92-Disaster Recovery Lessons I Hoped Id Never Have to Learn - Bdale Garbee
Complete but unedited/unverified transcript
Thank you, so you know, um, how you end up giving talks like this one, there are a couple of things that happened this past year that caused me to end up giving this particular talk. Those of you who read the talk description will understand the sort of principle reason, and we'll get into more detail about that shortly, but the other reason that I'm here giving this talk is that I get this wonderful communication from Linux Australia and from the programme committee and so forth right around the time the CFP was closing, saying "Gee Bdale, we haven't seen any talk submissions from you this year". And I had one of those "[Bdale sighs] I just can't think about that right now" sorts of reactions, and when I said that, you know, I think trying to be nice me they said, "well under the circumstances would you like an extension on the paper submission deadline, and I said, "that's really very nice of you, I just can't imagine sort of having the time to come up with something that was talk-worthy to you know, would sort of justify that kind of treatment, and one of the folks replied and said, "Ahh come on now Bdale, you're going through an experience right now that you're bound to learn some interesting lessons from that, you know, we'd like to hear about, if you'd be willing to do it". And so, for better or for worse I said, "Ok, I guess I could try to that", and so here I am. Um, what I wanna do today, you know, look, I've been involved in the IT world for a long time, and for ten or twelve years of that career, I actually managed a group that maintained all the computing and networking infrastructure for a non-trivial little slice of old HP, R&D and manufacturing organisations. And so I spent way more than my share of time, you know, helping to write and review disaster recovery plans for you know, a major corporation. And not surprisingly, some of that rubbed off on me. So, at least a few of the lessons that I learned through that process have percolated into the management of my personal infrastructure, and the things that sort of mattered the most to me, but for better or worse, nothing always goes exactly the way you expect, and there are probably a couple of things I learned in the process of recovering from the events of last June that, you know, maybe you'll learn something from too.
It it sort of traditional though, that when I give talks at places like LCA, that there's at least one or two rocket photos, and I would admit that there are a couple of non-gratuitous rocket photos in this presentation. It's sort of part of the story of what happened after the fire. So, without a whole lot more ado, let me ask a couple of questions. So first of all, how many by show of hands, how many of you back up your computers. Liars! [Audience laughter] More serious question. Of those of you that back up your computers, how many of you do something to get your essential data off site? Right...
You know, I would have been one of the people who raised my hand on that too, um, it's a little embarrassing when I finally got to my bank to the safe deposit box and realised that the last snapshot of financial data I put there was [sheepishly] twelve years old [audience laughter]. You get busy you know? So the most important question is, if someone called you right now, and said, "Gosh, sorry, your house is gone", would that be completely devastating to you? I mean, is that, is, somebody asked me earlier today or yesterday, "Gee Bdale, if that happened to me, I don't know if I go on, how do you do it?". I mean would it be that kind of devastating, or would it just be a really bad day?
Think about it, ok? Because this sort of colours, you know, it certainly coloured some of my thinking since all of this happened, and I think it's you it's, some point all of these things boil down to, you know, some element of risk management, how much do you think you could deal with, and what would you want to have preserved one way or another if you found yourself in a circumstance like this, so you didn't feel like you couldn't go on. So what exactly happened? Well, on the afternoon of the 11th of June, my daughter and I were sitting in our living room in our house in Black Forest, Colorado, um, which some of you in the room have visited before, ah, reading email and catching up on things. My wife and son are off at the ice skating rink, 'cause he's [indistinct] had a practice session, and of a sudden we smelled a little whiff of smoke, you know the kind of thing you might smell if someone had a barbecue going in the neighbourhood. That seemed a little strange, didn't think much about it. Then, I don't know, somewhere between fifteen and thirty seconds later, there was a big whiff of smoke, that's like, that's not a grill, we both sort of looked at each other, jumped up, ran outside, looked at, you know, this is what we saw. Those are not clouds. That's a freakishly large column of smoke, that's certainly less than a kilometre away from the house. And there began what ended up being, sort of, a really crazy adrenaline-pumped afternoon. Um, it was interesting because in the first minute or so that we sort of stood there transfixed looking at it, we didn't hear much, and it didn't seem like things were particularly moving in our direction, but I realised very quickly that you know, wow maybe one of the neighbour's houses is burning or something. I went running down the driveway to see if I could see a little more about what was going, maybe you know, lend a hand to help or something, and as I got to the end of my fairly long driveway, there was a second or third fire department arriving, responding to the call, and one of the fire guys immediately looked at me and said, "Do you live down there?", and I said "Yes", and he said, "Well if there's anything you care about down there, you should get it out right now". And that's exactly how much warning I had. We didn't receive evacuation orders, we were too close to the point of origin. By the time they started doing reverse 911 phone calls and all of that, they'd already killed all the power to our neighbourhood, and everybody was either not there 'cause it was the work day and they were nowhere near home, or like us, they were frantically trying to cope.
