i couldn't sleep last night, worried about the two things i had to do today: find a plumber to unclog my parents' kitchen drain and clean the house in preparation for the home energy audit later in the afternoon at 3pm. of the two, finding a good plumber was the more difficult task.

i spent the night in bed intermittently checking my phone: taking the general license practice exam (the test is next wednesday night) and then researching the questions i got wrong (pv cell voltage, multiplier vs mixer, log-periodic antenna, usb speech processor, frequency allocations, WARC bands, germanium diodes, IC operational amplifier, bypass capacitor, decibel scale, coaxial cable attenuation, dielectric cable loss), reading reddit, figuring out if drain-o crystals would be a viable option to cheaply unclog the drain (no it wouldn't not guarantee to work and the chemical lye can be dangerous to work with), checking to see if any xiaomi phones are compatible with verizon (looks like no), exploring antenna analyzers (the good ones are around $300), and reading up on some patriots news. the wifi would go down periodically as well for some strange reason and i'd have to crawl out of bed and walk across the cold kitchen (59°F) to reset the router (i should replace that cheap $20 tp-link router).

at 3:30am i received good news from the FCC: my vanity call sign went through (i received my assigned call sign 10/26, applied for the vanity 10/27, received notification of acceptance 18 days later), from this day forward i shall be known as november one hotel alpha oscar on the airwaves.

i finally went to bed at 5:30am, after hearing my upstairs neighbor waking up at 4:30am. when morning finally arrived (daylight anyway), i didn't want to get out of bed, but finally did by around 9:30am.

i started cold calling plumbers around 9:45am. i used google search for plumbers located around the vicinity of my parents' place, so belmont, watertown, arlington, and cambridge. first place i called was lucey plumbing and heating (3 google reviews 4.5 stars) located in belmont, next to the domino's pizza on trapelo road. a woman on an answering machine asked me to leave my name and number. next was belmont plumbing and heating (3 yelp reviews 5 stars). the first time i called i got a verizon error that said the call couldn't be complete. i tried again and it worked this time, except i got a man on voicemail asking me to leave my name and number. next was chase & tolan plumbing in watertown (5 google reviews 5 stars). i actually got ahold of an actual receptionist who sounded very professional and took my info and message. finally, i tried frank formica plumbing service of arlington (7 google reviews 5 stars). there was no address other than arlington plus a photo of a man riding a horse on water and another photo of a man playing the clarinet. there was a woman's voice on voicemail, i left my message.

a few minutes later frank called me. he can actually come right away. i gave him the address but he was asking for driving instructions instead. couldn't that be something he googled or looked on a map? nevertheless i told him how to get there. i also told him i wasn't at my parents' house but would take me 15 minutes to get there. i quickly put on some clothes and rode my motorcycle there. frank hadn't arrived, but called me back a short time later. he was somewhere in watertown, i had to be his phone GPS and guide him to the house while asking him for street names so i could figure out where he was. finally he arrived as i went outside the house and flagged his car down.

he was a burly man with curly hair, more greek than italian. i took him to the basement to show him the stuck cleanout cap. i didn't even ask for a price, but he told me before he began working. $110 an hour for labor, $200 if i wanted him to snake the drain.

he grabbed a large pipe wrench, much larger than the one we were using. he said he found it at a job site, the owner just gave it to him, an antique, easily a hundred years old. he worked the cap with the wrench, pulling on it with short yet forceful yanks. he also had a length of pipe that he insert into the wrench handle for increased leverage. he must've pulled on it for 40 minutes before the cap finally started to give way and come lose. by that point the cap had lost its hexagon shape, nearly round. we covered the area with plastic trash bags and got ready to catch anything that fell out, but it was only a little bit, not the shower of oily mess i was expecting. frank asked if i wanted him to snake it, i said i could do it. he left the house to go buy a new cleanout cap.

chase & tolan plumbing actually called me around 10:20am, around the time i was riding to belmont from my house. the plumber left me a message, said they could come over later today to take a look, to call them back if i wanted to make the appointment.

frank returned a short time later with a plastic cleanout cap. plastics are not as sturdy as brass, but they're easier to remove and replace if broken. "did you clean out the drain already?" he asked. i said i was going to wait until my father came home. "i could do it for you easily," he said. i told him we wanted to save some money and would take care of it ourselves. he understood. he gently put the cap into place, warned me now to mash the threads when i put it back in place, told me to wrap some teflon tape on it beforehand. and with that we were done. total cost? $113, $110 for labor, $3 for parts. it was money well spent, because there was no way my father and i would've been able to remove that cap. even if we had a larger wrench, we just didn't have the strength.

after frank left, i continued cleaning the house for the energy audit inspector coming at 4pm. i had a korean cup of noodles for lunch. lucey plumbing called me around noontime, but i told them i'd already found a plumber to open the cleanout cap. the only plumber tht didn't contact me was belmont plumbing & heating.

when my father came home in the afternoon, we went about cleaning out the drain. he unspooled a wire coat hanger and stretched it out so it was now a long wire. while i held the bucket, he poked at the obstruction. i was expecting a lot of gunk to pour out, but it was just a bit of sludge, a few fistful at most. when he couldn't feel anymore blockage, we closed the cleanout cap and went upstairs to turn on the water. initially the water looked like it was still blocked. my father used the plunger to give it a few good pumps, but the plunger was broken, the rubber tore from all the plunging we did the past few days. but suddenly there was a gurgle and the drain started flowing again. success! blockage unblocked! my father then spent some time cleaning the kitchen sink. after he was done i went back with a magic eraser to clean off all the rubber scratch marks.

the energy auditor arrived at 4pm. actually he was here much earlier, but sat in his truck outside until the appointed time. his name was tom, and after asking us about our energy usage, he went through the house with a FLIR thermal camera to see where we were leaking heat. surprisingly, he said the walls were mostly fine in terms of insulation. most glaring was the ceiling, where he could see the beams through the ceiling, which means escaping heat. he gave us some ideas of how to save more energy (he really wanted us to replace the old furnace) but gave us general ballparks of what certain things would cost (like wall and attic insulation) but didn't recommend any companies.