Sunday, May 25, 2008

Sunday Night Nothings

It's been a pretty nothing weekend. Except for Zoe's netball game (Go Sapphires! Go Ngaio!) and a trip to Mitre10 (sort of like a small Home Depot or large hardware store) to pick up a dryer vent duct and some cut wood for a project I'll mention later, we were house-bound all weekend by illness and lethargy in equal amounts.


The Netball game was great. Zoe's game is improving and she's doing very well for someone whose birthcountry has pretty much never heard of the game. In particular her ball handling and confidence on the court have doubled at least. I had fun playing with the other kids with the ball we brought and talking to the other parents a bit while the girls played. The rain gods parted the clouds for most of the afternoon game but it started drizzling during the second fifteen-minute half. By the game's end parents and kids were scrambling back to their cars at a jog as the precipitation ramped up in volume and ferocity.

Think Metric

So far the switch to the Metric system has done nothing but confuse me. The Metric system sounds like a great idea and in theory it is, but when it comes to actually using it for anything meaningful it requires two messy extra mental steps that produce results in which I have almost no real confidence. Usually I have to convert whatever measure I'm concerned with from the English system to the Metric system using a hazily-remembered ratio, do the math itself (which usually involves moving decimal points around) and then convert back to the English measurement using a complimentary and hazily-remembered ratio to get my result. Sometimes this simultaneously involves a money conversion rate such as describing to someone the cost of gas in US dollars per gallon when I'm working from NZ dollars per liter.

But Saturday at the Mitre10 I saw in simple lucid terms what the Metric system might have in store for me. When I needed to measure out the wood that the helpful store clerk was to cut for me, I laid out the tape measure and there it was. 400 "mils" (millimeters) by 240 mils for one piece. Then for the edging, 420 mils to leave 10 mils at each end for the 10 mil edge piece, and two pieces of 230 mils for the sides.

No "five-and-eleven-sixteenths minus two-and-three-eighths is, uh, let's see three eights is six sixteenths, so that's 5 sixteenths left over so it's three and five sixteenths."

Doing woodworking without having to find common denominators? Crazy. I need to go build a bookshelf to celebrate.

Not that I'm a great woodworker. The last thing I built of any complexity was a novel but largely unused treehouse platform out of plywood sheets and pieces of two-by-four. Not exactly knocking together a Queen Anne jewelry armoire, but still requires some woodworking math of the sort described above to avoid jagged eye-gouging protuberances and dangerous splinter-causing edges.

The Bunk Night Bed Stand or Night Bunk Stand Bed?

Saturday's quest for wood was for a project idea Zoe came up with, which is to make essentially a "bunk bed night stand" where she could put her cup of water and her book when it was lights-out time. I thought it was a brilliant idea. Both of the girls have what I used to call "lofts" which is a bunk bed with no bottom bed. Instead of a bottom bed, there's a desk down there with a little chair. In the tiny rooms of our NZ house, getting your bed up above your head frees up a lot of move-about space and elbow room.

Zoe and I discussed the general design of the bunk bed end table and arrived at a common understanding that it needed to fasten to the bed rail on the top bunk, hang down a bit below the railing on the outside of the bed and that it needed a lip running around the edge of what's effectively a shelf to keep the contents in place while groggy children grope for water in the dark.

We'll post the results of our construction. We bought materials for making two of these things, though we still have to work out the fasten-to-the-bed rail part. I have high hopes that we'll end up with some sturdy and attractive bunk bed night stands that hopefully lack eye-gougers and splinter-makers.

Made simple thanks to the Metric System.


Anonymous said...

Of course an alternate to the bedside stand is to tie a rope to the upper bunk and hang some sort of container at the end so that a glass of water can be put in the container and hoisted up when a drink is needed. That way the container can also be reached from the ground.


Cathy said...

Your struggle -- and then appreciation -- of the ease of using metric measurements sadly does paint a nice picture of the struggles that we "measurement impaired" folks in the convential systems have to deal with when trying to go metric. Schools in the U.S. have struggled for years to convert. Only the persistent teacher, who can create a measurement "bridge" between systems can have some partial success. Perhaps it also explains why engineers mix both systems....Thanks for giving the wonderful snapshot of your struggles to deal with yet another challenge in such a positive and endearing way. Love you -- Mom