Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Real life: Avoiding customization to build a Sandbox

[This was originally posted at]

I have three kids - two sons and a daughter. Cute little buggers, so I wanted to make them a sandbox to play in. I figure doing something physical and outdoors, as opposed to watching TV, would be good for them. Plus, I'm all for anything that even remotely encourages them to do engineering. However, I have very, very, minimal wood-working skills. When it comes to woodworking, I am (at best) a hobbyist - by no means an expert. This means I was just trying to build a simple sandbox that works - no fancy wood cutting, things that take big vocabulary to describe, or expensive tools required. I made a crude box-like design, drove to the local home depot, and got help picking out the wood (12x1x6 inch cedar). The only cuts I made where ones that the home depot guy could do in the store - so no triangle, notched, or diagonal cuts. I hauled my precious wood back to my garage (read: not professional tool workshop), applied one coat of polyurthethane something (read: I hope that helps protect against weathering), and hammered the boards together. After digging the box into the ground and filling it with sand, it was good enough and I was done.

Why dump such a story on my technical blog? Because my hobbyist mentality towards a wood sandbox is essentially the same as many "programmers" hobbyist mentality towards the craft of software engineering. We both just want to get it done, make the end users happy, and maybe enjoy it along the way. If we miss out on an optimal technique, that's okay. Working with other people, it can be useful to understand that mindset.

And yes, the kids loved it.


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