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May 3rd, 2016

The Sun Shines Through the Rain at the Linux Workshop

The Heart of Linux

Sometimes it’s downright easy to tell the difference between synchronicity and mere coincidence.

I grew up in the Illinois heartland. The place where soybeans, corn and hog futures were discussed in-depth while the Bay of Pigs raged on without notice. I grew up in a place where detasseling corn and getting the hay crop in was second only to treating our livestock for thrush. We were up at 4:30 a.m. and in bed by 9 p.m. Rarely was there an exception. Maybe when my mom was going into town on Saturday for supplies.

Ice covered barn

An ice covered barn, not unlike the one that was crushed in this story.

During the winter of 1967. Northeastern Illinois experienced one of the most destructive ice storms in that region’s history. Barns and out buildings collapsed under the tremendous weight of ice and snow. Many family dwellings suffered the same fate. Livestock had to be turned out into the cold for fear they would be crushed to death by the collapsing structure. We worked furiously against the subzero cold and wind to get weather breaks built. We used hay bales and timber, any resource at hand, in order for the livestock to have some shelter from the freezing winds. Some cattle froze to death while still standing, their backs turned to the frigid, driving wind.

Our big barn did not withstand that winter’s storm. The centerpiece of our livelihood was reduced to splintered wood and planks. Neighbors were galvanized to action, helping those who had suffered more than they had. Tractors, cranes, flatbed and dump trucks lined the rural roads, en route to help those who suffered the most. Our barn was beyond help or salvage, reduced to nothing but a large pile of fire wood. The twisted metal of milking equipment jutted out from this place and that. We were done as a farming and ranching family. Despite the outpouring of aid, financial realities forced my family to sell our land and what was left of our livestock, thus ending a four generation family farm and ranching legacy. In turn, that prompted us to move to the more temperate climates of the American Southwest.

All of those memories came back in a rush during this past couple of weeks. While nowhere near the devastation my family suffered those decades ago, the damage from a roof failure and ceiling collapse at our Reglue facility demanded every waking hour of my life. It started with a high wind and hail storm that resulted in many roof shingles being blown off onto the ground below. That, coupled with two weeks of on and off hard rains, allowed a large amount of water to pool in and on top of the deck and insulation above the ceiling.. When enough weight accumulated, it all came down in a drenching, stagnant mess. The nastiest part of the cleanup was the half dozen rodents that had died and were washed down into the shop area with the rest of the water.

Ceiling collapse

Our shop is housed in an old WWII barracks, which we converted into the Reglue workshop. The city of Taylor donates the use of the building to the organization. As well, they pay all of the building and outside upkeep and pay our utilities. You cannot ask for more than that and the last thing I am going to do is complain to the city about lost equipment. They are making all needed repairs as you read this.

Unfortunately, the rolling racks that held our monitors, boxes of video cards and other equipment, were placed directly below the failed ceiling. A large plastic tub with over two dozen Nvidia cards took a direct hit and all the water and grit mostly filled the tub. Nothing there could be salvaged. Fortunately, we have other equipment that was not located in the flooded area, so we didn’t lose everything. The biggest deal to us were the 30 plus ruined flat panel monitors. Some of them were extremely nice and fairly new 24-inch Dell monitors.

A gentleman who has made hardware donations to us in the past contacted me a day after the flood and asked if we could use ten nineteen-inch Dell monitors. Tony had no idea what had happened between the walls at Reglue just eighteen hours earlier. He simply emailed me to inquire if I needed them.

This is the part that mystifies me. Sometimes, if I think about it a lot, I have to wonder. Coincidence? Okay, if it makes you feel better, you can call it coincidence. To me, it was a head start on replacing a couple of thousand dollars in equipment. Laptops, monitors, video cards and computers that had been made ready and were standing in line to be placed next.

We’ve got a long way to go to recover. But when I get an email from someone I have not heard from in over a year asking me if I need equipment, without knowing of the destruction at our facility…I’m just not going to worry over it. We will recover as we recover, and I have no doubt that we will do just that.

Because that’s the way the universe works. Nothing you can or will say to me will change me from believing that.

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Ken Starks writes and publishes The Blog of Helios, a finalist in our Best FOSS or Linux Blog competition. In addition, he's the person behind the Reglue project, which refurbishes older computers and gives them to disadvantaged school kids in the Austin, Texas area. Follow him on Twitter @Reglue

1 comment to The Sun Shines Through the Rain at the Linux Workshop

  • James Dixon

    Ken, I really wish I was in a position to do more to help. 🙁 But you know our situation. We’ll try to give more later this year as finances allow.