I don't actually know how much time we spent putting things into a vehicle. Somewhere, you know, at least 20 minutes, maybe as much as an hour, I just don't know. The reason I don't know is, my whole sense of time went nuts. There's something that, running on that much adrenaline, every time we looked down the driveway and could see smoke and flames right sort of down at the end of the driveway, and, hadn't yet found the second cat, and knew that we really couldn't leave without her, you know the stress level's pretty high. We did eventually however, find the second cat, got her in her carrier, threw her in the back of the Suburban, and went to take off, and as we turned the corner at the bottom of the hill on our driveway and went to go up, this is what we saw. That photo you can't see it but as soon as you got past what you could see there, there's a wall of firefighters and flames and stuff had jumped the road and all of that. Actually right there, is active flame, and all of that stuff underneath those trees is either on fire, or has just burned. That's the side of my driveway. So by the time we went to leave, that's how close the fire was to our house. So what ended up happening was because there's only one road out, and the fire had already, due to high winds, been pushed across the road, and we weren't able to drive out, the fire guys after scratching their heads a little bit said, "Ok, park your vehicles here on your neighbour's property, and we will walk you out through the area that's already burned". And so my daughter and I sort of following directions, took the least we thought we had to carry, which is one cat carrier each, cell phone, keys and wallets, and that was pretty much it. I was literally wearing a pair of [indistinct] and pair of shorts that I'm wearing today. I was not wearing this T-shirt, I was wearing a drag racing T-shirt, and that's what I had on when I walked out.
We got dropped off after a substantial amount of walking, and then being sort of handed off between a couple of different fire groups that were going out to refill their vehicles and replenish and come back and fight some more. At an intersection just about two miles away from the house, and that's what it looked like, looking back in the direction of our house. In case there's any doubt, my house is just to the left of that freakishly large pile of smoke is. Even at this point, it was a little surreal, it's like, well, "that's bad, but it doesn't look that horrible", and there's a gazillion firefighters, and there's, you know, a steady stream of water trucks coming and going and, ah, you know, they'll get this under control".
By 9:30 that night, this is what the view from the other side of Colorado Springs looked like of Black Forest, and you know, it didn't get a whole lot better for a little bit. So just to give you a few statistics. The fire started around 1pm local time on Tuesday the 11th of June. By the time the fire had burned itself out, or gotten under control, something like 94,000 acres, which I'm told is 380 square kilometers had been evacuated, that's about 13,000 homes, about 38,000 people. This fire did start in a semi-rural residential, you know, part of this particular forested area. There's something around 500 firefighters involved, some numbers, I think the most they ever had fighting at one time was 457 or something like that, but I don't actually know exactly. They declared the fires fully contained on the 20th of June. To the best of my understanding, our house actually caught fire early in the morning of Thursday the 13th. Which is kind of interesting, it wasn't the day the fire started, even though it started so close. That's because it started just south of us, and the wind was blowing it hard east. Later the winds changed, and it kinda got blown back. Both of those times, the firefighters managed to keep the fire away from our house. Unfortunately at about four o'clock in the morning on the 13th, there's a flare-up just south-west of us, when the winds went to about 40mp/h, at you know, four in the morning when there's no air support for dropping water or anything. Apparently my house ended up under an ember plume that was something like a quarter of a mile long, and it was embers in the middle of the night that ignited the house. There was a scanner log entry from about 4:30-5 that morning where they said, you know, darn, another house is burning, and I'm pretty sure that was my house though I don't know absolutely know for sure. By the time it was all done, I had plenty of company. There's something, the numbers seem to vary, you know, in terms of exactly which ones you believe. I've heard everything from a low of 486 to a high of 511 homes completely destroyed. There are a bunch more that were damaged. Unfortunately two people died, and that's sad both because you know, they were just normal people trying to get their stuff loaded and get out, and from what I understand it seems like the fire jumped over them, surrounded them, and they were probably asphyxiated, but nobody, I don't really know for sure. But the other negative consequence of this is that all investigation of origin is therefore criminal investigation, until such time as they can prove it was not intentionally set. It has to be treated as if this were a you know, a murder/manslaughter whatever investigation.
