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November 12th, 2004

The IBM Habitat House

I sent this email to my department members, and Mark's managers:

Hello colleagues,

Just a quick note to share my morning experience with you. I attended the dedication of the IBM Habitat house, which was finished three weeks early -- in time for the holidays! -- for Rosalind Jones and her family.

Though IBMers have been volunteering with Habitat for several years, this is the first "IBM Habitat House" -- built entirely by IBM volunteers. The project manager said when they announced they'd be doing this and scheduled a kick-off meeting at IBM, they anticipated 25-30 IBMers attending. Imagine their surprise when between 250-300 showed up! Over the last 6 months, about 750 IBMers donated approximately 4,000 hours to this house. I, personally, did my volunteer stint on a hot Saturday afternoon in August -- and helped build a portion of the deck. I even used an electric saw. (And those of you who know me well know that power tools are not exactly "my gig.")

Today, Rosalind Jones talked about the life-changing event for her, and her family. Her voice broke, and our eyes teared, as she expressed her gratitude to IBM and to all of the IBM volunteers who participated in the program. After cutting the ribbon to the entrance of her home, she proudly gave us a tour of the house, including the "blue room" -- even the ceiling was painted blue! -- for her son who is a huge Carolina fan. When Rosalind was showing me her bedroom, which overlooks her deck, I said, "I helped build that deck."

"I love my deck," she said, beaming.

There was a huge table set up in the living room with an IBM personal computer, a monitor, and a printer, which goes with the one-year Internet service IBM is providing to them. And it didn't stop there. There were two other IBM volunteers there who are going to come to their home over the next several months to help them get connected, and teach them about the Internet. Also on the table, was the gift of an IBM Think Pad for the Habitat Staff, to use in managing their mobile work -- when they're "in the field" traveling house-to-house during the building process.

I'm sure IBM will do this again, and if so, I hope you'll think about participating. Or just do a volunteer shift on your own with Habitat some time. It's very rewarding.

I gave Rosalind a hug before I left and said, "Thank you for warming my heart today."

"Oh, thank you for helping to build my house," she replied.

Yes, cold and rainy outside, very warm inside.

Regards,

John Martin
RTP Tivoli ISO Group Representative (RTP TIGR) for Security Products
Project Change Control Process Practitioner for Security Products


I waited in the "second floor common area" for Kevin D. et. al. for our 1:00 meeting on the QMX/Security Web Site Project for 10 minutes, and no one ever came. I wandered toward Kevin's office to find him, and ran into him in the hall on the way. "Things came up that had to be handled." We've reschedule for next Wednesday.

At about 3:25 I noticed on wral.com that they were going to announce the Scott Peterson verdict at 4:00. Well, Rhonda 'bout went nuts. She delayed leaving to pick up her kids at daycare (she was going to be early) to watch. We connected to cnn.com radio at 4:00, and waited about 10 minutes for it to start. In the meantime she filled me in on all of the minutia of the trial.

I left work at a little after 5:00, and managed to have a fairly smooth ride home. 15 or 20 minutes later, Robert ran into nightmare traffic.

While waiting for him, I made up some appetizers of celery with some (H&D) cream cheese dip in them, marinated some chicken strips in "Zesty Herb" marinade, prepared a salad with lettuce, tomato, onion, cucumbers, carrots, mushrooms, celery, and cheddar cheese. I also shucked three ears of corn. Aw, shucks. (Ba-dump-dump!)

Robert arrived, and we had the appetizers with a drink while the chicken and corn cooked. When it was all said and done, it was pretty darn good. I really like that marinade on chicken. The corn was not as sweet as I would have liked it, but still pretty good. The salad was killer.

After dinner, we listened to several "This American Life" episodes, which I loved. Have I mentioned that I love Ira Glass? I do. These are the episodes we listened to tonight:

Stories about people deciding whether to give it their all. There's one story about a person who hasn't, one story about someone who has – in a situation where success seems very unlikely – and one story about people who just can't help themselves.

