Nasal Decongestant: Sudafed vs Sudafed PE

If you have nasal congestion, which could also cause coughing, then one of the best medicines to take is Sudafed. However, be careful which one you get.

Sudafed (behind the counter)

This kind of Sudafed has the active ingredient Pseudeophedrine which can be used to illegally make methamphetamine (meth / “speed”). As such, it can only be gotten behind the counter, i.e. by talking to a pharmacist at Walgreens. You can get 4 hour Sudafed and 12 hour Sudafed. If you are impatient and can’t wait 12 hours to take the 12-hour version, then just buy the 4-hour version. Psychologically, taking medicine more often may make you feel better. One doctor told me that this version of Sudafed (Pseudeophedrine) is better than the kind below (Sudafed PE). Also, you can get a cheaper generic brand like Wal-Phed since all that really matters is the active ingredient, not the brand.

Sudafed PE (over the counter / off the shelf)

This kind of Sudafed can be gotten over the counter / off a shelf because its active ingredient is phenylephrine which can’t be used to make illegal drugs. That’s why it has the PE acronym in the name.

When to Change Your Car’s Tires

Tread Depth

In the US, car tire tread depth is measured in 32nds of an inch. New tires typically come with 10/32” or 11/32” tread depths, and some truck, SUV and winter tires may have deeper tread depths than other models. A tire is legally worn-out if the tread depth is 2/32nds.  Therefore, a typical tire that starts with 10/32″ of original tread depth has only 8/32″ of usable tread depth. A tire that started with 10/32″ of original tread depth and has worn off 4/32″ (down to 6/32″ of remaining tread depth) is 50% worn. Though 2/32nds of tread depth is the legal minimum, you should change your tires when they reach 4/32nds of tread depth. At tread depths less than 4/32nds, you may experience hydroplaning when driving in the rain and lose control of your vehicle.

Tread Depth Gauge

There are manual and digital tread depth gauges. I’d go with a manual one so you don’t have to worry about replacing a battery.

Battery Charger / Power Supply (Voltage, Amperage) Requirements for Phones, Laptops, Etc

When looking to buy a battery charger or power adapter for a device such as a phone or laptop, you may be unsure whether the one you buy will be sufficient or even blow up your device. Here are basic guidelines to keep in mind.

    The input voltage from the outlet to the charger should match or be very close. In the US, this is 110 volts. Unless you are buying a charger in a foreign country where the voltage is different, e.g. 220 V, this should not be a problem.
    Like the input voltage, the output voltage of your charger should match or be very close to that of the device you are plugging it in to. The input voltage requirements of a device can usually be found on the device itself. At the bottom of my Lenovo Yoga 910 laptop, it says “Input 20 V, 2.25 A”. Therefore, this particular device needs a charger that outputs 20 V.
    The output amps from the charger should be equal to or greater than the input amp requirements of the device you plug it in to. My Lenovo Yoga laptop has an amp input requirement of 2.25 A.

    • A charger with lower amps may charge a device but slower. Or, it may not charge it at all and the power supply may just turn off as it would not be able to adequately supply the load (laptop).
    • A charger with higher amps may charge a device faster than it would with a charger with amps equal to the value specified for the device. A device will not blow up if the chargers amp output exceeds the amp value specified for the device. The device will just accept however many amps it can handle.
    Power (wattage) is calculated as V (Voltage) x I (amperage). P = V*I. Therefore, for my Lenovo laptop, the minimum power requirements to power it is 20 V * 2.25 A = 45 W (watts). Therefore, it can take any charger that puts out 45 W or more as long as the output voltage is 20 V.
  • Input and output voltages should always match
  • Power supply amperage should be equal to or greater than the amps required by the load

Kitchen Remodel Project

  1. Preparation and Dust Management
    Covered floors with plastic. Put up plastic walls.
  2. Demolition
    Removed existing kitchen cabinets, wall, popcorn ceiling
  3. Wall Removal
    Removed a load-bearing wall by building two temporary walls, and installing a 10’ long 6”x12” special engineered wood beam and two 4”x6” posts. This opens the kitchen up to the dining room.
  4. Custom-Built Pony (Short) Wall
    Created two short walls by a post where a kitchen island was to be located.
  5. Plumbing
    Moved a copper sink drain and a cast iron toilet drain. Replaced outdated parts (copper and cast iron) with ABS. Small soffits were created as necessary. A hole was dug in the cement foundation to cut a cast iron drain pipe. The pipe was cut and capped off and the hole was refilled with cement.
  6. Electrical
    Since I removed a wall, I moved all wiring, outlets and switches to the short pony wall and rerouted some wiring between ceiling joists.
  7. Lighting
    The old light box with fluorescent tubes were replaced with 4 recessed lights.
  8. Popcorn Ceiling Removal
    The outdated popcorn ceiling was removed and retextured with an orange peel finish.
  9. Painting
    Walls and ceiling were repainted.
  10. Kitchen Floor
    The old vinyl sheet floor was removed and replaced with durable ceramic tile.
  11. New Cabinets
    I installed new kitchen cabinets
  12. New Countertops
    I installed quartz countertops
  13. Backsplash
    I installed a backsplash
  14. Debris Disposal
    I hauled all construction debris away for dumping at the San Leandro / Davis St. Transfer (Dump) Station.
Continue reading Kitchen Remodel Project

Sound Insulation in Residential Walls

There will always come a time when you wish the noise outside your room in your home could go away and that the sound that you are making, e.g. from playing music to watching a movie, could not be heard by people in other rooms. There is a unit of measure called STC (Sound Transmission Control) that indicates how much of a sound can penetrate a wall. According to Wikipedia, here are common levels.

