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How Did You Know That?

June 21, 2016

Ever noticed how some people just “know stuff”? They can look at a situation or an object and almost instinctively know how to solve something. For anyone who is a mechanic, it’s loosening and tightening bolts. Many people remember “lefty loosey.  Righty tighty.” You turn a bolt counter-clockwise (left) to loosen it. You turn it clockwise (right) to tighten it. 

But, if you watch a mechanic, he doesn’t recite that couplet. He just grabs a wrench and turns it. . .the right way. 

I once asked a senior escalation engineer to help me look at a network trace. He pulled it up in WireShark and started paging down through the file. 

Wait! What are you doing?

I’m getting to the part of the trace where the client is logging in.

But, how do you know it’s not this part. 

Because I can see that this part is just a bunch of TCP and DNS traffic. 

What I had to pour over line by line, he was able to see a page at at time. I was thinking of this recently when I thought about locks, gas and water lines. 

Did you know you can tell at a glance if a lock is set, Or if a water valve is opened or closed? Look at the following pictures.


This is the water line for my sprinkler system. The first picture shows an open line. The second shows a closed line. And it probably makes sense, right. You might guess that the one with the handle turned was the closed one. And that is exactly the way the manufactures design them. When a handle (or knob) is in line with the pipe, it’s open. When it’s crosswise to the pipe it’s closed. 

Garden hose manufactures use the same concept. These lines are open. (Yellow handle “in line” with the hose.) 


These lines are closed. (Yes ll handles crosswise to the hose.) 


Here’s another example of a water line. First one is closed since the small black “handle” is crosswise to the flow of water. 


And here is it open. 


Here is another water line. This one inside the house. Because the handle is inline with the pipe, I know that this valve is open. 


Gas lines work the same as water lines. Here are the gas lines that feed my furnace and water heater. The handles are inline so I know that they are open. Well, that and the fact that my shower was nice and warm this morning. 


Okay, I knew all of this about pipes, what what I only recently learned was that doors work the same way. Here’s a deadbolt. It is crosswise to the door, so it is closed, or latched. 


Here’s the same look, but now the handle si “inline” with the door so it’s unlocked. 


Bathroom door locks work the same way. Inline with the door:


. . .unlocked.

Crosswise with the door?


. . .means locked.

It took me a long time to figure this out. It’s pretty obvious when you look at this way. I no longer have to test each door to see if it’s locked or not. I get less water sprayed on me because I couldn’t figure out whether the faucet was on or off. And I know that if I need to shut off the gas, I can be absolutely retain it is turned off if I switch the handle crosswise. 

Sometimes those people who can just look at something and figure it out, just had the advantage of learning the inline/crosswise code. 

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday . He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss
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or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2016 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

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