Tuesday, December 28, 2010

I can tell I'm a parent because my Christmas cards are lame

Despite my lack of Christmas spirit, I’ve been in the habit of writing holiday update letters to send out to friends and family for the better part of the last decade.  This started as a modest undertaking, but over time has become a bit of a competition between my current self and previous years’ selves, to pack as much information, humor, and incisive social commentary as possible into two pages of single-spaced, 8-point sans serif.

Last year’s letter was as elaborate and dense as a mail-order fruitcake, and probably devoured with just as much enthusiasm by its recipients.

Read more... 


***

I'm over at Aiming Low today, and you should totally go over there and read and bitch about the lame cards you got this Christmas.  But as a Beta Dad exclusive, here are some pics from Christmas, taken by my ridiculously talented sister-in-law:
 

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A drunk from the alley visits Santa's workshop

I've been burning the midnight oil this week, trying to get the kids' Christmas presents ready in time for the big day.  All the time I've spent in and around the garage lately has made me realize how much I've missed my alley neighbors now that major combat operations for the addition are over.  See, our detached garage (a.k.a Mancave, a.k.a CENTCOM, and lately a.k.a Santa's Workshop) opens onto the dead-end alley that runs behind our house.  It's the closest thing we've got to a cul de sac. And when I'm working on a big project, like rebuilding my house for instance, I get to see a lot of my alley people.  It's been a while since I've had a big project.

There's a different vibe in the alley than on the front side of the house.  In the alley, we tend to hang out with our garage doors open, wander around and chat with one another, and check out each other's projects.  Being the only guy on the block with a contractor's license, I do a lot of consultations and tool loans.  The front of our house faces a pretty busy street, and if you want to contact neighbors on the other side, you have to either yell across it between passing cars, or commit to physically crossing; so it's easier just to smile and wave.  The alley is far more conducive to neighborly interaction.  

My alley neighbors hardly ever complained during the year or so that I regularly had concrete trucks parked behind my garage, huge loads of lumber stacked on the asphalt, and saws and compressors running day and night.  So I wasn't too worried a couple nights ago when I was still working on the Christmas project after 11:00 p.m.  I had my sawhorses set up right outside the garage door since the weather was nice and I was too lazy to move the minivan out of the garage.  I wasn't using any power tools louder than a cordless drill, and I was working by the light of a halogen worklight and an LED headlamp.

Just as I was about to start rolling up my tools for the night, I was distracted by someone's motion-sensor floodlight going on at the entrance to the alley.  In the distance, I could make out a figure staggering toward me in fits and starts.

"Great," I thought.  "Some bum looking for a place to take a dump."

Since our house is at the dead-end of the alley, I was able to track his progress for the length of his drunken odyssey.

That's the drawback of the dead-end alley.  While it discourages drivers from cutting through during the day, it's a perfect place for people to duck into the shadows to conduct illicit business of all sorts at night.  I've rarely caught anyone in the process of committing these acts, although I once chased out a bunch of teenage good-for-nothings who were drinking 40s and peeing in the carport of a neighbor's condo at 10 a.m. on a school day.

No, normally I'm just left to envision the scene from the previous night that resulted in a used condom, a bag of kitty litter, and a pair of heavily soiled jeans draped over an abandoned shopping cart modified with foam-rubber and zip ties.

But the other night, I was out there as the act, it seemed, was about to be committed.  My adrenaline levels were up, but I wasn't worried that this guy would give me much trouble because, a) he seemed too drunk to walk, much less assault; b) Stella was at my feet, and even though she's essentially an anxiety-ridden 120-lb chihuahua, she seems pretty scary when she appears, growling, from the inky shadows; and c) I had a lot of tools closeby to use as makeshift weapons.

"What's up, bro?" I said, a full octave deeper than I normally would have.  I said it in a way calculated to signify neither a friendly interest in the fellow's general state, nor a feeling of brotherly goodwill.

He didn't answer.

"Where you goin', bro?" I said, jutting my chin out and directing the beam of my headlamp into his eyes.  I reached to the back of my tool belt and put my hand on my unnecessarily large framing hammer.  It's like a Hummer hammer.

I'm not sure what was going on with all the "bro" business.  That's not an expression I normally use.  I guess I thought it sounded a little intimidating, since the guys who tend to use it all the time seem to be SoCal rednecks: you know, hardcore surfers, roofers, guys with dirt bikes and and Metal Mulisha stickers on their monster trucks.

