Resistance

Resistance

I’m trying very hard to resist the urge to go to Target at the moment. Why? Because I have a weakness for shiny cards that I absolutely don’t need. So far I’m winning, but it’s been a struggle this morning. Anyone mind if I vent a little this morning? Cool.

At the top of my rationale for not going to Target is the fact that they won’t have anything I want in the first place. I have three Targets within driving distance, 2 “super” Targets and one smaller original Target. None of them get any of the retail exclusives allegedly available these days. The only retail exclusive I’ve seen in the past THREE YEARS was Bowman Platinum at ONE of my 5 Walmarts within reasonable distance. So, there’s not really any point in going in the first place, which of course leads me to believe that “retail exclusive” cards are a giant joke in the first place. What’s the point? Honestly, the card industry is so completely backwards it’s almost, several times, lead me to throwing up my hands and just giving up.

What’s the point in collecting anything that’s impossible to collect? There are no stores I could go to that carry these products, 99.9% of my entire collection has been purchased online on the secondary market. People collect lots of stuff, in a wide variety of categories. People collect watches, and there are watch stores in every mall. People collect action figures and/or vinyl toys, and there are dozens of places to buy them (Hot Topic, Box Lunch, Barnes and Noble, Target/Walmart, etc). People collect books, music, video games, movies, dishes, gadgets, sunglasses, shoes, debt, you name it, it’s collectable. All those things have stores where you could find something you’re looking for. Even the broader category of “sports memorabilia” has stores. I went to the largest mall in Houston over the weekend: The Galleria. It has a hockey rink, 4 floors of shops, a hotel and a dozen restaurants. It has TWO sports memorabilia stores. TWO. You know what both of those stores don’t sell? Cards. I can buy a $2000 Tom Brady signed helmet, but I can’t buy a $2 pack of cards.

So, I ask you, what the hell is the problem with the card industry? It has multiple companies in it, who product all different kinds of products. You’d figure someone, at some point, would have said “you know, we should probably put cards where people can buy them!”. Gas stations and convenience stores, book stores, sporting goods stores, big box stores, anywhere and everywhere a kid (or a kid at heart) could possibly be enticed into buying a $2 pack of cards. Sure, you don’t want a hobby box of National Treasures at a gas station, I get that, but 2/3rds of both Panini’s and Topp’s product lines would do fine in multiple retail locations.

It’s almost as if they don’t want people to collect stuff. It’s like a club that’s so exclusive you can’t find it, and that’s ok because they don’t want you there anyway.

Just look at the “print on demand” bullshit. They don’t want you buying a pack at a store. They don’t even want you buying a box. They want you buying your cards, from them, for $10 a piece, and that’s just insane.

The entire point of collecting something REPRESENTING something else, is that you like that “other” thing and want to capture a little piece of it. In this case it’s baseball. I love baseball. I live and breath baseball. It’s in my blood. I played, my brother played (and was going to get drafted), my father played, I coached, he coached, we were all involved. It’s enjoying baseball itself that lead me to cards. They were a physical representation of the players I enjoyed watching, and one that I could “keep” long after the season was over. I have never heard anyone say “Man, I love baseball cards, but I just can’t stand watching them play, I hate the game itself”.

Baseball cards are not a commodity, like stock, that you can short, or capitalize, or monetize. They’re not fine silver or gold. They don’t stand separately in value outside of the player and moment represented on the card. Otherwise, a lowly bench player would be worth the same as a superstar. Let’s all face it, a piece of literal cardboard is not and will never be worth hundreds or thousands of dollars.

Fake rarity is also an abomination, and is their solution to their dying industry. 1/1, 2/5, 10/10, gold bordered, red bordered, strange foil patterns and colors do not change the value of cardboard. Red cardboard is the same as white cardboard. Foil stamping does not inherently make something valuable. When you print 10,000 cards, and color one red, you haven’t created something ultra rare. You’ve created 10,001 cards. It’s people who put the value on something. People who decide what something is worth. Wouldn’t you want to put those things into peoples hands? Wouldn’t you want to increase the number of people who think your products are neat, and that they might have value? Why would you then destroy your distribution channels and limit your options?

The only logical answer is that they’re scared. They nearly lost everything by “going big” and pushing cards on the general public. The junk wax era nearly ruined them and they’re scared of a repeat. So, instead of making their products better, and controlling production, and choosing sensible distribution, they’ve decided to change the narrative instead.

If we say something is “rare” then it is, right? If we create a fake supply problem, people will think “hard to find” must be valuable as well. There’s nothing wrong with their printing presses. There’s nothing wrong with their distribution model. This is what they want! Instead of finding new customers, they’re whipping the customers they have left into frenzies. They don’t look down on the secondary market because the secondary market LITERALLY drives the primary market forward. They’ve created a system where the initial market is so bad, it creates demand on the backend.

