Fishing in the Snow Drifts...

Figured I'd cheat a bit this week. I've been writing to my Mom and Brother who are in Alberta, and sometimes what I write to them would make a good blog post. So I'm going to edit this a bit, but you still might see things that don't make sense. Well, that's nothing new right? haha

Have hardly watched TV at all since being here! Feel bad, we've had the cable guy here twice, think he's watched the TV more than we have! I'm trying to avoid the Big TV, know if I'm home all day and start watching Discovery or something its all over!

I am officially making progress on Mr. Put's aircraft videos. When I started there was so much video I kept putting it off! Now that I've gone through the first cut, its down to about 14 hours total, so a person can almost get their head around that! Its going to make a nice Box Set when I'm done! Now I'm going through it all again, making an index so we can find parts that go together. Put is a genius aircraft mechanic, but we didn't really start with a plan, so as he would be working, he'd see something that led to a story, so even though we're looking at the Nose tire, he's talking about the Rudder Cables. Some of you know they're hooked together, but the Rudder is on the Tail, and the Nose tire is on the front, so its sometimes hard to talk about things in order that way!

Had one of those days today. Turned out ok, but oh wow, it would have been pretty easy to just quit and go swimming instead!

We have wireless internet in Sam's office, but I don't have WiFi on all my computers. I was a wire installer for a while at ComputerLand, so of course I don't think much of WiFi... nice when it works, but its not as reliable as a good piece of wire. Also not nearly as fast. Or as secure. Besides, wires come in pretty colors, and its hard to see WiFi!

So anyway, I was looking at my pile of cables that I brought with me and my longest piece was 65 feet. Maybe a bit longer if I untied all the knots. I have most of my tools still, and noticed a "fish tape" in the garage here. Guess previous guy was pulling wires too! Nice, that's the only thing I didn't have! So, to get a wire from my office to Sam's office, I needed to go up through the wall into the ceiling, then across the attic, then down another wall, into her office. Just in case you've never had the fun of doing this, I'll explain the steps. (I'm going to put this in the blog, figure once I'm this far into it, might as well get some more mileage out of my story!)(For my Blog readers, this was originally an email to my family!) Anyway, Walls are 2x4 studs, with a 2x4 bottom... sill plate? I'm sure my construction peeps will correct me! Anyway, 2x4 going along the floor, then 2x4 studs going vertically, then a 2x4 top plate to hold them together. Then the drywall is attached to the studs etc. So once the drywall is up, how do you add wires, you say? Magic!

Pick a spot, any spot will do, but to be fashionable, its a good idea to maybe go as high as the plug ins are. Or down by the baseboard, that would work to. I did mine at plug in level. Take a hole saw, the kind that attaches to your drill, and drill a hole in the drywall. Don't worry about the mess, you can always clean it up later. In my old life, I'd usually clean that up when I moved out, but since I'm hoping to be in this house for a while (maybe even years, could set a record!) I'll probably clean up the mess before Samantha has time to read this far!

Ok, so you have your first hole in the wall. That's kind of fun! We should make more holes while we're at it right? Ok, easy now, the next hole needs a bit more planning. Oh, I should say that with any luck your first hole did NOT hit a stud. The trick is that studs are usually 18" OC or On Center. I might be making this part up. My Dad used to be a farmer, and I'm not really sure if anything he built was ever exactly to code, but he used words like that, and his house never fell over while we lived there. So.. moving on... I looked at the plug in, and went about a foot to the right of it. Since plug in boxes are mounted to studs, and studs are usually 18" apart, if I go a foot to the side of the plug in, odds are I will not hit a stud. It usually works! Did I mention I used to install wires professionally? Hmmm oh yeah, I did, its back a couple paragraphs there... cool!

Good, first hole successfully drilled. Now, find tape measure and pen and paper, and diagram where the hole is, in reference to things like the wall, the corner of the next wall, and continuing back to the attic access door. This will be important later. Because when you're up in the attic, you'll be swimming in about 2 feet of insulation. Kind of reminds me of the time I lost my gloves when I fell off the snow mobile, but I won't get into that now.

