Tiny Saga #4: Framing & Insulation

When we tore out the garage door, we also demolished the second-floor subflooring. We also added 2’x2′ around the studs to make them 6′ in depth (it used to be 2’x4’s on the roof) on the roof to comply with the city inspection code on insulation later on.

We rented a local dumpster service for the demolition of the subflooring and the garage door. These guys are so professional and extended extra days because my handyman was running a little late. *Pro-tip: always negotiate (and do it nicely). Our local dumpster service guy was very friendly and told us if we rented it for a Friday pick-up, he will most likely not have time to pick it up, and leave the dumpster for the weekend and pick it up Monday. This allowed us extra days to throw all the construction trash on the weekend. Conversely, the dumpster companies are usually less busy mid-week, so negotiating Tuesday – Tuesday (8 days) rental would be a lot easier than a Friday – Monday (4 days), and sometimes they’ll even be cheaper!

The sub-floor of the loft consists of 2x8s based on the size of the loft in the building code for our area (see below). 

Because the wall studs were 20 inches apart (instead of the 16 inches for dwellings), we had to add one new stud in between each old stud in order to pass inspection. This made the space between each stud 10 inches and inevitably made insulation a lot harder. Each insulation strip we bought (store-bought is usually 16 inches) needed to be cut to 9-10 inches wide and installed. For future reference, I would have insisted on making a stud at the 16-inch mark because it would make insulation a lot faster.

The biggest hurdle we found was trying to find someone to spray open-cell insulation foam on the roof. It is hard to find anyone who wants to come and spray the foam because it is a very small area. We had one guy who bailed out on us after 5+ weeks of waiting. Eventually, we found a guy recommended by our realtor who came the next day and sprayed in the foam. It is important to note that when you ask for spray foam, make sure to ask if they are going to use their own generator because the guy who came and sprayed ours asked if he could plug into an outlet. But because he needed a 220v and we don’t have an outlet with the same voltage, he decided to just hook the spraying machine up to his generator. Had we allowed him to use the electricity in the house, we may be paying a lot more in our electric bill that month. It’s not a deal-breaker, but it would be a negotiating point for pricing at that point.

It took another two weeks for us to put in the wall insulation. We had to wear full-body suits, gloves, and masks to ensure the fiberglass doesn’t get on our skin. It is now so hot and humid in the summer of NW Arkansas, we had to take frequent breaks as we put in the insulation. Towards the end, Mr. Codejunkie and I found our rhythm: I would cut the insulation batting while he installs them and measures the next cavity length and width.

It was definitely a celebratory moment when the city inspector came in and gave us the green light for the completion of the inspection. It took the inspector a total of 2 seconds and he gave us the green slip right away!

A couple of lessons I learned was: 

  1. Always ask the inspector for ideas at the beginning of your project. 

I asked the inspector about insulation when I presented the project to him. He’s the one who told me about adding 2’x2′ on the roof studs and spray foam insulation. Had I not know that I would have found out the hard way and thinking the insulation cannot be done because prior to this, I didn’t know there was a difference between spray foam, batting, and blown-in insulation!

2. Waiting for 2 weeks is the maximum I will do for subcontractors.

Of course, this is just a general rule for dealing with new subcontractors instead of the ones I have worked with many times before. But I will not wait for a subcontractor for more than two weeks.

I would have never let this slip if I were running this construction as a business, so I should reconsider using this subcontractor after he has stood me up twice (he ended up standing me up 5+ times).

This subcontractor was recommended by my trusted electricians. He also installed the A/C and heating unit in my house. He runs a small business of insulation so he gave me a very cheap price on open-cell spray foam. He also talked about insulation and energy efficiency passionately. The only drawback my electricians warned me was that this guy is hard to get a hold of, and I just had to keep calling him. So I did. For many weeks, I called him every week around Monday, and he often told me that he’s sorry he’s busy that day, but he has it on his schedule to come out later in the week to spray the roof and ask me to call him back later in the week to remind him. I would follow up with him later in the week and he’d say, “I have another job lined up that I want to spray both yours and the other house together since you have small square footage. This way I don’t have to set up the spraying machine twice.” It made sense, so I thought I could just call back again. Usually, the project gets delayed because his other project gets canceled. I thought if I were diligent and friendly, eventually, I could get him to spray the insulation. It struck me that he had no respect for me when I called after 5+ weeks of waiting and following-up weekly, he picked up the phone and said: “are you doing your weekly call and begging me to do work for you again?”

Since then, I found another insulation contractor to spray the foam onto the ceiling and I’ve decided to put a time limit on how long I would wait for a contractor to show up for the job.

