Sunday, September 29, 2019

Letting the Sparks Fly

... Or trying not to, as the case may be. Today's project was repairing a loose outlet. Why was it loose? Well, when it was originally installed the workers put in a 4x4 bakelite junction box in the wall, used the space to join a bunch of wires together because why not, and then put a bakelite mud ring on top to mount an outlet to. Bakelite is, of course, quite brittle, so obviously it's the material of choice for something that people will regularly smack into.

Somehow they didn't see that coming. it's a good thing they don't make 'em like they used to. And here's the mess that was hidden inside:

Naturally all the wires were cut way too short, and many of them were spliced in questionable ways, so before I could install the old-work box I had to clean things up and extend them all. That was a fun time.

It's a good thing crimp butt splice connectors exist. If you're wondering why there's two different sizes, it's because this old style romex uses an undersized ground wire. And since they don't make a splice that fits both 12 and 14ga wire, I not only had to use two different sizes of splices, but also go out and buy some 14ga wire.

Anyway, after the usual amount of struggling and cussing I got the new box in, a pair of outlets wired up, and everything buttoned up nicely once more.

Job well done.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Hiding in the Walls

Today I decided to rewire the ethernet drops that go to the craft room and, since it shares the same wall, the guest bedroom (which is still entirely devoid of furniture, but never mind that). I wanted to rewire them for two reasons. Firstly, they were obviously installed by someone who had no idea what they were doing, as the wiring on the keystone jacks was hilariously sloppy and the RJ45 terminations on the other end had an inch of bare wires behind the plug.

So I remove the faceplate on one side of the wall and start disassembling the sloppy work. I'd had this plate off once before to inspect the state of things, and at the time noticed some odd items inside the wall: what looked like a piece of fabric, perhaps a glove, some folded up pieces of paper, etc, but I didn't pay much attention to them as it looked like a work glove and probably the instructions for how to wire an ethernet jack.

Oh how wrong I was.

I figured I might as well clean out the detritus, and the first thing I discovered was that what I assumed was a glove was, instead, a jacket off of a doll. Weird. Continuing to dig revealed other odd items: a piece of a toy golf club, a valentine's card from someone's grandmother, an empty packet of Certs, a painted piece of metal that looked like it was a part of a toy at one point, some handwritten notes about bending sheet metal. Then things got weirder.

A torn magazine page featuring pinups of Kevin Costner and Mel Gibson.

About 14 pages of inkjet printouts of scantily clad ladies.

A pair of women's panties with a wallet-sized photo stapled to them.

A sock.



Anyway, pulling the new wires turned out to be a bit of an adventure. I bought some pre-terminated ethernet cables to save a bit of fuss and as it turned out the hole drilled at the top of the wall wasn't quite big enough to fit the RJ45 plugs through, so I had to very carefully drill a second hole beside the first so I could squeeze them past. Then I decided I'd probably need even more space for the next pair of cables and, well, let's say I guess I got greedy. I managed not to nick the cables drilling the first hole, but the second one wasn't so lucky and I managed to completely sever one of the old cables (no big deal) and nick both of the new cables I'd already pulled (annoying, but luckily I have RJ45 ends and crimper, and the damage was maybe only 3 feet from the end of the cable, so it wasn't a total loss to have to re-terminate them).

Anyway, I had to resort to using a fish tape to pull the second pair of cables, which worked out ok. Would have been nice to use the old cable but it was no longer fit for even that purpose. Interestingly, when I pulled the remains of that one out of the wall I found that it suffered some sort of damage part way down and had been folded over and wrapped with electrical tape for some bizarre reason.

Needless to say I'm glad I got rid of all that mess. I just have a bit of electrical to fix in the guest room (one of the electrical boxes is broken, so I need to chip out its remains and replace it with an old work box) and then I can move my server into the craft room and not have it sitting in the middle of the main living area.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Big Brother is Watching

So I got a free TV and let me tell you it's worth every penny. It actually works fine I just didn't know that companies were still making 720p sets in this, the year of our lord Two Thousand and Nineteen.

I'm basically planning to use it for running a live display from my security camera once I get things a bit more set up, and finally put my ChromeBit back to use.

I was originally planning to buy a large touchscreen panel and get a little fancier with the UI so I could review previous events and so on, but it just so happens that I refinanced my house and got this TV as a "free mortgage gift" as part of the process. Story time:

When I originally bought my house and got the mortgage I was given a code to plug into a website to select one "free" gift from a variety of merchandise that you might expect to find on offer from such a program. Most of it was crap but there were a few half-decent tools to pick from, and eventually I narrowed it down to either a portable bandsaw or a 10 inch miter saw. A bit of contemplation later and I put the porta-band in my cart and went on living my life.

Fast forward to my refi and I get the email with a code again, and I get excited at the prospect of being able to pick up the 10 inch miter saw, only to find that this time the selection is much more limited, with maybe only 8 products in total being offered and most of them of lower value. So I'm like "oh, I guess they don't offer the fancier catalog when you refi, only when you purchase" and I figure I might as well grab the incredibly low-end TV set to use for my security cam display because why not.

Then a day or two later I get another email with a different code and a slightly different "congratulations" pitch mentioning that because of some corp perk with Google I'm entitled to a fancier gift, and punching in the code leads me to the full catalog I recognized from the first time around. So I dig in, find the 10 inch miter saw and hit the order button.

