Thursday, August 25, 2005

I Called, They Came, We Poured

The building inspector came on Tuesday, and she was intrigued by the QuadLock ICFs. Still not that many people using them around here, I guess. They make a ton of sense in places like Florida (hurricanes, termites, hot weather) and Canada (some parts with really cold winters), but are a great way to build anywhere, I think. A few questions, some looking around, and inspection #1 passed!

I called around to find a concrete supplier and pumper. Usually they're separate companies and the concrete company will refer you to a pumper. I asked about lead time, expecting a couple of days. One place said a week. Crikey! I called another place, and asked their lead time. "Right now, or in general?" "Right now." "Thursday's the earliest I've got." Um...OK! They also do pumping. So I had 10 yards scheduled for between 12 and 1 today.

I scrambled to call people to help, because the companies provide concrete, and someone to run the pump, but they don't provide the people needed to move the hose, settle / rod the concrete, screed the top, etc. Naun was busy -- he's found work (yay!) doing painting. A couple of neighbors had offered to help, but one had plans already. I called my pastor who'd offered to help, too, and fortunately he was available and willing to shuffle his schedule to make it.

Fast forward to this morning, then hit the pause button. The pump and operator showed up at 10am to set up; apparently there was a big gap after his last job, so they just sent him here early. It took him all of 20 minutes or so to set up. Pastor Jim showed up about 11am, and then the three of us waited. And waited. Our neighbor Cynthia came to help, and we waited some more. Around 12:30 or so, Cynthia went home to get some lunch, and I made some for Jim and I. And we waited some more. I think it was close to 2 o'clock when the concrete truck came lumbering up the hill.

The pour started off with a bang. I was careful not to kink the hose, and felt a few initial pulses, and started getting concrete. A lot of concrete. The company alots 4 minutes per cubic yard (that's 27 cubic feet for the math impaired) of concrete for unloading, which means concrete goes through the 3 or 4 inch hose really fast. Which means you don't want the hose to kink lest pressure build up. But something I hadn't experienced before were plugs. Even with the water and pressure, it's possible for the hose to plug briefly. But at the rate the concrete is coming, even a brief plug means a lot of concrete builds up, and when it comes out, it comes out hard. The side of the house and my face got a concrete bath, and Jim took over while I washed up.

The rest of the pour went pretty smoothly, though Jimmy the pump operator got his own plug and a wallop on the leg by the hose. Ouch. And we had a couple of small blowouts, but a 2x4 to brace and a bit of rebar as a stake stopped the larger one.

Jim did a beautiful job screeding and smoothing the top of the wall, Cynthia and her neighbor's son Brent rodded to get rid of air pockets, and in very short order it was all done but the cleanup. Many, many thanks to you for your help, especially Jim.

Now we have a foundation, and it's starting to look like part of a house instead of fancy hole in the ground. Wahoo!

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Ready to Pour!

After some misadventures getting the Simpson ICF ledger connectors, I'm ready to pour! I thought the ledger connectors came in two catalog pieces, but I wasn't sure. The guy at Economy Lumber thought they came in one piece...but that's because that was all that was in stock at their supplier. So the first trip ended up in only getting half of what I needed, despite a valiant late-Friday-afternoon effort by Dave at the Simpson warehouse in San Leandro. Another trip to Economy Lumber (thanks, Jesse!), a short wait, and I got the pieces I needed. I installed them today after church, along with some pipes to leave spaces for the HVAC vent and waste plumbing, and now I'm ready to pour!

Here's a picture of me working with the QuadLock:

Oh, wait...wrong picture. Here's the right one:See? I told you they looked a lot like Lego. It was more complicated because of the stepped foundation, diagonal wall, multiple levels, and tying into the existing house, but they'd be a real joy to work with on a relatively level lot for a new house. If I ever build a new house myself, I'll definitely consider making the whole thing out of them.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Google Ads

I stuck some Google ads on the blog when I first started it. Not because I expect to make any money from it, but I use Google ads on one of the community pages I run to try to help cover hostings costs. (The site, TvÄ Katter, is currently down while I switch over to a new content management system that's more secure than PHP Nuke.) The ads are selected based on the content that Google finds on the pages. I've even found it useful -- it was the ads that led me to using QuadLock for the concrete forms.

But I was amused the other day to see the latest set of ads: Prevent Overheating. Buy Temperatute Sensors. Recycled Antifreeze. All based on my early blog entry about the problems with the U-Haul truck. So at least Google is reading my blog :-)

Busy, Busy, Busy

I've been busy this past week, but not much on the house. I design and run the media at church, and most of the past week I was at a technology for worship conference, Inspiration West. Purists may wonder about sound, projecting images and lighting for a church; secularists may wonder what's taken the church so long. I tend towards the latter. The message hasn't change in 2,000 years, but the delivery has changed to make it heard by people of the times. The Catholic church changing masses to be in the vernacular instead of Latin is case in point. The point is the message; if it isn't heard, it isn't heard, period.

Resurrection is a fairly small church (about 150 people each Sunday between two services; I'm not sure what the offical congregation size is), but growing. Various of us have been working on updating the delivery for a while now. We've been projecting hymn and song lyrics for several years, along with the liturgy, and images relevant to the week's sermon. But we know there's more we can do to appeal to people in today's culture, and also make the lessons clearer and more memorable. People learn better when multiple senses are involved, and when there are fewer distractions. So we're working on better lighting, clearer sound, and stuff like video when appropritate (e.g., for baptisms, since no one but the person being baptized, the pastor and the sponsors can see much).

