Honeywell Water Heater Thermostat Woe – How I Fixed It


I heard a scream from my wife in the shower, “No hot water! No hot water! What’s going on?!” Not good. This was 10pm two days ago. My first thought was that the water heater pilot light went out, based on my past experience. What else could it be? I checked that AO Smith Gas Water heater in the laundry room right away. The water heater comes with a sophisticated, advanced Honeywell Water Heater thermostat/valve that provides continuous monitoring of the water temperature and turning on and off the gas accordingly – all without battery. It uses a “thermopile” technology that converts thermal energy into electrical energy. It’s composed of serveral thermocouples connected in series to create roughly 350 mV of energy. What a nifty device!
honeywell-module

Except when it’s not working.

I first tried resetting the module by turning it to off and re-start the pilot light by turning the dial to “Pilot”, holding down “Pilot” and push the spark igniter. The system kept coming back with 4 flashes. Based on the “Status Light Code,” it means “Temperature Exceeded.” It made sense as we had a heat wave recently. So I figured the system should reset itself once the over temperature condition goes away. I kept resetting the system without much success to get the gas burner to turn on again.

I googled around and came across this website by Tyler Tork. Wow, so many people had the same problem dating back to 2013. The problem is that the microcontroller inside the unit remembers the last “over-temp condition” and would not forget it. The recommended fix is to disconnect everything from the module for an hour and let the power dissipated to “flush” out the memory.
honeywell-module-labels

That sounded easy. I tried disconnecting it for 30 minutes. No go. 60 minutes: No go. I left it disconnected for overnight. Still no go. I even flushed some of water out to get the sediments out as it’s a source of heat barrier that contributes to overheating.

One of the people commented “shorting” everything on the little printed circuit board to really “short circuit” the memory cell, most likely the big capacitors. And that’s what I did, I figured I have nothing to lose as I would need to replace it if it didn’t work. So I removed the PCB (printed circuit board) from its housing by unscrewing the torx screw and snapping the PCB from the housing. Then I took a sheet of aluminum foil (an electricity conducting material) and touch all the various solder joints (silver-looking blobs) especially the big capacitors, which are the energy storage devices. See figures.
pcb-component-side
Honeywell PCB Bottom Side
Then I put it back to its housing and put everything back to its original positions. Turn on the pilot and hit the spark lighter. I first saw the LED flashed 7 times, which means “Gas Controller Valve Failure.” Doesn’t sound good. Then I proceeded to dial it up to temperature setting A. Immediately, the burner turns on and we have a lift off! After a minute or so, the LED started blinking once and paused and blinking once again. This means “Normal Operation.” We’re back in business now. I just saved $110 (Walmart’s price) for the module and enduring days of suffering through cold showers and complaints from my family members. Viva DIY!

Book Review: “Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex” by Mary Roach


After reading this book, I felt I had just taken another sex education class. I’m amazed by how the researchers in pursuit of science would do to acquire the data they need. They took criticism from people in general while contributing to demystify human sexuality. They are true pioneers.

I even learned a few things I never knew before like:
– how each part of sex organ works exactly.
– There were so many sex researches since as far back as science researches were recorded.
– Best indicator of organism is heart rate and blood pressure, better than its use for detecting lies.
– Animal sexual behavior is not too much different from ours. After all, we all have to derive pleasure from it in order for our species to survive the evolution.
– Dr. Hsu from my home country, Taiwan, is a world-famous penile surgeon in fixing erectile dysfunction and other male-organ-related illnesses.

This is an interesting and thought-provoking book for people who enjoy reading about difficult and controversial researches. Funny at times in Mary Roach’s side comments. Highly recommended.

Summary from each chapter:
1. Highlights from the pioneers of human sexual response. In this chapter, Author highlighted the pioneers in human sexual research. Started with Albert R. Shadle, who peered through animal sexual behavior in 1940’s. John Watson observed sexual behavior in the lab settings in 1910’s. Alfred Kinsey performed the experiments in secrecy. In 1960’s, William Masters and Virginia Johnson performed and published the controversial “Human Sexual Response” book. It was the “right” time as the society was more open to it. He had a penis camera built to better observe the “action.”

2. The orgasm machine for woman. The author describe her search for the penis camera without success and witnessing the orgasm machine in an exhibit event. The fact that the woman had a better control of the speed, angle and thrust may explain why they could get off using the contraption.

3. Some theories about why some women don’t experience normal “voluptuous reaction” – orgasm. The distance between vagina and clitoris may play a role – ideally less than the width of the thumb or the “rule of thumb” by Kim Wallen of Emory University. The distance seems to be proportional to the height of the woman and breast size – bad news for tall women with big breasts. G-spots are discussed quite liberally here – stimulating through different positions (doggy style). Or maybe it’s purely the sense of control that allows a woman to reach orgasm.

