Installing a New Electrical Outlet

Project: Replace the old worn out receptacle in the bathroom with a new CFGI outlet.

Whatever we plugged into the outlet didn’t stay in the outlet and that is both annoying and dangerous. This project had been nagging at me every time I entered the bathroom and I finally had enough. I figured it would take about an hour to do. It took much longer than an hour but it is finally done.

Tools used:

  • Reciprocating saw
  • Phillips screwdriver
  • Battery operated drill/screwdriver set to low torque
  • Non-contact voltage tester
  • Wire cutter and stripper

Supplies used

  • GFCI Receptacle
  • Electrical tape
  • Plastic electrical box

I didn’t track exactly how long it took to complete the project but it was several hours due to two trips to the store, having to widen the hole in the wall and the fact that I am not a professional in these things.

I tested the tester to be sure it worked, turned off the power at the breaker, then tested the wires to be sure there was no power to them. I got seriously shocked a few years ago and barely escaped electrocution when I did something really dumb. I have no desire to repeat that experience or to give account to God for my time just yet.

I went to the store and picked up a good quality CFGI receptacle that was rated for a wet environment.

Once I was certain there was no power to the outlet I removed it from the wall and cut the wires. There was no electrical box covering the outlet so I had to go back to the store to get one.

The black wire is supposed to be the hot wire. Based on what I have seen while installing other outlets in the house I figured that this one might be wired wrong so I tested it. Sure enough, the white wire was the hot wire. The ground wire was also connected to the outlet when there is no ground on this old electrical system. That is dangerous as you could end up being the ground. I verified that the ground was not grounded before I removed the old outlet by using a receptacle tester. The tested showed an open ground.

This kind of sloppiness is one reason I like to do all of the work I can myself. Unprofessionalism in home construction and remodeling is rampant. From my experience, it is more the norm than the exception. Doing repairs and remodeling myself I can use higher quality parts and know it is done correctly.

I put a piece of tape on the hot wire and labeled it accordingly. Yes, black tape is what I should have used but I didn’t have any black electrical tape at the time. I bent the ground wire back and thoroughly taped it to the insulated wire well away from the other two exposed wires. I would have cut it off but plan to rewire the entire house as soon as I can get to the project.

The back of the receptacle has the spots where the wires are supposed to go clearly labeled. There is also a handy label on the back that shows how much to strip the wire. Look on other websites as to what these mean. This site is not about giving advice on electrical wiring as I am not a professional.

The most time-consuming part of the job was cutting the hole wider to fit the box. The hole was about 1/4 inch too narrow. Despite being as careful as I could I knocked some of the plaster off of the wall. I’ll make a patch for it at a future date.

I started to use the holes in the back of the receptacle to connect the wires instead of the screws but one of the wires fell out so I used the more secure screws.

Once the wires were attached it was simply a matter of carefully stuffing the wires and the receptacle into the box, screwing everything down and testing the results.

That is one more thing checked off the list and one more piece of the ancient wiring that is updated and a little safer.

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Order in the Car

Here are some ways we found for taming the trash, containing the sniffles, and preparing for the unexpected in the car.

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A tissue box attached to the back of the driver’s seat headrest. No more searching for a tissue!

The box is attached using two reusable cable ties

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I bought these at Walmart
Additional Kleenex are stored in this coffee cup
A shopping bag looped on the seat back makes a handy trash bag
Another trash bag and some hand sanitizer is at the ready for the front seat passenger
With a trash bag within easy reach of all passengers, there is no excuse for trash anywhere else.
The spare grocery bags are in the white container to the left. Our car has places to attach grocery bags to keep stuff in place. The red thing is an emergency power supply to jump-start a car if needed.

 

The floor bins where the Stow n’ Go seats go make great storage areas for seldom used but important items

 

Being Smarter with my Smartphone

Since it is apparent that a smartphone will be a part of my life I now must make sure that it adds positively to my enjoyment of life and does not distract from it. The main problem with my smartphone is games. I only play a few minutes here and there but the few minutes occupies space that far more important items could be occupying. The games also tend to keep me awake longer at night. I deleted all games off of the phone last night. Let’s see how this goes.

Life With a Smartphone

A few days after starting the job in May I reactivated my smartphone. The trigger was trying to fill out the HR forms for the new job. I spent at least 1/2 hour on the phone with my wife trying to walk her through where to find the information on my computer that I could have accessed in minutes on my phone. When I was at home I could access information on my computer but now that I once again spend so much time away from home I need access to the information in the cloud.

The trick now is to gain the benefits of the smartphone while minimizing the downsides of it.