STC What can be heard
25 Normal speech can be understood quite easily and distinctly through wall
30 Loud speech can be understood fairly well, normal speech heard but not understood
35 Loud speech audible but not intelligible
40 Onset of “privacy”
42 Loud speech audible as a murmur
45 Loud speech not audible; 90% of statistical population not annoyed
50 Very loud sounds such as musical instruments or a stereo can be faintly heard; 99% of population not annoyed.
60+ Good soundproofing; most sounds do not disturb neighbouring residents.

and here are different STC values by partition (wall) type.

STC Partition type
27 Single pane glass window (typical value) (Dual pane glass window range is 26-32)
33 Single layer of 1/2″ drywall on each side, wood studs, no insulation (typical interior wall)
39 Single layer of 1/2″ drywall on each side, wood studs, fiberglass insulation
44 4″ Hollow CMU (Concrete Masonry Unit)
45 Double layer of 1/2″ drywall on each side, wood studs, batt insulation in wall
46 Single layer of 1/2″ drywall, glued to 6″ lightweight concrete block wall, painted both sides
46 6″ Hollow CMU (Concrete Masonry Unit)
48 8″ Hollow CMU (Concrete Masonry Unit)
50 10″ Hollow CMU (Concrete Masonry Unit)
52 8″ Hollow CMU (Concrete Masonry Unit) with 2″ Z-Bars and 1/2″ Drywall on each side
54 Single layer of 1/2″ drywall, glued to 8″ dense concrete block wall, painted both sides
54 8″ Hollow CMU (Concrete Masonry Unit) with 1 1/2″ Wood Furring, 1 1/2″ Fiberglass Insulation and 1/2″ Drywall on each side
55 Double layer of 1/2″ drywall on each side, on staggered wood stud wall, batt insulation in wall
59 Double layer of 1/2″ drywall on each side, on wood stud wall, resilient channels on one side, batt insulation
63 Double layer of 1/2″ drywall on each side, on double wood/metal stud walls (spaced 1″ apart), double batt insulation
64 8″ Hollow CMU (Concrete Masonry Unit) with 3″ Steel Studs, Fiberglass Insulation and 1/2″ Drywall on each side
72 8″ concrete block wall, painted, with 1/2″ drywall on independent steel stud walls, each side, insulation in cavities

Note that a typical interior wall has an STC value of 33.

Some options for increasing the STC value in your walls:

  • National Gypsum makes a board called “SoundBreak XP Retrofit” which you place over your existing standard drywall. This increased the STC value from 33 to 36.
  • Adding fiberglass insulation in your wall increase the STC value from 33 to 39.
  • Adding another layer of 1/2″ drywall to your existing 1/2″ drywall and adding batt (pre-cut fiberglass) insulation between the studs will increase the STC value from 33 to 45.
  • For doors, try placing a soundproof curtain in front of it along with a door gasket / sweep and automatic door bottom or a draft stopper


Remove Page Breaks / Dividers in Google Docs

In this day in age, we don’t need to print as much as we used to. While Google Docs will allow you to print pages of content, sometimes you just want to use it as a digital document to keep notes and pictures that you’ll never print. When you insert pictures into a Google Doc, due to their size, you’ll often find that they move onto the next sheet leaving a large white space before. This is annoying but easily solved by making it appear as if you were working with one page / sheet of unlimited length. In Google Docs, just uncheck the Print Layout under the View menu.

Tips on Finding Eyeglass Frames You’ll Like

Searching for new eyeglass frames isn’t easy. There are so many brands and shapes and sizes. And even if you find one that fits your face, you may just find it uncomfortable to wear. Here are some tips to help minimize disappointment.

Eyeglass Frame Dimensions

On one side of eyeglass frames are some numbers.

These numbers are the

  • width of the lens opening
  • width of the bridge
  • length of the temple (side)

There is one more important dimension which unfortunately isn’t listed. It’s the height of the lens opening, which is prefixed with the left B.

Continue reading Tips on Finding Eyeglass Frames You’ll Like

Home Improvement Tool Tips

Cutting curves in ceramic tile, plywood, and plexiglass / acrylic

Cutting straight lines in ceramic tile is easy with a tile saw. But cutting curves, e.g. for toilet drains, can be tricky. Diamond hole saws are expensive. Instead, use a rotary tool (e.g. Dremel) with either a tile cutting bit or a tile cutting wheel.  Or, use a jig saw with a carbide grit blade. You can also cut wood and plexiglass using the appropriate bits as well.

Drilling a hole in ceramic tile

Drilling a hole in ceramic or porcelain tile can’t be done with a regular twist drill bit. Use a diamond or carbide-tipped masonry bit. To keep the bit from slipping off the glossy surface, put masking tape on the surface.

Cutting drywall

Cutting drywall can be done manually with a drywall saw but you can also use a power tool. Though oscillating tools and reciprocating saws can do the job, they won’t give a fine cut. Instead, use a rotary tool with a drywall bit.

Trimming drywall

If you cut drywall that is slightly too large to fit an opening, instead of trying to trim it with a utility knife or saw, use a rasp plane.

Measuring long distances by yourself

Put a nail into one end of the distance you want to measure. Put the end of the measuring tape into that nail to keep the measuring tape end in place. Pull the measuring tape end into the nail and pull.

Drawing circles

Put a nail into the material at the center of your desired circle. Hook the end of a tape measure into the nail. Hold a pencil against the tape measure at a distance equal to the radius of your desired circle. Rotate the measuring tape to draw a circle.