Ok, so the headline of today’s post is all very zen-like but I am yet again reminded of the importance of becoming one with the problem, technology, machine, or stereo system.
Recently, my home’s heating system went on the Fritz. As Murphy will explain, heating systems never die in the summer: always the winter. Several thousand dollars of plumbers later it’s still intermittent. Since the “expert” can’t figure it out, time for me to put my troubleshooting hat on.
The first thing troubleshooters do is narrow all the variables down to one clear problem. That’s easier said than done especially when you don’t know diddly about a gas-fired circulating water heater. But, I reason, what’s to know? The problem I am experiencing seems more electrical than mechanical. When one of the thermostat zones calls for heat, the circulating water pump kicks in and the burner fires up—only that’s not happening. Calls for heat go unanswered and so, at the plumber’s suggestion, we replace the controller. It works better but still requires me to sometimes pound with my fist on the machine to get it to work.
I won’t bore you more than I already have with the details, but none of my periphery attempts at identifying the problem worked. Time to become one with the machine.
To become one with any machine the engineer has to mentally embrace its operation to the point where it can be easily modeled in one’s imagination. For me, it’s hands-on. I start with enabling and disabling subsystems to understand how the beast works. Once it’s been devolved from a mysterious complexity to the simplicity of subsystems, the machine is essentially a part of your consciousness: you can then apply if/then statements to narrow down the problem.
This oneness is essential, for example, with circuitry. To truly understand an amplifier’s circuit to the point you can manipulate its sound one must fully understand what each subsystem contributes to the overall. At that point, it becomes trivial to pull the levers and get what you want.
But first, you must become one with the machine.
Oh, and the problem the plumber couldn’t figure out and I did? A f***ing loose wire from the temperature sensor on a terminal block (which explains why on occasion I had success beating on the machine).