This week, Intrepid Reader, I have been moved to post again for the Cartoon Craziness Challenge, or what I like to think of as C³. The topic for this week is “Memories of a Childhood Vacation”. I sat down last night with one idea, and I ended up drawing another one instead. It’s funny how that happens; it’s as if the plan is fully formed when you set yourself to doing something, and then without warning the task drags you along like a runaway St. Bernard — rolling and flailing at the (formerly) business end of the leash, you’re trying to protect your sensitive bits while trying to get a hold of the little barrel of whiskey tied around its neck, because at this point you figure you’ll either disinfect your wounds with it or you’ll need a stiff drink, or perhaps a bit of both.
In my previous post An update on balls, I mentioned that I was working on a standing desk. I started out by setting my notebook and mouse at varying heights on an orange box, and a stack of books — actually, let’s go back a little further, shall we? No creation comes without a concept seeded in the mind of the creator, and as a creator who is a creation of a creator I feel compelled to tell the origin story of . . .
In my May 12, 2011 post Get up, lazy-bones! I posted an infographic about how sitting for long periods of time can contribute to the decline of a person’s health; that has been the one of the most popular posts on this blog, due to someone posting it to Reddit. The infographic is an eye-opener; if you haven’t heard of it before, you really should follow the link above and check it out.
It’s cool, I’ll wait while you do.
This concept of the deadly seated position has been talked about here and there, on Podcast, in news reports, and in articles; and the big solution for desk workers is called the standing desk. It can be seen as a fad or trend by some, but really it’s a smart and healthy idea for those who can pull it off.
I was taken in by the idea, but implementing it has been a matter of pulling the trigger. Aside from buying an expensive piece of specialty furniture online or modifying something into a Franken-desk — which is not a task I take lightly anymore — the options are pretty bare. I considered buying a lectern, but I couldn’t seem to find something I liked that would be the right height. I looked at hundreds of DIY standing desks that involved obtaining about thirty dollars’ worth of parts from IKEA, but their closest store is six hours away and they don’t offer everything online. Plus, I thought I could do better if I just had the time and materials.
When we bought this new home in January and I saw the garage, I was excited to get my hands on it and start some woodworking projects; the only problem was, we had to wait for the previous owner’s family to move all of her stuff out of it. Until then, they paid us rent for the garage.
Fast-forward to late May, when things began to happen. In a weekend, the garage was mostly cleared, and soon we had what we hoped were all of the keys and the garage door opener in hand. I soon changed the locks on the house and garage, and the frequency of the opener. I then began to plan my standing desk.
I decided to go the very common DIY route of making an add-on to my existing desk, since it would allow me to continue utilizing the real estate thereof and also afford me the ability to add a third dimension to its surface where my computer was concerned. To find the right heights, however, I started with an orange box and a stack of books:
This height setup actually wasn’t optimal, since I had to lean the screen all the way back; and then more often than not I found myself bending over for long periods of time while balancing my ledger or blogging. The typing height, however, was just about right.
I had to hold up my laptop to a few degrees below eye level — call it my personal preference — and measure the height of the future display surface. Then I started a series of concept sketches:
I began right before the Summer Surf Adventure by first cutting out squares of, then tracing the shape of the desk’s sides onto one square of, the particle board I had decided to use for the body of the desk. When it came to clamping it to the bench for cutting out the shape with my jigsaw, I ran into a little problem: my favorite yellow and blue Quick-grip clamps were nowhere to be found.
I still haven’t found them, blast it all. I can’t verify having seen them since moving!
After we came back from our sally to the coast and back, I did the right thing and bought a set of six clamps in different sizes from Menards. I love them almost as much as I love the Quick-grips.
For the display and typing surfaces of the desk, I used plank wood for that vintage, richly-stained wood aesthetic.
Dad always said that anything worth doing is worth doing right, after all.
I wanted character, simplicity of design, versatility of use, and synergy with my existing desk. I think I got my wish. After much time spent cutting, drilling, screwing (oddly not the most satisfying part of the process,) filling, and hours of tedious sanding by hand; after applying stain and two light coats of spray-on satin lacquer a day for three straight days, my project is complete and in place:
Honestly, the picture doesn’t do it justice, but the lighting in my office is what it is. I wish you could see it with your own eyes.
With the addition of a dozen stick-on cork disks applied to the bottoms of the feet (a premeditated purchase,) the standing desk not only stays as though it’s glued down, but it’s downright stable; I didn’t have the guts to step on it, but I bet it could bear moderate human weight!
Just having this standing desk replace the orange box and the stack of books on my desk is probably the most satisfying part of the experience — not the fact that the result was more beautiful and perfect than I had anticipated, nor the knowledge of having done this job quite well; there will be other projects in the future, but as a start I’d say this is a nice one.
