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The cable guy (the same guy who installed it, Scotty) showed up this morning around 9:15a and swapped out my cable box. He didn’t hear the crackle in the audio (Jenn did, though, as did I) but the swapping of the cable box fixed it.

Apparently Comcast distributes calls among the 60 or so installers in the area such that you aren’t supposed to get the same installer twice in a row (just in case you had a problem with the installer last time he/she was there). So it’s odd that I got Scotty again, but I’m glad I did because he’s a really cool guy. Like someone you could hang out and shoot pool with.

I asked him about how to wire speakers up into an exterior wall and he laughed. Apparently that’s nigh unto impossible, so I will probably be investing in some speaker stands in the reasonably near future so I can get that hooked up.

I unpacked a bunch of stuff this morning, but I think I’m getting stressed out. I’m not sure it’s over any particular thing, just generally stressed. I started feeling lightheaded and seeing spots, so I sat down for a bit. I’ve had that before and when I went to the doctor he said it was sort of like a stress-related anxiety attack. I think it’s probably the move and the unpacking and my job all rolled up into one big stress case.

At least the cable’s fixed.

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I spend a lot of my spare time (what little there is) watching movies, playing video games, or watching TV. I love my home theater with a love akin to family, and when there are quality issues it eats away at my soul like a cancer, slowly devouring my ability to concentrate or enjoy myself until the issue is rectified. I am in a constant search for improvement, and will not rest until perfection is reached.

We got our digital cable installed at the new house on Tuesday. We didn’t get a chance to really watch any of it because, well, we were unpacking.

We watched a little TV last night, and things were okay, but I’ve moved the cable box into my entertainment center, and ever since then I’ve had a minor crackle in the audio of certain channels. It doesn’t happen on every channel, and it doesn’t happen in on-demand programming. I can’t really find a pattern for it, but I know it bugs me.

I tried everything. I unplugged and plugged in all the cables. I re-wired everything so the power, the coax, and the component video/audio cables weren’t close (just in case there was interference). Still the crackle.

I called Comcast this morning and they told me to lower the volume on the cable box and raise the volume on the TV - apparently the volume on the cable box being too high is a problem. I hung up with them and tried that, but the volume is locked at a set position on the cable box.

I called them back and they told me how to unlock the volume on the cable box. I messed around with that for a while, but no combination of TV and cable box volumes fixed the crackle.

I called them back again and they said we’d have to schedule an appointment but their system was down so I’d have to call back.

I called them back just now and I have an appointment for 8:00a - 10:00a tomorrow morning. I’ll be charged $18 if they decide it’s my equipment, but I’m sure it’s not, so I’m not worried. I anticipate possible causes are: My TV is on the fritz, which I really hope is not the case (I should test that tonight), but it couldn’t be because the crackle isn’t on every channel… right?; there’s a problem with one of the cables between the wall and the cable box; there’s a problem with one of the cables inside the wall of the house (which I really hope is not the case, because I don’t want them drilling my vinyl siding); there’s a problem with the cable box itself and moving the box jogged it somehow and now it’s hosed; there’s a problem with the cable outside (they did have to pull it like four blocks to get to our house; maybe they need a signal repeater or something).

So. Cable time. Again.

I just got an email from Jenn regarding our phone. Bah.

We were supposed to get Qwest to set up our phone on Monday - same number, just new location. End of Monday, no phone. Called them on Tuesday and they had the wrong address so we corrected that and they said they’d have it by end of the day. End of Tuesday, no phone. Called them Wednesday evening (had to go back to work, right?) and found that we’re outside the Qwest service area and we need to call Verizon.


Jenn just called Verizon and we should have service by the end of today, but we have a new phone number. Argh. Guess we’ll have to have the old one forwarded. How lame is that?

I wish stuff with this new place would go smoothly, but I guess the house purchase itself was smooth so I must have used up all of my karma on that.

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We moved in this weekend.

Saturday at 4:30p I stopped by the realtor’s office and picked up the keys. With a carload of the fragile stuff, Jenn with another carload, and us dead tired from packing and cleaning the night before, it was not quite the magic “realtor handing the new homeowner his/her first house keys” moment that you might see depicted, say, on a Centry 21 commercial. It was us, sitting in our packed cars in the parking lot, waiting for the realtor to get there and hand us an envelope with one key in it. Sort of anti-climactic.

We were told that the old owner was hiring a cleaning crew and the place would be clean when we got there. Not so much. The carpets were filthy, drawers and cabinets were disgusting inside… ugh. We had a few really awesome surprises, too. When the old owners first moved in, they saved all of their newsprint packing paper, stuffed it into giant plastic lawn debris bags, and crammed it into the attic. That was all there waiting for us because they didn’t take it with them. Also, there was bird shit everywhere. Windowsills, carpets, counters, you name it. I don’t remember them having a bird. We’re thinking that the bird somehow got in through the open dryer vent and went apeshit in the house. That said, there wasn’t any bird there when we got there, so either it magically found its way out or someone showed up, got the bird out, and left the shit for us to clean up. Finally, there were loads of spots on the walls that needed to be touched up. Like someone enjoyed throwing red wine on the walls and not cleaning it up. Stain city.