So we were finally let back into our property on the 21st of June, and that's what it looked like. It's not a whole lot of fun. Now I understand that you know, we're not the only people who have ever had this happen to us, certainly here in Australia I think you are perhaps, better prepared to understand the ravaging power of wildfire than a lot of folks, even in the US. But certainly in the desert south-west in the states of Colorado and New Mexico, Arizona and Utah, we're kind of accustomed to having some of the same treatment that you see in some of your drier portions of Australia, but that's not a whole lot of fun to come back to. A couple of little things that you might notice in here, I don't know if I have a better way of point, but up on the left hand side against the wall about half way back is the milling machine I gave a talk about at Wellington? That *was* a very fine example of German automotive engineering, and unfortunately so was that, that's my son's project car, and more about that later.
Here's another view of what things were like afterwards. This was the Altus Metrum world headquarters, and my office and so forth in the basement of the house. You notice the swing gate rack on the wall back there a bit, had the networking gear on it, and just this side of it a couple of racks that had things, and these were all shelves and, you know, my workbenches and the RF and microwave test bench was sort of over in that corner. To give you an idea, the insurance guy said that normally when they see a house fire, they expect the temperatures to have been somewhere in the range of 2000-2200 degrees Fahrenheit. I'm sorry I didn't think in advance about trying to convert that. They say that my house though it's pretty clear they were above 3000F, and some of that has to do with the fact that the wind was howling, it was a wood frame house, there was a tuck-under garage, and once the garage door went, it would have had some kind of a chimney effect going on. There might have been an accelerant or two somewhere in the structure. [audience laughs]
There were no explosives, but there might have been some fast burning solids. In any case, you know it's a mess, and it's definitely not the sort of thing you want to come home to. You'll notice that's a substantial steel beam back there, a support beam across the corner that had just, kinda bent like a noodle. It's very interesting to see copper wiring that's completely burned and gone. Anything that was aluminum we found in sort of blobs of liquid on the floor. The one thing I didn't think to stick a photo in but, the one really cool thing that my son has left from his project car is the piece of art deco, modern art, whatever you want to call it, that was once the engine block and oil pan. Yeah it's all, you know kinda like that, so, look when something like this happens, have you thought about what you would grab, if you had to leave in a hurry? If you haven't, this is probably the biggest thing I would suggest you spend a little conscious time on. And you know, engage your significant other, the rest of your family, and talk about it. There's some stuff that everybody seems pretty certain to either grab, or have, or want to grab. Everybody we've talked to has asked about photo albums. Because after all, particularly in the pre-digital era, you know, photos were sort of unique, they're the story of your life as somebody once said. If you don't have them, it's very hard to get them back. It's a little easier these days with digital cameras. You're more likely to have a copy of the bits somewhere, but probably on your laptop, probably on a server in the basement. Maybe a few of the best ones you know, are stuck out in a server farm in California somewhere or something. I'm sure they're all in Utah, but [audience laughs] not always so easy to get from there. Jewellery: My wife had some heirloom jewellery, and you know, hand-me-downs from her mother and grandmother and so forth, and that probably had more emotional significance to her than anything else. She put it very near of the list. Unfortunately there were some other super-sentimental things for her that hadn't really made it into my mental list which, I will get to spend the rest of my life being reminded of [audience laughs]. And for me, not surprisingly, the most important stuff in the house were the three most important gag.com servers. And oh yeah, notebooks would be nice too, but when you host, sort of most of your life yourself on a couple of servers sitting in your house or apartment, it's surprising how much that particular set of spindles can mean to you.