For my other tiny house articles, check out this page that contains them all.

#3 Getting on-grid: Connecting Plumbing and Electricity

After we finished the plumbing inside the barn, it was another couple of weeks of waiting until the plumber came back to connect this plumbing to the front of the house (to the city water, sewer, and electricity). Originally, I looked into being off-grid, but it was a lot of day-to-day hassle to deal with composting toilet and rainwater shower/water tower, so I decided to hook it up to the city’s sewer.

Plumber Austin trying to connect the sewer after the rain. I definitely have more respect for these guys after seeing what they go through in order to get the sewer line to work.

The electricians also needed to lay their wires in a similar route but after they inquired with the city inspector, the city inspector asked them to dig two separate trenches (which was SO UNNECESSARY!). Our electrician (and we) tried to explain to the inspector that there isn’t any space to dig two separate trenches 2 feet apart, but the inspector insisted on us digging twice. Sometimes the city rules don’t make sense in practicality, but we know the inspector wasn’t nitpicking on us as we befriended him early on in our project. It is always key to befriend your local city inspectors and meet them in person to explain your project prior to starting your project. 

We complied with the city requirements and as a bonus to this extra step, I got to ride on my electricians’ tractor for a glorified minute, dug one single scoop of dirt while Mr. B took a photo!

The yard, on the other hand, having been torn up twice in two months, was left with a yellow sandy scar throughout the summer. Tali seems to be enjoying the sandy soft ground quite a lot.

If you want to read more about our tiny barn progress, here’s ALL the articles

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson

  • How much I’d Recommend: 9/10
  • Date finished: 7/19/20
  • So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed: recommend borrowing from your local library – everyone should read it as soon as possible.

I asked our local library to purchase it a while back before COVID. Because of COVID, our local public library shut down for the longest time and only recently opened back up. When they told me that this book is ready for pick up, I had already forgotten who recommended it.

Jon brings you on a journey of many people who have been publicly shamed or somehow have insights into surviving public shaming. Unlike a lot of the research/academic books written by professors from colleges, Jon seems to have a personal opinion on these issues, tho his curiosity keeps him open-minded in the pursuit of the truth.

I am surprised some of the more iconic public shaming didn’t get into the book, like the Monica Lewinsky & Bill Clinton scandal. I enjoyed it tremendously nonetheless. It is a book I couldn’t put down.

Main events from the book:

  • being “impersonated” on Twitter by scientists for a brief moment
  • the plagiarism story of the journalist Jonah Lehrer, and his #epicfail public apology with Twitter live-feed in front of him.
  • Justine Sacco and her disastrous tweet about AIDS and how she’s white and won’t get AIDS has destroyed her career. 
  • The judge, Ted Poe, who uses public shaming (not online, in the physical world) as punishment instead of prison time. Criminals are grateful to him that they didn’t have to serve jail time and also found their purpose in life in the process of it.
  • Zimbardo’s famous Stanford Prison Experiment, and Dave Eshelman, one of the student participants who said he was being cruel just for show.
  • Two techies were fired after Adria Richards took a photo of them and complained that they made an inappropriate comment (“forking someone’s repo”) at a tech conference. Adria was later on fired from her work because someone from 4chan DDos’ed her employer’s website and said the attack would stop if they fire her.
  • Max Mosley and his S&M photo of being whipped by a woman dressed in German military uniform, and how he had survived this public shaming unscathed. Jon was fascinated by his story and hoping to find the solution for everyone, but it appears to be situational that this happened.
  • Jon visited S&M expert Kink.com and the porn movie producer Princess Donna and was on set for a public disgrace.
  • Jon attended the Shame-Eradication Workshop set up by Brad Blanton based on Radical Honesty. Based on Jon’s description, this is my least favorite chapter. It is maddening; the theory of Brad’s Radical Honesty was not explained. It just appears that people say mean things to each other with no actual strategy to remedy the issues.
  • Jon tried dressing up as a woman to go to a Muslim area of London and document the journey. This experiment ended because Jon couldn’t do it.
  • Alexis Wright who ran a Zomba brothel in Kennebunk, Maine released all 69 of her clients. 68 of them were men and they were afraid of the public shaming that would come after this, but it never came. The society seems to be not so interested in men cheating on their wives anymore.
  • Mike Daisey, who told the story as a monologue about Apple using N-hexane in their factory that resulted in workers having their hands permanently damaged. But this story had factual inaccuracy after it was discovered that Daisey had lied about his experiences.
  • Lindsey Stone, who posed in front of the national cemetery with an obscene gesture and was publicly shamed and fired from her job.
  • Jon also met Michael Fertik, founder of Reputation.com, and arranged him to help Lindsey Stone to a new reputation. Although, I searched “Lindsey Stone” today, and the first picture that came up was still the one where she’s giving the middle finger in front of the national cemetery.

