The Loft Project – Building a custom loft bed

Over the winter break I moved into a shared house in Mosaic. My new bedroom had to serve a couple purposes – it needed to, obviously, be my bedroom, but it also had to provide sleeping space for when my son visited, as well as be comfortable and easy to relax in. I needed a space for my bookshelves, my desk, my nice comfy Aeron chair, and naturally my clothing and some other bits. Beds take up a ginormous amount of space and I was working with only about 120 square feet total. A queen sized bed takes up 30 square feet, plus ‘navigation’ around it – I needed to figure out how to use that space the best.

So, a loft.

Loft: space before building
The design for the two bedroom unit master bedroom includes a sort of ‘niche’ area – that space is exactly the size of a queen sized bed (okay, not EXACTLY. It’s 2″ wider and about 15″ short), but after staring at the space, it was pretty easy to picture a loft bed build into the space. The ceiling was high enough, there was an awesome highly-placed window, I was ready to go.

I have a fondness for heavy lumber and carriage bolts, so naturally that’s what I ended up using. I borrowed the Mosaic pickup truck and headed over to Home Depot. Total materials cost was around $160, which, all things considered, wasn’t too bad. I only had to buy one new tool – a 1/4″ boring drill so I could make holes through the 4×4 support posts – everything else I could do with my existing tool set (a very nice feeling I must admit). The hardest choice was trying to determine what to use for the decking – initially I had thought to use sanded 3/4″ plywood, but holy cats that’s expensive ($40+ for a 4×8 sheet, and I’d need two). I ended up using OSB plywood, which was inexpensive and quite strong (but holy cats is it heavy). Not as elegant, but I also determined I’d paint the entire structure (rather than stain or leave as raw wood), so the material for the decking wouldn’t really matter – it would be painted and covered with the mattress

Loft: framing mostly doneOnce I had all the lumber back home, I started building the framing. 2×6 wood for the sideboards and the head and footboards – 4×4 post wood for the corners. The back posts were made ‘taller’ so that I could build what will amount to a headboard against them, with a built in shelf. I set the height so that the decking would be below the window sill but high enough to make ‘bunk’ space underneath accessible. The other design step was to put the 2×6 lumber ‘outboard’ from the posts – this would mean the corner posts woul dbe ‘away’ from the walls and corners, therefore trimwood around the floor would not push the loft away from the wall.

I used 1/4″ x 6″ carriage bolts to hold all the pieces together, boring pilot holes with my drill. This was quite a challenge in several respects. One was making sure the whole thing aligned properly, another was some of the holes needed to be bored while the structure was standing in the space. Not a lot of room to work with!

The lower supports on three sides are simply standard 2×4 studs, also bolted into place. The decking is held up by 5 2×4 stringers. These stringers are hung from the 2×6 side rails using aluminum joist hangers. I have to say, these hangers are one of the niftiest little accessories I’ve used. They made installing the stringers a walk in the park (once I had the right length screws. Grr. 🙂

Loft: painted in placeOnce the framing was done, it was time to paint. I decided to paint the entire structure flat black, mixed at the local hardware store. I overbought on the paint, thinking I’d use a half gallon or so on the whole project, but after I had painted all the structural members, I had only used about 1/10th of the gallon. Later, when I started painting the decking, I was using MUCH more paint. More surface area? Didn’t seem like it… but I guess it just costs more to paint OSB.

Putting the decking on was a bit of a challenge due to the size and weight of the OSB, and the space I was working in. It’s impossible to carry a 4×8 sheet of plywood upstairs in these houses, so I had to cut the sheets down before carrying them up the stairs. The second challenge was the lack of a table saw, so all cuts needed to be done with my skilsaw. Time consuming and inaccurate. I mis-cut one piece (the OSB is tongue-in-groove, and I mismatched the side :-/), but eventually I had the 2 pieces of decking in place and screwed down. Yay!

By this time I was getting pretty tired, and I ended up painting only about 1/3rd of the top of the decking – enough to cover all the edges and a chunk of the surface – everything that would be visible once things were in place.

Loft: As it stands nowAnother community member offered up a very nice queen sized mattress which we schlepped up and put into place. Perfect fit! The drawback was I had calculated based on what I remember mattresses were like. Unfortunately, I have been sleeping on futons and waterbeds for the last 20 years. Mattresses got thick! Fortunately, not THAT thick – I could still sit up comfortably up in the loft space, but there’s slightly less headroom than I had planned. Oh well!

There’s some steps left to do – I still need to put the backing board and shelf along the posts for the ‘headboard’, and I’d like to mount a reading light or two back there as well (with a remote switch I can turn on when I’m climbing into bed). However, I’m ecstatic with the end result as it stands. The loft is secure and doesn’t wobble – it’s comfortable and very ‘cozy’. I adore having the window right next to me when I wake up in the morning, and the mattress is a delight to sleep on.

