Category Archives: Homes4Families

EMHE Build – Day One

Up at 3:00, onsite at 5:00, out in 102° heat for nine and a half hours, an hour-plus drive home, then a couple hours of dealing from home with other emergencies on the site. And tomorrow I get to do it again.

But the bus was there for the big kickoff…

Lest you believe that I’m a hard core, card carrying curmudgeon with no soul who’s incapable of finding any good in a tough situation (which BTW has a very high probability of being 100% correct) I would note that there are very early morning ISS passes this week. I was able to easily spot this morning’s pass in the dawn’s early light and showed a handful of co-workers and volunteers who had arrived early. And tomorrow I get to do THAT again as well.

These may be the first morning ISS passes I’ve ever seen!

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Filed under Homes4Families, Photography, Space

Sunset – August 23rd

Out of the frying pan (weeks of preparing for this reality TV shoot at our property in Palmdale, doing in three or four weeks what normally would have taken as much as a year)…

…and into the fire (the seven days of actually having them on site building two homes in less than seven days.)

I start with the 5AM shift for the first few days, tomorrow morning.

I have been happier…

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Shedding Load

Even though I don’t have an IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) certification on my pilot’s license (in other words, I haven’t been trained to fly by instruments alone in clouds and lousy weather, so it’s Visible Flight Rules and relatively clear skies only for me right now), I do enjoy subscribing to an online series by that gives IFR scenarios and asks you to think through how you would handle them.

The current one talks about someone flying IFR when the alternator dies and they’re on batteries, which won’t last long enough to get to where they need to go. The need to start shutting down systems and instruments (“shedding load”) in order to stretch the batteries as far as they can go, while not turning off anything that they absolutely need.

If you’ve ever seen the excellent “Apollo 13” movie from Ron Howard, you might recognize a similar issue there. The fuel cells exploded, so the CM (Command Module) was shut down while they lived off of the LM (Lunar Module) systems. But the LM doesn’t have a heat shield and can’t survive re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere. Only the CM could do that. But its batteries were so drained and limited that turning systems on just before re-entry would overload them and shut everything down, leaving the crew to die in an out of control re-entry. The backup crews on the ground had to find just the perfect sequence of systems to turn on that would let them function without tripping the system into overload.

I know the feeling. It seems it’s been month after month after month at work where it’s been one crisis after another, and now we have a new project coming at us like a freight train. (You can see a bit about it here.) It should be great for the organization, but we’re trying to do months worth of work in just a couple of weeks, and it’s exhausting.

Add in the fact that my work at the CAF SoCal hangar has been “exciting” all year. THEN add in the fact that this weekend is our annual airshow at Camarillo, so I’ll be putting in a lot of hours all weekend.

And on Monday, after that long (but hopefully fun!) weekend, the work event goes into overdrive, ramping up to a week where I’ll pretty much be working 12+ hour shifts every day for about seven to nine days.


I’m looking to do some load shedding.

What am I doing that’s expendable, or can be delayed or put onto a back burner?

And when I’ve done that and I’m still like the Apollo 13 simulations where I’m tripping the system into overload on every try, what is there that can still be done away with? And then, what next that I was sure I absolutely can’t do without but maybe need to reconsider and be viscous about prioritizing?

It’s not a matter of cutting fat but sparing bone – it’s more like, “How much bone can we truly afford to lose? And can we actually afford to lose 10% more than that? 20%?”

Damn, that Labor Day weekend’s looking pretty nice right now! But the only way out is through.


Filed under CAF, Homes4Families, Paul

WE Build 2019

I think this is my sixth “Women’s Empowerment” Build (WE Build) at the non-profit where I work. It was a great event and the predicted nasty weather held off enough so that it didn’t interfere at all with what we needed to get done.

Damn – I’m tired!