I find this book and the topic of public shaming more and more concerning since this COVID started in 2020. The Central Park Birdwatching Incident with Amy Cooper now has its own Wikipedia page. People judge others by whether they wear masks in public about their political stance and their moral characters. People getting fired from posting “fake news” on their Facebook pages at work. It feels like a more hostile environment where people judge others by their tweets. From one tweet of 280 characters, people quickly make a snap judgment of others and decide you are either for me or against me. If you are against me, then we pile up like in a vicious dog fight, to tear this person apart to show our disapproval, distaste, disagreement on their views. 

People losing their jobs, marriages, career, the will to live, and lives because of public shaming. Do they deserve all that? Perhaps not. Maybe it’s not our place to pass on that heavy judgment to our fellow humans.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book.

It felt like we were soldiers making war on other people’s flaws, and there had suddenly been an escalation in hostilities.

It turns out that the concept of group madness was the creation of a nineteenth-century French doctor called Gustave LeBon.

His idea was that humans totally lose control of their behavior in a crowd. Our free will evaporates. A contagious madness takes over, a complete lack of restraint. We can’t stop ourselves. So we riot, or we jubilantly tear down Justine Sacco.

We have always had some influence over the justice system but for the first time in 180 years – since the stocks and the pillory were outlawed – we have the power to determine the severity of some punishment.

I suddenly feel with social media like I’m tiptoeing around an unpredictable, angry, unbalanced parent who might strike out at any moment.

We are defining the boundaries of normality by tearing apart the people outside it.

#2: Plumbing Update in Our Tiny Barn

While everything is happening outside with the removal of the garage door and installation of the front window, the plumbing inside the barn was underway as well. 

At first, I downloaded Sketchup and used it for free for 30 days to sketch out how the tiny barn would look like inside. I drew a downstairs (left) and upstairs loft (right) 3D model. 

Ultimately, there are other small changes made to this plan, like the bathroom and the water-heater swapped with each other. Other than that, there are no big changes.

Now it is the hard part to gather all the subcontractors around our area to do some of this work. We interviewed three plumbers around the area and got quotes from all of them. We ended up choosing this guy Trey who’s the most honest upfront with all the costs and detailed out his worn and it turns out he was totally a hidden gem. 

Here’s the areas that we needed the concrete to be cut out. 

This took us a few tries to find a contractor to be willing to come out for this job. Apparently, around this area of the town, there are so many construction sites going on, nobody wants to come out for such a small job. Eventually, we found a guy 2 hours away who’s willing to come out and bash out some concrete for us. It was rainy season in Arkansas in the Spring, and it was pretty muddy in here for a while.

At first, I really didn’t want to hire out for plumbing because it is probably one of the most expensive parts of this whole build. But once I saw how muddy and slippery the condition was when the guys were working here, I was very glad I hired out for this job. It’s like one of those scenes from Dirty Jobs!

Pros definitely got this job done a lot faster than I have imagined. This whole thing took about a day and half! Now the gravel is in to hold the pipe in place. You can see it just passed inspection (with the neon green sticker on the right pipe) and they are getting ready to pour the concrete back in.

The toilet and vanity will be on the left, and a 3’x5′ shower on the right. Here’s a much more satisfying photo of after-clean-up:

Finding yet another person to pour the concrete back. We contemplated on doing this ourselves because we couldn’t get anyone to come out. After a week of struggling, our handyman took pity on us and just poured it in for us one day. This is when the concrete was still setting. It looks satisfyingly flat and wonderful!

If you want to read more about our entire process, here’s ALL the articles we have!

#1: I’ve Decided to Build a Tiny House

In 2017, after moving to this little town of Arkansas for 6 months for my job, I decided to buy a house (a regular one). I really wanted to buy a tiny house at that time but North West Arkansas wasn’t ready to sell me a tiny house. So instead, I settled for a regular one, 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, with a barn as garage (yes, it comes with the swing! and yes it’s slightly dangerous but I got on it for a few tries). 

I’ve used this garage for two years, the garage door was not automatic and I manually pulled it up and down to open and close it. Last year, the roof started leaking so in order to prevent more water damage and potential mold issues, I spent about $6,000 to replace the roof.

At this point, the garage door is almost non-functioning. It would stay ajar like this in the above picture and I used a 2×4 to prop it closed from the inside. Yes, very classy.

