Tuesday, November 29, 2005


This week promises to have slower progress, because rain is forecast for much of the week. To the left is last night's storm moving through. Fortunately with the roof trusses up, the tarp is doing a good job of keeping the inside of the addition dry so far. I'd be a lot happier if the roof and siding were on at this point, though.

The rain also makes it pretty much impossible to work on the roof with out getting everything soaked. There are bits and pieces I can work on inside, but it'll be slow going this week. I've got a bunch of the lookouts in place, but I need to finish those before I can put the sheathing on the roof.

In the meantime, here are some more pictures that Katarina took. I'm thankful for those sunny blue skies we had last week, which allowed me to get the roof trusses up.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Raising Abel

The trusses arrived yesterday, right on schedule. Thank you Anderson Truss, and thank you Tim G.

So now that I had the trusses, how to get them down from the carport and up to the roof of the addition? Truss companies will normally do rooftop delivery when possible, but given the trees, carport, and power lines, it was most definitely in the "not possible" category. I joked that they could do rooftop delivery if they had a helicopter, but even then I'm not sure it would be possible.

The answer? Follow the tabby cat (her name is Pouspous, which is to say, Catcat in French). Not the white rabbit...that leads to Wonderland or The Matrix. I came up with the idea a while back when I was working in the loft above the bathroom, and my neighbor walked by. We chatted a bit, and I noticed I was at about the same level she was. Our house is below the level of the street, but our neighbor's house on the east side is almost level with the street. And the downstairs in-law unit is right at the same level as the loft.

But even with a plan, I knew I'd still need help. I called Edis to see if he could work, but he had some work as a mechanic (which he's got some training in from Honduras). He paused and thought, and said "How about my cousin?" After some back and forth (how old is he? 18. does he speak any English? no. does he have any experience with construction? a little.), he called his cousin to see if he was available, and then called me back, and we set it up that I'd pick him up at Edis' house at 9am. I made a trip to Economy Lumber for some more OSB and some hurricane clips (they hold the trusses to the tops of the walls, better than just toe-nailing ever could), and then picked up Abel.

In Spanish, it's pronounced ah-bell, rather than the English ay-bull. The second thing I said to him (in Spanish, of course) was "My Spanish isn't very good. Please speak to me slowly." After that, communication wasn't a problem except for a few times I didn't know a word. He's hoping to go next year to English classes like Edis is. I started teaching him a few words, but we conversed in Spanish about family, how I knew Edis, how I'd learned Spanish, etc. The only thing I really had problems with was describing plantar fasciitis. I just said "part of my foot is a little broken" after I stumbled a bit and winced. Fortunately taking some time off, wearing shoes with better support, and Ibuprofen have helped.

So enter the solution to getting the trusses on top of the walls -- follow the tabby cat. I nailed a 2x8 to the outside of the wall, and we put a couple of extra pieces of rim joist I have as a walkway from our neighbors to the corner of the house. We simply picked up the trusses, carried them into the street, down our neighbor's driveway, and out the walkway. The two of us carried the trusses, placed them all at one end of the roof, then moved the boards from the corner of the addition to inside the south wall, so that one of us could walk on that to place trusses while the other walked on the bathroom loft. Worked like a charm. We had to take it slowly, of course, but it was the easiest non-rooftop delivery placement of trusses I've ever been involved with.

Abel and I also put some of the rest of the sheathing up, though there will be some small bits between the trusses. That just leaves sheathing above and around the front door, and around the back door, which is to say, not much.

All just in time, too...the forecast for Friday is rain. Hmmph. Doubtful I'll get roof sheathing on before then, but the tarp is in good shape, and well supported at a good angle for draining water, given the trusses holding it up.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Be Afraid

I'm pretty sure this is mentioned in Revelations as one of the signs of the end times. But it's pretty darn technically impressive nonetheless.

On some of the church media groups I'm part of, there's some speculation that it was faked with Photoshop and a video editor. If so, it's also pretty amazing, because they got all the lighting details right (shadows, a radio tower in the distance, etc.). And further evidence it's for real is that you don't need to jury-rig something like this. There are off the shelf products you can buy to do this. And of course, you'll want the 200,000 hour LED Christmas lights to do it right. (Be sure to check out the video on that site, which shows them demonstrating the durability of the lights by driving a semi over them. The lights surving a troupe of clog dancers or 30 seconds with a three year old would be more impressive, but the semi is certainly fun to watch.)