Imagine if any other product did that. Ice cream for example. If Ben & Jerry’s just up and decided that their ice cream was going to be sold exclusively in Vermont, and no where else, it would create an entire B&J black market. People in Vermont would be buying dry-ice, styrofoam shipping boxes and mailing that stuff everywhere for crazy prices. Real B&J fans would pay anything for some of the good stuff. The rest of us? We’d just pick whatever was in the freezer case at the grocery store and move on with our lives. That would put Ben and Jerry’s out of business, while making the secondary market temporarily rich.

Baseball cards went all high-end / specialty shop / online retailer, and the general public has turned away as a result. They’ve decided to live in their niche rather than break out of it.

Just yesterday I had a good friend tell me that his boys have been super excited about baseball after the World Series. I asked the boys if they wanted any cards and they kind of looked at me funny. Why? Why would they? They can’t afford to buy more. Their dad isn’t going to “hunt” for them in stores, and the retail options they have are disappointing to say the least. When your Target only has two boxes of NASCAR cards on the shelf, next to an ENTIRE WALL of pokemon junk, you’re not going to go out of your way and find baseball cards and start a new hobby you can’t possibly sustain. Right? If I gave those boys cards, where would they get more?

What if baseball cards were back at the checkout in grocery stores? What if they were in convenience stores? Maybe people would buy them, maybe they wouldn’t, but there’s no way to know unless something changes. It doesn’t even have to be all the products. Why not just flagship Topps, or Donruss for Panini? If there were packs of Flagship next to the gum at the checkout line, I would buy a pack each and every time I went to the store for something. I would. I also know that it’s a gateway product. Maybe I buy a pack here and there and all of a sudden I’m interested in buying more for “my team”, or maybe I want to buy the set now. Maybe I see what other products are out there. Maybe I become a collector. Maybe THEN I end up online, or in a specialty store.

It just seems like an industry that’s in desperate need of fresh blood should be doing everything it can to get at least a gateway product in front of new customers. Otherwise they’ll be stuck with a bunch of old grumpy dude trading slabbed and graded Aaron Judge cards online until the industry finally dies.

Computer Conundrum

Computer Conundrum

So, I’m at a bit of an impasse in regards to rewiring the technology in our house. I was hoping some of my tech professional friends could offer their $0.02 and point me in the right direction. Here’s the deal:

With the house/walls open and with me switching rooms in the house for my study/man cave, it’s the perfect opportunity to do things like run Cat-6 everywhere, wire for speakers, and set up a “proper” server closet. Running the actual cables I can do, I’ve done that before. The server configuration has me a bit perplexed though.

The set up I was using prior to the flood was: 2 PCs, 2 TVs with Roku boxes, 2 game consoles, and 1 older PC with FreeNAS installed acting as both a file server and Plex media server, and average coverage (from the AT&T box) wifi. The PCs, TVs, consoles and Roku boxes were all hard-wired within the network. I did drops of Cat-5e when we moved in. There were two 8-port switches on the network as well.

My immediate goal is to upgrade 1 of those PCs (my personal machine), as well as the server (storage), and to wire the house for anything and everything I might need in the future.

Here’s what I have at the moment for hardware to either use or to gut and Frankenstein something together with:

  • 3 older (2008) Mac Pros (Snow Leopard and Lion)
  • 1 slightly less old Mac Pro (mid 2010 – Quad Core Xeon) running El Cap (10.11.4)
  • 1 super old Dell (Precision 690 – older Xeon)
  • 1 slightly less old Dell (Optiplex 960 – Core 2 duo), might be dead from flood
  • 1 older custom PC (Intel z77, older gen i3, 8G DDR3)
  • 1 newer (wife’s) custom PC (newer gen i5, 16G DDR3)
  • 1 ultra old Frankenstein PC (Athlon 6400?) – Current server
  • 2 8-port Netgear Pro GS308 switches
  • 1 Netgear Nighthawk Gigabit wifi router (new!)
  • 1 very old 24-port Linksys rack-mounted managed switch (10/100 only)

I bought the Nighthawk just last month to accommodate us at my in-laws house while we’re staying there. Their house is a dead-zone for cell signal and their old wifi only went about 20ft. The Nighthawk covers half the neighborhood. It’ll come with us back to the house when we’re done, so I’m not concerned about the wifi at the moment.

The question is, do I use the last PC I built and turn it into a server (the older gen i3) and add storage, or given it’s age and that it was built for gaming and gives off tremendous heat (much more than your average Xeon or HTPC), do I just retire it and built not only a new PC, but a server as well? I could stuff the thing with IcyDock hard drive trays and hope the heat doesn’t kill them.