Total construction time (sawing, hammering, drilling, painting, etc) – about 12 hours. Incidental work (driving and shopping and the like) another 4 hours. Cost: about $180.

I like it.

The Abyss awaits

PenkSo, okay, it’s true.
I’m playing World of Warcraft.
I’ve been fighting this ever since the whole platform launched. Hearing stories of folks’ lives getting sucked into the game, coupled with tales of hordes of kiddies hacking and slashing their way across the landscape – not exactly ringing endorsements.
But recently Blizzard had an 11 day trial (not sure how recent this is really), and I decided to take the plunge and give it a try.
I… kinda like it.
I can completely see how it would suck people in and replace their lives. The game is immersive, the landscape interesting and beautifully handled, the levelling and character development are interesting enough to keep the game rolling, but not so hard to elicit complete frustration.
My Macbook is handling the game beautifully – frame rates are through the roof, though it does take a mere 5 minutes of playing before I hear the cooling fan kick on. It does take resources.
WoW is as close as you can get to ‘real D&D online’, particularly if you’re in a good guild (which I am) that has good players as well as a fun environment.
Will I stick with it? I’m not sure. The big draw for me right now is not the 3 hour dragon raids (which I haven’t participated in yet :), but the “I have an hour – think I’ll go run a few quests.) – this is very different (in my opinion) than Eve, where you couldn’t ‘just play casually for an hour, then go back to work’. In Eve, if you started a mission, you had to complete it within a set time period (days or a week or so), or suffer a major penalty. There’s no such issue in WoW. I have a dozen quests going at any given time, so when I log in, I can choose to do deliveries / messaging (mostly involving travelling), or grinds where you have to kill off X critters.
So far, it’s been enjoyable, but has not sucked the life out of me. We’ll see.

Fall in New England

Around the south endIt’s no secret I’m not a summer person. I don’t like heat and sweatiness and all that goes with it. So as fall rolls around, the weather gets cooler and drier, my satisfaction with being out in the woods goes up accordingly.
Sunday we took a nice 3 mile walk around Gates Pond, a good sized pond (really, IMHO, a lake), about a mile from us.
The weather was glorious. Low sixties, breezy and sunny. Perfect for enjoying the colors and sounds of the woods.
It also gave me an opportunity to haul out my camera, dust it off, and spend some time taking pictures again. I’ve really neglected my photography. I had to learn how to work with iPhoto and CF card adapters, but all in all, it went pretty smoothly.
Click through to see the gallery!

Free Introductory Mac Strategy Games?

Ever since my Mom got her new Macbook, she’s been a total flash game addict. Word games, match-the-gem games, silly “get the ball in the bucket” games – the whole gamut.
momsmacShe’s a gamer, but a gamer that’s never been exposed to games beyond these simple mindless toys. Granted, some of them are sort of interesting and fun, but there’s a whole world that she’s never seen.
Now me? I’m into Starcraft, and Civilization, and Eve, and all these epic immersive things. But for someone who has never played the basics, these are completely daunting and will more likely scare her off than intrigue her.
So where do you find the middle ground?
I’m looking for basic, introductory games for the Mac that are free (or really close to free), that should have a basic plot line (even if it’s trivial), and some way of advancing through the game.
We tried FreeCiv, but that’s targeted at people who already grok Civilization, so that’s not going to work. Something simpler than that, along the lines of Master of Orion (the original), Spaceward Ho, etc etc. At some point she tried the original SimCity but that almost ate her brain, and she deleted it. However, this same woman is one of the best players I’ve ever seen at… believe it or not… Crystal Quest. Granted, that’s also a mindless “keep shooting” game, but it takes some serious chops for the upper levels.
So, dear readers, what would you suggest? It can be flash based, or downloadable, needs to run on the Mac, and should have a very basic level of introduction, particularly to turn based gameplay where there’s regular advancement. The first one I’ve come across that comes even remotely close is TradeWinds, a trading game set in Arabia. Very simple gameplay, entertaining, and has a plotline of sorts.
Any others?
(Note – I’ve had reports of people having problems posting comments to the blog. If you have a problem, please send mail to me ( ) and I’ll look into it!)