"Home, man," he finally slurred, with a bit of a chuckle in his voice.

He looked like an aging frat boy--white, flip-flops, kind of heavy, slightly balding.  It was like I was looking in a mirror, actually.  A mirror that added fifteen pounds and nine shots of Jaeger.

"Where do you live?"

"Right there."  He pointed to the pink stucco apartments whose garage opens onto the alley opposite our house.

"Oh," I said.  "I didn't recognize you."  I went ahead and dropped the tough guy routine.  As long as he went through the gate to the little apartment complex, I didn't care what he did after that.

"What the hellrya makin' out here at threenthemornin' and shit?"

Okay.  I saw where this was going.  No sooner had I shed my hardass act than I had to adopt an attitude that would gently rebuff an overly garrulous drunk.  I've been there before.  We probably all have.  In fact, I've probably been on either side of the equation.  The trick is to get the drunk to lose interest in you before he starts opening up about his childhood and then ends up crying in your arms or declaring his love for you or threatening to kill you and himself because that love is so strong that he can't bear it.

I briefly explained that I was making Christmas presents for my kids, and, in the most uninteresting and brief way I could, told him what they would be.

What followed was a three and a half minute loop of this:

Drunk: Thass so coool...can I help you?

Me: Nah, man.  I've got it.  I'm just trying to wrap up here, anyway. [Makes big show of winding up power cords]

Drunk: Well, can I jusht help you put some stuff away?

Me: No, thanks.  Got it under control.

Drunk: C'mon, lemme give you a hand.  I waaant to!


He finally left after I had spent a good deal of time with my back toward him, pretending to tidy up some lumber scraps while Stella sniffed and growled at him, hackles fully engaged.

I momentarily felt bad for having been suspicious of the guy, and was embarrassed at my attempts to intimidate him.  I would be sheepish when I saw him some other day, washing his car or tuning up his bicycle or whatever.  But I'm sure if he remembers anything about our conversation beyond a bright light and a growling dog, he understands that we alley people have to be vigilant about keeping the riff-raff out of our beloved potholed piazza.

***

Christmas project update: It looks like the presents won't be ready for Christmas day.  Or maybe they will be, but we won't have them by then, because we'll be out of town and the toys will still be here, getting an amazing paint job.  I'm pretty much finished with the building part, but my friend and former student agreed to paint them, and once she got into it, she realized that it would take longer than she thought, especially if we maintain the incredible level of detail and cuteness that she has masterfully created so far.

This is what I'm talking about:



Friday, December 17, 2010

Aiming Low

Check it out: I have a new writing gig!  Along with Ron Mattocks of Clark Kent's Lunchbox, I'm reppin' the Y chromosome for a group blog written by a bunch of smart, talented gyno-Americans (and Canadians).

It's called Aiming Low, and it's the brainchild of Anissa Mayhew, who needs no introduction to anyone who reads mommyblogs(ish).

Here's the link to my inaugural post at Aiming Low.  Please do me a solid and click the link, read the post, and share some of the comment love that I always appreciate more than you can imagine right here at home.

Okay. Look.  I didn't want to have to resort to bribery, but here's an adorable video of Cobra the Stuntbaby.  But you're not allowed to watch it until after you read my piece at Aiming Low.

 

In case you missed it, here's a link to my first post at Aiming Low. 

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

RTT: What's he building in there?

These photos were taken outside of the Beta Dad laboratory/workshop recently. No one has been able to say for sure what's going on in there, but there is speculation that it has something to do with Christmas, and could explain Beta Dad's almost complete absence from electronic social media outlets in the last few days.

If you have any idea what this project could be, please share it in the comment section.







Tom Waits wrote a song after seeing the leaked photos above.  Below is the video for said song:




***
I lost a couple followers since my last post.  I wonder if they bailed because I'm such a Scrooge about Christmas.  Or maybe they just got sick of my self-absorbed nattering. 

I know what you're saying: I shouldn't be so consumed with negative thoughts.  There's probably a good explanation.  Maybe they died.



This so-called blog post brought to you in conjunction with Keely at The Un Mom.  Kindly click on the purpley thing right below here, and go do whatever she tells you to do.






Friday, December 10, 2010

The House that Christmas Threw Up On

Yeah, yeah.  It's Christmas time, I know.  I should be hanging lights all over the place.