Or, if I build a server, what’s a good (and current) option as far as hardware, given that it’ll be literally in a closet? Do I build or would something like a Synology NAS also work? I need something to run cool and silent but have enough horsepower to trans-code 1080p to the TV in the living room. It’s primary job will be as a Plex server. I also want to do things like setup a PiHole, DD-WRT and/or possibly a VPN, Sonarr, Radarr, Couchpotato, and be able to access OwnCloud or SyncThing from the outside. Would any of the old hardware work for those things? Should I built a server box that can handle all that, or use specific older systems for specific tasks?

I also want to run Cat-6 to at least 6 rooms, if not more, with multiple lines per room. The living room for example, will need at least 4 lines (TV, Roku, game console/bluray), or 1-2 lines and a switch. I’m thinking I’ll need at least a 24-port switch in the closet. Any recommendations on panels, or ways to organize all those cables coming into the closet?

Lastly, I’m planning on venting the soon-to-be server closet with a ceiling mounted “silent” bathroom fan, but I’ll need some way to store all these things in a small hallway closet. I do, technically, own a rack. It’s an old 8ft HP cabinet, got it at a yard sale, no joke. Should I put a rack in a closet, or just use shelves?

Any thoughts, ideas, configurations, tips, etc. would be very very helpful at this point. Although I dabble, network configuration is not my forte. I tend to “cobble together” what I have sitting around, and for once I’d like to do this properly and future proof it a bit. HELP!

 

 

Where did October go?

Where did October go?

Where the heck did October go? I swear it was just September and I was posting about cleaning out soggy drywall from the house. That’s moving slowly by the way. I know I haven’t been updating because, honestly, it’s kind of a bummer to think about as it’s happening. We’re still a long way off from being back in the house. Funding has been secured though and we’re moving forward with bids and estimates from contractors. The plumbing work has begun in earnest. It needs to happen first before walls get closed up. We decided to do a whole house re-pipe. Every wall we opened up exposed more and more old galvanized pipes. They were deteriorating pretty badly, some nearly rusted through. It made more sense to do it all while the walls were open than to put drywall back only to have to tear it out again if we had a leak or a plumbing problem down the line. The same goes for the electrical. The house has old 14-guage un-grounded wiring. It makes more sense to do that now rather than risk a fire (or something just not working) later on.

So, when people ask “are you done with the house yet?”, and I just kinda laugh and say “no”, they get confused. Most people are thinking it was just a matter of putting sheet-rock back and moving on with our lives. Nope. While we could have, and did contemplate that, it made more sense to do all these actual repairs and improvements. Yes, it will take ten times as long. Yes, we won’t be back into the house for at least another two months. Yes, it’s expensive. It’s also getting all those “remodeling” projects that people do over their lifetimes completely out of the way all at once. Seriously. I won’t have to re-tile a bathroom, update a living room, repaint a bedroom, refinish a cabinet, or any of those other weekend DIY projects FOR DECADES. That’s kinda neat.

There’s other projects that have a higher chance of actually happening now as well. A home server rack for example. While I haven’t decided if I’m going “rack mounted” or “old PC in a closet”, there’s going to be some network upgrades happening for sure. I’ve already gotten the ok to take over what was the wrapping paper closet in the hallway, and I’ve been looking up ventilation solutions (hint: silent bathroom fans, who knew?!) and wiring ideas. If anyone has any expertise in that, I’d love to pick your brain.

The other thing that’s kinda neat is that I might be able to “finish out” the garage. We’ve already gotten it sheet-rocked and last weekend we installed a window A/C unit to keep the room cool. We’re using it as storage for the furniture that was salvageable. So, it’s filling up quickly, but it’s cool and dry, and after all is said and done, it’ll make a great work space for all sorts of other fun stuff. I’ll have new walls, A/C, and I’ll probably epoxy the garage floor when we’re done with it.

So, where does that leave us? Well, we’re about a mile or two down a very long road. Lots and lots of hard work ahead. We’re trying to save money any way we can while getting the most out of the remodel. So, that means things like sanding, cleaning, demoing, putting down laminate floors, putting up drapes, painting, etc, will all be done by us. The harder stuff like plumbing, electrical, AC, tile and cabinets will get handled by our collection of professionals.

I feel weird posting about stuff other than baseball, baseball cards, BBQ, and everything else I normally enjoy. There just hasn’t been any time for that stuff. It’s going to be a long, tiring winter. We’re up for the challenge. It just might not make for interesting blog posts. Hopefully we’ll get back to normal soon. Fingers crossed.

