Friday, April 27, 2012

Seeing what is there that shouldn’t be

When I went to start up the irrigation system in our backyard, I got a lesson that can also be applied to speechwriting. Last fall I’d unscrewed and set aside the clear plastic canister for the filter just downstream of the centrifugal pump that draws water from our branch canal. When I picked it up to screw it back on, I noticed that there was an obvious crack (as shown above by the yellow arrow; click on the image to enlarge it) in the black rubber donut (O-ring) that should seal between it and the housing.

Then I took a closer look (at seven times higher magnification, as shown above) and found a whole network of small transverse cracks. The O-ring had self-destructed. So, I drove down to Grovers and bought a $3 replacement O-ring kit. I put the new O-ring on the filter canister, and screwed it back on. Then I proceeded to prime the pump and start the system.

This time I had to look carefully before I could see what was there that shouldn’t be. There’s no avoiding that speechwriting always needs editing. The last time I discussed our irrigation system in 2009 I had the opposite and harder problem of Seeing what is not there - but should be. Unless you’re an exceptional writer, you probably have one or both of those problems with your speech. Is there something unimportant that you should eliminate?

When I looked at a Troubleshooting Guide that illustrates ten common reasons for O-ring failure I found that this O-ring looked like it probably had some type of weathering or ozone cracking. Being stored outside might have been harder on it than being dunked in canal water.

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