Sunday, November 20, 2005

Butterball? No... Fire Ball

Tuesday we had the last major insulation project done. It's really the last one we can do: blowing insulation into the walls from the outside. We hired a company called McHale Insulation to do it, as they were substantially cheaper than the guy who's done the rest of our insulation work. They had wanted substantially more to do the floors than Shel, so we had Shel do that...

This insulation is a very messy prospect, it turns out. Also noisy, for those of us trying to work at home while it is being done. What they do is drill a small hole (about the size of a quarter) through the exterior wall (stucco, chicken wire, tar paper, and wood) into the joist bay and then blow particulate cellulose (recycled paper treated with various pest-, mold- & fire-resistant chemicals) into the void space inside the wall. Once it's full, they fill the hole with stucco and prime it with spray paint. Since there are normally fire blocks about half-way up the wall, they actually drill two holes in each joist space.

And I do mean EACH joist space, every 16 inches apart. For now our house is being called the polka-dot house or the chicken pox house, depending on whom you hear it from.

The best part was when they were working outside the kitchen. I'm sitting in the study and just starting to wonder why it got quiet, when I hear one of the workers come into the kitchen and start looking around. I go in, and he says they hit an electric wire and he's checking to see what might be out. Initially, we thought it was just the outlet above the dishwasher, where the new under-cabinet clock radio is plugged in.

I was fairly pleased when Tom McHale, the owner (or one of), called me within a few minutes to say that they would send an electrician out. The electrician's office called later and the best we could do was Friday morning. The rest of the week was uneventful, though we did find ourselves wishing that it weren't so warm, just so we could see how the insulation changes the feel of the house. It does seem quieter, in fact. Most of the people I've talked to about wall insulation haven't commented on the possible effect on noise, but Shel did at some point.

Thursday morning came we ran the dishwasher. Hm... not working. That's strange. OK, it must be affected, except that the garbage disposal, which is in the same set of four outlets, is working fine. I tried moving the disposal to the other side of the four-some, but it didn't start (I would have expected it to as soon as I plugged it in, since there's no switch for that). Then I tried moving the dishwasher to the outlet the disposal was in, but it didn't work there either. That was especially strange. I called McHale just to make sure they knew we'd found a wider effect than we first thought.

Later in the day, Xin came over to take care of Rachel while we went to a meeting. As I was explaining to him all the steps I'd been through trying to figure out what was going on, he pointed out the one thing I'd overlooked. The switch! Dammit! I even thought about the switch when I moved the disposal to the other outlet - it should have gone on just by being plugged in. Of course, that means that plugging the dishwasher into that outlet will require turning the switch on to let it run! Duhh...

Well, at least now we know we can run the thing. With our Friends Thanksgiving party coming up on Saturday, I was a little nervous about having to spend a lot of time cleaning dishes by hand. Of course, we were certainly going to use plenty of things that couldn't go in the dishwasher, but still...

On Friday, the electrician came. He was a funny guy. We amused ourselves with discussing the fact that a) if you don't push too hard as you go through the wall, you won't hit wires on the other side and b) if you check the other side of the wall for electrical plugs and switches, you might be able to miss them altogether by shifting your drill a few inches. He was able to get it fixed within a couple of hours, although he did wind up having to put in a junction box, which means a plate on the outside wall.

I am not crazy about this. For one thing, it doesn't look great. For another, I'm a little concerned about whether it will be water tight. They did a fairly good job patching it later that day, and the electrician left a rubber gasket, but I think I might have to put some caulk just inside the edges to make sure.

Anyway, Saturday was our Friends Thanksgiving party. The third, I think. Last year was the first time we put it on the bbq, and it went pretty well, so I decided I'd do it again. Unfortunately, this time I got it into my head that I should take the drip pan away a little early so that we could start making gravy. This lead directly to the turkey catching fire. Luckily, all it did was burn the skin (completely). I was generally disatisfied with the turkey this time. The meat was pretty good, but we had a lot of trouble getting it to finish cooking, and when we thought it was finished, we wound up finding more that wasn't cooked well enough. We had almost nothing left over. I think the reason we had so much trouble cooking it was that we were trying to cook it at a lower temperature and it was just taking too long, even after we turned it up toward the end.

At one point, Elisabeth was looking out the window when I was looking at the crispy turkey on the BBQ and said it looked like a fireball. I said "as opposed to a butter ball?" Mostly we had a really good time; besides Elisabeth and the three of us, John & Louise were there, along with Karolyn & her relatively new boyfriend, John, and our friend Mike (Tani's brother). John is really cool. He lives on a boat in Sausalito & is the service manager for Sonnen Porsche and is very personable and funny. We get along great.

By the end of the evening, we had eaten a lot, laughed a lot, and were well ready for bed. I do wish that Tani and Duane had been able to make it. She was working, he at the Big Game (which Cal won for the third or fourth time in a row). We had a really good time, though. Next year, I just won't take the drip pan out early...

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