Harvey Update

Harvey Update

So, we’re sort of in limbo at the moment. We’ve gotten to the point where most of the house is cleared out (material wise) and everything has been drying for two weeks now. They say you need to let studs and concrete dry for 2-3 weeks before spraying the mold control solution on it. That time gives everything a chance to either bloom (mold) and be identified as a trouble spot, or to dry completely and be treated as a preventative. We’ve had fans going full blast since the week of the storm. The electricity bill is going to be ridiculous this month, but if it helps prevent mold, it’s probably worth it.

Unfortunately, as we’ve been assessing things, and trying to make plans for repair, we keep finding little spots we missed. The kitchen cabinets for example. We thought they were fine a week ago. Yesterday we looked deep into the backs of them and two of them have spots we’re concerned about. They’re also “job built” cabinets (built directly onto the wall, not an enclosed box that can be removed), so we’ll have to crawl into them, cut out the sheet rock from the backs of them, and spot treat them to prevent more mold.

Mold. Man, what a pain in the ass. If you don’t get it all, it will kill you. Literally.

 

A lot of people also keep asking where we are with the rebuilding process. Unfortunately, “nowhere” is the answer. You see, for situations like this all sorts of processes and systems swing into action (or lack there of). Here’s how the basic process works, for those of you unfamiliar (and I hope you are) with natural disasters:

First, you call your insurance agent and start a claim. You do this whether you have coverage for whatever actually happened or not. Even if you don’t, as was our case, being “denied” is actually an important step. So, we have “home owners” and “wind storm” coverage, but not flood. We didn’t live in a flood plain, it hadn’t flooded in the recorded history of people living in this area. 500 year flood. Literally. So, we’re going to get ZERO from our home owners policy, but the inspector has to come out anyway. He’s not coming until NEXT WEEK. For those of you keeping track, that’s 4 weeks after the storm. Obviously, they’re busy people, but that’s kind of a long time, and starting to get on my nerves. We might be shopping for new home owners quotes next year. I digress.

Second step is FEMA. We applied for FEMA assistance while the storm was actually still on-top of us. This past Friday (3 weeks post storm) we went to a FEMA support center and waited for 2 hours to actually talk to someone in person. The way FEMA works is that they help if you don’t have insurance, and/or that you’ve been denied by your insurance (see why the above step was first!). A FEMA inspector needs to come out now and do an assessment, after you provide proof that you’re denied coverage. That’ll be some time in the next 20 days. We learned on Friday that our case has been assigned an inspector and that they’ll call to set up a time to meet.

Then, FEMA sends you to talk to the folks at the SBA (Small Business Association). They have a loan program for natural disaster relief. See, if you’re not completely and totally poor, they’d like you to pay back a loan rather than get a hand-out, which makes sense. I’m not opposed to paying back the repair cost, and the loans are long term with very little interest. So, we went through that process, but that process relies on the assessment of the inspector to get a ball park range for the cost of repairs.

The step after that is to contact Texas ONA, which is a supplemental agency designed to help replace person possessions. FEMA helps with the house, the ONA helps with your stuff. As is apparently the case for every agency, they ALSO send an inspector. That’ll be a couple weeks from now (like 5-6).

This has all made me borderline crazy. I’m an impatient person, and bureaucracy is the very definition of slowness. I WANT TO FIX THIS… and I can’t. I have to wait for all of this to run it’s course because people coming to assess damages want to SEE DAMAGES. I can’t fix things until they see them.

So, what’s MY plan? My plan is to do everything in my power to make things stupidly easy for an inspector. Everything has had a picture taken of it, everything has been documented. I’m creating spreadsheets, I’m printing photos, I’m burning DVDs of all this, etc. By the time an adjuster comes out, I want to hand him a folder of stuff with an already tallied number and be done with it all.

I’m also trying to prep a work space. Since my garage was totaled, and is now empty, that seems like a logical place. Re-sheetrocking it will take 10 sheets total, which is doable on our current non-existent budget. My father-in-law has an unused (still on box), window AC unit he’s giving me, and I have a couple saw-horses as a make shift table. If I can get the garage clean, dry and below 100 degrees, I can store furniture in it, cut sheet rock, paint stuff, etc. My friend Jack has also arranged a “POD” to be delivered next week, giving me storage space for all the hard case furniture and stuff that might be ruined in a garage. So, next week, if I can get those two spaces up and running, we’ll essentially “move out” of our house, so that work can be started the minute we get past all this inspection stuff, which should (and I’m being optimistic) be sometime in October.

Then we rebuild.

That’s easier said than done, but I’m sure I’m going to have lots more posts on that.