4.The author describes the artificial collections of boar sperms and insemination of sow. Some of the youtube videos may do a better job. But the question lingers whether female animal experience organism and whether organism helps with fertility. The answers are most likely ‘no’ for animals or at least no discernible by humans.

5. In this chapter, the author convince her husband to have a MRI 4-D (3D + time) imaging of their sex act and ejaculation. Now that’s professionalism.

6. This chapter started out with the work of Dr. Geng-long Hsu of Taipei, Taiwan who specialized on repairing penile injury and erectile dysfunction. The history of impotence is then described in great details. In the Middle Ages, it was blamed on witches. Then the psychological state of the men was accused, followed by many ridiculous causes like masturbation. Impotence could be a cause of divorces in the late 16th and early 17th century.

7. The author investigated boosting virility with transplanting animal and human testicle, ingesting animal testicles, and other means. Use of Viagra brings in more discussion. It ended with suggested pelvic exercises.

8. If you must, inflatable penile implant maybe the way to go. Roach described Dr. Hsu’s operation on a patient and even got to touch his penis. If the penis is castrated by a jealous wife accidentally, of course, the cure could be in the hand of their microsurgeons, though not to its full potential.

9. Is the clitoris a tiny penis? Yes, but Viagra doesn’t help in woman’s FSAD (Female Sexual Arousal Disorder).

10. Can frequent masturbation (or resulting in orgasm) contribute to your health (or hiccups in one case)? Roach investigated the use of vacuum pump for women’s clitoris that seem to increase flood flow. Roach paid a visit to Topco, US’s largest sex toy maker, which was an interesting encounter with their employees.

11. Orgasm can happen in quadriplegic persons or came about without physical manipulation (hand-free). The nerve paths from organism evidently are NOT blocked by spinal cord injuries.

12. Female sexual arousal poses a challenge for scientist to detect and unlock its mystery. In most cases, it’s in their mind. A promising drug, flibanserin, appears to be effective and in Phase III trials.

13. Sex studies in conservative countries like Egypt could be very difficult. But merely talking about sex already help the society to pay attention to it.

14. The last surprising experiment performed by Master and Johnson was this random matching of sexual partners. Almost all of them had “efficient” sex but not necessarily “amazing” sex. Gay men and women tend to pay more attention to their partners’ needs while heterosexual didn’t benefit from “gender empathy.”

See Mary Roach’s Ted Talk on 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Orgasm | Mary Roach

Book Review: “The Wright Brothers” by David McCullough

David McCullough is a master writer in biographies. I have read a few of his books including John Adams and Harry Truman. This book is no exception. A wonderfully written and researched book about two of most important people in 20th century – the Wright brothers.

My Key Takeaways:
– Wilbur’s original plan to go to Yale was destroyed when he got smashed on his front face by a hockey stick in the hand of a future serial killer. Hard to speculate if it’s intentional or accidental.
– Wright brothers are really brave to put their lives on the line to test flights – their invention.
– They picked Kittyhawk, a place seven hundred of miles away from Dayton Ohio, as the place of experimentation to try out their flying machines, overcoming the sever wind, hunger and most notably mosquito attack.
– Wright brothers are the the good old entrepreneurs funding their own new adventure using their the money they earned from the their bike shop. They didn’t want to accept any potential “venture” fund from others.
– The mechanical know how may have come from their years of repairing bicycles. But their ambition didn’t stop at bicycles. At that time, automobiles were starting but they have their eyes on something bigger – an ultimate flying machine.
– The tragic story of the crashing the plane and having the passenger killed and ended up injuring Orville himself takes lots of guts.
– Having to interest the French people seemed to show the lack of vision of the US government, which eventually made a comeback in recognizing their accomplishments.
– Orville lived long enough, until 1948, to witness the use of jet engine in planes that broke sound speed and two World Wars which deployed the planes of their original invention.
– Like all good inventions, people would take advantage of it if they can get away with it. Both Wilbur and Orville had to defend their patents in courts in order to protect their intellectual property.
– Neither Orville nor Wilbur ever got married but their little sister, Katharine did eventually get married at age of 51 against Orville’s will (don’t know why) but died 3 years after at age of 54. Orville refused to talk with her until her dying days. She played a huge role on nursing Orville to health after his crash and supported her two brothers’ adventure throughout.
– Like all disruptive inventions, it’s much easier when you know someone has done it and there is a model to follow. I believe the airplane’s invention is the same. Had it not been the Wright Brother’s invention, the world may be delayed in inventing the plane. Just think how inconvenient not having the airplane.
The Five facts about The Wright Brothers were outlined by the author David McCullough himself: 1) Didn’t have much but they had books. Both are avid readers. 2) A pond hockey injury helped forever change human history. 3) Wilbur and Orville were budget conscious and self-sufficient. 4) Nobody in America seemed to care, but the French took notice. 5) The Wright Brothers were forever sons of Ohio.