The cost of the project, considering I’d gotten the wood for free, and the screws were from previous projects — I purchased the wood filler, the stain, the lacquer, the cork disks, the clamps, the keyboard and a USB hub (since adding a keyboard would have taken my last port) for roughly seventy dollars; thus it was well spent.
Still, clearing that flotsam from the surface of my desk and getting it back on the shelf was the best feeling ever!
FYI, if you’re interested in learning some more about standing desks, including a very cogent argument against their use, check out the links below; I vetted them all for you.
Another busy week down. I’ve realized that working the lasers leave me little time in between to blog or write or do anything; regardless, I’m not complaining. I’m intense. I’m working like crazy, and I’m developing an internal ferocity that is beginning to find its footing in my demeanor.
In its surgical application, I’m developing the art of the even hand.
What does that mean? As ever, I’m growing, but now I’m all triangles — a structure so strong I feel like I could carry the world on my back, a modern Atlas. I hold up under strain, and I find that I’m also pushing back and gaining ground slowly but surely. I constantly remind myself that gregarious and aggressive are two different things, but while I find myself dancing the line, I never cross it because I don’t have to.
I wonder whether it’s the pace of work and the way I breeze through the week as though it’s nothing, or the testosterone boost I’m getting from the extra twenty-five pounds of muscle (Hell, I hope it’s all muscle) I’ve packed on since I changed my fitness philosophy — originally for parkour, then for surfing, and now for . . .
Well, I should probably admit that for as long as I can remember, I have wanted to be a superhero; but maybe what I’m becoming is more of a leader. I suppose time will tell!
Anyway, I’m doing the best that I can here. Carlos (my fictitiously-named trainee on the plasma punch) was out fishing today, so I got a chance to catch up on some of my mutual readers’ blogs. I’ll keep plugging away at the rest of my buds before moving on to others, if I find the time for them.
No big goals lie ahead for the moment; I’m just living the adventure laid out for me.
Maybe you can tell we’ve been watching some Star Trek lately; although I have to say the new depiction of Klingon warriors in the reboot movies is very cool with their plate armor, medieval-style helmets, and capes; I still envision them by force of habit in the armor and style of dress they brought to the screen beginning with Star Trek III: The Search for Spock all the way through to the end of Enterprise.
I was going to create a landscape background of a desert with vertical rock formations, but I got so exasperated trying to draw the stupid dog that I just decided to call it good and move on with my life. This picture is not as cute or gruesome as I imagined it in my head, but I suppose that’s where “room for improvement” lives.
Well, it has been a quick week to pass indeed; Monday I started training full days on the Mazak lasers at work, which use lasers to cut sheet steel into the different flat parts which go into the name-brand skid-steer attachments that we make. My trainee on the plasma punch was doing well enough on his own, and so with a little wheedling of the material handlers to take care of some waste removal at the end of the day (since “Carlos” doesn’t have a forklift license yet) I was free to work lasers all day. More or less.
As one works their way up to being trained on the lasers (and not everyone does or cares to,) they begin to realize that they are a.) more complicated as they go, and b.) really as simple as microwaves.
What a contradiction, am I right? I mean, you could start out on a saw, which is easy as fishin’ — unless you’ve never used it before — then work brake presses and punch presses, where the most pressing thing you have to worry about is “hey, where’s my hand right now?”
This is, of course, assuming that you can measure things using protractors and rulers — and that you’re still in possession of both hands; however, I have often wished for a third to help in the measuring.
Then if you have the inclination, you could move on to either the plasma punch or a laser; and while I make it sound somewhat hierarchical, it’s actually a little more arbitrary. On the one hand, you have to display a certain amount of aptitude and ability to move to something like the plasma punch or the lasers. Guys who don’t want to do something different, guys who seem to resist hard work, and guys who give up on reading six-inch rules in 1/50th scale with protests that they can’t see the markings don’t really move far from low-level work.
In a way that confuses me, because one of the best things about the lasers is that measuring becomes a thing of the past. Previously, I caught a major break by first training, and then mastering (beyond anyone else in the plant) the use of the plasma punch. There, assuming that the machine isn’t out of whack, you can check the first part of a run and run the whole job without issues. This isn’t so with the brake press, where you want to check the dimensions every so often just to make sure things aren’t floating out of true. When you get to the laser it’s pointless to measure because all of that is controlled by the files that tell the laser how to make the parts.
The drawback, however, for being a frickin’ genius on the manufacturing floor is that once you get to this point that the concern for dimensions is replaced by a concern for cut quality, work flow, and — oh, did I mention? These things sometimes spit out parts like no tomorrow. Then you throw into the mix a temperamental sheet stocker and loader (which holds and loads different thicknesses of sheet steel) and when you have an error you have to run to get around the machine before the thing errors out, and then you have to run back to the computer before “B-Dub” (our lead) figures out something’s wrong and fixes it for you like a wiseacre. So you’re literally running in circles all day whether this happens often or not, but the fact remains that you have a job that could better be handled by two guys, but you have to do it all by yourself while being treated like you’re not good enough to do it yourself.