That brings me to the final part of this post. I’ve had dozens and dozens of people ask me how they can help, and I’ve had a very hard time answering that question. I’m normally not one for charity, but I also recognize that people want to help and that I should respect that. My friends made me accept donations last week and it brought me to tears. It was so meaningful and powerful, and a good reminder to check your pride at the door if you’re ever in need of help. They felt good about giving, I felt overwhelmed by their generosity.

With that in mind, someone suggested I make a list of ways and means that people can help.

First, we set up an Amazon Wishlist called “Because of Harvey”. On it, I’ve just been putting immediate needs and things we discover are broken/un-salvageable because of water damage. It’s mostly random, and runs the gamut between respirator filters, bed pillows, and a pair of shoes. It’s little stuff that I wasn’t thinking of “putting up” when we were trying to get things out of the way of water. The kiddo had toys on the floor in the playroom that are now covered with creek water/slime. I had shoes under the bed and my pillow fell off and was on the floor. Stuff like that. I don’t expect anyone to buy any of that stuff, but if you feel lead in some way, it’s an open and public list, and it directly replaces things we lost.

Next, home repair is obviously going to be huge this fall. I’m sure I’m going to be buying truck loads of sheet rock screws, paint, base board, and all the random tools to do all of this with. I’d never turn down any help in the form of Home Depot or Lowes giftcards. They would be well and truly used to help put this mess back together.

If you would rather support organizations that helped us directly, there are two outstanding groups of people that came through in our time of need:

First, our church, Second Baptist Houston, organized entire crews of people to help not only church members, but our entire community. They had, at last count, 30,000 volunteers who cleaned/demoed/mediated 2500 homes in a two week span. If you feel lead to support the work these awesome people did, they set up a Flood Relief Fund through PushPay, and I can attest to it personally that every dime of it is going to help Houston families clean and rebuild.

Next, the people who actually rescued us were part of that rag-tag group of heroes known as the Cajun Navy. The boat we were in was driven buy a couple Texans from Dallas, but they were part of the Zello network of Cajun Navy guys who were operating in our area. They’re slightly harder to donate to, but as it’s a citizens group, I’m sure they’re dispersing the funds with the least amount of red-tape possible. These guys, literally, saved our lives and the lives of hundreds of families in our neighborhood. They have websites here, and here, and a facebook page here, both with ways to contact and donate.

Last but not least, there are several groups who came from far and wide to help Houston and Friendswood in general. The Glen Burnie Volunteer Fire Department drove all the way from Maryland and set up shop at the elementary school and cooked hot meals for two weeks! The group from Samaritans Purse was in our neighborhood demoing houses. The First Methodist Church of Waco drove all the way down and handed out 5 gallon painters buckets filled with cleaning supplies. The list goes on and on, but I know those specific groups were very visible and right in the thick of it these past couple weeks.

There has been such an outpouring of support that I just can’t thank everyone enough. I’m constantly overwhelmed by the love and well-wishes from everyone. You are all amazing. Thank you all again, from the bottom of my heart.

 

Hurricane Harvey

Hurricane Harvey

I don’t even know where to begin. I can already tell that this post is going to be all over the place. I’ve been writing it in my head for a week and a half now.

Man. What a crazy two weeks. The short version is that we’re ok, everyone is safe, the house is a bit beat up, but the important things (the people) are safe.

The long version started two weeks ago: Tuesday, Aug 22nd, we had heard rumblings about a storm in the Gulf, coming up from across the Yucatan Peninsula. It had crossed the Atlantic with little issue and wasn’t really anything anyone was concerned about. It was going to bring some rain, probably to the lower Texas coast, closer to Mexico. No one really thought anything of it. We went grocery shopping like normal, picking up our usual items, and stopped in the water isle, laughing to ourselves that we should pick up an extra case “because of the storm”.

Wednesday, we all went to work like normal, the storm had crossed land into the Gulf and looked like it was going to strengthen a little. Still wasn’t sounding any alarms in any hurricane centers, and was widely considered to be “just a tropical storm”. Those happen all the time, especially this time of year and in the Gulf. We went and got some extra supplies. Even though it was “no big deal”, Texans like to be prepared and lots of people started stocking up.

Thursday the 24th is started sounding a little more serious. At this point Meteorologists are saying the storm has changed course and is headed directly for Corpus Cristi. Weathermen here in Houston are saying we’ll be on the “dirty side” of the storm and to expect a long weekend of rain. We knew it was going to rain, that much was certain, I think the initial forecast was a couple inches, maybe upwards of a foot. When Houston gets that sort of rain a lot of the highways are shut down for the day, we have a little local street flooding, but nothing major. People were starting to pay attention and prepare, but no one was thinking evacuation. Rain is nothing new for Houston, and we know how to handle “normal” rain. Harvey became anything but normal.