And for those who are wondering, I'm told it's the Trans-Siberian Orchestra playing "Wizards in Winter" which the lights are synched to.

If that doesn't capture the true spirit of Christmas, I don't know what does...

Tabbylocks and the 3 Boxes

"This box is too big." "This box is too big, too." "Hey! This box is too big -- what's going on?!?" What enormous items did Katarina order from Amazon? Christmas gifts for our nieces and nephews? A new microwave for later in the project when I've got the kitchen torn up? What could it be that takes 3 big boxes?

Three cookie sheets. Not even big ones (they're a bit smaller than some, since our antique oven is smaller than some newer ones.) In some maddening fit of inefficiency, Amazon sent three cookie sheets as three orders, in three separate boxes. Fortunately they all arrived the same day, so there weren't three trips by the UPS truck. But aiiyee! Who knows...maybe they fufilled the orders from three different warehouses.

But the cats will enjoy them. One of their favorite toys is a cardboard box that I cut some holes in. They'll run in and bat at things we stick near the holes, or hide from us or from each other. Three big boxes means three additions to their play structure.

The Trusses Are Coming! The Trusses Are Coming!

While typing my last post, I got a call from Anderson Truss asking if they could deliver my trusses earlier than they'd planned, i.e., tomorrow morning. Wahoo!


I love books, and I love reading. For better or for worse, I've had more time for reading of late with my foot problems, though I've managed to fill most of the time with other stuff. Saturday evening, we went to a book-signing event for a friend who just published a new book with the intriguing title, Why Are We Reading Ovid's Handbook on Rape? Teaching and Learning at a Women's College. Madeleine also talked a bit about teaching and learning in the process, and read a bit from the book. I'm looking forward to diving into the book when I finish my current one. (And take a look at Madeleine's website, which I designed the graphics for. And yes, that is her real name. It's one 'E' different than the actress' name.)

My current book is 1776, by David McCullough, about the momentous year in American history. It's primarily about the military side, though it goes more in depth about George Washington's character than I'd read about before. It's very good, but not as readable as Gods and Generals or the others by the the Shaaras about the American Civil War. I've read Rise to Rebellion by Jeff Shaara about the Revolutionary War, but I didn't enjoy that as much as his and his father's books on the Civil War.

The book before that was Eldest, the second in the the series begun with Eragon. It's written for young adults, by a young adult (he's 17 now, but was 15 when he started writing) but is a good read for readers of fantasy of all ages. The reviews on Amazon are all over the map, but I really enjoyed it. It's certainly not Tolkien, but it's better written and more enjoyable than a lot of fantasy novels.

I haven't updated it in a while, but my page on non-photography books shows what sorts of things I usually read. Which is a wide variety.

So many books, so little time.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Plantar Fasciitis!

Plantar Fasciitis. Neither the motto of an obscure branch of the military (Plantar Fasciitis! -- "always fibrous") nor the character in a Shakespearean play set in ancient Rome ("Greetings, Plantar! How fares the house of Fasciitis?", but inflammation of the fibrous strap-like structure on the bottom of the foot. That's likely what's been dogging my dogs the last several days, and will keep me on lower activity for a bit.

It can be caused by non-supportive shoes (check), flat feet (check), high-arched feet (definite no), sudden increase in activity level (not sudden, but the addition certainly keeps me busy), standing on hard floors for a long time (definite yes), and/or obesity (the exercise from working on the addition has made me lose a bit of weight and rearranged some of what I've got, but yeah, I could stand to lose a few more pounds). And common enough that they have pamphlets on it at Kaiser.

I certainly have lots of other stuff to do (like implementing Scary Bear's redesign on the Mt. Diablo Habitat for Humanity website that I maintain, or learning more about video and such for the media ministry at RLC), but it's frustrating as all get-out to have good weather and not be able to work on the house. Hmmph.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Eat Ice Cream, Do Good

All this month you can go to Fenton's Creamery in Oakland and order the "Firefighter Sundae" and help Oakland Firefighters Random Acts. They in turn help others in need. You get ice cream, they help others...what's not to like?

Also, tomorrow and Sunday there will be firefighters waiting on tables and collecting 'tips' for OFRA. There'll be a sundae building contest, a firetruck for kids to climb on (a nifty old Van Pelt open-cab), and book signings by a couple of authors in the OFD (including Zac Unger, author of Working Fire, a great book on being a firefighter.)

Pictures and Progress

Yesterday I worked with Edis, and we got a lot done. I built the rake wall for the east side, which we then installed; Edis put in blocking for the edges of the OSB that makes up the sheathing; I installed a bunch of sheathing; and Edis built his first wall. It was just a wee thing, 4' high and 5' wide, for where the loft sides with the front entry, but it was his wall. I showed him where to build it, reminded him of the studs on 16" centers, and off he went. The only other thing I had to remind him of was using the level to make sure it was plumb. Kat took the above picture in the middle of the afternoon; we actually got quite a bit more done after that.

Today I worked alone and nailed off the sheathing I'd installed yesterday. Thank God for nailguns, and thank Peter for the loan of his. I bought a box of 5,000 nails (8d, for flooring and sheathing), and I went through probably 1/3rd of that today. It'll be gone by the time I'm done, between the rest of the sheathing (mostly on the south wall, facing the backyard) and the roof. I've already gone through 60 lbs. of 16d nails for the framing, and who knows how many other nails of various sorts.

I also installed a bit more sheathing, made sure the loft floors were nailed off, and put some screws into all the floors. The floors are already nailed and have subfloor adhesive to stick them to the joists, but a couple dozen deck screws here and there is mighty cheap insurance to help make sure the flooring never works loose and starts squeaking.

I decided to change the back door from a swinging door to a wider sliding door. The swinging door just wasn't going to work very well, no matter which way it opened. It would either hit the bedroom wall, or open part way into the dining room. It won't be a full 6' wide sliding door, but this way it will be wider and let more sun into the thermal mass for passive solar (that big blob of concrete at the front end of the 'hallway' in the picture shown above). Of course, much of that hallway will become part of the dining room and not be a hallway at all, just a logical flow from the front of the house to the back. One more thing to keep me busy until the trusses are ready.

Of course, there's also ordering the doors and windows. The back door will match the current one, with 5 horizontal lights. Kat has started looking at options for the front door. Given the fairly simple nature of the house, it won't be anything too fancy, but there are a ton of options out there.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Las Luces

Yesterday was a short work day, because I had apheresis at the Red Cross in the afternoon, and as much as I wanted to work on the cricket, it would have taken me too long to uncover then re-cover in the time I had. So I worked on the sheathing a bit.

Kat worked on some things, and when I got home I continued to direct her even if I couldn't do much (no heavy lifting after aphersis). She installed the rest of the subfloor for the loft, and some blocking underneath. To her surprise, she enjoyed herself. I don't know if it's because it's a mellower pace than Habitat, or if it's because she's working on our house, or what, but she enjoyed herself enough to ask for stuff to work on today, too. But it was a little weird for me to not be able to work because of apheresis, just some saw cuts and instruction.

Today I got a reasonably early start, and went to work on the cricket. I got it sheathed, some self-adhesive flashing added as a backup to everything else, and covered it in tar paper. I still need to add some valley flashing to the new valley (and figure out how to get it under the existing shingles without totally trashing them), and of course put shingles on the new roof, but at the moment it's pretty much weather tight.

Which is a good thing...as the afternoon progressed, it got cloudy, the wind picked up, and Kat saw rain on the local doppler radar. Ruh-oh, Shaggy! It only rained a few drops here, but I saw lightning off in the distance, so it was a relief to have the cricket in place, because there will be more rain, and sooner rather than later.

Given the end of daylight savings time and the winter angle of the sun, the worksite gets dark pretty early these days. So I put a work light in the addition, so I can work past 4:30pm without having to guess about pencil marks when cutting. I still work a relatively short day most days (doubtless to my neighbors' relief), but I'm satisified with my progress.

But the big news is that I got the roof trusses ordered! After not getting emails or phone calls returned from Bay Truss I gave up on them. But Anderson Truss (and what a great name) came through with a good bid, and in a reasonable time frame. And even though they're based in the Central Valley (Dixon near Sacramento, and Lathrop, near Manteca), the sales guy I talked with lives in Alameda, so he was able to stop by, look over the worksite, have me look over the drawings, and get a check to get things rolling. That's almost as big a relief as getting the cricket weather tight.

And no, I haven't forgotten about posting some pictures from up the hill, but I haven't had time to go up and take them. When it's light (and I have platelets), I'm working on the house!

Monday, November 07, 2005

Another Day...