I was stashing some baby gear boxes up in the rafters of the garage yesterday, and I found our medium-sized plastic trash bag full of Christmas ornaments.  They were next to our 24-inch tinsel Christmas tree and our two small boxes of Christmas lights.  All of our Yuletide stuff fit on a 2-foot by 2-foot piece of plywood resting between two roof trusses.

I could have gotten it down as long as I was already standing there on the step ladder, but I guess I thought that if I left it, we might just forget about decorating until it was too late.

I've actually gotten better about tolerating the trappings of Christmas.  I wouldn't step foot in a mall in December, of course, but I can walk around the neighborhood, for instance, and appreciate regular folks' attempts to create a festive atmosphere.

Regular folks like this guy:


Every year he goes a little bit more batshit with the light show; and his neighbors, far from complaining, have joined forces with him.  His lights extend to at least one neighbor's house and yard, and flash in time to Christmas music that pumps well into the night.

I've been watching the progress he's made in his decorations for the last month as I walk my dog or run (because I'm a runner now) past his modest bungalow.  He's had a scissor-lift on the sidewalk out front for weeks, and a bunch of drifters and carnies stringing extension cords between the palm trees.  When he fired it all up on Thanksgiving day, I could see it from the dog park, about half a mile away.

The plastic paint tray protects some of the dozens of power strips from the elements

 
There was a time when I wouldn't have gone by that house for any other reason except to hone my disdain, and maybe torture myself a little bit.  Kind of like when I listen to Glenn Beck on the car radio.

But last night I strolled past it several times, stood across the street, and was able to admire the dedication required to run this show, as well as the sheer spectacle of it.  Of course, part of me was disgusted by the waste of money and natural resources (the local paper says his electric bill is over two grand while he has this display up), but another part of me wanted to sit down and be dazzled.  That part of me was overruled, however, by the part that couldn't stand to hear the theme song from Polar Express anymore.

I remember exactly the moment when I soured on Christmas, but I only have theories as to why.  It was when I was in seventh grade, and we lived in a run-down apartment in Soviet Moscow that served as one of the diplomatic residences.  I didn't remember it as being that shabby, but I recently saw some pictures of it that I hadn't seen in thirty years, and it was all kinds of dilapidated.

So it was the dead of winter in the city for which vodka was invented as an antidote, and my parents had decorated the apartment not only to cheer things up for us, but to show diplomats from other countries what Christmas in America was like.  That was part of their job. They were entertaining some diplomats from somewhere in West Africa, I think, and I was in my room, lying on my bed.

All at once, I was overcome by despair, which was not something that happened to me much.  I was kind of a sensitive kid, but I was usually preoccupied with my cadre of international diplo-brats, selling Levi's and bubblegum to Russians for worthless rubles, aimlessly riding on the Metro, and memorizing all the words to Frank Zappa albums.  I didn't have time for melancholia.  But I was alone that night in a house full of strangers, and fell into a funk worthy of Rodya Raskolnikov himself.  

After the guests left, my parents found me in a heap in my room, unable to explain what exactly was wrong, only connecting it somehow to Christmas decorations.  I must have used the words "tinsel" and "glitter" in my weepy diatribe, because my very indulgent parents put a moratorium on those elements of decor in the house until such a time as I could tolerate them again. 

So for every Christmas after my meltdown until I went to college, the house was only decorated in tasteful wooden, glass, and fabric ornaments--preferably handmade--and wreaths made from fresh-cut pine boughs.  Christmas trees had monochromatic lighting and a simple angel in a burlap gown on top. For music, Mahalia Jackson was acceptable, but John Denver was pushing up against the boundaries of good taste, and Mannheim Steamroller was way beyond the pale.  What a little diva I was!

The truth is that I had mostly gotten over my Christmas revulsion within a couple of years, but it had kind of become my shtick.  I was the guy who hated cherubs and fake mistletoe.  My "problem" with Christmas got me out of many boring events and onerous obligations, and I could scoff at other people's poor taste with impunity.  In fact, I was expected to!

But eventually that role grew tiresome not only to friends and family, but to myself.  So I just became the guy who doesn't really care one way or the other about Christmas.  It's kind of fun to hang some lights under the eaves and stick our little tree in the bay window, I guess.  But it's also fun to not do that, and go see a movie instead.  We'll see which way it goes this year.

The thing is, though, that the kids have now seen houses with real Christmas decorations. And I've seen them see these houses.  Their feelings about garish displays of lights are not very complicated and can be summed up with their own words: "Wowwww!"  So, just as my parents indulged my aesthetic demands, I'm sure I'll be stringing up whatever configuration of lights, tinsel, and glitter the twins demand. 