Friday, the 25th, everything changes. The high/low pressure systems that were the steering currents completely disappeared. Harvey makes landfall along the southern Texas coast, right around Corpus. It strengthen overnight from a Tropical Storm/Cat 1 to a Category 4 hurricane. I think everyone was pretty surprised by that. The storm track models went from “strait north” to “we have no clue” and several showed the worst case scenario, a storm that was just doing loops over eastern Texas. That’s exactly what happened.

I should clarify again at this point that rain, especially tropic storm rain, is nothing new or unusual for Texas. We get 1-2 a year, it rains for a day and moves on. What Harvey did was completely unprecedented. It did 3 loops, restrengthen in the gulf, hit us a second time, and dumped literally historic amounts of rain. Anyway, Friday night is started raining. It rained, and rained, and rained.

It was raining so hard we couldn’t sleep. We were up all night checking weather reports. Houston stations were broadcasting 24/7 through the event. No one slept. We just watched.

Saturday morning came and we could barely tell. The sky was black, the rain was sheeting in blankets of white. Rain was coming down so hard “buckets” doesn’t begin to describe it. We found out later that we were dead center of the worst of it. Towns to the east and west of us got 25-30 inches. We got 49. 49 inches. Try and wrap your head around that for a minute. The local weatherman said Houston typically gets 50-55″ of rain A YEAR. We got 49″ in a weekend.

Towards Saturday afternoon we were starting to second guess our choice of shelter. Our home had never, since it was built in ’68, ever flooded. During a huge storm in 1979 it was high and dry. During Hurricane Alicia in 1983 the house was fine. During Hurricane Alison in 2001 it was fine. We picked what we thought was the highest, safest house. We had all our storm supplies there, all our water, our flashlights, our snacks. By Saturday night we could see water at the end of the street, and it was rising fast. You’d have to know the topography of our street, but the short version is that we’re on a hill, the road slopes downward, towards the creek, the houses at the end of the street are 15ft +/- lower than ours, and that behind those houses, there’s a 20ft bank down to the creek. The creek is also about 8ft deep during most normal rain storms, and can even dry down to 3-4ft in a dry spell. So, there’s quite a bit of height (we thought) between us and any water.

I was watching the flood gauge website (yes, that’s a thing) for the Harris County Flood Control District. A few years ago, at most major creeks and bridges, the county installed sensors to monitor the water level. Check this out…

 

You can see how the water in the creek, before it started raining on Friday, was about 4ft. By Saturday at lunchtime it was 23.5ft. “Flooding” level is 12ft. We were 12 more feet beyond that. What’s ironic/ridiculous/crazy is that I took that screenshot on Monday night WHEN THE SENSOR BROKE. I’ll get to that.

So, Sunday morning we wake up to 24ft of water in the neighborhood. That’s nuts. Just bonkers. No one has ever seen anything like this. The water is lapping at our front door. We freak out.

We spend Sunday morning putting things in the attic, in the tops of closets, any place we can find, because the water is STILL RISING. Harvey is far from done. The storm is in-land now, but spinning back out into the Gulf, sucking up more water and coming back for a second landfall, this time right on top of us.

By Sunday afternoon we were beside ourselves. Water was coming in the back door and the front door, surrounding us. The town sent out an emergency phone message saying “if you can, get to your roof” and informed everyone that the Blackhawk helicopter squadron from Ellington Airbase was running rescue ops and pulling people off roof tops. Not even kidding. The city sent that out.

At this point we decided we needed to go. We’ve got a kiddo, and an elderly grandfather with us, and while riding in a Blackhawk would have been cool, it probably would have killed grandpa.

That’s when the boat stopped by. I need to pause here and cry for a minute, because these guys probably saved our lives. This is literally the best example I could give of people helping people, neighbors helping neighbors. These guys came from Dallas. They drove, overnight, in the rain, to come to Houston and start pulling people out of flood waters. Regular guys, fisherman, people who just have a boat for fun, came to rescue people, and they weren’t the only ones. They had organized with the Cajun Navy, and they came by the hundreds.

I’m sorry, gotta stop, literally crying right now.

It might not look like it, but there’s a 7ft vertical difference between our door and our mailbox. What you’re looking at is at least 6ft of water. It rose from there. I took that photo about an hour before the boat came and got us.

They pulled us out and took us over to a gas station down the road, which was the last dry land for miles. There, we waited, along with hundreds of other people from our neighboorhood, including friends of ours from down the street. Our friends house is “down by the creek”, or, at least is was. There’s not a lot left of it now. They got about 8ft of water in their house, it was lapping at the ceiling in places.

