Wednesday, March 28, 2007

186 MPH

Sunday we hosted a steel drum concert at Resurrection Lutheran. A member of the CSM Panhandlers is part of our worship team, and arranged to have the band come and perform a concert to raise money for our annual mission trip to Mexico. We take the youth group down to the barrios of Tijuana to build a house for a family in need. The houses are very simple (we build them in 3.5 days), but a vast improvement over what the families are living in. Most common is a square made from four old garage doors, with two more for a roof, and a door cut into one side. And yes, that means a dirt floor and no windows. So a concrete slab floor, two windows and a real door, stucco walls, and a roof that doesn't leak is a big improvement.
As simple as the houses are, they still cost money to build, and it costs money to get us down there. That's where the fundraising concert came in. I built some extensions to the stage area so we could fit them all in, and so I could see the bass players (the "6 bass" players have six full-size steel drums, which takes some room), and borrowed a video camera so I could do a little IMAG (image magnification) and put the band on the big screen. We got a great turn out, and raised a big chunk of the money for the trip. Thanks, Panhandlers!

The band is a blast to watch and listen to. As the director said in introducing one of the songs, the tenor players move about 186 MPH and manage to get all the notes. They're amazing to watch. Here's a taste:

"Wow" doesn't even cover it. It looks even better when viewed directly on YouTube's site.

Monday, March 12, 2007

No Man is an Island

...but some kitchens are, namely ours. Today, for the first time in too long, I put in a full day working on the house. And work on the house I did. Not even peripheral stuff like organizing the basement so I can store stuff, get to the table saw, etc., but actual work on the actual house.

I finished removing the trim and paneling in the old entry hall (preserving the larger pieces of paneling for future re-use), removed the weird insulation (using my spiffy new 6.5hp shop vac to suck up the stray bits and pieces along with the mouse droppings), and started removing the trim and siding around the outside of the old door.

The result is that the kitchen is now completely cut off from any semblance of an unchanged house. One side has the old window opening that looks into new entry hall. Another is into the dining room, which is stripped down to studs and subfloor. And now the last open side is the hall, which is similarly denuded of finish materials.

I still have a lot to do before I demolish the kitchen, and numerous interruptions in the weeks to come (apheresis tomorrow, for starters), but it felt good to get some progress done on the house.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Go in Peace

Katarina's dad finally succumbed to Parkinson's. It's been a death by inches, so it's a relief to see him finally at peace. Katarina wrote a song originally for her aunt Marjorie when she was near the end of her battle with cancer. She recently rewrote "Go in Peace" to be more general. You can listen to the song on her music page here.

Go in peace, Erik. You are loved.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Big Red Success

Sunday the Big Red Truck came to town. It's a rolling multi-media exhibit to inform people about Thrivent Builds and Habitat for Humanity, and to educate them about poverty housing and the need for decent, affordable housing for all.

Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Fremont hosted the event, and provided many of the volunteers to help staff the truck. We had around 250 people go through the exhibits on the truck, take part in the nailing contest, get more information about Habitat, sign up to volunteer...we even got a donation on the spot.

Thanks to the good folks at Prince of Peace, and to the crew of the Big Red Truck. Be sure to check it out if it's in a town near you (they're headed towards Oregon and Washington next).

Friday, March 02, 2007

Life Goes On

I seem to be writing more about other stuff than about the addition and remodel these days. I knew when I started that there would be interruptions and periods when I couldn't work as much on the house as I'd planned, but I had no idea there would be so many of them.

And when you get enough interruptions, you lose focus and get less efficient. Back when I was in the software industry and starting to do more management and less programming, I read various books on managing people, because I didn't have the slightest idea how to do it. I read somewhere that it takes almost 10 minutes when you're interrupted at a task to get back to the level you were at before the interruption. Sitting in a cube writing a document or bit of code, and then the phone rings. Boom...10 minutes before you're back up to speed. It doesn't take a mathematician to see that a half dozen interruptions per day would seriously cut into your productivity, and half a dozen would be fairly few, unless you work alone, turn off email, and unplug your phone. And people still think they can "multi-task" and be just as efficient. Yeah, right.

Well, it turns out to be true on a larger scale, too. If you work at something regularly, say, building a house, you get into a groove. You get used to doing the different tasks involved, you get used to thinking about the types of problems that arise. But if you get regularly interrupted in that, you lose focus and get less efficient.

Lately there have been more interruptions than house building. And stress has come along with some of those interruptions. So I find myself incredibly unfocused and unproductive. Some progress is being made, nothing that's particularly photo-worthy.

But there are certainly things in my life that are photo-worthy, so I share one of them with you now. I call it "Still Life with Flowers":
It took her a while to find, but once I opened the window a bit, Star spent the entire afternoon there. As part of the re-organization in the basement, and to give me a place to work once I start wreaking havoc on the kitchen, I moved an old workbench into the dining room (it was my friend Donald's desk when we were in college at Berkeley; he and his dad built it.) Where there was space for it was near the new dining room windows, which happen to get a lot of afternoon sun this time of year. Sun, fresh warm air, and a comfy bed...irresistible to a cat.

P.S. Fundraising for the Habitat for Humanity build-a-thon is going along nicely. I'm at 13.5% of my goal, and Katarina is at nearly 22% of hers. Thank you to all who have donated!