Tuesday, September 04, 2007

An Oakland Shade

Wow, that was a whiny post last weekend! Fortunately, this weekend was much better... after all, Labor Day, right?

My friend Jenny threw a party this weekend, a holiday barbecue. She had a problem: there's been a heat wave lately, and her house was going to be positively sweltering. She came to me, a friendly neighborhood engineer, to build a shade.

The party was Sunday, so on Saturday I went over there, scoped out the project, took some measurements, and made a list of supplies. Then, off we went to the hardware store to get supplies, which naturally deviated considerably from my list. (Anybody who likes going to hardware stores understands what I mean. Computer stores too.) Three canvas sheets, some rope, twine, dowels, and various fasteners. For once, I needed exactly what I got! (Well, I had a small pack of garden stakes left over.) A couple of supports, stitching together the canvas, some guy lines, and the job was done.

It's not the best shade in the world, but for an afternoon job, I liked it. I also had a lot of fun building it; I may have had more fun building the shade than going to the party! It reminds me of something I used to do when I was a kid called Christmas in April. A lot of people would get together and rebuild the house of somebody who really needed it, and couldn't afford it; usually, this was an elderly or severely disabled person on a very minimal income. We'd have people who knew what they were doing well enough to lead our efforts, plus lots of hands helping get the work done.

I like building stuff; I think I get that from my Dad. I think I was first attracted to computers because I could make my creations come to life, from my mind to the computer. Even so, there's something satisfying about building something in the physical world.