From meeting up at the gas station, we decided we should stick together. They have two little girls the same age as ours and they play super well together so we kind of took them in. So, now the group of us (8 in total) are sitting there, shivers and wet, watching the water continue to rise.

After a couple hours, and numerous reports that the National Guard was coming (side note – they never made it in, the water was too high for their trucks!) we had an offer from a second boat to take us across the flooded creek to a shelter. We took them up on their offer and got ferried to the other side of town. There was, ironically, another gas station as a dry spot on the other side of the town and we were dropped off there.

Sunday night the local police department had dispatched some officers in DUMP TRUCKS to come get some of the people who were stranded. We got a dump truck ride (can cross that off the bucket list) to the shelter at the highschool. The volunteers there were warm and welcoming, we got PB&Js and blankets and the kids played while we tried to figure out our next move.

The shelter was a couple miles from my father-in-laws house, and so during a quick break in the rain we walked (in water mind you) to his house to check on it. In a minor miracle, his house was ok, and actually still had power. We walked back, collected our things (we only made it out with a couple backpacks), and made the trek to his house were we all passed out from exhaustion.

Monday morning we awoke to more rain. Hard, evil rain. Harvey was making it’s second push into land and this time was right on top of Houston. The wind was worse, the rain was harder (if that’s even possible), and I spent hours just staring at the flood gauge website. It had peaked at 23.5ft when we got out, and we had about an inch in the house. Monday’s rain pushed it even higher, probably another 6-8″. This is when the flood gauge broke. At 25ft it washed away and off of the bridge. We’ll never know how high it actually got, but my guess is 30ft. That’s just based on the 6″ in our house and the 24ft when we left.

At this point, there was nothing to do but sit, wait, and cry.

Tuesday was a loss. No one slept, or ate, or said much of anything to each other. The kids played together, which was good, they needed a little distraction. We applied for FEMA numbers and started insurance claims. The house, the cars (which were of course in our driveway), everything. Want to know the kicker?

We don’t have flood insurance.

Yeah. Hindsight is 20/20 of course, but this isn’t a flood plain. Well, technically everything is a 500yr flood plain, but it’s not one of those “100 year flood plains” that requires flood insurance. Like I mentioned before, the house had never flooded. I’m guessing they’ll be redrawing the flood maps after this one.

So, all this home damage, all this property damage, it’s not covered. We’re screwed.

We also realize that there are people considerably less fortune than us. Yes, we lost furnature. Yes, we lost “stuff”. Yes, we lost carpet and flooring and drywall, but so what. We didn’t lose any lives. We didn’t lose anything that can’t be replaced. We, our family and our friends, are safe. Now we clean up, and rebuild.

So, that brings up to last Wednesday. We’ve been sitting and waiting and trying to figure out how we can get back to see the house. We can’t, the creeks and streams are still way to high to even try. Although the rain has stopped at this point, we’re still stuck.

Thursday we got out. We had to drive two towns over and zig-zag back on country roads to get around things, but we were able to get to the house. It was heartbreaking.

Water everywhere, anything that was touching the ground was ruined. Amazingly the appliances seemed ok. The washer and dryer looked like they were high enough, and we had to toss the food in the freezer and fridge, but they seemed ok as well. While the bed frames looked wet, the mattresses were spared by the slimmest of margins. Again, small miracles, and again, we fared better than folks who lost everything. So, I’m trying to keep all that in perspective as I’m looking at all this.

There’s wasn’t anything to do but to get to work. So, Thursday, I rolled up my sleeves and started pulling carpet. All day Thursday I worked at it. The friend who was staying with us came to help and together the two of us cleared every piece of carpet from the house.

We cut it into pieces, hauled them out, then moved furniture and cut more. Thursday sucked. Hot, stinky and itchy. Fun fact, wet carpet fibers really do a number on your skin. Rash city.

Thursday night I got a call from my friends from church, Jason and John. They were mobilizing a “crew” as they called it. The church itself was also putting together teams. They said they were coming Friday. Everyone kept asking what I needed, and I didn’t even know.

Friday they came en mass. Thirty guys, including our pastor, descended on the house. They brought crowbars, drywall saws, wrecking bars, fans, bleach, and someone even brought breakfast. The love and support kept pouring out. Towards lunchtime, one of the guys who couldn’t be there ordered a dozen pizzas for everyone. My friend Jack from work even came and was helping cut drywall. I was blown away.

People’s generosity and hard work and love were overwhelming. I broke down a number of times on Friday. I didn’t know what else to do.

By Friday night they had the house gutted down to the studs. All the drywall and insulation is out, 2ft and 4ft in places, throughout the house. The wood paneling in the living room (from 1968 –  good riddance!) is gone, the flooring is gone, the carpet is gone. It was miraculous to watch. I don’t even have words for it.