So, up to the attic. The house has 9 foot ceilings. Then there is a couple feet of insulation up in the attic, so there is a pretty high ... box I guess? around the attic door. Anyway, looking around, and find a 6 foot ladder. Ok, according to my drivers license I'm only 5'11" tall, and even if I break the rule of standing on top of the ladder, right on top of that "DO NOT STEP ON THIS, YOU MORON!!" sign, I don't think I can get up there. Maybe I should have figured that out before I drilled the hole, but now we are committed! Committed is a good place to be, really. you can't weasel out of it when things get tough, even though that would sometimes be smart.

Looking around the garage here is interesting, in that I have my pile still, and then there are other piles that were here when I got here. So everything turns into a treasure hunt. Find all kinds of interesting, wonderful things, like yesterday, when I was looking for sprinkler parts for the lawn. I found the missing bug zapper, another bucket of chlorine tablets (previously mis identified as urinal pucks) about 14 bags of hardware, 1 or 2 parts per bag... ok, you know the story, you go to Home Depot, and when you buy the one sprinkler part you go for, you think, oh, well, I MIGHT need another T-fitting and an Elbow and a Nipple, just in case. Never know when you need another Nipple right? Nipple... that's just fun to say. Anyway, then you get home, and oh look, an whole FREAKING bag full of Nipples... No Caps to cap off a missing sprinkler when you run over one with your lawn mower, but you got a whole Litter of Nipples!

Well, on my quest to find a way into the attic, I find this great looking Red Rope. got stripes on it, might be even mountain climbing rope or something. Hmmm Rope, Rafters, I have carabiners... then I found some pulleys... I had to go drink some coffee at this point, it was just too much to take in at the same time!

So after a couple cups of coffee, I decided on a rope ladder, tossed up over the rafters, then clipped back on itself with a carabiner. Really should have taken a picture, but in the end, it was a bit over kill, and I didn't want people to think I was having too much fun up there right? Also should be noted that I knew I'd be going up and down that rig a few times, so it was worth the time to make it work.

Ok, get up the first time, and in a way this really was like what I learned about mountain climbing on TV. The rope is sort of useless on the first climb, because you can't tie it to anything higher than you can already reach! But it did give me the one extra step I needed to pull myself up. Once up in the attic, I found a light switch, and had a good look around. Wow, ever notice that in a house attic, nothing looks like it does down stairs? Rafters do not seem to line up with walls, furnace is in the middle of where I thought I'd be walking... completely alien up there. Ok, look at my map. Simple. 6 feet to the left, then 58" back, then come back 53". Well, that made a lot of sense down stairs. But now I see I was back tracking. Bit of pondering, awe... right over there, cool. Now how to get there. The next half hour was spent clearing "snow drifts" looking for rafters and joists to stand on, so I don't fall through the dry wall ceiling. As much fun as that sounds like, its never as cool as it looks on TV, cause usually only one foot falls through, and the other one is stuck on something, or you straddle some electrical wires or the sewer stack or what ever.

Finally (you were getting tired of waiting weren't you?) I found where the tape measure said I should be. Ohoh... that's no good! I'm looking at the top of the wall, I think, and its like 6" from where I thought it should be. Hmmm A bit of mental gymnastics, some deep thought, and I decided to drill into the board that I thought was the wall, even though it seemed to be in the wrong spot. Scary... but alas, it was not to be. After all that drama, the drill battery died! Sigh. Now the long trek through the snow drifts, back to the rope ladder. Almost died. Well, maybe not, but I was a bit worried. Made some changes to the rig, ok, that's better. Down on the ground, feels nice to just stand there for a minute!

To the garage, look at the drill, and try to imagine where someone else might put the charger. Tool box... nope... shelf near tool box... nope. Hmmm. Oh of course, its on the top shelf hidden behind the pool chemicals, near the sprinkler parts. ok, battery on charge, label says 1 hour charger. Ok, guess I'll take a break and eat breakfast.

This gives me time to find the error in my measuring, which is good, I feel much better about where I was drilling the hole!

Fresh battery in hand, back up the ladder. Almost the top of the ladder I look at the sconce light that is dangerously close to where I'll likely be kicking and flailing if the rope ladder goes wonky on me, decide to play the genius card again and take the light down. Well, darker now, but less chance of cleaning up broken glass! Back up the ladder, getting better, now that I know where to put my feet, get there in record time. Find the board that I'd started the hole in, and swish, wow, this drill works great with a fresh battery!