There's probably some things you haven't thought about as much. If you're evacuated, you really want your own mobile phone charger. I can't, you know, even in this modern era where everything sort of takes micro USB cable, let me tell you, if you are wedged into somebody else's house, as a host family along with a second evacuated family, you know, having to sort of, schedule who's going to recharge what/when gets old in a hurry. Identity documents. I actually fortunately my wife and I had literally two days earlier come home from our 25th wedding anniversary trip and, that was great by the way [audience applause starts] Would love to have basked in the glory a little longer [audience applause ends]. But a pleasant consequence of that is her passport was still in my computer shoulder bag, and so when I grabbed my laptop and threw it in the vehicle, I did end up with both her and my passports there. My daughter had hers, my son's had expired, so that was all cool. Of course, then they ended up in the vehicle that we had to park and walk away from, not so cool. I didn't think about the key to our safe deposit box at the bank, where all the birth certificates and marriage certificate and all that stuff are. You'll be shocked to hear that when we were allowed back to the site, the very first thing I did was drop a ladder down in that corner of the basement, go to that drawer in what was left of my desk and I found that key. And I'm even more pleased to report that it worked *once* before it twisted into nothingness. And so I didn't get stuck having to have the box drilled, I was actually able to get into it, but that, for the week or so that I didn't know if I'd be able to find that, that was pretty harsh personally, so you might think about things like that. And sort of related all of that, you find yourself dealing with something like this, bank account numbers, insurance policy numbers, contact information for all the important people in your life, that stuff really matters, and so I strongly suggest having it in a couple of different forms and available to grab in a hurry.
Next thing: What's your insurance like? It's an unfortunate reality that in the Black Forest area of Colorado, a lot of folks were grossly under-insured. Some of this is because there were people who were second, third, maybe even fourth generation living in the same piece of property, you know, the mortgage had been paid off years ago, they didn't owe anybody any money for the property, they were just paying taxes and insurance, and that meant the insurance was a big part of what they were paying. And so they weren't paying for any more than they absolutely had to. That kind of hurts when all of a sudden it's gone. There were probably people who weren't insured at all. There's sort of five pieces to the insurance that I had, I was fortunately one of the lucky ones. I don't know why, but I made some good choices a bunch of years ago, twenty six and a half years ago when I bought that house. There, you know each policy sort of has (at least in the US, and I assume it's very similar here), there are different coverages for the structure, the primary structure, for the contents, your personal property, for, in my case, we had coverage for loss of use of the structure, which I didn't even realise, I'd never really read that part of my policy. About the loss of use means that insurance company's paying for the apartment that we're living in right now, and will continue to pay for that until the replacement house is built, which is pretty cool. There's some coverage for outbuildings, secondary structures they're called, and that was kind of intriguing, the insurance company even looked at my son's fort way down in the corner of the property, which was badly fire damaged, and the adjuster sort of looked at me and I looked at him, like, "we're not going to have this conversation are we?", and he said "I have two questions for you", and I said "Yep", and he said, "First of all, would you let your child play in this in it's current state", and I said "No", and he said, "Ok, it's completely destroyed, even though there are some vestiges standing, it's completely destroyed". And the second question was, "If you were going to leave here, would you take this with you, you know, if it were still intact, would you take it with you?". And I said, "No". He said, "Ok, so it's a permanent structure and it's been completely destroyed. Great. It's an outbuilding" [audience applause].