Nick Cave – There She Goes My Beautiful World

One of the things I love dearly about Radio Paradise is the constant exposure to music I would never have found under other circumstances.
A couple times I’ve heard tracks from Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, and sometimes they’ve hit pretty hard, but the one that got me today is the track “There She Goes My Beautiful World”. It came up on rotation on my laptop while coding, and I had to pause to listen… which naturally made me look around for the lyrics (it’s a long song and doesn’t suffer from the common “there’s really only 3 verses in this song, we’ll just yammer them over and over again” beat so prevalent in modern music.
I decided to do a little googling, and found the lyrics on (a little heavy on the ads, but some remarkably good commentary from listeners). The song is about someone longing for their muse – their inspiration and their drive to share, express, and excel, coupled with release and need.
Interested? Video and lyrics after the cut… I recommend headphones. Cave is an expressive and intense presenter, though no one would call his vocals beautifully melodic. The arrangement on this track, with the backing singers, is wonderful…

Continue reading “Nick Cave – There She Goes My Beautiful World”

Silly net meme. Fast typing!

452 points, so you achieved position 347 of 82048 on the ranking list
You type 562 characters per minute
You have 106 correct words and
you have 0 wrong words

I ran it through twice, improving the second time (from 95 up to 106). It takes a full minute of fast typing to make it work, and I feel silly chalking off my day in one minute increments just to get a higher ranking 🙂
The silly little “past this code!” thing is:
106 words


I own a Mac. Hades Ice Skate Order placed.

I’ve blogged before about being tempted by Macs, and in some ways my iPhone could be considered something of a ‘first taste’ of Apple products. But until now I’ve fought hard against really going whole hog into the Mac world.
I has a MacBook
Until now.
I’m the proud owner of what can arguably be called Apple’s top of the line laptop – a Macbook Pro 13.
This is a huge step for me. I am not only investing a significant amount of money into a small device that could easily be considered a ‘toy’, but I’m changing over to an environment I only have a passing familiarity with – OSX.
I’ve owned it for about 24 hours, and I will say – I’ve never worked with a sexier implementation of high end computing in my life. This is by far the fastest computer I’ve ever owned, let alone as my personal workstation, but with all it’s screaming horsepower, it is beautifully designed, with an operating system and environment I find… different, but not irritating. There are things I don’t know how to do, but I’m figuring them out. I have not had a single “oh that’s just plain idiotic” moment. I’m sure they’ll come, but so far it’s just been a series of “Hmm, that’s interesting… what if I… ah, that did it. Cool.” moments.
I’m still installing things, and still setting up my tools. This machine will be my life and blood for the next 3 years, so there’s a lot of work to do to bring it into full functionality. So far I have mail and chat and web stuff working fine, next will be my development environment. After that, virtual machines for running some of the business apps I’ll be using.
A particular thanks to all the people I talked to while making this decision. There was a lot of fantastic feedback and good commentary. It helped me affirm that I’m making the right decision.
Now, off to download Eclipse and get things set up so I can work on CONGO !

Of Bikes, Lemurs and Balloons

As is common on one of those ‘weekends in Cohousing‘, there’s rarely a lot of ‘sitting around, relaxing, and being bored.’ Yesterday started out fairly domestic, with a Metric Buttload of mowing. The grass and weed around here are growing like… well… like weeds. High humidity, warm temperatures, and a lot of rain will certainly do that. Right now we’re at the “need to mow every 2 weeks” stage. Thank goodness for electric pushmowers and simple garden tractors.
Cat and I got about half the property mowed – with me planning on attacking the field today (though the weather looks like it might not cooperate). Right now I’m wishing for a decent battery powered mower. One of my fellow cohousers managed to cut through the power cord already. A simple repair, but managing the cord is certainly tedious.
Tim and Beth on the rideBut we’re not through yet! Under the backdrop of Zach being sick (he’s been running a low grade fever for 3-4 days – we’re taking him to the doctor this morning), Beth and Tim convinced me to go on a bikeride.
Now, I have NOT been keeping up with my riding this summer. Small jaunts on the Giant bike around the site and up the road a bit, but almost no long distance rides on the Haluzak ‘bent. My brother in law had done a full tuneup on it recently, so it was ready to go, I just hadn’t taken the time to get out there. The other factor was I wanted to test a route to work – with the goal of occasionally bikeriding into work. Google Maps gave a decent route that totalled 14 miles each way. Workable.
So we rode it.
In retrospect, it might have been a bad idea to attempt a 40+ mile ride on the first day out. I ended up NOT making the entire ride – clocking out at 22 miles, and asking for a rescue from Cat. She and Steph and all the kids met the 3 bikers at Kimball Farm for ice cream and dinner, and I opted to ride back home in the car rather than bike it. I was wiped out.
Still, I’m pretty happy with doing 22 miles without completely disintegrating. The route was fantastic, with only 2 Killah hills (one of which I hiked up). The jaunt from my office to Kimball Farm is very simple (about 3 miles), though was probably the ugliest of the ride (riding along Littleton Road is not particularly fun, but it was the shortest of the legs).
Particular thanks to Beth for motivating me to get off my duff and hit the road. Both she and Tim were really supportive when I was flagging. I drank gallons of water, ate some tasty ice cream at Kimballs, and slept like the dead last night.
Ringtailed Lemur!Oh, the title? Well, Kimballs was PACKED. But they had a lot of activities going on as well. As soon as Zach and I sat down while folks were getting food, I glanced over, and LO, this woman had a ringtailed lemur on her shoulder! She was part of an animal show going on, and was very friendly, but it was certainly not what I expected to see. In addition, there was a balloon set up in the next field over giving rides. Not a hot air type – the gas bag is sealed, and it was well tethered to the ground – it certainly had a steampunk look. It was quite surreal seeing it appearing over the tree line during dinner.Balloon over Kimball Farms
All in all, quite a day. Today we have a doctors appointment, and if the weather holds out, I’ll haul the tractor out into the playing field to get that cut.