Alrighty, time to go fishing now! I had already stretched out my fish tape, so it was just a matter of sticking it down the hole until I ran out of it. Fishing tape is a steel ... tape? with a hook bent onto the end. Its a bit like a tape measure, only narrower, no marks on it, and a lot thicker. Comes in a spool container. The trick I'd learned at ComputerLand, was to pull it out first, so you can see how long it is. Otherwise you go feeding it into the wall and have no idea how much is in there. Ok, tape is in the wall, back down stairs and look through the bottom hole. Oh right. Shoot, now I remember the other stuff we used to have! In the professional kit is a few cool little grabbers and hooks and mirror and tiny flash light. I have a coat hanger, needle nose pliers, and a big honkin' Maglight. And the hole I drilled was only an inch. Guessing the studs are 18" apart, I stick my coat hanger through the hole and poke around a bit, no idea where to even start looking, so decide to even the odds a bit. Go back to garage, find a 3" hole saw, and while finding that, find my little mirror.

When I was a mechanic in the Navy, we had these great inspection mirrors. The mirror was maybe an inch by 2 inches, and it had a long handle on it, and from the handle end, you could flex it so you could change the angle of the mirror. Was the only way we could see most of what we worked on, on the Jets and Helos I worked on. Well, that would have been great, but I didn't have one of those! But I had salvaged a small mirror from an ex girlfriends make up compact thingy. That and a bit of duct tape, and another coat hanger, and I'm back in business!

Once I knocked a proper size hole in the wall, I was able to see the fish tape pretty quickly. Close enough that I could reach in and grab it even, bonus points there! Pull it through the hole, and attach the cable to the fish tape, with a time tested combination of twisting and electrical tape. The last thing you want is this sucker coming apart half way through the wall, or getting snagged on something! So you tape it up pretty good, making it as smooth as possible so it slithers its way through the nooks and crags in there (sorry, crannies sounded so cliche!)

Back up the ladder again, grab the fish tape spool, and slowly, carefully pull the cable up through the wall. Oh, this is worth noting. Normally on a real job, the cable would be on a spool. Spools of 1000 feet go for less than a hundred dollars, not so bad. In this case, I had a piece that was about 65 feet long. So I really wanted to be sure I didn't pull the whole thing up the wall, or I'd have to start over right? So I tied the cable to a spring clamp I happened to find in my tool box. Picture a clothes pin, only about 8" inches long. As long as it didn't go through the hole, that's the important part!

Anyway, pull, pull, pull. BONK. Perfect, the clamp smacked the wall, and I'm good! Now to pull my wad of cable through the rafters toward my next drop point, into the other office where the cable modem is. This one was a lot easier to get to, so went faster. Pushed the insulation out of the way, found the wall top plate, guestimated about a foot from the corner, and drilled my hole. Back down the ladder (anyone counting?) grab 3" hole saw, and look at the target wall. Hmmm choices! Down low on the wall was some nice, freshly installed bead board... wainscot? Wood stuff. Nice. Trim. Really don't want to drill a hole in that, because later on, if we decide to get rid of the wire, that's going to be tough to patch! So I go for a hole in the dry wall about light switch level. Drill... drill.... drill... hmmm Wonder why there is particle board behind the drywall? Finally through. Cool, back up stairs and push the cable down the wall with the fish tape, still attached from the previous pull. The tape is rigid enough that it does a really good job of pushing a cable through the wall, where the cable by it self would snag on everything and never drop right.

Oh and if you're wondering, yes, I could have dropped the cable while I was up there the last time, but then I'd run the risk of drilling through my cable, right?

Grab flashlight and mirror, look around... hmmm no cable. Dang! This end of the wall has a stud about a foot from the corner! So crap! Drill another 3" hole in the wall, about a foot further over, and presto, there's the cable. If they'd stuck to the 18" spacing I'd have been fine. But since it was the end of the wall, that happens sometimes I guess. Or they had a left over board... what ever!