Because the bottom of the barn is all rotting away, and little critters (like possums and cats) are actually using it as a shelter during the winter, I decided to cut down the bottom 4 ft of the plywood, replace them, and put new siding altogether to protect the shed. Of course, now it needs a new door as well.

You can also see a hole towards the back of the barn covered by a piece of plywood to prevent critters from coming into the barn. It was a bleak sight to see the state of the barn!

After replacing the siding wood with plywood, we put up these basic plastic white siding to protect it from rotting again.

This barn looks nothing like the barn I used to own! It reminds me of the Ship of Theseus, a thought experiment that raises the question of whether an object that has had all of its components replaced remains fundamentally the same object. If I’ve changed almost 99% of this barn, is it still the barn I bought? 

Beginning of this year, since we’ve decided to take a break from Airbnb-ing our spare bedroom in the house, I’ve been trying to figure out other ways we can still get into rental properties. I thought about converting this barn into a tiny house. After learning everything about the building code and inspection requirements from the city, we got approved for the permit to start construction! Always check with your city/county rules before starting a big project that requires water/sewer connection because the requirements might be so far out of your perception. . . which happened to us.

With the concept of adding a full functioning bathroom, we want to insulate the barn properly and have the door be the entrance/exit. So we took out the garage door and replaced it with a 4×7 window. 

Because we are doing this on a budget, we didn’t have a lot to spend on windows. I called around the local shops that sell windows to look for a “mis-ordered” window, one that was ordered wrong either by the customer or the shop. Those windows are hard to sell, especially custom ordered ones. I told the local shop the dimension of my garage door, and they found a big window they are eager to get rid of because of mis-order. A win-win situation! I got this lovely high-quality window for about $400. 

Here’s a picture of the barn with the exterior finished.

I found the other windows from Home Depot: egress window 3’x5′ and small kitchen window 19″ x 31″.

Now the next big part is plumbing and electrician. Check out the 2nd of the tiny house series here and the entire series can be found here.

Cemeteries Tell Us More About the Living Than the Dead

Here is a list of questions I thought about while I walked through a local cemetery today. I hope it brings serenity and a new perspective on your life.

  • All the babies who died not long after birth, how long did it take for their parents to endure such loss?
  • The fathers and sons that died two days apart from each other, laying side by side. What happened? Did they get into an accident together? Were they close before they died?
  • All the named and unnamed ones who died in WWII, what would their lives be flourishing out to be had they stayed alive?
  • The woman who died 2 years after her marriage, at age 50, finally finding true love, was she happy?
  • The ones who lay in the huge tombs with expensive granite headstones, were they happy? Were they loved by their sons and daughters who erected such monuments for them or is it more pride and fame?
  • The ones who lay in the small graves with bunched flowers and toys, clearly frequently visited, were they this loved in their lives too? Were there fights, regrets, or guilt in their lives?
  • The ones who lay in the graves where you can barely make out the names. Have their sons & daughters & grandchildren died out? Have the family moved away? Did they have children? 
  • How many of these people in the graveyard died before their time? how many people died with pain? how many people died living a full life and leaving a legacy behind? How many died peacefully?
  • How many people have a graveyard spot reserved for them in anticipation? 

As of today, July 5, 2020, there were 533k deaths worldwide from Coronavirus. There were 132k deaths in the U.S. 

How many more graveyards are we digging to bury the dead? Will they have others to mourn for them? 

“They were what we are,

Dust, toy of the wind;

Fragile like men,

Weak like nothing.”

–Alphonse de Lamartine, Catacombs of Paris

life may seem meaningless, fragile, and minute in comparison to the inevitable death, the universe, and eternity, but, I didn’t write this article to make you depressed, sad, and hallow in your chest. 

When I visit graveyards and cemeteries, I reflect on whether I am living knowing that I will die. Cemeteries are the physical structures that confront our denial of mortality. It should give you a powerful punch across the face because we are small and fragile, and we aren’t here forever. It makes me feel the urgency of life knowing I have limited time. 

It’s time to live the boldest, unapologetic, and badass life you can ever imagine! Give your life meaning. Say more yes to the crazy invitations of the world. Oh and also, wear a mask.

*See this brief explanation about optimistic nihilism here

Pre-suasion by Robert Cialdini

This book asserts that our choices of what to say or do immediately before making an appeal significantly affects its persuasive success. It reminds me largely of Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely. You know when a book is written by a professor because more than 1/3 of this book is references.

The alarm system sales guy asks couples to take the fire safety quiz prior to selling them the alarm systems. He intentionally forgets his book in the car and says “I forgot something important in my car, and need to get it. I don’t want to interrupt the test; so would you mind if I let myself out and back into your home?”