Up at 03:45 to get up to Palmdale at 06:00. We’re (“we” = Homes4Families, where I’ve worked for the last 3.5 years) just starting construction on a 56 home subdivision there for low-income veterans. One of our big events, every Mother’s Day weekend, is the WE Build, where we get hundreds and hundreds of women on site to do some heavy-duty construction. Over the years we’ve done everything from framing, fencing, landscaping, pouring concrete driveways and sidewalks, base and case, painting, building concrete walls, jackhammering holes for tree planting, and so on.

This was my sixth WE Build, but the first where the weather was a potential issue. We just don’t get much rain in May out in these parts.

When the sun finally bothered to come up, it was pretty, but threatening.

The rainbow just before we started was very pretty, but also meant that there were showers in the area.

Our turnout this year was huge, which is a fantastic thing. This is our first WE Build in Palmdale since we’re just starting the project there (notice all of that flat, only recently graded dirt!) and the support we’re seeing from the community is wonderful.

My staff job for the day was to work with the women starting a block wall along the main road. I obviously don’t do this on a regular basis and learn just enough to be dangerous, but I know where to go to get answers so I’m not completely useless.

Today one of my primary jobs ended up being tying rebar together. It turns out to be a painful job since the wire is hard and stiff, sharp, and you’re often operating in semi-confined spaces such as that pillaster in the lower right. The can cause you to come home with an “interesting” array of scratches and punctures on your hands.

But that’s a fantastic wall!

Once we were finishing up cleaning and storing tools and equipment at the end of the day, the thunderstorms finally moved in. We never actually got hit with a downpour, but we could see them all around us, along with the lightning and thunder.

Finally, as always, I managed to stuff about two months’ worth of exercise into one day. I will be paying the price for that over the next few days, I’m sure.

Still, a great event for us. I’m just sooooooo sore and sooooooo tired at this point. And a little sunburnt. And a lot scabby on my hands.

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No Context For You – May 08th

Assuming of course that by “you,” you aren’t Donielle.

Donielle. She knows shit.

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Pre-Event Builder’s Ball 2019

If you’ve been here a while you might remember our annual Builder’s Ball fundraising event at Homes for Families, where I work. It’s tonight, so today will be a long, long day of setup, followed by a long, long evening of wonderful event & then tear down.

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Calming Clouds

Barring a disaster, I am currently in the process of losing my voice while screaming my lungs out at the LA Coliseum while my beloved Kansas City Chiefs (9-1 on the season) are stomping on and defeating the Los Angeles Rams (9-1 on the season). It should be one hell of a game. Rest assured, I’m not typing this from the stands. But I figure it’s likely that I won’t have much time to post anything Monday night, so I’m setting this up in advance.

When the season’s schedule was first announced I thought it was fantastic that I would have a chance to see the Chiefs in person twice, once when they play the Chargers (they’re in the same division, so this happens every year – there are pictures on this site from the past several years’ visits) and once when they played the Rams in Los Angeles. Then the league announced that the Rams game would be played in Mexico City as part of their international expansion program. I was not going to go to Mexico City to see that game. However, the gods have conspired on my behalf, the field at Azteca Stadium was ripped to shreds by a couple of concerts, heavy rain, and some soccer games, and last week on an emergency basis the NFL moved the game back to Los Angeles.

So I will get to see the Chiefs live against the Rams. But it won’t be just twice this year – you’ll be hearing more about it, but for the holidays we get to see two more games. As shitty as 2018 has been in many ways, seeing the Chiefs live four times, especially considering how well they’re playing, might be one of the few highlights.

Anyway, while I’m screaming myself hoarse, you’re invited to enjoy some calming clouds that were over our construction site on Saturday when we had our Key Ceremony. They were stunning to look at and also kept the temps down to a reasonable level while we handed out the keys and other gifts to the latest veterans moving into our homes in Santa Clarita. (See our website if you want to see more details about that.)

Go Chiefs!


Filed under Homes4Families, KC Chiefs, Photography, Sports, Weather

Go Pro View – October 5th

It’s been a long, hard, exhausting day in many respects. Some of the exhausting parts have been depressing, some have been terribly sad, some have been frustrating, and some have actually been fun.

It’s called “life,” but today the volume might have been turned up to “11.”