Saturday I was spraying bleach and mold prevention solution but I knew I needed to do something else. I was a complete wreck emotionally and the house needed to dry out before I went any further. I wanted to give back a little, so we went to our friends house (the ones staying with us) and helped them get some things out, and then repeated that on Sunday. They lost so much it’s heartbreaking. I can only imagine that FEMA is going to simply write their house off. It’s a biological hazard at this point. They had put some things in the attic when the water started to rise, but everything in the house itself was lost.

Sunday night my buddy Kirk sent me a text and asked “Did anyone check out the garage, did it get any water?”

Oh no.

I hadn’t even looked. It’s been a week since the rain at this point.

It was worse than I thought. I think the garage must be geographically lower than the house, because it had a solid 8-10″ in it. Everything in the garage that was on the floor was ruined. It had sat in water for a week. There was more lost in the garage than the entire house combined. Sadly, the garage was where we were keeping just about everything as we had worked on the house over the years. Boxes and boxes of stuff, books, papers, things from college, older furniture, all trashed. Then the mold started to creep in.

If you get to it right away, and get carpet and drywall out, you can prevent mold. If you don’t, this happens…

 

So, Monday, a day that should have been a holiday for rest, became a demolition nightmare. Respirators were mandatory on this one. Again, our friends came to our rescue. Kirk organized another group and my brother came down as well. We emptied the garage (which was embarrassingly packed to the gills) and tore out all the sheetrock as well. Then we jumped on the mold problem and got some spray and remediation working on it as well. It’s still drying out even today.

With the house drying, and the garage drying, the past two days I’ve turned my attention to “stuff” and trying to save things. Anything that’s plastic and non-porous could possibly be saved if cleaned properly. I set up a three-stage cleaning station with some plastic bins in the backyard. First a tub of bleach water (10:1 ratio) with some of the good “outdoor” germicide bleach, then a soapy water rinse bucket with antibacterial soap, then a clean rinse bucket. After washing and scrubbing we set things out to dry on makeshift tables (sawhorses and plywood) in the backyard and let it all bake under the Texas sun.

So, that’s where we are now.

We’re pick up the pieces, dusting ourselves off, and are going to try and put this mess back together again. We lost a lot, I’m not going to lie, but it’s just stuff. Stuff can be replaced. Stuff is nice, but at the end of the day, it’s just not what’s important.

We’re safe. We’re ok, and we’ll get through this.

We’ve really been shown exactly what’s important. Friends, community, neighbors. People are what’s important. We’ve always known that, and helped others whenever we can, but to have the love returned in such force is breathtaking.

I’m blown away and deeply humbled by our friends. Everyone I know personally has reached out, and even some of you awesome folks who normally just stop by to read about baseball cards. You’re all awesome. Seriously, I mean that. If you said a prayer, wished and hoped for our safety, or reached out directly and offered shelter or supplies, I can’t thank you enough. People in the community have been ridiculously generous with their time, money and effort. We were supported by our church and our friends, but I saw other churches, police and fire departments, high-school sports teams and just random citizens banding together to help one another. Our neighbors house was cleaned out by the HS football team and the coaching staff, just because it was the right thing to do.

I’ve lost the words to express how proud I am of Texas, the communities here, and the people. There was no race, religion or political views last week. They were gone. It was people helping people. It still is today. A lot of people are hurting and will be for a long time. I obviously couldn’t see what they were showing on the national news, but if there’s nothing else anyone gleans from this disaster, it should be that when the worst happens, everyone comes together. I think that’s true of a lot of places, but I know first hand it’s especially true here.

I was brought to tears by my friends this weekend when they tried to hand us money. “No, that’s ok” I said, “we’ll be ok”. I would never burden anyone else with problems like this. “No, you’re going to take this, because we love you and we want to help”, they said. The outpouring of love is almost too much to take.

My parents are taking up donations at their church in New England, people are contacting me directly and saying “where can we send things”, random people I’ve never met gave me Chick-Fil-A gift cards yesterday because they were walking up and down the block and just wanted to help.

I just don’t know how to process this. I know it’s pride telling me that it’ll be ok, that I don’t need help, but the reality is much darker than my optimism, or the jokes I make about it to feel better. I don’t know what we’ll need in the coming days. I don’t know how to ask for help. I don’t know what kind of a financial impact this is going to have and for how long.

I feel lost, defeated, stressed out and I don’t know how to just “fix it” for my family. I don’t know what I’ve lost, we’ve hardly started taking stock, and I’m not sure how to handle things. So, that’s where I’m at. I’m metaphorically treading water. At least I’m not actually treading water. I don’t think I could take any more rain right now…