And then there was another chunk of stuff that was for landscaping, and it was like, "landscaping, we live in the woods". And he said, "Oh, you know, replacement of trees counts as landscaping". I said, "Alright, well how do we handle this?". He said, "we're going to walk around and count the number of trees that had been completely destroyed, and therefore should be replaced [audience laughs] and I'm allowed to give you up to a certain maximum number of dollars per tree for replacing trees". And it, you know, took standing in one place and kinda looking around and doing this to get to the limit of coverage and to decide to write us a check for that so, that was all pretty cool. The other interesting thing that I'd never really thought about very much, but I guess I picked the right option at the time, is the difference between replacement cost coverage and actual cash value coverage. The people who had the cheapest policy terms had actual cash value coverage. What that means is when the house goes away, the insurance adjuster wants to know, when did you buy that, and what did you pay for it, and then they do the depreciation calculation and figure out what they think it was still worth. Which in a lot of cases when you do capital calculations like that, if it's old enough, it's basically worth 10% of what you paid for it. That's what it sits at until it's no longer useful. So for a lot of folks in the US, that was pretty harsh. That meant that they had, you know, a certain amount coverage for the contents of their house, and they weren't able to get anywhere near the limit. [Bdale invites Jeff's comment] Jeff: "the old microwave stuff, a lot of that's irreplaceable [indistinct]" Bdale: They had no idea how to value any of that. So I was lucky I had a replacement cost policy. Now for the contents that was really cool, because I said, "Ok, so what you're saying is, you would pay the replacement, whatever it cost to replace this stuff that I had", and they said, "Yeah", and I said, "Ok, we have a problem, 'cause a lot of things I had are not going to be replaceable", and they said, "Well you know, closest currently available equivalent". I said, "Fine". So the game became how little personal strife do we have to go through, how little can we think about the details of all the little things we had, and max that coverage out. And so not surprisingly we started with most expensive things in the collection, and by the time I got to the end of the RF and microwave test equipment, and the end of the CNC machine tools and the auto repair tools and the welding gear, and the and the and the and the, we never actually had to put my wife through the stress of thinking about everything in her sewing studio, 'cause we got to the point where we hit 95% of the limits of coverage by the time we'd done about 50% of the floor space, and they said, "Yep, ok you win, we're going to pay out the full policy amount". Now I will mention that there was one oddity in all of that, they looked at my long list of RF and microwave test gear and the adjusters didn't say anything right away, but about a week later I got a phone call and they asked me if they could ask me some questions and record the call. And I said, "Ok", and after a few of the questions had been posed and answered, I realised that what they were after was, "Isn't a lot of this actually business equipment? This couldn't possibly be personal property could it?". And I'll bore you the details the rest of the conversation, the bottom line was, they finally got around to asking the important question: "Have you ever taken a business tax deduction for any of these items". I said, "No", and they said, "Ok. Personal property, we're done". And so in the end they maxed that out. The weird part of having replacement cost was on the structure, because the very first thing I said to them is, "We've going to rebuild on the same property, it will not be the same house". So, how do you handle replacement cost coverage on a structure if you're actually going to rebuild the same structure? In the case of my insurance company they flew a guy up from Texas who spent two days sitting with me on the property and answering a lot of questions and so forth, and in the end, he drew a set of plans for the house that had been destroyed, and costed them out as if they were going to build that house. They used that to determine what, in our local market, it would have cost to replace the house as it stood. And they said, "Yep, ok, that's how much we owe you". And that was a really fascinating process. I don't really want to go through that again, but it was a whole lot better than being handed less money.
Ok, so what do you do to try and recover from all this? I've had lots of people tell me that they were sort of startled at how quickly we recovered from this whole incident, and I've never really known what to make of that. I certainly have friends who six months after the fire still hadn't quite really finished with the crying process. We spent about one night on that, and we got the word Thursday about 10-10:30pm something like that, and by the next morning my wife and I realised we needed to take ourselves off alone, go find lunch somewhere, and talk about it, make a few big decisions, and we did. It took us you know, amusingly less than five minutes to decide that we're going to stay, we're going to rebuild on the same property. And once we'd made those decisions, the rest actually just was really easy. I mean,it's really hard, but it wasn't difficult to make the decisions, it's just tough to do the things. The first thing I realised is that being homeless really sucked. And the idea that you know, we were sort of stuck living in somebody's basement, as nice as our friends were, and as grateful as I am for them taking us in and keeping us for a week+, we really needed to find somewhere to live again, and to do it fairly quickly. Amazingly, on the Friday afternoon after we had lunch together and made those decisions, we stopped by a Super Target store to pick up a more essentials, I think we needed some more shampoo and toothpaste and stuff like that. And as we came out of the store, my wife looked up the hill and pointed to this relatively new, very nice apartment complex, and said, "You know, while we're over here, we should go up there and walk into their office and just get a brochure". I said, "Sure". The following afternoon at 1pm we'd signed a lease and had a set of keys, so we were just lucky that the very first place we looked had an apartment that was adequate to our needs, and we were able to take care of the being homeless part, you know, within less than a day and a half after getting the word that the house was gone. Another piece of advice I got early on that we took to heart, and