Here are some GoPro pictures from the fun part. The non-profit I work for, Homes 4 Families, is having an “Over The Edge” fundraiser this weekend. (I’ve done this once before.) I will mention that if you’re in LA and this looks like fun and you can make a donation, we still have slots available for tomorrow. (

This time there were two differences, one major, one minor. The minor one was that I was wearing a GoPro camera which was set to take a still photo every five seconds. The major one was that our son just happened to be in town today and since H4F’s mission is helping military and veteran families and since Steve is active military, we were able to give him a chance to go OTE with me!

Harnessed up, both the primary rope and the safety rope attached, getting final instructions. We’re TWENTY-SIX STORIES up. It was perfect weather.

Starting to lean back, get the feel of the clutch release, practicing feeding the rope up. Something on the order of 280 to 300 feet of that rope is heavy! And that pool looks very, very small.

Over we go! Just lean back, get into a rhythm with the rope and clutch, and walk down the wall.

Looking north into the eastern San Fernando Valley.

Looking north into the Cahuenga Pass and the 101 Freeway passing by behind us.

Who says, “Don’t look down”? That’s the fun part!

With a mirrored building, a lot of the pictures are various visions of me.

Steve got the hang of it and was motoring down – I was either more clumsy and awkward, taking time to enjoy myself a bit, or both. (Both!)

Getting closer.

Almost down by the trees – well, the trees up on the third floor garage outside of the main lobby. But that’s still 22 down and 4 to go!

There’s the plaza and my support team talking me down.

Terra firma! Death defied once again! And paying for it the rest of the day with some nasty cramps in my legs and the soles of my feet.

The other less corporeal exhaustion we’ll deal with tomorrow.




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Filed under Family, Homes4Families, Photography

Wispy Clouds Over Santa Clarita

We had a dedication event this afternoon out at the site where we’re building homes. While I was waiting for a few minutes, I noticed the wispy, high clouds and contrails over the roofs of the houses.

Simple – but not simplistic.

There is joy to be found in tiny, “normal,” beautiful things, such as wispy white clouds in a baby blue sky. Especially when there are so many tiny evils trying to nibble our spirits away in a death by a thousand bites, we can restore ourselves by recognizing the thousand healing bits of beauty around us.

Of course, if it’s incredibly stinking hot & miserable while you’re out there collecting your thousand bits o’ beauty, your mileage may vary!

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Filed under Homes4Families, Photography, Weather

Moving Out & Moving On – May 11th

The “adventure” continues.

We’re about 43 days into our 60 day escrow, with the goal of only needing about 45 of those 60 days. We’re not going to hit that somewhat aggressive goal, but we might not be that far off.

As I’ve mentioned, we found a house. There’s a story to tell there – another time. But in almost lightning fashion after weeks of frustration, we found the place, got approved, signed the lease, and started to move in yesterday.

It’s now a two-front war. We still have stuff that has to go to storage – the new house is just a bit over half the size of our old one. That’s why it’s called “downsizing!” So there will need to be more trips to storage, which can be time consuming.

But now we get to start moving into the new house. A couple of loads of little stuff (dishes, clothes, linens, books, DVDs, etc) yesterday, another big load today. The “big move” will come on Sunday when we’ll have the pros in to move all of the furniture that needs two or three guys, none of whom are in their sixties, to move efficiently and quickly.

What that will do is clear out a lot of space and let us focus on what’s left. Some will get hauled to the new house (nearby, quick trips), some to storage (not so quick), and some directly to the trash (bins out at the street, standing by for your deposit!)

It’s been two months and more of prep, setting the stage. This weekend the curtain goes up.

Oh, and I’ve got a work event all day tomorrow, probably close to twelve hours out on the construction site. It’s a great event, one that I’ve written about before (search for “WE Build”) – but the timing could be better so far as getting the move done.

Sleep deprivation – ask for it by name, accept no substitutes!

We will prevail. I just reserve the right to be cranky while prevailing.

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Filed under Castle Willett, Homes4Families