Wired up the den

Since the ceiling is out, I wired up the den for speakers.

Our TV is in one corner, and the couch is on the opposite side of the room. My wife never wanted to drape cables around a wall, so I figured that since the ceiling is out, it’s the perfect time to run speaker wires.

The whole job took me about 3 1/2 hours, not including patching wall holes.

Even though I only have a dinky 5.1 speaker system, I wanted to be wired for 7.1 channel surround sound setup just in case I luck across such a system some some day. That means I needed to run 4 pars of speaker wires between the walls. Add that to some category 5e network cables, and that would be a hassle!

Home Depot sells a single sprinkler system wire bundle with ten 18 gauge wires. An uncle in the audio business me that 18 gauge solid is plenty for unpowered speakers, so this 18/10 sprinkler wire is what I used!

Installation took a few steps.

A drywall cut for a junction box and to poke a hole through the fire block:

Cuts through the fire block:

3 cuts on the opposite wall:

Yes, 3 cuts. I made the first cut at the traditional fire block level because my stud sensor said something was there. Opening it up, I found nothing!

When I fished the wire from the top, I ran into something about 1 foot down. It turns out some 2x4s are stacked laterally at that point to support the wide opening to the left. Cutting above that, I found that I could slip the wires between an opening between the 2x4s.

Then about 1.5′ from the floor, I ran into something else! Cutting right above that point, I found a traditional fire block and had to cut through it.

Here’s my speaker cable handiwork:

Since the sprinkler cable had 10 wires (5 pairs), and since the speaker connector QuickPorts came in packages of 5, I went ahead and hooked up all five pairs.

On the suggestion of a neighbor, I ran two cat5e cables to the TV area. Supposedly the complexity of media center stuff would appreciate the availability of the two ports. And if I ever got a cable modem, I could head it back behind the TV and run its data to a router or switch in a hall closet.

Can you tell it has been 8 years since I last punched a RJ45 jack?

Don’t worry, I cleaned up the wires before installing it.

Here’s the connections behind the TV:

The other side of the room looks the same except for one less data port.

There wasn’t much noteworthy about the way I ran this through the ceiling except that I tried to distance the network cable from power wires:

My recollection is that fluorescent ballasts are the biggest signal killers, so this may not have made much a difference.

Since I was in the attic anyway, I took a long exposure picture:

I’ll never get this view any more unless, heaven forbid, the ceiling collapses again!

Flu update

I came down with the flu over 4 days ago.

I am so thankful for Tamiflu. The drug cut way back on the symptoms.

I felt like “crap” instead of “death.”

We were even able to get out of the house and go shopping yesterday, but that wore us out! (And Sears won’t haggle on closeout lawn mower prices. No sale!)

Tonight I feel 95% better. Appetite is back, and I feel fully human. About all I am lacking is the stamina to do a workout.

I was able to keep with my Lent fast.

Tamiflu is awesome

Even though we proactively got flu shots in the fall, my wife came down with the flu on Tuesday evening.

I got it Wednesday evening.

Alec is showing symptoms as of Thursday afternoon.

It turns out that in 16% of flu seasons, the flu shot does not cover all flu variants. This is one of those years. (link)

I last got the flu 11 years ago. It was awful–I was laid up for several days, barely able to function.

This time I have Tamiflu. Probably thanks to this drug, both my wife’s and my flu have been comparatively mild. I’ve been somewhat productive on computer work, something I can’t do during a regular cold.

Since we started my son on Tamiflu before symptoms began, he may escape with little more than a runny nose and a little fever.

Tamiflu works by blocking a viral protein function, thereby preventing flu virus reproduction. All the virons already in me will still live, but they are unable to reproduce. Supposedly this reduces the disease’s severity and duration.

So far I have been able to abide by my Lent fast, but I am very tempted to indulge in some ice cream. Normally when I am sick like this, I have little appetite, so I go for foods that are calorie-dense.

I can’t wait for this to be over! I can’t believe I am saying this, but my work team and I are in the middle of a lot of bog, influential projects, and I hate having so many unplanned days away them.

2008 Lent Fast

My wife and I picked a difficult Lent fast: giving up foods full of junk carbohydrates.

Junk carbohydrates are a feature of foods with disproportionately more carbohydrate content than other healthful substances. Example junk carbs include simple carbohydrates (enriched/white flour, white and brown sugar, corn syrup, honey, et al), fruit juices, and white potatoes. Disallowed foods include:

  • Almost all bread products
  • White rice
  • Virtually all snack foods or desserts
  • Fruit juices
  • French fries
  • Most barbecue sauces, many of which I call “meat syrup” because of their vile sweetness. (Do you like maple syrup on your bacon? Why put equally sugary junk on roasts? Yuck!)
  • And many others.

Foods with junk carbohydrates only as accents are OK. Generally, I want to see the junk carbs follow behind an ingredient that I intuitively know is sparsely used in the food. Examples are a sauce thickened with a little flour, 85% dark chocolate in moderation, or salted peanuts that have a little corn syrup. Even Nature’s Own Double Fiber Wheat is OK in moderation: it has more wheat gluten (4th ingredient) than white flour (5th ingredient)!

Even though junk carbohydrates are counterproductive in a human diet, it is hard to give them up! You don’t know how addicted you are to them until they are out of your diet.

Pants size

Between high school and Thanksgiving 2006, I wore the same jeans size.

At that Thanksgiving, I realized those jeans literally fell off me without a belt. I quickly switched to jeans with two inch smaller waist, and they fit well.

Today, I tried on jeans that were an additional inch smaller, and they fit great!

What’s my secret? I’m doing better avoiding junk foods (stuff made with white flour, stuff with partially hydrogenated oils, fruit juices, etc.), I’m further reducing eating when not hungry (you wouldn’t believe how much eating is done not out of hunger), and I exercise 3-5 times a week. That’s really it.