Programming a Tree Fort: Day 0

August 25, 2007

I am a highly trained IT professional responsible for a number of multi-tiered web applications with a tremendous amount of complex interface logic. Building a backyard tree fort for the kids should be a snap considering my vast years of quick learning. After the first day’s progress, I am quickly learning that the physical world and the virtual world share the same amount of frustration.

Step 0: Elaboration Phase

Six or seven months ago on a drizzly, boring day the father instinct kicked in to high gear.

Me: “I should build the kids a fort”

Wife: “We can just buy them a swing set.”

Me: “Nah. I’d can build a better tree fort with a swing set, and a zip line, and a slide, and a fireman pole, and….”

Wife: “She really just wants a swing set”

Flash forward to present day.

Wife: “If you don’t have the tree fort built by Sept 8th, I am spending the money on the swing set”

Me: “But I thought you wanted to go out on the boat today?”

Step 1: Requirements

The first thing any seasoned programmer will do is scribble requirements on a napkin. I reached for a piece of paper (out of napkins – need to go to the grocery store) and fold it in to quarters. Phase 1 is the top left section: Build a platform. No sense in getting over my head immediately. I will concentrate a quick, short burst of building with quick feedback from the kids on the next set of features.

My Phase 1 objectives are:

  • Construct a platform 10 ft X 8.5 ft and 6 foot off the ground
  • Use two trees in the back island for front support; thereby satisfying the “tree” criteria. Note: Lots of Dads skimp on this part and use all posts for support. The tree fort then becomes a lumber fort, which is in itself a major achievement, but lacks the full appreciation one obtains knowing that one day a midnight storm is going to stress test your project. And, you’ll awake to find one of two things has happened: 1) Your tree fort is now a ground level playhouse needing a little TLC; or, 2) Mother Nature is your bitch and you should move up to building beach houses in the arm pit of the East Coast (i.e Outer Banks, NC).
  • Keep it simple and have fun!

Step 2: Setting up the environment


Whenever I start a new programming project, the very first thing I do after I decide on “what” is download all the latest tools and patches. In the virtual world, this usually costs nothing (save a new keyboard or mouse or monitor that would be make extremely more productive). The physical world, everything costs money. Home Depot does not have any open source wood or let you upgrade for free from a hammer to a nail gun. Not going to happen. $236.64 is my first purchase receipt.

I have a helpful tidbit for all of you aspiring tree fort builders. Home Depot people are insightful. If you have trouble finding one of them available, wait! Don’t go ahead and load up your carts with (4) 2 X 8 X 10, (3) 2 X 6 X 10, (20) 5/4 X 6 X 10, and (2) 4 X 4 X 10 posts – putting them all on the cart one on top of each other. The Home Depot sales associate, when you do find him, will let you know that 2 X 10 are clearly much better for what you are doing. Then, he will casually walk away and let you put back all the wrong, heavy wood at the bottom.

Step 3: Pluming

Once I arrived back home, unloaded the wood, reloaded the (2) 4 X 4 X 10, return them to Home Depot, and arrive back home with (2) 4 X 4 X 8 – my wife and I set forth to plum the foundation. In true peer programming practice, we staked out the area to dig the holes. She measured, cursed, and re-measured the area where we felt the foundation should go. I drove in the stakes, hammered my hand, and completed high-level calculations for increased measurement accuracy.

Stakes are set!

With the lines staked, I now know where to dig the holes. Unfortunately, it took 3.5 hours to get to this point. I am out of time. No posts in place. No platform done. Day 1 has turned into Day 0. However, I am at least ready to make progress tomorrow.


One Response to “Programming a Tree Fort: Day 0”

  1. me said

    very well put

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