Habitat for Humanity changed my life

I volunteered once and a while with Habitat for Humanity for years. Since last summer, I’ve been a regular volunteer 2-4 days a week. It’s changed my life.

Since my retirement in 2011, I’ve been doing occasional volunteer projects, at church (web site, choir, Congregation Council, contribution accounting), helping seniors set up their computers, and with Civitan (and through them the Salvation Army, Special Olympics and the March of Dimes). I felt the need to do something more instead of sitting home, blogging and playing video games. As I get older, my perspective changes from personally getting along to giving back. Habitat game me a sense of mission. I feel like I have found my place in society (or the Kingdom of God if you will). It’s very gratifying to meet the new Habitat homeowners and hear their stories. It’s great to give these folks a leg up because we know that Habitat is part of many families’ success stories.1

My doctor told me that people who give back have better health outcomes than those who send text messages and hang out on Facebook all day. Indeed, I am feeling much better these past months both physically and emotionally. I’ve lost five pounds and I am in better condition to enjoy recreational activities than I have been in a while. They say that the key to a successful exercise program is finding something you enjoy doing. I enjoy building houses. I spent my professional career working on a computer—it’s nice to do something totally different.

I’ve made some super friends. Habitat volunteers are some of the neatest people you will come across because they all share the desire to give back. They are interesting, kind and compassionate people, and I’m privileged to be in their company. I can say the same thing for the Habitat staff. I also get to meet the future homeowners as they put in their required hours on their own house and others. Their stories of trying to make a better life for themselves and their families are inspiring.

Did I mention that I got some neat tools? I didn’t buy all that many tools (and a volunteer does have to buy any), but I know how to use them.2 When the deck stairs on my house started rotting, I knew from the experience of building a deck with Habitat just what I would need and how to do it. I can’t build a house from scratch, but I’m pretty good with vinyl siding and dozens of other construction tasks. My local Habitat affiliate provides formal training for volunteers, and I learn something every time I go out on a job site. Having these skills builds self confidence.

The final advantage is the one I feel the least comfortable about. In this part of the country, there a convention of society that when someone mentions that they are a military veteran, a non-veteran in the conversation will say “thank you for your service.” I get similar remarks when I say that I volunteer for Habitat. I don’t do it for the appreciation of others, but I get it anyway. Volunteer work for Habitat seems to meet with universal approval. I suppose there is some self-validation in those comments, but I don’t think I need it. Doing good is its own reward.

I don’t mean to say that I was miserable before and now I am happy. It’s not that stark a change, but all sort of good things have come out of my volunteering for Habitat for Humanity.


1There are many misconceptions about Habitat, foremost is that it gives houses to people. Habitat homeowners put sweat equity into their homes and their neighbors’ homes in addition to a mortgage. In Greenville County, the mortgage runs around $100,000 on a house that appraises for $125,000. The homeowner adds 200 hours of sweat equity to that.

2Habitat generally provides all the tools a volunteer needs. You might want to bring your own pair of gloves. In my tool belt, I carry:

  • Hammer
  • Utility knife & spare blades
  • Pencil
  • Pencil sharpener
  • Bullet level
  • Pocket square (Swanson speed square)
  • Measuring tape (25 ft.)
  • Vinyl shears
  • Claw bar (nail puller)
  • Nail set
  • Gutter nail driver (pea shooter)
  • Siding removal tool

I bought my own gloves and hard hat, but Habitat gave me a hard hat after I reached 100 volunteer hours last year (I had 342 total).

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The President is still the President and the Senate is still the Senate

That despite the outrageous calls from all of the GOP presidential candidates at the debate last night, that any Obama appointee to the US Supreme Court to replace Justice Scalia be blocked, and the decision be put off until the next president is elected.

They propose to cripple the Supreme Court for a whole year for their political advantage. (On a tie vote in the Supreme Court, the ruling of the Circuit stands.) This exposes the lie of these candidates that they support the Constitution and institutions of the United States. The Constitution calls for the president to nominate, and the Senate to advise and consent. These candidates want to throw the Constitution under the bus when it is to their advantage.

