) have less than 6″ of core wire exposed.  Unfortunately, the ape that put my tank together got the anode on so tight that my brother and I rounded the nut off and tore the tank from it’s earthquake straps before giving up.

Disclaimer: I con’t claim to be an expert and am just relaying anecdotes, so I can’t claim any responsibility for harm or damage you cause while fighting chaos yourself…

So, the main point of my blog’s title is the frustration and futility that I feel in trying to keep everything ‘under my control’ in good repair and top running condition.  Despite my best efforts and intentions, stuff still breaks.  The list recently has been most amusing.

The Jeep: All the rubber weather seals decided to shrink and invite thier former rival ‘Rain’ in for the foreseeable future.  ‘Rain’ then invited her less savory acquaintance ‘Mold’, who will require much more work to evict.

The Laptop: For the third time, the power connector got broken off inside the case.  For the third time I did a JB-weld fix.  I can now completely disassemble the laptop in my sleep.  This time I used so much glue that I will need to buy a new connector and frame if it happens again. (Where did this screw come from?)

The Water heater: A year or so ago an element died.  At the same time I did the prescribed drain and flush of the unit.  In the last week, the amount of heated H2O has again dropped so I will need to troubleshoot and replace another part.  Until then we will continue scheduling showers with each other, the dishwasher, and the washing machine.

The Phones: A few months ago, Stacy and I got identical phones.  Mine had a spate of issues that was only fixed after 3 handsets, 2 sim cards, 2 memory cards, and finally, 2 batteries.  Stacy’s however had no real problem until the provider sent out an ‘update’ patch that turned her phone into a lighted paperweight.  They have since replaced hers under warranty (with the update preinstalled).

The Spouse: Yes I said it.  Before you get mad bear me out!  ‘Morning’ sickness’ has been pretty hard on Stacy.  Despite its antimeridian nomenclature, the condition has occured at all times of the day and random in its severity.  While I can avoid the Jeep (yay motorcycle!), use less hot water, and call tech support for the phone, taking care of your spouse is totally different.  Even the ‘amazing nausea medication’ did not work as advertised.   Over the last three months, it has been tricky to continue to build our relationship, rather than letting frayed nerves on both sides tear it apart.  Thankfully we have been able to do so, and marriage is even better /more fun now than before.

The Motorcycle’s ignition wire: (yay Jeep! oh wait…).  At least I am notified that it has come loose again by: sudden loss of power, snapping sounds, and a 12 kilovolt spark jumping from the gas tank to my groin.
By the way Kawasaki, your engineers designed it to be replaceable, why can’t you sell the replacement? A post just for this may follow unless the nice folks at NGK let me down (and then maybe even if they do).

The Crib: Quite soon after we got married, a very generous member of the community gave Stacy and I an unneeded crib and other nursery furniture as we were hoping to start a family.  Obviously God had other plans for that, and so the crib has been more or less in storage until recently when we got it out to set back up.  We looked up the model online and found that it had been recalled due to “Entrapment and Strangulation” hazard.  Amazingly enough, the manufacturer is still honoring the recall and we will be able to get a newer, safer crib.

The  Headlights: they were due to go out, but both on the same night?

The Glucose meter: Thankfully it was a peripheral function that, while important, did not cause any immediate trouble.  The replacement is starting to show the same symptoms.

My dad’s computer: ?!?

The list goes on: until a non-fallen world replaces what we have now.

Ultimately, on a good day it is fun to try and get everything fixed and running well, but at the same time it can be overwhelming.  The verses on being anxious in the Gospel of Matthiew are helpful, but hard to apply in the heat of the “Oh crap _____ broke (again) and it will cost $_____ (lots of zeros before the dot) to fix!”

As I tackle the odder or trickier repairs and modifications to stuff, I will try to document or narrate the process.  Thanks for reading, and good luck with your fight!

Adding to the chaos

March 21, 2010



God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh over me.

– Sarah (Genesis 21:6 ESV)



Stacy is Pregnant!



This Monday she went in for an official blood test.  Since then there have been two more tests to track progress, and the doctor is pleased with how things are looking!

There are still a lot of unknowns.  The next milestone is an ultrasound, coming up in a few weeks.  Until then, we will not know whether both of the embryos survived.  Because of the oddities in the way the 40 week gestation is measured, Stacy is actually beginning week 5 (even though the transfer was about two weeks ago).  This mean that while things are going well now, there is still a higher risk of miscarriage.  Normally it seems that people wait until around the end of the first trimester to announce things, but this is been anything but normal.  We are elated that it has gone well so far, but still fearful that the children will not survive.  Ultimately, the outcome is completely in God’s control, and no amount of worry will make a difference…


And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” – Jesus (Matthew 6:27 ESV)




March 4, 2010

Tomorrow is a big day.

From a cryogenic freezer in Seattle, a doctor will remove two embryos, the children we are adopting, and begin a thawing process.  The embryos have spent a long time like this, possibly years, stuck in a cold-induced stasis begun 5 days after their fertilization.

Stacy and I have wanted to start a family for years.  The process of hope, grief, sadness, and then resting in joy and peace from God has been long and hard.  It has not defined us, but it could have, and occasionally, especially at first, has. Adopting kids in this way is an amazing opportunity to try and become parents, affirm the value of human life in any state, and hopefully better articulate the amazing gift Christ gives when he adopts us, however undeserving and rebellious, into his family.

In the clinic, the doctor will carefully observe the embryos. Hopefully their cells will resume activity, paused when they were plunged into storage at almost -200°C; revitalizing and starting again to grow.  There is also a chance that the freeze, storage, or thaw was too hard on the kids and they don’t wake up.

Tomorrow, children in my care may die.

Juggling the preperations for tomorrow has been crazy.  Corporally, this has included helping Stacy with meds (Sub-cutaneous & intra-muscular injections, patches, making sure the right amounts of the right thing are taken on the right day, etc), clarifying ethics with the doctor, and scheduling appointments.

More significantly, for the last 4 years we have built emotional walls to protect us from stuff people say and our own fears and desires. Those walls are coming down in the next two weeks.  They will either be rebuilt through the pain and grief of a failed cycle, or with the guarded hope of a positive pregnancy test.

If the newly awakened embryos don’t die, the doctor will implant them. The process is pretty straightforward.  We show up midmorning, Stacy has acupuncture (acupuncture is scientifically proven to increase the success rates of embryo transfers and IVF), the doctor transfers the kids into Stacy, and then it’s back for another session of acupuncture.  I am taking the whole day off, so hopefully we can relax together and let some of the stress roll back off.

The next 10 days begin an agonizing wait until we hear the results.  Just like the natural process, there is no guarantee that the embryos will find a safe landing zone to implant and begin their 9+ month stay in Stacy.  The uncertainty, fear, and hope are tough to balance.  A blood test will let us know whether Stacy is pregnant, but even if the answer is yes, it will be weeks until we know if both survived.

Tomorrow, while not providing relief, or explanation, or finality, is definitely a big day.

Hello world!

December 6, 2009

Unlike last time I started blogging (I posted my ‘Hello World’ and then watched as Stacy took over), I am going to try and keep this active.

Whether it’s boring or interesting, please feel free to comment all you want.

thanks for reading,