Category Archives: Homes4Families

EMHE Build – Day Three

The desert may be hotter than a freaking griddle during the day and freezing cold at night and be filled with dust & tumbleweeds & rattlesnakes & fire ants & lots of other things that suck. But it’s tough to beat their sunrises and sunsets.

I’ve been seeing way, WAY too many of the former recently

But this doesn’t suck.

It was tough finding a spot that didn’t have construction equipment or light towers or a crane in it.

As it got lighter the incredibly vivid colors finally faded. But not before another favorite dusk/dawn visitor swung by:

Click on the image to expand it to full size – I’m giving you the full resolution version. Right in the middle, right about in the middle of one of those small, thin, clouds, is a bright dot. That would be the ISS, traveling around at 25,000 mph and captured on a freakin’ iPhone! (For the moment I’ll ignore the “meh” responses by co-workers.)

Tomorrow we switch sleep cycles. I’ve been working the 05:00 to 13:00 shifts (which mean getting up at 03:00 and actually working until 15:00, 16:00, or later) but tomorrow I’m on the 18:00 to midnight shift. That means I’m desperately trying to stay up tonight until at least 23:00 so that my poor, beaten up body doesn’t revolt and wake me up in the middle of the night tonight and leave me completely high and dry tomorrow afternoon.

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EMHE Build – Day Two

Let’s start with the tiny little nugget of good to be found today:

It was quite lovely to see dawn approaching with a 3/4 moon up there. Not lovely enough to justify getting out of bed at 03:00, but that goes without saying.

It was already in the mid 80’s at that time of the morning, which was a foreshadowing of this:

(Image from WeatherUnderground)

One thing here is a lie – there is now way that was a 0|2 wind situation. Try 25 gusting to 40+.

So, after way, WAY more than eight hours of that for the second day in a row (five more to go!) my 60 minute ride home turned into a 95 minute ride home due to:

(Image from Google Maps)

The southern (left) side of that red section was where two of the three lanes were blocked with several dozen fire trucks fighting a brush fire.

Let’s do it again tomorrow!


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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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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.


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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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