My Day, Let me tell you of it.

Generally I don’t post “my life” sorts of things on the blog, but it’s been quiet lately, so might as well chatter a moment.
Today was supposed to be part of a quiet weekend. Zach and Cat are up in Maine, and I have the house to myself. I figured I’d do a couple small projects, some gaming, some normal Cohousing socializing, and generally take it easy.
Today I:
* Dug a pair of holes where we’ll be putting up poles for clotheslines. I had some help, but boy digging through our rocky ‘soil’ ain’t easy. And the job isn’t done yet.
* Hauled out the weedwhacker and cleared grass from all around the hottub.
* Drove the pickup truck to the town transfer station to get a bedful of wood chips for the walkway to the hottub. Laid down cardboard and spread the chips out for the walk (thanks John and Kim for help!)Hay bales for Mosaic
* Drove same said truck to Malden to buy and haul back a new couch for the common house living room (Thanks Kim and Stephanie for help!)
* Stopped by Arisia storage to dig out one of my badge printers so I can run badges for a convention I’m providing reg services for.
* Helped unload 3 truckloads of hay bales Beezy got for various horticultural projects around the community.
* Had a tasty dinner with John and Judy across the way (thanks guys!)
* Tested out the hottub to make sure it didn’t have sharks in it. (it didn’t). Ahhhh.
* Took a shower and now I’m relaxing.
Yikes. If this is a relaxing day, I’m worried what a busy day will be like.
I have to comment on the above picture. I grew up on a horse farm, and in horse and cow country. Driving, loading, and unloading truckloads of haybales were a fairly regular occurance. I certainly had some flash backs here, particularly since the truck in use there (not Mosaic’s truck, a different one), is probably circa 1978. Got to drive it a bit too. Was an automatic, but boy it had all the fixens of the old country, that’s for sure.

Server Maintenance done – we have a new home

New server rack
This morning we moved Homeport’s 3 servers, plus the blog host, over to their new home in Mosaic’s Common House. This is something of an experiment, as we’ll be seeing how well the Charter business cable handles hosted servers. So far so good.
The move went mostly okay, with a time overrun of about an hour and a half due to a mysterious firewall problem that we finally got resolved. All services are up and running now.
It’s nice to have immediate physical access to the boxes. I know I can go into the server room and make configuration changes, add new machines, whatever. The only real problem that has cropped up so far is noise. The 5 existing servers + network hardware makes a heck of a racket (though I suspect the Rackable server is making the lions share). We may have to do some sound remediation – I mean more than the blanket I nailed up over the door.

Heavy Metal DVD – Awesome Documentary

One of the fun things about being settled into the new house is going through all my old movies and watching them again. I’d been putting off watching Heavy Metal for a while – through no other reason than “I want to wait until I’m in the right mood.” Last night was that Mood.
While exploring the DVD, I came across a sort of ‘making of’ documentary that I hadn’t seen before. It was Fantastic.
It was an ongoing interview with all the animators, as well as chats with Ivan Reitman and other folks involved in the film.
I found hearing the stories behind each segment, and the unabashed forwardness of everyone associated with the production (“It’s all about breasts!”) absolutely fascinating. One of the more intriguing bits was seeing the original model for Taarna going through the motions that were film-captured and animated over, including a sort of ‘half and half’ film clip – with Carol Desbiens acting out Taarna’s motions, and half of the animation filled in over her form. Absolutely riveting to watch.
It was intriguing to listen to the folks who worked on the film not making it as a ‘stoner’ film or anything of that ilk. It was science fiction fantasy material, very male oriented, targeted directly at the audience the Heavy Metal magazine was targeted at – adolescent and post-adolescent boys – particularly us sci fi geeks!
I highly recommend picking up the DVD release and watching the interviews. Really brings another level to the movie.