This is a great book if you want to know how about the two of greatest inventors of the 20th century:

Book Review: “Originals: How Non-Conformists Move The World” by Adam Grant

“Originals” by definition: A thing of singular or unique character; a person who is different from other people in an appealing or interesting way; a person of fresh initiative or inventive capacity. They take the road less traveled, championing a set of novel ideas that go against the grain but ultimately make things better, as opposed to “conformists.”

– Originals are not necessarily reckless risk takers. In most cases, they keep the day job before plunging into their new adventures, as in the case of Warby Parker. “They take the risk out of risk-taking.”

– Employees who use Chrome or Firefox tend to be happier – they tend to be non-conformists as they need to take to the effort to install new applications on their computer.As non-conformists – rejecting defaults – they tend to enjoy their work.

– Child prodigies tend to be conformists, hence not able to change the world.

– Being the first movers does not guarantee success. Sometimes being a second mover could be a better position.

– Originals aren’t very good in judging their own work, but they do kiss lots of frogs to find the prince. E.g. Shakespeare produced 37 plays and 154 sonnets, Picasso produce more than 1,800 paintings, 1,200 sculptures, 2,800 ceramics, and 12,000 drawings.

– Managers don’t evaluate well original ideas unless they started out generating their own ideas. Have an open mind first before judging. But don’t try to evaluate ideas outside of your area expertise as Steve Jobs on Segway.

– Having artistic hobbies like music playing, drawing arts, crafts, writing, performing (amateur acting) increases the odds of winning a Nobel prize.

– Use Sarick Effect to argue the negatives (why you shouldn’t invest in my company) may disarm your potential investor. Reverse psychology.

– Procrastination may sometime yield a better idea: ML King’s “I have a dream” speech was completed just minutes before it began. In fact, “I have a dream” wasn’t written in the script until he was reminded by a lady shouting to him, “tell them about the dream.” Settlers (procrastinators) had a better odd of winning higher market share in business.

– Two life cycles of creativity: Young genius (conceptual thinking, done quickly) then old masters (experimental thinking, takes time to do trials and errors)- more sustainable.

– Frenemies with strong positive AND negative feelings toward us are much harder to handle like in the case of Susan Anthony and Lucy Stone in the suffrage movement. Hence enemies make better allies than frenemies.

– Later birth order (laterborns) in the family tends to become rebels – more original.

– Parents aren’t the best role models. Introducing other roles models to raise our children’s aspirations.

– To avoid groupthink, find a true dissenter, not just an acting one. The devil’s advocates must believe in his/her position to be effective. Polaroid failed because of groupthink that customers always want a hardcopy and lost the chance to develop digital cameras.

– Venting emotion may turn aggressive. The Serbia activists were trained to avoid venting. Venting focuses the attention on the perpetrator of injustice. Instead, reflect on the victims who have suffered.

– “Becoming originals is not the easiest path in the pursuit of happiness, but it leaves us perfectly poised for the happiness of pursuit.

This is an excellent book for those who want to be more original and creative. Some of the suggestions can help. Highly recommended.

5 Things to Know About a Psychopath – the Devil in Human Form

My toastmaster speech about 5 Things to Know About a Psychopath – the Devil in Human Form or H. H. Holmes

The original script is here: I had to cut short some of the contents to meet the 5~7-minute limit of a typical Toastmaster length.

Top 5 things to know about a psychopath – the devil in human form
Be forewarned that my talk today could be rated ‘PG-13’ and ‘R’ for vivid description of crimes. One of my favorite things to watch on TV shows are in crime, detective, thriller genres like Law and Order, Criminal Intent, Law and Order Special Victim Unit, and other reality crime shows like Snapped. If you know of any good detective, crime TV shows or movies, please let me know. The more gruesome the better.

1. Introduction of topic, Holmes, purpose of the talk
The topic of my speech today is “The five things to know about a psychopath – the devil in human form.” The devil I’m referring to here is a physician named, Henry Howard Holmes. He was the most notorious and America’s first serial killer around the end of 19th century, between year 1888 and 1896. Most of the materials come from this book I hold in my hand – “The Devil in the White City” by Erik Larson. The devil here refers to Holmes, who you’ll soon know why he’s called a devil, and the White City refers to the beautiful World Columbus Expo in 1893. In my talk today, I will be focusing on this character, H. H. Holms. I will give a brief biography of Holmes then dive into the key takeaways from how to keep you and your family safe from someone like him.
(show picture)
Once again, I’m NOT here to glorify him or his actions but to learn from his actions and avoid being a victim to someone like him.

