Friday, May 13, 2011

The Ultimate Enabler

The glory and the damnation of the Internet is that it is the ultimate enabler.

At any given time there are at least five projects for the house that are rolling around in my head. I consider them from every conceivable angle, adjust them, re-examine them and then shelve them for later examination. In this way I work through what is affordable, what I have the time to do and what I have the skill to do. Currently I have two projects in mind that involve some very serious soldering. I won't go into detail about what they are yet. I'm still considering their affordability and time commitment, but it's sites like this and videos like this that convince me that it is feasible for me to attempt this.

After all, it can't be that hard can it?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Just an Eighth of an Inch

My job consists of many different roles, but one of them is analyzing IT failures. What happened? When? Why did it happen? Were the appropriate processes and procedures followed? How can we prevent this from happening again? What I've noticed over the years is that disaster rarely happens because of one cataclysmic failure. Disasters often happen because of a large number of poorly made smaller decisions. All of these in aggregation create a situation that is tenuous and rife for failure. One one final mistake or poor decision is made and the whole system comes crashing down.

This means that small things do matter and details do count. Life gives us plenty of opportunities to self correct. When we repeatedly spurn these opportunities, that's when disaster strikes.

I have a friend who does a fair amount of metal working - machining and blacksmithing. He had a project one time where he needed to drill holes to match up with a mated set of pegs. The problem is that the jig he used was off by 1/64". A very small amount, but since he used the previously drilled hole as his reference point for the next hole, by the time he'd drilled his 48th hole, his last hole was off 3/4" from the peg.

When I measured bricks for our new pathway in the raised beds, I measured the bricks as 8 inches long, and Ms. Huis carefully (and painstakingly) figured out the exact dimensions of the raised beds to accommodate these 8 inch long bricks. We moved 10 yards of dirt to accommodate those figures. Two nights ago I laid out some bricks in the holes we dug, just to estimate how it would look. They didn't fit. So I measured the bricks again. It turns out they are 8 1/8" long. That 1/8" is not much, but compounded over 40 sets of brick, it adds up.

Looks like we're going to have to do more digging.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Dig This

Digging. Why does it seem so many of my projects involve digging?

I put in a retaining wall and steps in our last house. That was about nine yards of earth. When we put in a new sewer line in the House of 42 Doors, the excavator left a nice pile of dirt that needed spreading out. That was probably three yards. The previous owner built a three car garage, and as part of that, there was a nice pile of dirt that he left next to the garage. That was another four yards. The compost heap in the backyard that had been there since time immemorial was four feet high and six feet in diameter, so another three yards there. The hundred or so yews I put in required digging, although only a little bit at a time.

And now we've started another project with more digging. This project started out as an idle drawing and an idea that I showed to Ms. Huis. She liked it, and grabbed it. We wanted a vegetable garden at the house, and cleared out a a 25 foot wide and 60 foot long swath of scrub (mostly buckthorn) to get it. Unfortunately, we discovered the land there was not suited for a garden. While the top 2 inches were nice black soil, beneath that was a two to three inch layer of compacted gravel. All of our root vegetables would grow two inches and just give up. Our carrots were like stubby, fat fingers. So the answer was raised beds. And what would go between these raised beds? Brick paths, of course.

So that means digging down about 12 inches, putting in about 7 inches of base, and then another 2 inches of sand. We have 276 square feet of path we're installing, so that adds another 10 yards of earth to the tally. I haven't done all the digging; there's been plenty of help from Ms. Huis, the in-laws and even our youngest. It's awful stuff though, with the old compacted gravel, and the tree roots from the scrub we took out.

I'll be glad when the project is done so that I can move onto other house projects. Progress to date can be viewed here.