30 Days Without a Smartphone

Yesterday marked 30 days since I gave up my iPhone. I knew that I was attached to the phone but have been surprised at how attached I was to it. My positive and negative experiences are as follows:

Positive:

  • Pain relief. My hands and shoulders don’t constantly hurt and my neck is much less painful than before.
  • I am not constantly on a game, looking up a meme, checking email, or otherwise distracted.
  • I am more present when I am somewhere. I focus more on the people and things around me.
  • I have accomplished more of worth in the past thirty days than in the six months prior to that.
  • I discovered the value of a dedicated GPS. It is much less distracting than using the iPhone for the same purpose.
  • My phone lasts for days without being recharged.
  • Using a paper planner keeps me from having an endless to-do list.
  • I discovered that not every moment needs to be photographed.
  • Checking off a paper to-do is more satisfying than checking off one on Todoist. With Todoist it just disappears and Todoist’s options for viewing the completed tasks on a project aren’t as good as I would like to see.
  • I get tired of forwarding unimportant tasks so they eventually get dropped.
  • Nobody can hack my paper planner unless they physically get possession of it. Once something is stored on the net it is there basically forever.
  • My current phone was about $44 but a new iPhone can run $700. I left the dumb phone visible in the car yesterday by mistake and was not the least bit concerned about anyone stealing it. With the iPhone, I would have gone out of the store and retrieved it.
  • I feel freer than I did before. Like I have stepped off of the treadmill and am refusing to play the phone and tech companies games.

 

Negative

  • People don’t pay $700 plus monthly fees just because smartphones look cool. They are powerful tools that are not going away anytime soon.
  • Finding information about things and places is more difficult. The GPS has far less information and places in it than Google Maps does.
  • Paper is limited. My Todoist task list is infinitely flexible. Everything can be captured including every step of a project.
  • I have hundreds of passwords and contacts stored electronically and have had many instances where needed information was not there when I needed it.
  • Siri will read books and web pages to me while I do something else but my Kindle will not do that. The true value of Kindle to me is that Siri will read me the book. It is the only way I got through Dune and Moby Dick a few months ago.
  • The Kindle reader on the iPhone is better in many ways than the actual Kindle.
  • My paper day planner does not do Evernote so much information is missing.
  • Communication has been more difficult as I can’t get attachments or some text messages.
  • I can’t look up where an item is on the store app when I am in a big box store or read reviews on the product while I am looking at it in the store.
  • Living without a smartphone takes more advanced planning as the information is not always available in the moment.
  • Things stored in the cloud don’t usually get misplaced or left in a shopping cart at the store.

 

So where to go from here? I wanted to go at least thirty days and I’ve now done that. However, research indicates that breaking an addiction longer takes longer than thirty days. How long exactly is subject to debate. I have also found workarounds for many of the problems encountered so far and expect more workarounds to be implemented that will make it easier to continue without a smartphone.

I have been unemployed for the past seven months and have been at home. On Monday I start a new job. The communication challenge of being away from my wife and from my desktop computer will be greater without an iPhone. An iPhone can also allow me to listen to books and podcasts during the commute. Going back to the iPhone is tempting.

An iPad may offer the benefits of the phone without some of the negatives but due to cost, that possibility is on hold for now. For today at least I am resisting the call of the “ring” and continuing without the smartphone. So far, the positives of doing without the smartphone outweigh the negatives.

The Machine Gun Principle

1876 Gatling Gun

The basic idea behind a machine gun or a shotgun is that if you send enough high-speed lead at the target you’ll hit it. I think that success in something is often like that. It can be successful sales, getting a job, taking good pictures, succeeding at sports, or whatever. If you just keep shooting at the target your chances of hitting the target are much higher.

Life Without a Smartphone: Day 26

I heard a radio article interviewing the guy that gave this TED Talk about machine learning. Add machine learning to the fact that Apple, Google, Amazon, the phone companies, and other online data collectors literally know our every move, every purchase, and virtually every thought is extremely scary stuff. If they have it, governments have it or could have it very quickly. The Terminator could show up in the not so distant future. The future will probably look more like 1984 than Terminator where the political elite will simply gain more control over the rest of us.

My using or not using a smartphone won’t change the future as they can get all the data they need from other sources. I’m not advocating living in the Idaho wilderness without power, doctors, or toilet paper. People and groups that live apart and refuse to change just make themselves targets and don’t change the course of history.

It is becoming clear that life without a smartphone is not something I can sustain without difficulty. My eyes and neck were hurting today and I haven’t used a smartphone or tablet in some time. Once I decide to end this experiment, I’ll keep a positive outlook and use this technology for all its worth with a new appreciation of its addictive power and hopefully greater mastery of the technology.