Why It’s Good to Have a Dad When You’re Building a Solar Batch Water Heater

Dads really come in handy. Maybe especially my dad.

I’m building a solar batch water heater for my trailer. Where did I get that idea? My dad. He’s built two:


One for the house


And one for the bathhouse

Where did I get the tank? My dad. He saves stuff that he finds which just might be useful someday. This habit has its pros and cons, of course, but I’d put him just on this side of the line between saver and hoarder. He heard I wanted to build a solar batch water heater and had “just the thing,” pulled out of an old water heater or something.



The design, of course, is mostly my dad’s with a few of my own (primarily the over-engineering) and the internet’s (black, not reflective, box).


The white and grey are just primer. The inside will be black and the outside will be a color of Reanna’s choosing.

The major stumbling block so far has been pulling the square-head plugs out of the tank. My wrenches were just rounding the corners. I’d been scouring the internet for a week for a 15/16″ square offset wrench, my best guess for solving the problem, but apparently which you just can’t get anymore. The solution? Ask my dad. “You need a big pipe wrench. I’ve got one in the bottom drawer of my tool box.” He not only had the wrench, but knew how to use it, and the plug was out in a minute or two.


Dad with pipe wrench

My dad is a commercial photographer, sound engineer, and musician. Where did he learn plumbing? I don’t know, but he did say that he got that pipe wrench from his own dad in the 60s.

[First published on Nathen’s Miraculous Escape, July 21, 2013]


The Sequester Hits Me: Although Eligible, I Cannot Apply for Unemployment Insurance in California

Is California becoming the movie Brazil?

I was laid off from my job as a family therapist in a company-wide lay off when Morongo Basin Mental Health closed their doors on June 30 and now am actively seeking work. I have all the documentation to prove that and to show my income for any number of past quarters. It seems I am the ideal candidate for unemployment insurance.

Except that I have worked at a summer camp in Oregon for a few weeks in the last 18 months. (Each summer for the last 13 years, actually, but the Employment Development Office only wants 18-24 months of information.) That means I have to file for UI by telephone. The EDD website says you can apply online, by mail, or fax but eventually says it’s got to be by phone if there’s any out-of-state income.

The problem is, because of the sequester, you cannot get through by phone. Hours of operation are 8-noon, Monday through Thursday, and with limited staff. Last week, the outgoing message implied that if I called early enough I might be able to talk to someone, but I was not able to get through. This week, the message says they just don’t have the staff to answer my call.

Both weeks, the message kindly encourages me to apply online.

As far as I can tell my only options are to lie about my out-of-state income or to give up. Or maybe drive eight hours to Sacramento to make a stink at the Employment Development Office. (No, they do not process claims in person.)


[Originally published on Nathen’s Miraculous Escape, July 8, 2013.]