Julie’s graduation and house wiring

I had a pretty busy and backbreaking couple of weeks. May 11 was Julie’s graduation from law school, we had company from May 11-14, then we were in Pace from May 14-20 so that I could wire the house.

Julie’s graduation

I took the Friday off. Julie’s mom and step-father flew in and we picked them up that morning, they stayed with us, and Julie dropped them off at the airport Monday. My parents drove into town and were staying in a hotel from the night before until Sunday afternoon. Julie’s dad drove in from a business trip that day but had to leave soon after the commencement was over. While people were here, we ate out (completely destroying my diet), saw a planetarium show (which I didn’t really like that much and made me wonder what drugs I was supposed to be on to enjoy it), and saw a movie.

I’m very proud of my wife for her accomplishments. I posted some pictures that Julie’s dad took from the commencement in the Photo Gallery.

Here’s a scan of Julie’s listing in the graduation program.

I know my wife doesn’t like to toot her own horn, but my dad pointed out that he had trouble finding other graduates that had as long a list of accomplishments as Julie had.

House wiring trip

I woke up early Monday morning (5/14), which was also Julie’s birthday, to get a head start on work. Julie had to take her mom and step-father to the air port while I worked. After work, I quickly packed up, and we hit the road. It was NOT an enjoyable trip this time. There was a very big traffic jam caused by an accident near I-10 Exit 262 in Madison county. We were stuck there for about 90 minutes. We ate at a mediocre Chinese take out place near Tallahassee. Just before Ponce de Leon, it was really dark, and I had to make a quick last moment lane change to avoid slamming Julie’s car into what I think was a coyote. I’m glad I was able to avoid it, because hitting a coyote at 70 MPH probably would have done a lot of damage, not to mention I don’t want to kill an animal. That little incident left me a little freaked out so we took a rest stop. Anyway, we got to my parents’ house a little after 10:00 their time.

I was expecting to do my house wiring on Tuesday, but when we went their, the electrician had not yet arrived to do his work. Lonnie told me the electrician would do his work on Wednesday and Thursday, and that I could do my work on Friday. My plan was for the electrician to do his work, which was electrical, phones, and CATV. I would then come in and do my wiring, which was Ethernet, intercom, and audio/visual. I met the electrician in person on Wednesday, I think. I discussed some issues with grounding the Ethernet runs between the two buildings.

The wiring turned out to be WAY more work that I had anticipated. I guess I just didn’t realize how much work it would be. In the house, I wired 6 Ethernet lines, 1 intercom line, 2 lines going outside, and a conduit pipe going up to the attic and outside for antenna access. In the actual house, I wired 17 Ethernet lines, 5 intercom lines, 2 lines going outside, 2 RCA lines in the fitness room, 4 speaker wire lines in the living room, and an HDMI line in the bedroom. All including all the nailed in boxes and all the hole drilling (although I tried to use the electrician’s low-voltage holes when I could). The entire job took 17 hours spread over Friday and Saturday.

I appreciate all the help I got in wiring: My dad and brother for letting me use their tools, my dad for his guidance and what would he could do with only one working hand, and my wife.

I posted some pictures of the wiring in the Photo Gallery.
Here’s the final wiring plan that I ended up using.

All this work really wore me out, and my back still hurts right now. I had to work a half day on Saturday to make up the time I lost Friday. We left early Sunday, I drove back, worked another half day on Sunday, and then went to sleep as soon as I could to start an early work day Monday.

Antenna dilemma

I’ve been stressing far too much about my antennas, but first an explanation. I have a 5 foot long antenna for wifi that I have been planning to put up on my workshop. The purpose of this antenna is to provide network access throughout my yard (more on that later). Additionally, at some point, I also plan to put up one or more antennas for ham radio. The Arrow OSJ Pole antenna, for example, would do well for the 2 m and 70 cm bands. It would also be an easy, rugged, inexpensive setup for my first antenna. There’s a very nice, strong, tall oak tree next to my workshop that would provide a great elevation this and other antennas.

Here’s the picture of the tree I’m talking about.

In preparation for antennas, I put in some pipe going into my workshop. I used 3/4 inch diameter PVC pipe. However, I actually asked my dad to put in a bigger pipe. I don’t remember off the top of my head what it is now.

Now, here’s the dilemma. I don’t just want to put up antennas; I want to do it the right and safe way. However, knowing exactly what is “right and safe” has been very complicated and frustrating. I’ve been spending a good bit of time talking to electricians and ham operators on IRC (##hamradio on chat.freenode.net), as well as a lot of reading articles on best practices. Here’s some things that I have concluded: (1) Most electricians don’t really seem to know that much about antennas, much less how to properly ground them. (2) Most hams know, but most of them don’t actually practice what they know. (3) It is really complicated. (4) Since I’m using a J-Pole, I am concerned only about lightning protection, not RF grounding.

I found this link very helpful in developing my lightning protection plan.

And here’s a summary:

  • Ground wire from the antenna immediately straight down to the ground.
  • Ground the feedlines immediately just before entering the building.
  • Any additional ground rods must be bonded to the service ground with at least #6 AWG copper and be no closer than 6 feet apart. This is an NEC requirement.
  • The service ground should bonded to the station entrance ground.
  • All equipment feeds from common outlet.

More information about my implementation has been moved to the new Ham Radio page.

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