I guess I'm getting two "free" gifts!

Roses are Red

Something something violets something.

Tossed some fertilizer in and pinched off some leaves with a bit of fungus and suddenly everything bloomed at once. Roses are hungry buggers.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

These Boots Aren't Made For Walking

But they are made for motorcycling, and currently they're my only pair so designated. This made it a bit awkward when one of the buckles ate its springs and became a bit limp.

There was still plenty of velcro to keep it on my foot and the buckle still technically worked, just not as well as it was designed to. Luckily the replacement part wasn't too difficult to find, and also came in an assortment of colors. Seeing as the boots are black with a few red accents, I decided to coordinate.

Looks good, works good, everything is as it should be!

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Now with 10% less hantavirus

Finally got around to taking down a bit more of the rickety shelving in the garage.

It's not much but it's something. Also patched up the drywall a bit (though eventually I'm going to rip it down so I can stuff insulation in the walls). The drywall tape was actually peeling off of the joint between the panels, so I replaced it with the fiberglass mesh style which shouldn't have that problem. I'm not going to bother patching up the dog-eaten bits by the vent until I redo the walls.

I also took the opportunity to vacuum up some of the mouse turds from the shelf above the garage door, and clear away some of the old pop cans that had been tossed up there. One of the cans was a coke can from the 1996 olympics so that'll give you an idea of how long it was collecting dust. (No, it's not worth any money)

Sunday, September 15, 2019

It's Life, Jim But Not As We Know It

Looks like the seedling tray system is working well, I've already got a few sprouts popping up!

They're a few days early too, they're supposed to take 7-10 days to germinate but I saw the first signs of sprouting only 4 days after I started them. I guess that's a good sign that I'm doing something right!

As an aside, I wanted to check the exact phrasing for the quote in the title of the post, only to discover that it's not actually a quote from Star Trek itself, but instead from a parody song Star Trekkin'. Who knew?

Saturday, September 14, 2019

A Test Run

I decided to saddle up on Dirty Dozen and put a few miles on it to see what cycling to and from work would be like from my new house.

Northbound, southbound.

The answer: not bad, but it'll take a bit more time out of the day than I'd like. Most importantly, I wouldn't be able to make it to the office by 9am if I woke up at my usual time of 7am, and waking up earlier would likely fuck up my sleep schedule a bit too much.

Also the flat tire on the way back wasn't too awesome. Picked up a nail while coming into Saratoga. Real nice of the construction folks to actually secure cargo in the back of their ratty, broken-down pickup trucks.

Anyway, flat tires aside, it's a little over 1.5 hours wall time each way. The question now is whether I could trim that down significantly with an e-bike (class 3 so I can get boosted up to 28mph), enough so that I could roll into work at the usual time? Though for the moment the question is largely academic as e-road bikes (as opposed to the annoying flat-bar commuter bikes) are still in the early days and priced well above what I'd want to spend on a speculative buy.

I guess we'll see what the future brings in the next few years. Until then, I'll be enjoying my motorcycles.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

The Greenest Thumb

A little water, some warm sunlight, and a week and a half later thousands of seedlings are poking their first leaves up out of the ground.

Unfortunately I only planted hundreds of seeds, and if my math degree prepared me at all for this situation I'm pretty sure that means that most if not all of these are weeds.

So, take two, let's try a different approach.

Friday, September 6, 2019


My back yard was apparently visited by some birds today. No idea what kind, apparently the type that poops a lot.

Got out the hose and gave everything a quick scrub and...

... well, I guess that's going to save me some sanding on the table. Good thing it's on the list for refinishing. The refinished chairs (4/6 done) stood up to the scrubbing quite nicely.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

The Seeds Of Evil

Got myself some yarrow seeds on a lark to pretty up some of the blank dirt up behind my retaining wall.

These seeds are incredibly tiny. The photo doesn't really do it justice.

Anyway, planted them up this afternoon, and I'm hoping those popsicle sticks I used as markers don't end up being tiny seed tombstones. But if they do I've got plenty more seeds to try again I guess.

The irrigation isn't terribly functional. It's got some emitters but most of them seem to be some combination of clogged or broken, so I'll probably pull them out and install some lengths of drip line instead. In the mean time I'm watering manually with the hose.

Monday, September 2, 2019

The Mysteries Of Life

Me, owner of a set-back thermostat, sitting at home on a holiday Monday afternoon enjoying the late summer sun pouring in through the windows: Hmm, why's it so warm in here?

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Turning Over A New Leaf

So there's this shrub of some description in my back yard. Ugly as sin, mutilated with poor pruning and basically just weedy and leafbare.

When I moved in I took a "wait and see" approach to it to see if it might leaf out and redeem itself, but it remained looking basically like this the whole time, with just a few leaves and some tiny purple flowers. As the weeks turned into months I hatched a plan to replace it with this leftover... uh, no idea what it is but it's a neat looking plant.

It had just been sitting in this container since I moved in. There's a bunch of similar plants in the front yard and I imagine the former owners had some sort of plan for it, but my plan was simple: stick it in the hole in the ground I was about to make ripping out the ugly, weedy shrub.

Looks quite nice there, I must say. The digging was quite hard work as the soil here is pretty miserable hard-packed gravel and clay. If ever I find myself with the urge to redo the landscaping, I'll be sure to bring in a few truckloads of compost to amend the soil.