...another trip to Home Depot. And another week, and another trip to Camron-Stanford House. But the good news with the latter is that I'm finally done with the artifacts insurance listing. The database is still a mess, but we agreed that dealing with that can wait for now. The database may be a mess, but I can at least get data from it now, and the insurance is OK for the next 12 months. Of course, there's still the membership listing...

Saturday was a short day because I had to prep the media for church on Sunday. I framed the cricket, but didn't have time to put sheathing or tar paper on it. But I arranged tarps and some temporary tar paper in the new valley, and figured it would be OK unless we had a big storm.

Today I worked a bit in the morning, then was off to CS House. And this evening...we're having a big storm. My tarps, et al, are working somewhat. Most of the dining room and kitchen is dry, but they seem to be funneling water to one spot in the kitchen. Fortunately that's above the sink, but it's still disconcerting to have rain outside and inside your house.

Friday, November 04, 2005

More Pictures

The rain has stopped and I'll head out to check the tarps again and start working on the addition, but I wanted to post some more pictures from the other day. One is Katarina enjoying a spectacular sunset. She's sitting on the railing of the deck, but that's the view from the addition, too. The other is one of our cats, Rosie, peering out through a hole in the wall where there used to be an outlet in the kitchen.Note: No animals were harmed in the making of this picture. The power was turned off when I let her do this, and the hole is now covered.

553 Years

That's about how much bad luck I'm in for, if you believe that breaking a mirror is seven years bad luck. The other day I opened up more of the existing wall, in order to install a big post to support the HBB (Hecka Big Beam). I knew our house had no insulation when it was built (I've added some in the attic, and the addition will be really well insulated, of course), but it seems like they skimped on some other things, too, like drywall or paneling. The section of wall I was working on is the other side of the dining room wall, where there are built-in cabinets and a large mirror between the counter and upper cabinets.

Well, when I started pulling stuff out of the wall, the mirror was right there against the studs. That's it -- siding, some building paper, the studs, and then the mirror. Almost might as well just leave the windows open with walls built like that. In any event, I didn't realize what it was at first, and I managed to smack the corner of the mirror with the hammer or the prybar, and crrraaack went the mirror. It's a really big mirror, so I figure it must be worth more years than a little mirror.

Last night certainly qualified. I've been keeping tarps over the addition and the opening in the existing roof because even without rain, we get a lot of fog which drips off the trees. But last night brought wind and rain, and the wind blew some of the tarps off the existing roof, and guess where some of the rain went? Uh-huh. Well, I'm going to be redoing the kitchen and dining room anyways...

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Emmie Get Your (Nail) Gun

Today I made another Home Depot run for a couple more joist hangers, some lumber, and a few odds and ends. Then my sister-in-law Emmie (she's the worship leader at RLC that I've mentioned before, fearless* leader of Holy Ruckus) (*fearless except some fear of heights) came over and helped for a while. She runs her own software company, has three teenage girls, and Peter works full time, too, so she could only come for a few hours. But every bit helps, and it was fun to spend time with her in a setting besides helping make the worship service happen or a family gathering, i.e., chaos.

Emmie nailed up the new joist hangers and installed the joists I cut, while I was working on the last bit of external wall. The wall with the back door is at a 45' angle underneath the corner of the loft. The opening for a door is easy enough to frame, but the 45' angle and bit of QuadLock from the foundation sticking out made it a bit more challenging to figure out, and a lot more challenging to install.

Then Emmie used the nailgun (it belongs to her husband, Peter, so she's used it before so little training was required) to finish nailing some interior sheerwall. I measured and cut for the subfloor decking in the loft, put down some adhesive, and Emmie nailed that in with the nailgun, too.

She had to leave after that, but we had a good time talking about everything from her kids to (lack) of privacy on the WWW to the contemporary service at RLC to an interview on NPR with Jimmy Carter about his new book about America's (waning) moral values. I don't believe all the same things he does nor agree with all the things he said, but I definitely admire the guy and would take him as president over the current regime in a millisecond. And I believe he's truly Christian in his heart, not just saying he is but not behaving like one. How can a president let this happen on his watch while saying he supports human rights (never mind the Iraq war and the lies that lead to it) and call himself a Christian? (What part of "love your neighbor as yourself" does he not get?) And how can a democracy that says it supports human rights do this kind of stuff and ever hold its head high in the world community again? I...I could ramble on for pages about this and raise my blood pressure thinking about it, but it's been written before. I guess the difference is that the mainstream American media and more of the 51% are paying attention to what the 49% have known all along.