Wednesday, April 24, 2013

FAA Medical

Unlike a driver’s license, in order to operate an airplane, pilots must have a medical review periodically. In general, airline pilots get checked every six months, charter pilots get checked every twelve months, and general aviation pilots get checked every twenty four months. Mine came due at the end of March. 

I have been getting my medical from Dr. Randal Franke since 1997. At the time I chose him, it was because he was close. Based at the airport, and a short bike ride from my house, I saw him every couple years to get updated. But recently he left his practice at the airport, and opened a new office in a residential community about half way between the airport and downtown Seattle. He told me his reasons for switching, but since this blog is about me and not him, I will recommend you see him for the story. 

I made my appointment on line -- that was easy. But shortly after I got an email from him assuring the reason for the appointment, negotiating a better time, and confirming I had filled in the correct FAA "MedExpress" forms to initiate my visit. From his mobile phone! The email came from HIS mobile phone. He was making sure everything was arranged during his casual time -- on email. 

Today I made my way to his new office. Honestly I was a bit surprised. His office is in a building that was quite clearly somebody’s home at one time. A sign in front says "Professional Building," but upon walking through the entrance it is clear you are in what was someone’s living room. Directly across is a kitchen, and to the left are offices that were once bedrooms. No receptionist, no medical assistant, no check in counter. On the door labeled "Randal Franke, MD" a yellow sticky proclaimed "with a patient." I sat down in the living waiting room. 

Dr. Franke came out to let me know he would be with me soon. Shortly after he called me back, and I had one of the BEST experiences with a doctor that I can recall. I've long recognized Dr. Franke is a thorough doctor, and has seemed like a nice guy, but today was different. He was relaxed and conversational; he asked about how my life had been in the last couple years and followed up with questions about my health. It wasn't like he was prying; it was like he was paying attention. 

I told him how much I liked interacting informally via email, and how I would be willing to pay my doctor a recurring retainer for such freedom. He said I could email him anytime. 

He performed the rest of the medical review, filled out my paper work and sent me on my way. In reflecting on the experience, I realized what I got today was better than an FAA medical, I got humanity. Thank you Dr. Franke! We’d all be better off with more doctors like you.

Monday, April 08, 2013

It's all about me being the right temerature

I am discouraged today.  Had the big rolling over the odometer birthday last Thursday (not why I am discouraged) and that day, I realized I could hear the flame part of our furnace but the blower motor was not coming on.  It was making heat, but not pushing it around the house.

It had been a warm couple of days, and the forecast was for a few more warm days, so I declared "It's my birthday, I'm not going to worry about it today!"  

The furnace has been a source of sadness since we built the house.  We needed zone control so we could meter out heat to separate sections individually.  If an area was unoccupied or warm enough already we did not want to be heating it.  And if the furnace is not blowing heat into the whole house, it does not need to be blowing at full speed.  Therefore as different zones request heat, the motor is programmed to run at different speeds.  

But the furnace we installed was a bit too bleeding edge for it's own good.  The Lennox Pulse 21V furnace with a Harmony Zone control system loves to burnout motors.  

The furnace was installed just before we moved in back in August of 1994 (it has been running for just over 18 years!).  But by November of 1995 the original motor had failed.  It seemed to be a weak link in the system, and the motor was just not up to the demands of running at various speeds necessary as different combinations of zones demanded heat.  Lennox had released a second generation motor (the heralded ICM2) and a new set of control boards.  The new motor was installed that Autumn and warmth filled the house again.  

... Until December of 2001.  Poof the second motor failed.  This one was not covered by warranty and six hundred dollars and a 40 mile trip to Kent later and the again we were warm.  

This motor lasted the longest.  It ran until July of 2010.  Not too shabby.  When the third motor failed my wife and I discussed replacing our furnace with a heat pump -- Hooray for air conditioning that will be used three weeks a year.  Ouch!  That is going to be expensive.  But about the time we were going to write the check, other family demands reset our priorities and we settled on what was now a new thousand dollar fourth motor to carry us through.  

Now here we are March of 2013 -- not quite three years later -- staring down what could be our fifth one thousand dollar Lennox 39L2801 one horse power variable speed motor.

Lennox has a reputation for using highly customized components, where vendors like York use more generic (read "interchangeable") components.  I have on my desk here next to me a three year old bid for a York heat pump.  So I go read the review.  Lennox?  Number 45 out of 56 (boo!)  York?  Number 34 out of 56.  (gulp!)  34th?  Only 29% of their customers recommend them.  yikes!  Oddly Kenmore (Only a single review -- Sears anyone?) and Emerson score pretty high.  I guess it is time to get more bids.