Hokay. That picture you see is that of my Rainwise Mark III weather station, which beams continuously updated information about the wind velocity and direction, temperature, humidity, and — until the rain gauge clogged up — precipitation.

I bring up the last point because we’ve had a surprising amount of rain here over the past week or so. It’s been a nice, wet summer — my Rachio internet-savvy sprinkler timer has actually skipped many a planned watering, saving me money — and relatively cool.

But a few weeks ago I noticed after a particularly monsoonish rainstorm that my Weather Underground Personal Weather Station page wasn’t showing that any rain had fallen. LIAR! I KNOW IT RAINED! So, doing the right thing I grabbed a stepladder and looked into that black cylinder that is the precipitation collector. Gasp! It was full to the brim with rainwater.

So, I sent a support email off to the guys at Rainwise, who were kind enough to quickly answer that a) it was probably clogged and b) I’d have to clean it out, and here are directions on how to do so. Well, I didn’t have any time to actually do that until today.

After yet another torrential downpour today, I grabbed the stepladder one more time and ventured out to the weather station with screwdriver in hand. As noted in the email response from Rainwise, loosening four screws made it possible to rotate and remove the big black cylinder, revealing the tipping-bucket measuring device!

Well, that got cleaned off, too — it had a bit of sludge on it — but sure enough I couldn’t see through the drain hole in the bottom of the cylinder that feeds the tipping bucket. Now, to remove the little grating over the drain, I had to reach under and remove a cotter pin. For those of you who are mechanically disinclined, a cotter pin is a little metal pin that has two arms that go through a hole and are then split to hold whatever in place… Check Wikipedia — I have issues describing hardware like this.

Anyway, I straightened the legs of the cotter pin with a pair of needle-nosed pliers (not to be confused with Needle-Nose Ned Ryerson … Bing!) and pulled of the drain cover. Sure enough, there was gunk aplenty in the little drain tube… most of which had built up because of the cotter pin that went through there to hold the drain cover in place.

Now, I have to admit that I love, I LOOOOVE and ADORE this weather station, but this is an example of someone being drunk while designing a key piece of a device. Put a cotter pin in the main drain leading to the tipping bucket counter so that it can accumulate all of the sludge that falls into the cylinder? WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?

A better design would have been to have designed a simple mechanical lock for the drain cover into the plastic cylinder. In other words, put a slot in the top of the drain cover that you turn with a screwdriver or a coin if you need to clean the drain tube. It would have been less expensive, since you’d eliminate one more piece — the cotter pin, which is going to break after a few cleanings and force me to go buy another one.

Now, in case you’re wondering why I’m going on like this… This is the type of thing that goes on in the head of an engineer. Even an engineer who hasn’t done any solid engineering work in about thirty years. We are trained to see failures like this and figure out why things don’t work, and also find better ways to do things. That’s why successive iterations of our mobile devices keep getting better — we the users figure out what is stupid about the designs, we complain, and then things get redesigned to fix the stupid.

In the case of this weather station — which probably isn’t produced in quantities large enough to really justify a redesign of a component — I’ll probably just have to go buy a box of cotter pins and clean the damned thing every few months. Sigh.