I would pass along to anybody else in a similar situation is, minimise the amount of stuff you buy expecting to throw it away. What I mean by that is when we went to populate the apartment, we sorta of had a choice with furniture, you could rent some stuff, you could borrow some things from friends, or you could buy some stuff that would only work in the apartment but wasn't you know, sort of the quality level you'd want to have when you move back into a house, and the advice we got was, don't sort of spend money on stuff that you don't want to keep. So, actually you know we've outfitted our apartment with things consciously thinking about, "is this something we would still want to have once we get back into a house we're going to live in for the rest of our lives". And that means that you know, it sort of minimised the amount of time until it started to feel like home, and we realised that these were our new things and they would be our things, you know, for a long time. Also thought it was really important to put a couple of things back to normal as quickly as possible. And you know, the insurance company showed up on the Monday morning after the fire and handed us an initial cheque, and a Visa debit card with a bunch of money on it, and a huge big binder with a copy of our policy and a lot of process information about how this was all going to work. They were really great, it was just sort of amazing. But it meant that we instantly had cash in hand that we could use to go solve a few problems. And the first thing was my son, as I said, was at the skating rink at the time of the fire. Unfortunately his cell phone was on the table by his bed in his bedroom, and so it was gone. The power had been cut and his room was dark, and when my daughter was rushing through looking for things she managed to grab his guitar, which was kind of amazing of her, but not the phone, and for a fourteen year old, not having his phone was really rough, not just on him, but on his friends. It took me, I'm ashamed to say, almost two days to get around to asking him if he wanted to borrow my phone to check in and see how his friends were doing. And they had about decided that he must be kinda dead and gone on Facebook or something, 'cause he just you know, they couldn't reach him. And so to my great pleasure, a very dear friend immediately coughed up a really nice phone for him out of a collection of ones he was no longer using, and we went and got him another SIM card and yeah he was back in operation within a couple more days.
The other thing is that not long before the fire [we] had just bought a new Visio digital internet capable TV thing for the living room in the house, it was a lot of fun actually, and we had all just basically gotten over the hurdle of learning how to use it and how to drive the remote control and it's like, "Oh God, I don't want to go through that again" [audience laughter] and it's the classic thing where you know, up or down, one or two clicks in size, it's like the UI was different, you know, different generation, I'd bought the wizzy new one of course, so I just made a command decision the day we moved into the apartment, I went down and bought the exact same TV again, and my son and I found a suitable stand for it, and we set it up in the living room. It's slightly larger than necessary in a little apartment [audience laughter], well, you know like, [laughter, applause] but in all honesty [takes audience question] well so the funny thing was yeah, I, we were keeping all the receipts for everything, and it took about three weeks I guess before they finally agreed that oh yes, we had documented that we had exceeded the limits of the coverage, at which point they said, "Forget the receipts, we're just going to write you the max sized cheque and we're done with that part of the coverage, and at that point I got to go shred the huge pile of receipts and not deal with all that paper anymore. I'm *really* bad with paper! But another thing that we went and did really quickly, you know, as you could probably tell for those of who who have met my wife and kids and have hung around with me before, we are very activities-oriented, project-oriented, we make things. And so I realised very quickly that you know we needed to get my daughter some art supplies and we needed a creative outlet, so another thing that we picked up really quickly was another 3D printer, and that's a Lulzbot Taz. I can't say enough nice things about the guys at Lulzbot. When I went to their website and went to order one they were not available, 'cause apparently the new Taz at that time had, they've been totally overwhelmed with orders and were way behind and because I knew the guy that had started the company, it's in Colorado up in Loveland I think, I sent him an email and said, "Ok dude, you know, when am I actually going to be able to buy one of these", and they sort of dropped everything and sent us one of the prototypes, which I just thought was amazing, and it's been great. My son realised you know, the day after it arrived that he didn't have a comb anymore, and instead of walking down the hill to the Super Target [audience laughs, applauds]. I'm really not kidding, and you know, door stops for the doors and it's amazing how all of a sudden you know, little problems that came up became an opportunity to go play with the 3D printer [laughter]. I can't tell, it sounds like I'm being frivolous about this, but it really genuinely honestly was part of the whole healing process was to kinda get our heads back in the, you know, we're Makers, we do this kinda stuff, this is how we're gonna recover. And then the other thing, we had some advice that was wonderful, to just treat this like you know, what you would do at a wedding or something like that and put some registries together, and put them up, because there are people kept pinging us and saying, "what can we do to help, what can we do to help?". When you move into an apartment that's not furnished, you don't have any stuff. One of my daughter's friends, who is a professional chef, my daughter reached out to her, and the two of them colluded over some combination of text messaging and email and they put together a list of sort of, the optimal minimal set of stuff to do real cooking in an apartment sized kitchen, and it was amazing. That all got put up as a registry, and one evening I added the URLs to the temporary web server and those of you who participated, thank you so much to everybody else in the world, I was amazed, twelve and a half hours later everything had been fulfilled. And for the next two or three weeks, ever delivery truck company in the world hated us because [laughter] they had to lug boxes of just about everything up two flights of steps to the apartment, but anyway.
