Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Years Resolutions

I don't know why doing things that are good for you is hard. I have no trouble reading all the books I get from the library in one sitting or watching too much TV or eating that one last piece of cake.

But no more! This year I am determined to do all of those things that I haven't been doing that I want to do. That is the odd thing. I want to have done them, I just don't like doing them. Or I do like doing them, but it is easier to do nothing instead.

To commemorate my determination here is a poem by Ogden Nash:

Portrait of the Artist as a Prematurely Old Man
By Ogden Nash

It is common knowledge to every schoolboy and even every Bachelor of Arts,
That all sin is divided into two parts.
One kind of sin is called a sin of commission, and that is very important,
And it is what you are doing when you are doing something you ortant,
And the other kind of sin is just the opposite and is called a sin of omission
and is equally bad in the eyes of all right-thinking people, from
Billy Sunday to Buddha,
And it consists of not having done something you shuddha.
I might as well give you my opinion of these two kinds of sin as long as,
in a way, against each other we are pitting them,
And that is, don’t bother your head about the sins of commission because
however sinful, they must at least be fun or else you wouldn’t be
committing them.
It is the sin of omission, the second kind of sin,
That lays eggs under your skin.
The way you really get painfully bitten
Is by the insurance you haven’t taken out and the checks you haven’t added up
the stubs of and the appointments you haven’t kept and the bills you
haven’t paid and the letters you haven’t written.
Also, about sins of omission there is one particularly painful lack of beauty,
Namely, it isn’t as though it had been a riotous red-letter day or night every
time you neglected to do your duty;
You didn’t get a wicked forbidden thrill
Every time you let a policy lapse or forget to pay a bill;
You didn’t slap the lads in the tavern on the back and loudly cry Whee,
Let’s all fail to write just one more letter before we go home, and this round
of unwritten letters is on me.
No, you never get any fun
Out of things you haven’t done,
But they are the things that I do not like to be amid,
Because the suitable things you didn’t do give you a lot more trouble than the
unsuitable things you did.
The moral is that it is probably better not to sin at all, but if some kind of
sin you must be pursuing,
Well, remember to do it by doing rather than by not doing.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Winter in Iowa

While Leila was gone at her sister's wedding, I was bored. Sometimes I complain that I don't get much done, but the truth is that I enjoy not getting anything done with Leila around. Much better than productivity while alone.

So, as part of my grand plan to keep myself busy, I searched the internet for plans for a workbench. I have pretensions of doing woodwork. There are a few things I learned again about myself in the process:

1. I cannot cut a straight line. No really. I measure twice, cut once, sand, cut again, sometimes with a new board.

2. I don't really like power tools. I much prefer hand tools. The kids can be in there playing while I work that way, and I cut crooked lines slower and have a better chance of correcting it before finishing.

3. I am an overacheiving perfectionist. If I could cut straight lines, I would dovetail every joint. But, I don't have a lot of patience with myself. I remember making pinewood derby cars when I was a kid. In my head I had a vision of this sleek, shiny car that would speed down the track. Instead in my awkward hands I usually had a rather blocky thing whose wheels fell off halfway down. When I start a project now I still have a platonic ideal of what I want in my head and when it begins to fall short I get frustrated with myself rather quickly.

4. I enjoy planning as much or more than the execution. I spent hours looking at pictures of peoples benches and plans on the internet. We looked through plans and designs and I tried to force myself to simplify my designs to something I could actually make.

5. I may not have all of the skills developed yet, but I can sure make stuff sturdy.

6. Working with Aleah is great for the ego. She continually says things like, "That looks gooood, Brian. That is a goooood cut." - As a side note, she still continually calls me Brian, instead of Dad.

The design I settled on was a simplified version of this bench:

I took the dimensions, put in butt joints instead of dovetails, designed a frame for the top instead of joined maple, removed the tool hollow, left room to add a bench vise, and planned to build it out of cheap lumber I could find at Menards. I decided to build the top out of 2.5" hardwood plywood. This is pricey stuff, but they make thick plywood planks for using as floor or roof joints. They are thick, heavy, full of resin, and seemed to be made of mostly hardwoods, and much much cheaper than even the 3/4" plywood. So I got a 10"x 12' board and cut it in half for the top.

I also found Spax lag screws. They are supposed to hold up to 5000 lbs of force and have serrated edges that are supposed to help drive them in and grip without splitting the wood. I was concerned and so still drilled guide holes. But, they sure hold tight.

So this is the finished bench:

From from phone

Here are the girls trying it out. Note, Emily in the future is likely to be embarrased by her hair here. In my defense, I did make her brush her hair while Leila was gone, and I did bathe them. She wears this hooded sweater nonstop and it kinda makes her head a static magnet.

From from phone

From from phone

Me with the fam, not getting work done while Leila was back:

From from phone