Had I known the place would be such a sty, I’d have reserved more time for us to come in and clean before we moved, but we didn’t, so we unpacked our cars and used a few Clorox wipes to clean up what we could and saved the rest for Sunday.

Sunday was a mad cleaning frenzy. We vacuumed and steam-cleaned the carpets. I went to Home Depot three times to get the paint color matched on the walls (it’s “Arbor White” in a “Flat Enamel” finish… shinier than “Flat” finish but not as shiny as “Eggshell”). Warren, the paint guy at Home Depot, is getting to recognize me and I’m not so sure that’s a good thing.

Monday morning we woke up at 6:00a to finish the last minute packing. There was a lot. You never realize how many things you use on a daily basis until you have to pack them all.

At 8:30a the movers arrived. They had such a tiny truck, but once all of our stuff was packed inside, they still had room to spare. It was amazing. What really amazed me was them moving the TV - that thing’s at least 300 pounds and took three guys to get it into the apartment; these two movers, not the bulkiest guys by any means, got it out of the apartment by themselves. They did set it down a couple of times (understandable) which slightly marred the bottom of the TV, but I’m chalking that up to cost of ownership. There’s no way I could have done it better, and these guys did a great job. Six hours later, we were unpacked and they were on their way.

We went back to the old apartment after the movers left and picked up the cats. Neither one was eager to get into the cat carrier, but the Tiny Cat was especially difficult. It’s amazing how strong such a small beast is.

We unpacked the cats into a room together so they could get used to some of the smells and learn where the litter box was and such. Both hid for quite some time and only this morning are they really starting to venture out and about.

We got a little bit of stuff unpacked on Monday, but mostly we just finished any cleanup efforts and got things arranged and ready to unpack.

Tuesday morning around 9:00a the cable guy, Scotty, showed up. He was really cool and probably the best cable guy I’ve dealt with ever. He earned his installation fee, too - he had to pull the cable through the street from like four blocks away. Apparently most folks on the street have satellite instead. He also cut me some custom length coax cables for the rest of my TVs and replaced all of the connectors on all of the cable outlets because they weren’t up to his personal quality standards. He gave us his direct phone number so when we need anything else we can just call him straight up. That rocks.

Around 2:00p the washer and dryer showed up. Turns out Home Depot told me I’d need a certain type of dryer vent and tube, but the delivery guy told me it was all the wrong stuff and he had some on the truck that we could use. I’ll have to take the other stuff back to Home Depot (yet another trip). The washer and dryer are really cool and much better than the crap we had at the apartment.

We got the kitchen unpacked… mostly… and then around 3:00p or so we figured we should make some shopping runs and go clean out the old apartment. First we stopped at Linens N Things to get some drapes. The problem we have is that if you’re sitting to watch the TV and it’s light out, all you see is the glare from the window directly opposite the TV (behind the couch). So, drapes. Not cheap. After that we headed down to Fry’s Electronics so I could get some speaker wire to use to install my home theater (I’m going to attempt a custom in-wall installation - more on that in a bit). Then back up to Fred Meyer to get a little grocery shopping done and finally on to the old apartment to clean.

We vacuumed, swept, mopped, washed, and patched our way to exhaustion. Then we loaded up Jenn’s car (we only had the one car) with the remaining artifacts from the place (which included all of our hanging clothes), barely got the doors shut, and took it all home to unload.

Woke up this morning at 6:00a (the usual time), Jenn got herself out the door reasonably early, and I took a bit of time to pet the cats and get them out into the body of the house and sniffing around. It only took me like 15 minutes to get to work, and none of that was on the highway. Hell, yeah! No more indefinite commute for me, man.

So we’re moved in. Not even remotely unpacked, and already I’ve spent like $300 on crap that we need (window treatments, etc.) that I didn’t anticipate. I can see how people blame their houses for being money pits. I’ll agree with that. Even so, it’s still worlds better than apartment life. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

On the home theater… bah. I want to install my surround speakers and stuff in-wall so it’s not as crappy as it was in the apartment with wires running all over the place. The problem is that the room with the TV is right under the master bedroom, so the only access to the walls is through the crawlspace below the room. The speakers need to be mounted eight feet up, and two of them on an outside wall. That means I need to fish the wire up through the wall eight feet through the crawlspace. On the outside walls, I’m sure that also means I’m going to run into fire blocks, so I may not even be able to do that. I’m hesitant… no, beyond hesitant… to cut a hole in my wall (like a big trough for the thing) and then have to patch it all up. I know a couple of friends of mine did it that way and now I see why. If it comes to that, it will probably be best to have a professional do it. Of course, that’s not going to be cheap in the least, but at least it will be done right. I’m not an electrician, nor am I a drywall expert. Best to leave that sort of thing to the pros. But I’ll see what I can do, probaby in a week or two once I’ve gotten more things unpacked. I might be able to get the two inside-wall speakers in myself. Then again, if I’m having a pro do the outside wall stuff, it would probably be best to just let them do the whole job.