Ok so then we sort of transitioned from that into cleaning up. I'm not going to go into a whole lot of details in this except to say that it was cathartic in some sense for us to us to actively participate in trying to shovel through some of the debris. We took out several hundred kilos of copper and aluminum. Copper these days is worth I don't know, in the US, on the order of $5 a kilo, so that felt amazingly worth the effort. We had some you know, silverware that had been given to us when we got married, and unfortunately there were a total of maybe two pieces out of the entire collection that were even worth keeping just to look at, much less to use. But we did actually locate the rest of the ball of melted metal and took that in and sold it all. My son and I lifted and heaved about six tons of scrap metal. Actually I should say we lifted and heaved it all twice, except for the last load, where we cheated a little bit. And in the end we really found very little that was intact enough to be worth keeping. It was really a few ceramics. A stupid little ceramic cup thing I using as a pencil holder on my desk office space in the basement actually survived almost entirely intact, and a Japanese doll I had been given in Japan on my first trip there, got hot enough that all of the painting and decoration was gone, but the remaining pristine white porcelain doll is in and of itself, rather striking, so, here's dear daughter sitting in my son's project car trying to find the brass commemorative plate. That was a 1977 Porsche 924 Martini & Rossi special edition, which was just about roadworthy again, and the, unfortunately she did find what was left of the little brass commemorative plate, it was a few drops of molten brass down on the bottom. We had lots of help shovelling through things, that's actually my son's skating coach and her husband and some other friends who came over to help. You can see by this point we'd separated out a lot of scrap metal, we'd pulled the cars out of the way, and you know, we're shovelling through looking for things. I mention that we didn't quite have to lift everything twice. The last load we took down was right at the end of the day, and the guy driving the big huge crane that they used for offloading from the commercial trucks hollered down from the top of his crane, "Would you like a little help?" [laughter] and I will tell you one of the coolest parts of this whole process was watching this guy, he's a total pro, reach into our wood-sided trailer with this freakishly large hydraulic claw thing, pick stuff up, kinda fling it back, swing it forward and let go and the end of the swing, and it would end up on top of that pile, it was was just [laughter]. You know, outside of the foundation itself, you may have already noticed in looking at a couple of the photos that there's more green around than you would have expected. In fact, you can see in this photo, one of the amazing things is because our house was taken by blowing embers and not by the worst part of the fire rushing through, there's only about a quarter or a third of the trees on the property were totally destroyed. And in fact, even now, it's back to looking moderately normal. Now you have to drive through some post-apocalyptic Martian landscape to get to my house, but once you get there, it's pretty nice, and in fact, a few things strangely enough survived. This trailer for example, this is the one I take to rocket launches. It's what we set up as a mobile workshop at launches. And you notice how there's some paint dribbly stuff on the side of it? One of the fire chiefs was on the site one day while we were shovelling through and cleaning up and he looked over at the trailer and he kinda chuckled, and he says, "You know why that's still there don't you?". I said, "No, I have no idea". "Well you see how bright and glinty it is? Made a great target for lining up the drops [audience laughter]. And in fact there was evidence they had put down, you know, a "V" of retardant trying to protect the house on the second time the fire came back through, and in fact had been successful at stopping it, unfortunately just wasn't good forever.
So anyway as I said, you know we focused on human things first but then I also ran this small business at home with Keith that I've given talks about before. We managed to get our 'net presence back really quickly, but not so much on the actually being in business. That didn't happen until the end of November. I'd also made this commitment to host AJ and Mike Beatty from New Zealand to come do level 3 high power certification projects at this big launch that happens at the end of August every year. And that caused me to have sort of a positive motivation for getting a workshop thrown back together in a hurry. So we got in a garage unit in the apartment complex and set up, you know, pretty rapidly, a whole bunch of tools. There's probably the biggest box that arrived. This was with the completely ready to go CNC router. It's my son, you know, looking quite pleased with himself for helping me get the box taken apart. I very quickly went and bought a couple of rocket kits, so that a) we'd have a chance to get back involved in that hobby, which is kind of part of that human thing, but also so that we'd have some test vehicles for prototypes of new boards, since we lost all the airframes that we'd had before. By the end of July, last weekend in July, this is Robert out at one of the launch sites in Colorado where we had successfully flown and recovered that airframe. Since it came in black fibreglass, he named that one "Back in Black", and enjoys playing a little AC/DC before it takes off every time. By mid-August AJ had arrived, and these were the parts of the kit that he started with and modified to turn into a big high-powered project. Mike Beatty, substantially more ambitious, started with you know, raw materials. Here he is fibreglassing carbon fibre onto a plywood fin substrate. We ended up taking them out over Labour Day weekend at end of August to our favourite launch site in south-eastern Kansas. You can see AJ's finished rocket in red there, and I believe, no, that's the one that I built on the ground there, I don't know where Mike's was at that point. Oh, there it is in pieces over behind my son in the grass over there, and there you can see what the trailer looks like in a normal situation. Here's Mike successfully recovering airframe after his successful L-3 certification flight, which is amazing. These guys, they attracted a lot of attention at the apartment complex, sitting in the, you know working in the garage until 1 or 2 every night, there are people who would come by and ask what they were doing and then these you know, brilliant Australian and New Zealand accents, they'd say "We're really into rockets" [audience laughter]. And then the very next day, there's the sweet smile of success as AJ was recovering his airframe after his level three cert flight. It's interesting that you know, by the time these guys did this, I had not actually flown a rocket again personally after the fire, and I had been sort of putting a kit together slowly, but I was so busy sort of helping everybody else that I hadn't really got it finished up. They were all quite insistent that I finish it though, and a good friend who's a motor designer/manufacturer handed me a test load to go demo for them, and so on Monday morning of September the second I guess I was, the actual Labour Day holiday, that airframe went to Mach 1.8 on the way to six kilometres above ground in a completely successful flight flying a prototype of our new TeleMega board. That's my son Robert you know, doing the GQ thing with the airframe. Once you have all those tools and the workshop set up, it's not all about rockets though. Robert also plays the guitar and has a band now, and when he saw this CNC router and how big it was, didn't take long before he said, "Hey Dad, could I mill a guitar body on that?". And next thing you know he did. It's kind of fun having a CNC router 'cause, and having a loaner laptop from Samsung that has a touchscreen, because he was able to play with the touchscreen signing his name in Inkscape, turned that into a toolpath, routed it, filled it with a different colour wood filler, so that when he stained it he's actually got his signature on the front of the guitar, and it's all been finished up, it's really awesome sounding clone of a Fender Telecaster, and you know, for about a dime on the dollar of what it would have cost to order one from the Fender custom shop, he's got a full custom Telecaster and it's great. And you know, for those of you interested, one of the other things that did not get destroyed was the dish that I use for moon bounce stuff. Unfortunately all the electronics was in the basement on the bench at the time, so it'll probably be a little while before this is back online, but the mechanics of the dish and all are there, and this is another little piece of evidence that not everything is black and cindery.
So that's pretty much all we've got. The one last thing I wanted to say is that there was a point in the middle of this whole process where somebody we didn't know did something completely unreasonably nice for us, and my daughter, who can be a little quick at times to turn everything into a joke, turned to me and said, "Dad, that just knocks the cynic right out of you, doesn't it?". And so if I had to tell you one thing that I've learned through this whole process, it's that "People Are Awesome". And, thank you all very much.
[Prolonged audience applause]
So I think we've managed to blow through what might have otherwise been question time. I will be around until the crack of dawn Saturday morning, so feel free to catch me with questions if you'd like.