Prologue. When you're in school, you're supposed to be a Renaissance person – do art, literature, sports, music – and be enthusiastic about it all. You get graded for effort. When we grow up, we're expected to transfer that give-it-your-all attitude into our adult lives, into situations where it doesn't really belong. Take Kenneth. He works as a greeter at a restaurant. (4 minutes)

Act One. Farm Eye for the Farm Guy. Hilary Hoffman wanted to give up his nine-to-five urban life. So he convinced his wife they could make it as organic farmers in rural Pennsylvania. It hasn't been going so well. The deer eat his vegetables. Weeds are strangling his strawberries. His muscles are constantly sore. Plus, he's just not a morning person. So This American Life arranges for him to get a makeover, agricultural style. George DeVault, a writer and editor at Rodale's New Farm magazine, who has his own organic farm, comes to the rescue. Shea Dean helped produce this story. (19 minutes)

Act Two. Diary of a Long-shot. When a 24-year-old runs for city council in Washington, D.C., he has to answer one question over and over: What's a 24-year-old doing running for city council? Sam Brooks is the candidate. At one point his campaign looks so hopeless, even he doesn't believe he's the better man for the job. He kept an audio diary, starting in February 2004. Sam's story was produced by Teal Krech. His campaign's website: electsam.com. (21 minutes) Song: "You're Still a Young Man," Tower of Power

Act Three. Contrails of My Tears. Brett Martin documents a previously unnoticed human phenomenon, one that involves airplanes ... crying ... and Reese Witherspoon. (11 minutes) Song: "Don't Cry Out Loud," Melissa Manchester


How, one might wonder, could a simple hunk of cheese drive a wedge between an aging aunt and her devoted niece? Sure, every family has its share of grudges, secrets and bad behavior. What's harder to understand is how those things end up changing family relationships in ways no one could have predicted. Three stories about family legends – that have either been kicking around for years, or been completely suppressed.

Prologue. This American Life host Ira Glass talks to Eddie Schmidt about his Aunt Mary, the source of the best stories in his family - including how she was so cheap she stole azalea bushes from the side of the highway. (7 minutes)

Act One. Take My Cheese, Please. We continue with the story of Eddie Schmidt and his parents, Josie and Bob, who tell the greatest Aunt Mary story of all time: the one about the provolone, the glance, and an aggrieved woman's attempt at revenge. (10 minutes) Song: "Now Mary," The White Stripes

Act Two. We Don't Talk About That. Some family legends are most notable for their absence. They're too disturbing or scandalous to tell. Kevin O'Leary's family specialized in those. He tells the story of trying to find out the truth about his great grandfather – a man his relatives never, ever talked about. When he finds out, his family's reaction is almost as shocking as the story itself. (23 minutes)

Act Three. Admissions. The story of a prank that the family was building up to for years. But when the youngest sister executes it – perfectly – her mother can't forgive her. Katia Dunn tells the story of the worst college acceptance letter ever written. (15 minutes) Song: "I Don't Want To Go To School," The Donnas


And this one, my all-time favorite This American Life episode:

For Father's Day, stories about fathers going out of their way to protect their kids, and kids going out of their way to protect their fathers.

Act Three. Age of Enchantment. What happens when a dad tries too hard to protect his child from disappointment, and to thrill his child. With the best of intentions, New Yorker writer Lawrence Weschler did all that, and in the process accidentally broke his daughter's heart. And then she took action and mended the problem. This story was first broadcast a year ago on Father's Day, when his daughter Sara was 11. (19 minutes) Song: Nellie Lutcher "Hurry On Down"


I called Vivian for her birthday, and she was already in bed at 10:30PM on a Friday night -- her birthday no less. "I have to teach a class tomorrow morning. We're going to celebrate tomorrow night."

I returned Rebecca's call from Sunday, and left her a message.

We made milkshakes from Edy's Fat Free, No Sugar Added, (but Splenda!) Vanilla Ice Cream with some Starbucks (coffee flavored) Frappuccino added to it. Yum!

We finished an Independent crossword puzzle that we had started a little while ago, and started on a too-difficult Sunday N&O puzzle that we abandoned after not too long.

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