2. Brief biography of Holmes
Holmes was born in 1861 in New Hampshire as Herman Webster Mudgett to descendants of early English settlers. Father was a violent alcoholic. He was the 3rd of their 4 children. He excelled in academics, graduated in 1884 from University of Michigan’s Department of Medicine and Surgery after two years at age of 21. While enrolled in school, he would steal cadavers, disfigured the bodies attempting to commit life insurance fraud. You can get away with a lot of things because of No DNA yet in those days. But the insurance companies were pretty good, better than police detectives.

At this time, he already married his first wife, Clara and had one daughter of 4 years old. Luckily for them, their marriage fell apart and Holmes moved to New York working odd jobs, then moved to Philadelphia after a boy died; he denied any involvement. Another boy died after taking medicine from the drugstore where he worked.

To avoid the previous scam victims catching on to him, he changed his name to Henry Holmes before he moved to Chicago in 1886. While still married to Clara, he married Myrta and had a daughter in a different town, freeing him to tend his “business” in Chicago.

In Chicago, he got a job in a drug store and “bought” the store from the widower of the owner after Mr. Holten died. The widower disappeared, presumably killed by Holmes.

He then purchased an empty lot across the drugstore and built his three-story, block-wide hotel. It was so huge that it was called “The Castle” – later was called the “Murder Castle.” There were many rooms with some doors opened to brick walls, or can be opened from outside only. He event built a special life-size kiln like crematorium in the basement. There were special rooms where he did his evil deeds: a soundproof, air-tight room where he gassed his victims, and solid brick room with a trapdoor from the top where victims died of hunger or thirst and another secret hanging chamber.

His victims include his mistresses, employees or ex-employees, hotel guests. Keep in mind that in 1893, Chicago hosted the largest World Expo Exhibit where more than 26-million visitors attended the 200+ beautiful architectural master pieces including the first Ferris Wheel that is 24-story high. The chaos of city during the expo contribute to his playground as police was too busy to care about missing-person cases.

His fall came when he conveniently killed his helper, Benjamin Pitezel, for real after conning him into playing the life insurance scam. Pitezel kind of deserve it as he helped Holmes get rid of bodies by articulating the body, meaning stripping the skin and flesh off, then sell the remaining skeleton to doctors.

Then he proceeded to take his three children on a long trip, murdering one after another along the trip all the way to Toronto.
He was arrested in 1894, tipped off by a former cellmate whom Holmes neglected to pay off after an insurance scam. He was convicted of murdering his helper, Pitezel.

Overall, only 9 murders were confirmed but the number of victims has been estimated between 20 and 100. Holmes confessed to 27 murder before his death, some of them turned out alive.

3. Top 5 things to recognize a psychopath
The disclaimer here is that not all psychopaths are criminals or murders and not all criminals or murders are psychopaths. But psychopaths, in my opinion, is the most insidious kind because they’re easily among us, ready to strike.

1. Superficially charming: Possessed with a pair of blue eyes, charming, and seductive demeanor, he charmed many young girls into going home with him. Most of his drugstore customers were women and only ask for help.
2. Lying pathologically: Holmes lied about his names: it was Herman Mudgett, Henry Howard, Henry Gordon, Alexander Bond but mostly Henry Howard Holmes. He lied about his ancestry claiming belonged to a royal family in Europe. He lied about the where about of disappearing wife or girlfriends like marrying others to a foreign country. He lied about his wealth. At the end he lied about who he killed; I think he lost count himself.
3. Conning and manipulative: he keeps hiring and firing construction workers in building his castle and a human-size kiln, where he lured, murdered and cremate dozens of faire visitors. He tricked several people into taking out life insurance with him as the beneficiary.
4. Lack of remorse or guilt: he never showed any remorse for what he has done. He wrote a memoir while in jail to plead his innocence and make money off his notoriety.
5. Inflated sense of self worthy: he claimed to be the devil. He once declared “I was born with the devil in me. I was born with the evil standing as my sponsor beside the bed where I was ushered into the world, and he has been with me since.”

4. The end of a killer
Holmes was convicted of 4 counts of murder in the first degrees, executed by hanging in 1896 at age of 34. He remained calm and charming until his moment of death.

Good news! The story of the “Devil in the White City” is being filmed and will be coming to a theater near you soon. The person who plays Holmes will be none other than the Best Actor of the last year’s Oscar – Leonardo DiCaprio, the same actor in, Titanic, Catch If You Can, Wolf of Wall Street, and The Revenant. It’s going to be good one. Can’t wait!

I hope you come away from my speech with better understanding of these five character traits of a psychopath to help you and your family safe from them. And if you happen to have these traits, I probably don’t want to know.

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