The best I could do was offend our lead enough on Wednesday for him to retort, “Next time (my trainer) is out, you’re on your own!”
Score one for Surfer Rob.
Tuesday and Wednesday I was sans trainer, since he sprained his back moving a clothes dryer. Super busy! Then today I was dealing with a maddeningly unorthodox flow of events at work until my trainer admitted that he had been waiting for me to take the reins; I’m like, hey, thanks for the heads up, dude! You’re only six hours late!
I don’t take flack from nobody.
Anyway, I don’t know if any of you get this, but it all adds up to that I’ve been having an epic week at work — a serious adventure and I’m really enjoying it, but it’s leaving me little breathing room to even think about blogging. I’m catching up on my reading over the weekend (I hope) but in case this slowdown becomes a long-term thing, just know I’m still here, and I’m still hatching plans.
If there’s one regret I have this year, it’s that I’ve had very little involvement with the gardening at our home. Of course, we just moved in this past January, and I wanted to hang back and see what happens to grow on its own. Thankfully, Mme. Ross took charge of the vegetable garden and we’ve already harvested, and enjoyed some of, the radishes and radish greens.
As I suspected the remainder of our yard, where evidence was borne in the vestiges of last year’s growth, has become a little perennial paradise. We even have daisies! I’m enjoying that because we didn’t have any at our old home. There’s plenty of space to work with, and some tentative plans to put in a hedgerow this year or next along the west side of our property, but when exactly is that going to happen?
I suppose we shall see. It would be nice, though, because what I really miss is getting outside on a hot day and just destroying some grass. At the last house I had a ball two years in a row, building raised beds with two-by-six frames, as well as the big garden in the back. I’d take my pick mattock, raise it high over my right shoulder and swing it down with everything in me; first the pick, then the blade as the ground began to loosen.
Who needs a tractor and a plug aerator when they can just dig? Pull up chunks of grass and shake out the dirt, throw the weed into the wheelbarrow. The mantra of breaking ground — the most sacred ancient rituals of plowing, tilling, and turning over land with just hands and arms and a single tool.
It’s that connection. I miss getting my hands into the dirt — connecting with the ground and becoming one with the Earth again.
Maybe soon, I’ll get out there. Maybe it will have to be next year.
I suppose we shall see.
Good night! May the Sun shine its face upon you tomorrow and see that you are living the most worthwhile adventures.
Last week was a busy one; with my role changing at work I didn’t have so much time to get all the blogging done. One thing I really wanted to attend to, however, was the Cartoon Craziness Challenge, the theme of which last week was “superhero”.
I had an idea, a plan in mind for the picture I would draw, but because of the way I work it remains a work in progress. I’ll have to get it in later this week, but here is a snapshot of the work so far:
It looks like there are smears on the page because there’s currently something on the inside of my phone’s camera lens!
. . . and they’re off!
Approaching the first turn
in epic scale –
fans bloom, going wild
for Earth’s greatest race
This is it, my friends: I have resorted to finding a prompt, and now I’m going to lay the secrets of the Universe out to you — as I always do — only this time, I had to turn to another source for inspiration. I’m not merely weaving it in to legitimately qualify (in my own mind) for posting rights, as I’m wont to do with the Daily Post (by the way, I’ve figured out my issue with them; chances are the only fault I can attribute to them is lousy communication,) but I had this tanka mostly figured out earlier. Then at the punch press I had a post idea, and then somewhere between there and here I lost it.
I just lost it.
Not like I used to lose it when things didn’t go my way; I didn’t lose it like Tonya Harding lost it right before she decided to pay someone to cripple her rival. It vanished right out of my head. Did I mention that my memory palace was foreclosed upon more than twenty years ago? I must have forgotten to make a payment at some point . . .
Holy $#!+, where does all that time go? Twenty years? Back then, I never would have imagined that I would have a blog with 530 followers, people who may or may not (and I know some that do religiously) read it on a regular basis (about sixty of you are at this level of “oh my gosh, he came out of his hole!”) Part of the reason I couldn’t see this coming has a lot to do with the fact that blogs didn’t exist; part was because back then the most challenging thing I did was try to figure out how to play Sim City so my citizens wouldn’t fire me (I know, I’m just terrible at public policy) and part was because I didn’t know I could just write about stuff and people would like that.
By the way, you guys are great.
So about this prompt — it’s a great idea and all, but I might have to address it at a later date.
In the meantime, just live your adventure and remember what I said: