Covid is still going on so get-togethers are limited. Bowie, Keston and Josh came over for the afternoon, had Hudson’s choice of ramen for dinner, had cake and watched a movie.
He had a hard time coming up with a list of things he wanted for his birthday except for candy (!) but finally decided he wanted a PC for gaming. It’ll be his school computer too — no Mac for Hudson! He and I picked out the parts together, although he did most of the research. By his birthday all the parts had arrived and we spent a couple hours assembling it together.
I finally got one of the kids to mow our lawn. I have always enjoyed mowing the lawn, it reminds me of mowing lawns as a kid – my first business – and I’m one of those who loves a nice lawn, especially when I’ve mowed it myself. We had services doing it for a few years but they never do a good job and charge a lot for it. So after getting rid of the latest one I went back to mowing this year.
It’s time one of the kids can put their screen down for a few minutes and learn to do some physical labor and hopefully develop pride in the results of their effort. It took weeks but Hudson eventually volunteered.
He did a good job. He went off his own tracks a little and missed a few spots but handled the mower well and it took more effort since he was afraid to use the fast self-propelled feature.
I’ve been trying to find this movie for 5 years. We have the movie poster on our theater wall but it’s a Spanish movie that has never been released in the US. Last night on a whim I searched again and it’s now on Amazon Prime Video!
Even though it’s Amazon Prime it had commercials, which were annoying.
We were married 16 years ago today — we’ve been together for over 22 years now! Because of Covid, we couldn’t go out for a nice dinner together but we did the next-best thing: we picked up takeout from Carrello. The kids had their favorite pizza and then watched a movie downstairs while we had our dinner outside in the backyard.
Way back at the beginning of the Covid quarantine, when we thought it’d last 2-3 months at most, Gay organized a trip to Lake Wenatchee for us and four other families.
As the date approached and Covid is still rampant, we were all concerned that we’d be like one of those groups of people who don’t believe in science and end up infecting each other. Everyone self-quarantined for two weeks beforehand (I never stopped!) to reduce the risk. In the end, everyone stayed healthy.
Havana decided to start learning French with Duolingo so I decided to brush up on my high school French and learn too. 12 days in and I find it fun to do every day and the app is very well-made. I think I am already probably better than I was after 2 years in high school. I can certainly understand verbal French and write in French much better.
Spending so much time at home and with the business closed-down allowed me to have some time to do a bunch of things that have either been on my To Do list for years or that have bugged me for a long time that I’ve never found the time to improve. Plus, part of the fun of doing projects is that I get to buy new tools to make the jobs easier and more fun.
Garage floor and walls
At the beginning of our self-quarantine, I got the kids to help me put a floor in the garage. We had a bit of perforated aluminum sheets left over from the renovation in 2011 that I had put on the walls of the top floor of the garage. I used almost all of it to cover the last exposed wall of the garage to make it look like the upstairs and more clean. I added much brighter LED lights too. The garage is actually a nice place to be for me now, making car cleaning more fun. New tools: metal cutters.
Ethernet in Living Room
The Beosound Core didn’t receive adequate WiFi in the living room causing annoying music dropouts, so it needed to be wired. After lots of hemming and hawing about how to run a cable into the room, it turned out to be easy: I ran CAT6 on the cable ladder rack in the basement, underneath the living room and up through an existing hole for the radiator pipe through the floor. No drilling required at all! I installed and hid an RJ45 jack behind the radiator.
Wired internet to garage
We have Chamberlain’s MyQ (and Nexx Garage) sensors on our garage doors to get notified if they’re left open (which happened too often) and we can open and close them remotely. There’s also a camera in the garage. But they’re all WiFi devices and the WiFi coverage in the garage was weak and intermittent so the devices didn’t work reliably. So I buried a CAT6 cable across the lawn and ran it up the backside of the garage wall, along the eve and into the garage to an RJ45 port I mounted inside. The garage’s WiFi access point could then be wired for a more reliable and faster connection. New tools: better RJ45 crimpers and a CAT6 cable tester to replace my lost one.
I replaced Google WiFi throughout the house with Ubiquiti’s UniFi hardware: one 24-port PoE+ Ethernet switch, a Cloud Key Gen 2+ controller, a Secure Gateway and four nanoHD access points. Google WiFi required 7 access points (6 were wired) to cover our house but only 4 UniFi access points covered the entire house. I added a 5th on the main floor for better coverage in the most-used areas. Later, Havana and Hudson helped me pull cable from the basement outside and up through conduit to an even on the front porch so I could install a Unifi outdoor access point to cover the sitting areas on the front porch and the front yard.
The new access points mostly just replaced the existing Google WiFi pucks but I mounted two on the ceilings for better coverage. Another one was in the family room cabinetry, which has steel fascia on the doors which reduced the WiFi radio range, so I moved it above the family room cabinetry. That required drilling a hole through blocking behind the steel wall. Thanks to Patrick for lending me a flexible 6-foot drill bit which made it easy. Hudson helped me fish the cable up and Eva’s little hands were required to plug the end into the jack inconveniently located behind the the wall.
A/V Rack cleanup
After installing the UniFi equipment in the A/V rack in the basement, I finally tackled cleaning up the rack. The speaker wire and CAT6 cable I ran through the house during the renovation terminated here with too much excess cable. Over the years, as equipment was added to the rack, it became a mess of wires that even I had trouble figuring out. It’s been on my list for years to fix. I moved the home theater equipment out of it and into the theater room cabinetry which removed 5 pairs of speaker wire and gave more space in the rack for the UniFi equipment. That allowed me to rewire everything and make the cabling more tidy. This took several days just to untangle the wires and re-wire everything! I was pretty tired of dealing with wires after this.
Re-painted Havana’s Room
Havana wanted to change the wall colors in her room, so she picked some new colors and she and Gay painted it over a couple days. I didn’t do anything other than take down the window blinds and then reinstall them.
Home Theater 2.0
We’ve been using an average A/V Receiver to power our 5.1 surround sound home theater since 2011. I always intended to upgrade it but never got around to it — it was good enough and nobody complained about it. Since we’ve been using it a lot more during our quarantine and after cleaning up the A/V rack, I decided to finally do the research and learn about newer home theater equipment. I decided on the Anthem AVM 60 for the surround sound processor and pre-amp, mostly because of its highly-regarded Genesis room correction software, one Anthem MCA 525 and two MCA 325 amplifiers. That allows up to 11 speakers. I added 2 speakers on the ceiling for height speakers, which really made a difference in the 360º sound feeling even in non-Atmos content.
Next, I’ll get new left, center and right front speakers and move the existing left and right speakers to the back for rear surround sound and add two more height speakers. Soundproofing for the ceiling would be nice to make it quieter in the living room above. And it’s only a matter of time before the projector needs to be replaced with a 4K projector.
New Foyer electrical outlet
Our foyer has electrical outlets in 3 of the 4 corners. When we got Nest Secure the most convenient place to put it was in the one corner without an electrical outlet. The problem is that the walls are lath and plaster walls with the original wood paneling and there’s no electrical on either side of that wall. Cutting an outlet box into the wood baseboard is scary because an error would be much harder to repair compared to drywall. Now was the time to conquer that fear. And I knew just the right tool to do it: a Fein Multimaster Tool. I’ve been trying to rationalize buying one for 10 years but could always get by with a tool I had, but wished I had it. The precision it allows made it easy to cut a rectangle for the outlet box. I also used it to cut through nails to open up the section of basement wall to run the electrical line. I then used it to cut holes in the back of the home theater cabinetry for speaker binding post panels.
Restaurants have been closed by the governor but are allowed to do takeout and delivery. Many restaurants, already on razor-thin margins, will probably not survive. We decided to support them by ordering takeout or delivery from a different local restaurant until this is over. We assumed it’d last just a few weeks, but it’s been much longer. We’ve kept it up every night except for one and repeated some restaurants. 70 days later, this is the list of restaurants:
Aglio E Olio
D’ La Santa
Plenty of Clouds
Two Doors Down
Din Tai Fung
Nick’s on Madison
Sebi’s polish food
Rocket Taco (90-minute wait for takeout!)
The Golden Olive
Super Six (Mother’s Day brunch)
Red Cow + Dick’s (Mother’s Day dinner)
Italian Family Pizza
Sandwiches, calzone and salads from A Pizza Mart
Spaghetti, sandwich and salads from Olympia Pizza (Queen Anne)