Maybe even something like this:







   






***Check it out!!! This here's an addendum regarding holiday spirit and generosity and stuff.***

Starting next week, I'll be writing as the token male at a site called Aiming Low, the brainchild of Anissa Mayhew.  You will hear much more about that soon, you can be sure.

But the thing is that you can and should go to the site and donate some of your Latte money to a family in dire need who are in real danger of not being able to pay their $40.00 electricity bill this Christmas.  Here's the link for Aiming Low's Adopt a Family campaign.  Light up their holiday, yo!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The thing that made me feel like a jerk yesterday, plus the cutest video ever

The kids had quite a bit of probably disorienting stimulation last weekend, including a wild rumpus on a pile of snow in a public park on a 70-degree day, and brunch at a theme-restaurant we had a gift certificate for that was supposed to look like a French farmhouse being used as a WWI U.S. Army Air Corps headquarters.  Or something.  I think the owner just happened to have some rusted out pieces of old planes and decided to build the restaurant around them.  There were also ducks outside in a camouflage net enclosure, and cheap, mediocre Bloody Marys.  So everyone was entertained.

Anyway, we've been taking it easy so far this week, staying close to home and doing familiar activities.  One of our usual outings includes a run* with the kids strapped into the amazing Chariot stroller/jogger/bike trailer/sleigh/rickshaw/palanquin, including a break around mile two for an hour or so of playground time.

After our run-and-playground session yesterday, I was trying to get the kids into the house quickly, without sweating on them too much, so they could go down for their nap.

So we're all standing on the deck as I fumble with the keys for the back door.  Butterbean goes directly after the electrical outlet on the wall next to the door, and Cobra heads in the other direction, toward the dog dishes.

I get the door unlocked, but Butterbean is positioned so that if I open the door, I trap her behind it.  Also she's playing with the outlet, which is supposedly dangerous.  As I try to pull Butterbean out of the corner, Cobra picks up Stella's food dish, holds it high, and says, "Muh, muh," which is a derivation of the English "more," and means, roughly, "Put food here!"

"Stella doesn't need any food right now, Sweetie," I tell her.  "We'll feed her later, okay?"

I wrest the bowl from her hand and hold onto her wrist.  Butterbean is now wailing at the injustice of having been separated from her beloved outlet.  Stella is trying to barge out of the partially open door so she can greet us with alternating tail-wags and fearful cringes.

"OKAY!  STELLA: BACK UP.  KIDS: COME INSIDE.  EVERYBODY: SETTLE DOWN."

In the confusion, Cobra plows into Butterbean, who falls down, bumps her arm, and redoubles the volume and intensity of her crying.  This drama, and the loss of the dog dish, causes Cobra's chin to start quivering, and tears to well up in her eyes.

Although Butterbean's tantrums are full of pyrotechnics and piercing shrieks, Cobra's quiet shuddering is more effective in terms of evoking pathos.  At least from me.  But I steel myself against the sad cuteness, and finally get the girls inside and the door closed behind us.

Cobra holds out her tiny fist in such a way that I realize she has managed to smuggle some contraband in it.

"All right," I say.  "Hand it over.  Let's go.  Let's see what you've got there."

She continues clomping forward, toward Stella, with her fist held out in front of her.

"Fork it over little missy," I say, prying her fingers open.  This engenders some snuffling and open-mouth sobbing.

Finally, I get her fist open, and see what it is that she had grabbed.

It's a lone dogfood pellet that she was trying to feed to Stella.  Of course.

"Aww, Sweetheart.  That's so nice you were thinking about your doggie," I say over the wails and sobs of the two girls.

I try to give the pellet to Stella, but by this time she's too scared from the ruckus to eat.

***

Here's a really cute video (if I do say so myslelf) where you can't imagine me being a jerk or Butterbean having a meltdown:






*Yeah, I'm running now.  And it ain't pretty.  Am I supposed to feel like I could very possibly die every single time I go for a jog?  Back in the day, they used to talk about a euphoric "runner's high," but the only altered state I've achieved feels like a panic attack during a brutal hangover.  Anyone have recommendations about books or other resources that will teach me how to run better?

Monday, December 6, 2010

Photo Essay: What Southern Californians Wear on their Feet when it Snows.

