Sunday, August 28, 2011

Jenna made a picnic table

We've been using our backyard a lot this summer, and the lack of a good table has been pretty obvious. I'd planned to buy a kit and assemble it myself, but when Jenna and I drove out to buy one, everything in the area was already assembled. Hard to fit that on a CR-V. So we bought the boards and built it ourselves... mostly by eye. I based it loosely on this, but did a lot less measuring.

- Six 2x6x12, cut in half at the store by a helpful employee.
- One 2x6x10, cut in half.
- One 2x4x8, left well enough alone (it fits in the CR-V, just barely).
- Box of screws
- Twelve 5/16" carriage bolts (with washer and nut for each)

Step one: stain the boards. That's Jenna and her friend Hays, not Liam.

Step two: Cut the pieces.

Because the 2x6s are cut in half, we have 12 6' boards and 2 5' boards. Save the 2x8 for later.
- Two of the 2x6s become each seat. Cut 2" corners at a 45-degree angle.
- Five of the 2x6s become the table top. On the outer boards, cut corners.
- Two of the 2x6s get cut up for legs. 32" lengths at a 65-degree angle.
- One 2x6 gets ripped lengthwise, then becomes internal bracing.
- Cut 3 26" lengths from the internal bracing, and start assembling the table top.

Remember, whenever working with power tools, it's important to remember your PPEs (Personal Protective Equipment).

Assembling the table was pretty straightforward once I figured out my approach... I mean once Jenna did. Use the internal bracing to strap the tabletop together, then attach the legs to the outer straps. Attach the 5' crossbars to the legs, then cut up the 2x4 to use as diagonal cross-bracing. Flip the table over and screw on the seats.

It sounds pretty straightforward, but it took the better part of the weekend (due in part to my nonstop help). I'm pretty proud of the final product, though:

Building things is good. Raising kids that build things is better.

I'm really looking forward to eating on this table. Now, if I could just find time to cut the grass...

Monday, August 15, 2011


“To whom can you compare me?
Whom do I resemble?” says the Holy One.

Look up at the sky!
Who created all these heavenly lights?
He is the one who leads out their ranks;
he calls them all by name.
Because of his absolute power and awesome strength,
not one of them is missing.

'The Eagle Nebula (M16): Peering Into the Pillars of Creation (A nearby star-forming region about 7,000 light years from Earth.)' photo (c) 2008, Smithsonian Institution - license:

Why do you say, Jacob,
Why do you say, Israel,
“The Lord is not aware of what is happening to me,
My God is not concerned with my vindication”?

Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is an eternal God,
the creator of the whole earth.
He does not get tired or weary;
there is no limit to his wisdom.

He gives strength to those who are tired;
to the ones who lack power, he gives renewed energy.

Even youths get tired and weary;
even strong young men clumsily stumble.

But those who wait for the Lord’s help find renewed strength;
they rise up as if they had eagles’ wings,
they run without growing weary,
they walk without getting tired.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Paint vs No Paint

So the guys at 37signals pointed this out a while ago, and I've been pondering it for months.

A stool at O'Hare Airport in Chicago:

A similar stool at an Atlanta airport:

The stool on top is made from a cheap iron that was covered with a generous coat of good-looking paint. Looks great when it goes in, but as time goes on it really doesn't wear well. See the edges fraying? See all of the lumps getting exposed?

The stool on the bottom uses a slightly more expensive metal, but with no paint. Scuff the brass base of the stool and you'll just see more brass. Take a rasp to the corner, bang into it with your suitcase, let your dog chew on it. There's nothing there except more of the same.

Why do I spend so much time trying to put a good face on things, when I should be concentrating more on what's underneath the paint? A good friend recently asked me after a hard day's work how I was doing. I said I was doing pretty well.

"Ok, thank you, I get it," he said. "But outside of Micah Odor Positivity, how are you doing really?"

Really? That was a pretty hard day. But over the past two or three years, this has been the focus of my gazelle-like intensity: actually being the guy who can honestly say that life is good, no matter what. I still spend more time than I'd like wondering about the paint, but if you keep picking at it and scuffing it enough, you can get most of that off.

The unpainted stool looks better than the partially painted one, even if the metal underneath isn't fancy.

We become what we do.