  • Who do you let walk in and out of your house on their own? Someone you trust. The salesman wanted to be associated with trust in those families minds.

Single cutting questions can get you both to mistake and misstate your position. For example: How satisfied are. you with the brand? (Single chuting) vs. how satisfied OR dissatisfied are you with the brand? (Two-sided, and more objective results)

Framing questions:

  • Are you a helpful person? to get people to agree to help you.
  • Are you adventurous enough to consider a revolutionary model of influence? to get people to try something that’s out there.

Of course, to be fair, it must be acknowledged that experienced and discerning users are unlikely to be fooled by the offers they receive electronically. I, for instance, have been flattered to learn through repeated internet messages that many Ukrainian virgin prostitutes want to meet me; if that can’t be arranged, they can get me an outstanding deal on reconditioned printer cartridges. Notwithstanding this particular exception, we’d be well advised to regard the authenticity of such solicitation skeptically.

Using the word “you” instead of “they” help predispose your audience toward a full consideration of that strong case before they see or hear it.

On a task that we feel committed to performing, we will remember all sorts of elements of it better if we have not yet had the chance to finish because our attention will remain drawn to it. If pulled away, we will feel discomforting, gnawing desire to get back to it. This reflects a craving for cognitive closure.

Robert argues that because of the desire above, some of the readers actually purposefully not finish their sentences while writing to keep the desire to draw them back to writing. I am not sure how much of this would work on me, because I feel that I’ll just forget about writing altogether. 

Robert also encountered a healthcare company that refuses to use aggressive words. This helps the company and its employees to better comply with their ethics of being helpful and non-combative.

  • bullet points = information points
  • attack the problem = approach the problem
  • business target = business goal
  • beat our competitors = outpace our competitors
  • This is silly = this is interesting

I find this very helpful as changing words changes how people perceive and feel about the issue, and ultimately one would be able to convince others to jump on board with them. This is similar to using metaphors to invite feelings into the conversation below.

Running obstacles and fatigues are called “hitting a wall” because it feels like physically hitting a wall when you are suddenly tired and cannot seem to muster up the courage to finish the rest of the race.

Describing the crime as “a ravaging beast” helped politicians win over their constituents in the topics of strong policies on crime prevention.

Weight & heaviness in the English language is associated with seriousness. Next time go into the interview with a heavy-looking clipboard as opposed to a light/cheap one assumes importance and your seriousness.

Other word replacement like this:

  • used => preowned
  • final destination => destination
  • terminal => gate

People who learn they have a birthday, birthplace, first name in common come to like each other more. Find something in common with the person you are talking to helps them like you more.

Study of happiness by Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky:

  1. Count your blessings & gratitude at the start of your day, write them down.
  2. Cultivating optimism by choosing beforehand to look on the bright side of the situation.
  3. Negate the negative by deliberately limiting time spent dwelling on problems or on unhealthy comparisons with others.

Tips on taking exams: don’t cram the last minutes with the study. Use the time to consciously calm fears & simultaneously build confidence.

Fun fact: infomercials are late at night because viewers don’t have the mental energy to resist the ad’s emotional triggers (likeable hosts, enthusiastic studio audiences, dwindling supplies, and so on.)

  • If you want to sell someone a box of expensive chocolate => ask them to write down numbers that are much larger than the price of the chocolates.
  • If you want to sell someone a bottle of French wine => play some French background music.
  • If you want someone to agree to try untested products => ask them whether they consider themselves adventurous.
  • If you want someone to feel warm towards you => hand them a hot drink.
  • If you want someone to be more helpful => show them photos of individuals standing close to each other.
  • If you want someone to be more achievement-oriented => show them an image of a runner winning a race.

Interesting ethics experiment results:

  • The more unethical the climate (work environment), the poorer the worker’s job performance. 
  • The more unethical the climate, the more stress they felt at work
  • That particular stress caused their poor performance.

Economically centered pitch to business leaders against unethical activities:

  1. Strike one: Employee turnovers. Estimates of direct expenses associated with turnover (severance pay, recruitment, hiring, and training of the replacement) can extend from 50% of the annual compensation package to 200% of the total package for executive-level positions. The average voluntary turnover in the U.S. is about 15% a year. Even at 10% of workers (average of $40k a year) will make $4 million every year in turnover costs. When asked if the employee would change teams and stay with the company, 51% elected to stay but change teams in an ethical group, and 80% elected to leave in an unethical group.
  2. Strike two: employee fraud and malfeasance. 
  3. Strike three: leaders of the organization need to believe in ethical behaviors in order to make this work.