Wiring: Plan B

As is often the case with these things, I hit a snag trying to fish wire from the attic to the basement for my bedroom rewiring project. I encountered some horizontal blocking in the stud cavity which prevented me from running the wire all the way through. That basically left me with three choices:

  1. Press forward and try to run the wire through the cavity as planned, turning most of my hair gray and losing several years from my life expectancy in the process;
  2. Try to find an alternate stud cavity to run my wire; or
  3. Come up with another plan altogether.

I’ll admit, I briefly considered #1. I’ve fished wire through some tight spots in my day, and if I’m determined enough, I could get the wire through, horizontal blocking and all. But if there’s an easier way, I’d rather not deal with the frustration.

#2 might work. I fished wire through a different stud cavity for a similar project a couple years back, and had no problems. But it’s really kind of a crap shoot, and I’d rather not drill tons of holes all over the place just to find a clear shot from the attic to the basement.

All this brings us to #3. After consideration, I decided to tap into some existing wiring in the basement instead. It turns out there’s a nearby circuit that has only a single outlet on it (used to be for a window air conditioner). So I’m going to tie the wiring into this circuit. Simpler and easier than trying to fish through the wall.

Moral of the story: the first plan you come up with is not necessarily the best or easiest, so don’t get set on it.

Drilling top plates

I drilled through another top plate yesterday. Every time I drill through framing, there’s always this nagging worry that I’m drilling through the last bit of wood that’s keeping the house standing, and this hole is going to be the one that makes the whole house come crashing down into a big pile of rubble. So far, I’ve been lucky. But I still have to drill the bottom plate.. so I’m not out of the woods yet.

The good news is, I think I’ve found a cordless drill I’m happy with — the 12 volt DeWalt. I’ve never been a huge fan of the higher-voltage drills because they’re just too heavy and unwieldy for everyday around-the-house work. My old 9.6 volt drill was nice and light, but it lacked the torque to drive a paddle bit through a double 2×4 top plate. The new 12 volt handled it with flying colors, and it’s almost the same weight. For a weekend warrior like me, it seems to be the perfect balance between power and convenience.

Not a bad year for the pool

We had a pretty good 2007 swimming season.  We opened up on Memorial Day weekend and were swimming soon thereafter.  And we set a new record for latest day in the pool — October 9.  As a matter of fact, the pool got pretty regular use in late September and the first week of October because of unseasonably warm weather.  We finally shut things down on October 13, so we had a swimming season of a little over 4 months.  Contrast that with 2006, when we didn’t open until a week into June, and closed in mid September.

The never-ending pool repair project drags on, although significant progress was made in 2007.  The coping stones are now mortared down and grouted, and the entire deck has been caulked with Sika self-leveling sealant.  I also resurfaced an area of sunken concrete by the house.  Still left to do: re-grout between the coping stones and the tile, although I’m debating how I want to handle this.  It might make sense to grind the joint square, which would necessitate draining the pool (because of the mess).  If I decide to do that, I’ll probably put this off until a later year, so I can re-tile the deep end and give the pool a fresh coat of paint as well.  I know it’s not happening in 2008.

One thing that didn’t happen much in 2007 was mowing.  NWS claims this was the “worst drought year since 1999,” although it seems to me that 2002 was worse than either this year or 1999.   The past two days, we’ve finally gotten some relief, so I imagine I’ll be cutting the grass one last time after things dry out.  Last mowing of the season is typically around the first week of November.  Then it’s on to leaf removal.. fun fun.

More WordPress

Well, as these things always go, the WordPress conversion turned out not to be quite as simple as I had originally thought. Now, I expected that permalinks would be broken, so I went through and fixed all those (as well as some permalinks back into my old Blosxom blog that I never bothered to update when I went to b2evo). What I didn’t expect, was that all of my old 2-part b2evo posts also broke. Back in the day, I made liberal use of these using b2evo’s <!--more--> tag. The export process only extracted the text of the posts up to the <!--more--> tag, ignoring the rest.

WordPress has a completely different method of handling two-part posts using what it calls “post excerpts”. So, for now, just to pull these posts in, I just went through each one and cut-and-pasted the rest of the post from b2evo, separating the two parts with [More:], as b2evo would display them. It was a tedious, manual process, of course, but I only had to do it once.

So now, I think I’m entirely moved over to WordPress with no links to old blogs anywhere. Now I just need to go update my Wiki in a few places where I had permalinks.


Now that I’m using my blog again, I decided to ditch b2evolution for WordPress. B2Evolution has served me well, but I’ve never been crazy about its look-and-feel or its selection of skins. And, most of my geeky-type friends who blog, use WordPress, so I figured I would give it a shot.