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This is the big weekend.

Tomorrow at 5:00p I meet my realtor to get the keys to my new place, after which Jenn and I will be running around the empty house like the Wild Man of Borneo in celebration of not having attached neighbors.

We’ll probably take a carload of stuff over - stuff we either didn’t pack or think is too fragile to be thrown in the back of a truck - but generally that’s the extent of the plans for Saturday.

Sunday I’m thinking we’ll do the absolute final version of packing, maybe disassemble the bed, and get the last of things set for the movers on Monday. I have to clean the grill at some point (maybe Saturday?) because they won’t move the grill if it’s got crap in it.

Monday at 9 the movers should show up and get our stuff and move it to the new place. We’ll leave the cleaning supplies (probably) at the old place so we can finish cleaning up, but by and large, after Monday we’re in the new place and that’s it for apartment life.

I have Monday and Tuesday off so we can unpack and get things situated (or at least start that process) but I feel I’ll be unpacking and situating things for a few weeks after we get in. In particular, the setup of the home theater is going to take some time. In the apartment, all of the cords go around the ceiling and baseboards; in the new place we’re actually going to run them through the walls (the right way) so we won’t have to deal with cords all over the place. Plus I want to get good cables for my stuff, not these chintzy cheap cables that are all the wrong lengths, etc. But I need to get the in-wall speaker wire, the new cables, and I think a switchbox to handle the multiple component video sources I’ve got floating around (PS2, digital cable, DVD, etc.).

Jenn’s going to get the tubby cat cleaned up (bath, maybe a haircut) for the trip and we’ll take both kitties to the new place on Monday. I think the Tiny Cat is going to look at this like it’s an adventure; Tubby’s going to hide under the couch for a few days.

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As part of the re-setting-up of my home theater system, I’ve decided I want to do away with all the crappy, chintzy cables that hold everything together and update to some actual quality cables.

I went searching on the Monster Cable site and found that they offer somewhere close to eighty gazillion different “levels” of cable. While I somehow don’t feel like I’ll be going for the ultra-high-end ones, I think it’s not entirely unreasonable to look for something in the middle-to-upper end.

I put together this “cable hierarchy” guide for the people cruising the site wondering which cable series is better than which. It’s probably not complete because I didn’t invest a whole lot of time into it, but it gives you an idea. From “worst” to “best,” here you go…

Audio Cables

Monster Cable Core Products

  • Interlink Junior
  • Interlink 100
  • Interlink 200
  • Interlink 250
  • Interlink 300
  • Interlink Reference
  • Z100i
  • Z200i

M Series

  • M350i
  • M550i
  • M850i
  • M950i
  • M1000i

Sigma Retro

  • Sigma Retro

Video Cables

Monster Cable Core Products

  • Monster Video 1
  • Monster Video 2
  • Monster Video 3
  • Z300

M Series

  • M500
  • M1000
  • M2000

The thing about that chart you need to remember is that the top end of the Monster Cable Core Products section will overlap slightly with the bottom end of the M Series stuff, particularly in price. So if you have the choice of the top end of the Core Products or the bottom end of the M Series, take the top end Core Product.

Monster Cable also puts out a set of THX certified cables for audio and video. They all run on the same scale and end up somewhere in the low-to-middle end of the M Series cables from the above charts (at least, price-wise). The THX cable scale goes like this:

THX Cables

  • Standard
  • 600
  • 800
  • 1000

Price comparison-wise, as of this morning when I checked things out, this was the cost for a dual-RCA cable 2m/6ft long (the kind you connect your right-and-left audio channels on your VCR to the TV with):

  • $10 - Interlink Junior
  • $20 - Standard THX
  • $50 - M350i
  • $130 - Interlink Reference
  • $130 - THX 1000
  • $300 - M1000i
  • $1500 - Sigma Retro

No, that’s not a typo on the Sigma Retro set. It really is $1500 for six feet of cable. I only wish I had the disposable income to throw down on cables like that.

I think I’m going to shoot for the THX cables; they’re good quality, seem to be right about the price range I was looking at, and have certain ease-of-installation-and-labeling standards they adhere to that I like. I think, if I can, I’ll stick with the upper end of that.

Hence, I’ve added Best Buy to the gift certificates list for housewarming because apparently they carry this stuff. From the look of it, they don’t have it in the stores, though - you have to get it online. At least in Oregon.

I also added Circuit City to the list. They do carry the stuff in the stores. Not the largest selection, but it’s there.

It will probably end up being a slow-but-sure sort of replacement process. Like, one cable a month or something. Also depends on the disposable income, which I’m sure will be minimal now that the whole house thing is in place. It’s a good goal to shoot for, though.