Seems like a good time for a break, so I clean up the mess, pick up most of the tools and drill I don't need anymore, and get ready to put the cable ends on. This is Cat-5 network cable, essentially phone wire, has 4 twisted pairs (orange / orange white, green / green white, blue / blue white, and brown / brown white... if you were curious!) The connector is a RJ-45 which is exactly like a phone connector, only bigger. Phones are RJ-11 or sometimes RJ-12 (think RJ-12 is the hand set connector?) So to put the female wall jack onto the cable, you strip the jacket back, being careful not to nick the wires, then you untwist the pairs and lay them out in the propper order. I could tell you that its orange, orange white, green white, blue white, blue, green, brown, brown white) but that's from memory and might be slightly wrong. When in doubt, like I usually am because I only do this about once a move, I usually look at the connector, and its got them all color coded! I got this cool little Punch Down tool even, it is made to work with the connector, you lay the wires in the right groove, then the tool punches them down, sort of like how a Scotch Splice works, sort of. It even cuts the wire ends off flush. Note which way you hold the tool, or it will neatly cut the wires on the wrong side, effectively ruining your attempt to look cool in front of your audience... in my case its the cat, but I got it right! The cat still not impressed, goes back to licking itself.

Both ends of the cable now properly jacked, I plug in the patch cables and look at the link light. No link light. Urg. Swap patch cables, nope, no light. Bummer! I had actually tested the cable before I pulled it, because that's just not enough fun to want to do it twice you know? So then thinking did I break the cable? possible... more likely I have a bad connection on the jack, or the jack is defective. These jacks, in theory are reusable, just pull the cable out and re punch it. But they're kind of looking tired, some of the taps are mangled. Which one is bad? or both? Drink a coffee, and decide to start with the one in my office. Pull the wires off, cut off a few inches of cable, and try again. Being very careful this time. VICTORY! The light comes on! Life is good! Now clean up the rest of the mess, plug in some more cables, tidy things up, put the office back together, push the book shelf over to hide the big holes in the wall, and we're good until the next move!

After all that, you'd think its time for a break or something, but I still had to mow the lawn and sweep the pool and clean up the yard. But after crawling around in the attic, it was nice to be out in the fresh air! This time the lawn wasn't 4 inches too tall and freshly watered, so that went really well. I'd cut way back on watering, which really makes mowing go a lot easier. I'm still dialing that in, figure just enough so it doesn't die, thats my lawn care secret! The dog lawn hadn't really grown at all, so I skipped that one. By the time I got to sweeping the pool, it was mid afternoon, so I was in the shade. And Sam and I had figured out all the controls on the pool filter assembly... I swear, I think nuclear submarines have less valves... probably better labels too! Anyway, once I figured out how to divert the filter pump to pull from the top skimmer thingy, my job got a lot easier. No more leaves to chase with the net! Duh, right?

A couple weeks ago we'd done some experiments with rice patty farming... well, that wasn't how it started I guess! There is a weed patch that was supposed to be a garden. The dirt had the feel of concrete, but some how the weeds grew great there! So we started pulling the weeds out, digging with a hoe, or later a shovel, then went for the hose and soaked the ground. Mostly that just made a mess, but did sort of soften it up a bit so the weeds came out. Well, we got about half way done, and had filled the yard waste can up, so had no where else to put the weeds. Some piles of weeds were left on the concrete around the pool, then it rained, so that mud went everywhere. Really not a good look. That's probably about when Google would fly over and take a picture of us right? So thought I should clean things up.

You know, Google still hasn't got us on the map here. I'm thinking I should get up on the roof and paint my website URL up there so I'm ready for the fly over. If only I didn't hate roofs so much. That might be a good service to consider, painting peoples website URL or Twitter IDs on their roofs for them. I've seen some on Google satallite pics and they show real nice. Think you'd need about 18" letters (whats that, about 50 cm?) for it to be readable.

Anyway, got the weeds all picked up, swept the concrete, sprayed some water around, cleaned the dog water dish... wondering if we could get the dogs converted to eating algae from the water dish? wow that would save a lot of food, I hear some algae is good to use for animal feed... hmmm Bio Fuel for Dogs!

Think that's about it for now! For next week I have a trampoline I need to take apart so we can sell it, a basketball hook in the street no one uses, and still a pretty good pile of my stuff in the garage I need to figure out homes for...

Stay Tooned!

Carlin

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Carlin Comm
Photographer, Author, Creative Genius
Renaissance Man, All around Great Guy :)
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http://carlincomm.com/desertstormdiaries/

By Carlin Comm posted on 2009-09-18 10:50:31