Importing was easy thanks to these instructions I found.  Ironically enough, it was the same procedure I used awhile back when I converted from Blosxom to b2evolution:  export the existing stuff into Movable Type format, then import.

I really like the clean look-and-feel of WordPress, and it’s certainly much spiffier than the version of b2evolution I was using, although that’s not really a fair comparison because I hadn’t upgraded b2evolution since I installed it in late 2005.

In other news, I just registered lpaulriddle.com, which I’ll eventually use to house this blog and some other stuff.


Michael’s room finished (except for carpet)

Finally put a wrap on painting Michael’s room last night. Based on prior blog entries, this project droned on for almost a year. Kind of par for the course for projects these days, it seems.

The room has actually been habitable for a month now (Michael slept there for the first time on 9/22… a month ago to the day), but the room has been waiting on one of us to touch up the paint in the corners and around the trim. I finally knocked that off last night. For as bad shape as the walls were in when we started this, I must say the finished product looks pretty nice. At times, I had my doubts about how it was going to turn out.

I learned one valuable lesson from this: when cutting in where two different surfaces meet (i.e. around trim and in corners), skip the blue painter’s tape, use a good quality sash type brush, and just do it freehand. I was amazed at how easy it was, and it didn’t take any longer than it would have with the tape, either. Apparently it’s possible to get better results with the tape than we did, but if it’s just as easy to do it freehand, why bother?

Nothing left to do with the room now except get it carpeted, which we’ll let the pros take care of after we finish painting the master bedroom.

Master bedroom wiring – know what I need

Replaced the outlet at the foot of Andrew’s bed this morning, and it confirms the wiring layout:

  1. Master bedroom ceiling fixture  
  2. Master bedroom switch box
  3. Andrew’s room, outlet at foot of bed
  4. Master bedroom, outlet behind bed
  5. Back basement, ceiling fixture

This is everything I need to know to come up with a plan to redo the wiring. It will be very similar to what I did in Michael’s room:

  1. Disconnect the old wiring between #1 and #2, and replace with a single run of 14/3 which will function as a switch loop.
  2. Disconnect the old wiring between #3 and #4.
  3. Run a new wire from the ceiling box (#1) to the basement.
  4. Mount a new junction box in the basement and splice the new wire into the existing wire between #4 and #5.

An alternative would be to run the new wire directly from #1 to #5, but #5 already has a lot of wires going into it, and I think mounting a new junction box would keep things neater.

The basic idea is to splice the ceiling fixture to the closest fixture downstream of the switch box with accessible wiring, then back-feed the two outlets immediately downstream of the switch.

Anyways, I now know enough about the circuit layout to put it in the wiki.

Incidentally, the old outlet in Andrew’s room was cracked almost in half.  Check it out:

Broken outlet from Andrew's room

The outlet was most likely original to the house, and it was plastic, not porcelain.  So apparently they were using plastic outlets back then, but not thermoplastic-coated wire.

Demystifying master bedroom fan wiring

This evening I did a little preliminary detective work to try to figure out the ceiling fan wiring in the master bedroom, in preparation for redoing it. The goal is to reroute the hot and neutral wiring around the switch box, leaving only a single 14/3 switch loop going to the box. That way the fan control will fit properly in the box. More background is here.

Today I just opened up the switch box, disconnected the spliced hot wire, and observed what went dead.


Master bedroom – ceiling fixture / Switch
Master bedroom – outlet behind bed
Andrew’s bedroom – outlet at foot of bed
Andrew’s bedroom – outlet behind crib
Andrew’s bedroom – light in closet next to door
Back of basement – ceiling fixture
Basement bathroom – light and fan


Master bedroom – outlets on wall adjacent to bed (2)
Andrew’s bedroom – outlet behind dresser
Andrew’s bedroom – ceiling fixture
Andrew’s bedroom – light in closet at head of bed

Like everything else in this house, this raises as many questions as it answers. The next step is to inspect the wiring in the attic (there’s very little visible wiring for this circuit in the basement), and work on replacing some of the outlets. As each outlet is disconnected, I can repeat this evening’s exercise and get more info about how the circuit is laid out. Stay tuned..

Fun with ssh tunnels

A couple months back, UMBC decided to block off-campus access to most of its internal hosts. Included in this bunch was concerto, which houses this blog as well as my house wiki. Although I could probably apply for and get a hole punched in the firewall for http and ssh, I decided not to bother. I’m not the most proactive guy in the world when it comes to keeping up with security patches, so the firewall thing is probably for the best. Of course, the down side to this is that I can’t use concerto as a free web hosting environment any more, which again, is probably mostly a blessing in disguise. However, there was one big thing I didn’t want to give up: ssh and web access to concerto from our home LAN. After all, there’s not much point in having a house wiki if I can’t get to it from my house! So the challenge became, how do I get this back, and make it as seamless as possible?

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