Some of us want government to play by the rules, no matter who is in power. If the Senate doesn’t want to vote on an Obama Supreme Court nominee until after the election, then they should all resign and give us a new Senate now.

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Microsoft Treasure Hunt strategy guide

The Guide is not a tutorial on the game, or a walk-through of the levels except for one sample. (For a walk-through, or details on achievements, try here.) To learn how to play, install the game and view the tutorial. This article assumes you already know how to play. It is a compilation of strategies to help you to play better. The guide is being updated as new strategies are developed. I have so far reached Level 240 and I very much doubt that I will be able to finish it.  I have completed all of the Awards. FYI, nothing special happens when you gain the 20th and final award.

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Microsoft Treasure Hunt Strategy Guide

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Hey Cortana, fry me an egg

Siri, Cortana and I just don’t get along. Today, I said “Hey Cortana, fry me an egg” and Cortana dutifully gave me a Bing search for “runyon nude.”

I tried preceding a pronouncement with the word “run” to get an application to execute. I said,  “Hey Cortana, run Word” and Cortana did a Bing search for “wrong word.” “Start” is the right way run an app, although when I said “Hey Cortana, start Microsoft Word” I got a Bing search result with a tutorial on how to start Microsoft Word. “Start Word” actually started the app.

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Installing Broderbund’s “Totally MAD” under Windows 10

“Totally MAD” is a collection of the issues of MAD Magazine from the start until 1998 published by Broderbund. The software was designed for Windows 95/98 or NT 4.0 (remember Windows NT?). I’ve successfully installed it under Windows 7, and it kept working when I upgraded to Windows 10; however, when I tried to install it on a new 64-bit Windows 10 machine, the installation program just didn’t do anything.

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I installed the program manually. Reply OK when asked for permission to copy the files in the following steps:

  1. For 32-bit Windows: create a folder called “Totally MAD”  under c:\program files
  2. For 64-bit Windows: create a folder called “Totally MAD” under c:\program files (x86)
  3. From the CD, copy all files from the WIN32 folder on the CD into the “Totally MAD” folder you created. Copy the files individually, not the directory itself.
  4. Copy the following directories from the CD into the “Totally MAD” directory you created: ANIM, BIN, BTNSND, FAVORITE, MSREG, NMS, PLS. Copy the directory itself, not just the files.
  5. Right-click on the file TOTMAD.EXE file in your “Totally MAD” directory, and select “Create shortcut” from the context menu. It will ask you to put the shortcut on the desktop. Say yes.
  6. Edit the file CNM.INI located in the “Totally MAD” directory in program files. In the section called “DIRECTORIES” change “=cd” to “=ed” in three locations so that it looks like the example below:
[Directories]
BIN=ed:\BIN\
MediaHeaders=cd:\MEDIA\
Media1=c1:\
Media2=c2:\
Media3=c3:\
Media4=c4:\
Media5=c5:\
Media6=c6:\
Media7=c7:\
NMS=ed:\NMS\
PLS=ed:\PLS\
ButtonSounds=ed:\btnsnd\
Anim=ed:\anim\

You cannot just run a text editor on this file because it is protected by the system. You will have to copy to another folder, like one of your documents folders. Edit and save it. Then use File Explorer to copy it back, and reply Yes to all the warning prompts.

You’re done. Just double-click the new icon on the desktop to run Totally MAD.

There’s one other thing you might want to do to complete the installation. Totally MAD wants to save its settings in the Program Files directory, which is a no-no under Windows 10. You can copy the PREFS.INI file from Program Files to some other directory where you can edit it, and make a couple of changes. The first is:

[Registration] 
NumTimes=1

That turns off the annoying registration prompt. The second turns off the prompt when you try to exit the program.

[Confirm] 
ConfirmExit=off

Now copy it back, responding OK to the Overwrite and Permissions prompts.

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