If you've ever moved to California, or know someone who has, then you know what happens.  California makes you weak.  Especially when it comes to weather, and especially in the ridiculously temperate southern part of the state.  My wife and I, who grew up in places with seasons, have a theory about how the lack of weather keeps Californians from growing up.  There are a lot of aspects to this theory, but the crux is that, whereas living through cycles of climactic adversity builds character, basking in comfort year-round renders one perpetually adolescent.

I don't know how we'll try to keep our kids from avoiding this pitfall.  Maybe we can send them to boarding school in Minnesota or something.  Lord knows it's too late for us now, since we've lived here for nearly ten years and get shivery and weepy when we visit family in Virginia, which really isn't even very cold.  But our children still have a chance.

In the interest of introducing the girls to the idea of winter, my wife and I took them to a temporary glacier in a suburban recreation area over the weekend.  They had trucked in 55 tons of snow from God-knows-where and created a little sledding hill and play area.

No one I talked to knew where the snow had come from, but it looked machine-made to me.  Still, the temperature has to be below freezing to make snow, so even though it had gotten down into the unseasonably cold lower 50s recently, they would have had to create the icy slush in some huge refrigerated warehouse.



The bustling event was supposed to be the site for an Asian Mommies meetup, but we only found a couple group members there amid the chaos of the snow pile, bouncy houses, pony rides, etc., etc.  It didn't help that many of the Asian Mommies that were supposed to show up were people I had never met or had only met once or twice, and that this particular suburb happens to be teeming with Asian families.  So I spent a good deal of time staring at Asian women, trying to figure out if I had met them or at least seen their profile pictures on our group's website.  I'm sure no one found this creepy.

The girls had fun digging around in the snow, and we even took a few runs on a sled that someone handed us.  But I don't think they really got a sense of how a real winter gets a harrowing grip on your soul, which, when released, makes springtime all the sweeter.  We'll work on that more next year.







The other creepy thing I did while we were at the winter wonderland was to take pictures of people's feet.  Footwear says so much about a person, and the way Californians prepare their feet for snow reveals the diversity of misapprehensions they have about this foreign substance.  The classic SoCal winter look is shorts or a mini-skirt with Ugg boots (those amorphous high-top shearling slippers), but I didn't take pictures of any of the 16-year-old girls rocking that look because I didn't want to get beat up by their dads.

So this is what I got:



 Full-on winter boots. 


Stopped by the glacier on the way to get some gas for the lawnmower.


 
If this were Northern Cali, he would have at least busted out the wool socks.

Mini-Uggs



I was almost positive these belonged to one of the Asian Mommies, but I never got up the nerve to ask her if we had met.  Earlier, we had seen her pushing a stroller about a quarter mile up the hill to the park because there were no more parking spaces up top.




She also wore a coat that matched her mukluks.  I think the whole ensemble was made of extremely rare black reindeer hide.




Now that's what I'm talking about--sandals with socks.  This was somebody's Asian grandpa.


She just about bit it as I was taking this picture, but miraculously stayed upright.  I was also sure she was a member of my Asian Mommy group, and went ahead and asked her.  She was all "Um...what?  Asian Mommies?  I don't know what you're talking about."  I gave up on trying to find my sister-friends after that.



Ahh.  9-hole Doc Martens.  Rugged, stylish--just the thing for seventy degrees and light snow.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

In defense of IKEA

Full disclosure:  IKEA didn't give me shit for writing this, but they should have.  [Dear IKEA, I'll still take some free stuff ex post facto if you happen to be reading.]

I know IKEA doesn't really need to be defended.  It's not like they can't take care of themselves, seeing as how 92% of all furniture purchased on Earth is from IKEA*, and the remaining whatever percent is left over is bought by design snobs, goody-goodies, and people who live in the god-forsaken hinterlands where there's no IKEA within hundreds of miles (can you imagine?).  Given its huge sphere of influence, it's not surprising that it's become fashionable in some quarters to take potshots the Swedish giant.

To some extent, I guess I'm defending myself for not being enough of a design snob or goody-goody.  Don't get me wrong--I like Eames chairs just as much as the next guy.  They look cool in pictures and in somebody else's Mid-Century Modern living room.  But they would be incongruous in our old bungalow (okay--shotgun shack), and they just aren't that comfortable anyway. Plus, once you buy one, you're pretty much committed to making your home into a museum of used high-end furniture.