This week will have its share of distractions, too. Camron-Stanford House Monday morning, apheresis Tuesday, visiting family Wednesday, and who knows what else by the time Thursday rolls around. I've got plenty else I want to do this week, too, including repairing the narthex and cry room speakers, burning a practice CD for the contemporary service worship team, Holy Ruckus, making CDs of the past couple of services, working on a website for a friend, and working with my wife on some music of a new friend. He's written a great song, "Heart of a Lion". Fits great with one of the organizations I work with, Oakland Firefighters Random Acts. They do a lot of work with Special Olympics, and also with Saleh, an Iraqi boy who was badly injured by a bomb and rescued by a U.S. Air Force surgeon. The nickname the doctor gave him because of his strength, courage and perseverance in the light of grave injuries? Lionheart. He and his family now live in the SF Bay Area, and he wants to be a firefighter. I'd normally say it could never happen, but this kid is so full of energy and heart, I wouldn't bet against it.

I'm hoping to be ready for a pre-pour inspection by Friday, but I'm learning to set my expectations in accordance with the rest of my schedule. I've got the foundation forms done except for the short diagonal wall, so it may even happen.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Adventures in Moving

Yesterday I got ahold of a real live person about getting some Quad-Lock, and they said they had what I needed, and picking it up would be a lot cheaper than shipping, given the price of gas these days. And quicker for me, so I can move forward with the addition. I was so excited I wrote a note to Kat about where I'd be and then promptly took the note with me along with the various plans and estimates I was taking.

The excitement passed quickly enough. Cue the sound of a needle scratching across a record of Steppenwolf's "Born to be Wild".

I rented a U-Haul truck that would be big enough to haul the necessary Quad-Lock, and then some. I got as far as I-505 (it cuts over from I-80 to I-5, so as to avoid going through Sacramento), and the engine temperature gauge went from the middle to pegged at the 'H', and the check engine light came on. I pulled over, things seemed reasonable (oil OK, coolant OK though hot, which was not surprising since I was driving through the Central Valley in mid-day with the AC on), so I waited a bit. The temperature gauge was OK and the engine light was out, so I went onward. I got towards the north end of I-505, and it happened again, so I went to the next gas station I saw, the Pilot truck stop in Dunnigan. At this point the coolant was boiling, so I called U-Haul's 800 number for road side service.

They told me it would be up to 1.5 hours, since I was "between service areas" (which is to say "in the middle of nowhere as far as we're concerned", even if I was less than 45 minutes from Sacramento). They were very nice, though, and had helpful suggestions like checking the oil, coolant, etc. A bit more than 2.5 hours later, a truck repair guy from Yuba City showed up. He too was very helpful, and added some coolant (since a bunch had boiled away) and had me start the truck up and rev it. Amongst other things, he observed that the faster I revved, the slower the fan went. When the engine was stopped, he noted that the fan was pretty loose -- he shouldn't be able to move it easily with the engine stopped, but could. To prove his point, he stuck his hand in with the engine running and stopped the fan blade. Normally this is "a bad idea", and shouldn't be possible with anything less stout than a wrench lest you want to lose a finger or three.

At this point, I'd long since missed a chance to pick up the Quad-Lock, he didn't have a lot of options for getting the parts he'd need to fix the truck at that hour, and without a fix I was leary of driving any more than I had to. So bottle of coolant and water at hand, I started back to Oakland. Three or four cycles of drive, overheat, pull off and drive more slowly or stop, wait, then repeat, I got home about 9 or 10 o'clock, exhausted.

And it eventually it hit me that those inklings I'd had about U-Haul's "Adventures in Moving" slogan were spot on. I don't want moving to be an adventure...I want it to be calm, with no surprises. At least not unpleasant ones like multiple hour waits in 100' heat, and a failed trip.

I did meet some interesting people, including a guy trying to bum a cigarette who said he was a roughneck (and certainly looked the part), and a woman who wasn't sure exactly where she was relative to her destination (Clear Lake). But it was hot. Given the cooling problems of the truck, I'd had the AC off for the last 30 minutes.

Today I returned the truck, told them about the problems and waited with them on the phone (they have to wait when talking to the service center, too -- who knew?), and eventually got a van instead of the truck. They're smaller, but the cubic footage would be plenty based on the stats on the U-Haul website. And they looked like they were in a lot better shape. Money refunded for the first truck, discount in hand for the new one, I set off. Though I've helped others use U-Hauls, even helping some people move more than once (hi Pete and Maria!), this was the first time I'd rented one myself. Despite the problems, given the nice people and their handling of the problems, I'd probably do it again.

And as I'd planned to do yesterday, successfully picked up the Quad-Lock from ICBS / Orland Sand and Gravel, and returned, all in less than 6 hours. The van was a lot tighter fit than I would have figured, but unpacking a couple of things from boxes and packing the passenger seat full let me get it all home. Wahoo!

But the extended trip(s) gave me a chance to think, listen to the radio, and put some pieces together about other stuff I've been working on. I do tech and media at church, and have gotten connected to others doing the same through a couple of web sites like Church Media Net. We'll see if anything comes of it, but despite the aggravation of the delays involved, it will probably end up a positive.