As for the criticisms of the goody-goodies--that IKEA is a forest-raping, third-world sweatshop overlord--I doubt that many other manufacturers have better records in that regard.  And even if they still made furniture in countries that had labor laws, most of us wouldn't be able to afford it.  So to own furniture in good conscience, you would have to make it yourself or buy it second-hand, making sure it was built in an era in which workers were treated fairly and natural resources were handled with great deference.  Good luck with that.


In addition to its aesthetics and dubious corporate virtue, a perceived lack of quality in its products is often a target for IKEA's critics.  This critique plays into questions of the company's environmental impact as well: the argument goes that because they make cheap, short-lived furniture, they contribute to overflowing landfills and deforestation.  If they just made sturdier stuff, critics say, customers would not need to replace it every couple of years; and therefore less furniture, less landfill space for the old junk, and less lumber for the new stuff would be needed.  Fair enough, I guess.  Although I have to say that of the hundreds of pieces I've bought from IKEA over the years, probably 90% of them are still in use by somebody.  And anyway, I don't want to buy furniture that I'm stuck with for the rest of my life.

The reason I'm getting defensive about IKEA is that I've been spending the last few evenings assembling an entire new IKEA dining room set; one that will replace the IKEA set my wife and I bought back in, oh, about 1994.  For "disposable" furniture, it's held up pretty well.  Okay, to be honest, the chairs have pretty much fallen apart in the last few months.  I could probably fix them if I needed to, though.


 The old set.  Totally '90s, right?


So, having cleared my conscience in regard to the philosophical quibbles of buying from IKEA, I will proceed to address another one of the most common gripes about the Scandinavian behemoth: that its products are difficult to assemble and the directions are indecipherable.

This is patently absurd.  Say what you will about the look of their furniture, but you can't deny that their engineering, down to the last fastener, is a paragon of efficiency and ingenuity, all geared toward shipping the products in flat boxes to cut costs, and not requiring much in the way of skills or tools on the part of the eventual assembler.  You've got to love not only the cleverness, but the populist philosophy behind it.

And the instructions are an amazing display of succinctness and clarity.  Whereas most some-assembly-required products come with instructions bogged down in convoluted, ill-translated verbiage, IKEA uses cartoon figures and universally understood icons almost exclusively.  These pictograms are uncannily thorough.  Pick up a screw that looks like the one pictured, and there on the page is a simple drawing cautioning you not to confuse screw #144083 with its longer cousin, screw #144085.  You know you were about to use the long screw.

The ingenious design and the clear instructions make assembling IKEA furniture a real pleasure for me.  That's right--I truly look forward to putting this stuff together.  Having built stuff for a living for most of my life, it's always relaxing to assemble furniture that I know is going to come out right.  I get much of the satisfaction and none of the stress that I would from building something out of raw lumber.  I know that all the hardware will be there, that the components will fit together, and that the end product will be handsome and practical.  There's no running to the lumber yard in the middle of the job, trimming and tweaking, and no surprises once the final product is unveiled.  I wish I could say that about all of the houses, decks, and other structures I've built.


The new dining room set.  It's like grownup furniture.

*** 

When I finished building the addition on our house, and we started populating the new space with affordable, aesthetically innocuous furniture, my father-in-law helped me set up the IKEA bedroom suite.   

Bo (Vietnamese for "Dad"), who put six kids through college by repairing and refinishing furniture, has a similar respect for IKEA, despite his livelihood hinging on desks and bureaus that are built for the ages.

"You can't make it no cheaper than this!" he said with admiration as we unpacked the veneered particle board.

We had two identical nightstands to put together, and although there were no challenges issued, the race was totally on.

I noticed that Bo's strategy was to scan the instructions, throw them aside, and then start slamming the thing together.  It was pretty impressive that he didn't need to refer to the diagrams once in the process.

My technique was, and remains, the opposite of his.  I will start at Step One, and, without reading ahead or peeking at the last page, perform each task as it is assigned.  I hadn't thought about it this way before, but to me assembling a piece of IKEA furniture is something like reading a good book.  There is a bit of work involved, but there's no real rush to complete the project.  The joy of it comes from putting the pieces together, in ways that you often didn't expect, to reveal the ultimate work of art that is only realized after it has been processed by the reader.

And, in case you were wondering, the old man and I tied at the nightstand-building contest.       


***
     


I am bound by a brother-in-lawly bond to post this video every time I mention, or see, the word "IKEA" on the internets.  My bro-in-law is the shirtless one.  He's also Cobra's godfather, which gives us extra incentive to stay alive.  







*Statistic from a 2007 study conducted by Journal of my Ass (JOMA).

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