Programming a Tree Fort: Versioning Process

May 27, 2008

Spring is in full force in Georgia. We had a battle with intermiddent cold spells. But with a pleasant Memorial weekend, the unfinished Tree Fort was beckoning. Last weekend, I attempted an untimely addition. My daughter has been patiently waiting for a swing set. The plan was to finish the fort and then add the swings. But, she’s too cute to ignore. I took a weekend to plan out the extension. My wife and I looked at some online plans, went to a couple of home depots, and selected the materials to use. A few bruises and bolts later we had our swing set ready to go.

Of course, the first design is never the best design. Just like in programming – you use the limited amount of information at hand and build with assumptions. With a swing set, the models used either a (1) 4 X 6 or (2) 2X6 for the beam. I had trouble finding a good connector to the tree for the 4X6, so I elected for (2) 2X6. I bolted them together for extra support and used a connector to the tree. On the models, the swing set is traditionally 8ft long. (2) 2X6s can handle the swing leverage at 8ft. At 12ft long (my design), the beams tend to bend more. One adult or two excited kids can make the beam wiggle like a rubber pencil. I find this out after I am completely done and admiring my handy work. Ugh!

So although way within woods stress thresholds, I decided to refactor the swingset. Now, in software engineering I would check out the existing version. I’d make my changes. Tag the source code. Check it back into my repository. Retest. And, then push it into production. A simple not so labourous process. Tree forts and swing sets follow the same process except “make my changes” involves completely disambeling the existing. More labor. More bruises. More expletives.

Nails, when hammered into an object, generally are put there not expecting to come back out. In fact, the whole reason you hammer them in the first place is to ensure they will stay there. “Keep this board attached to this other board” is the sole purpose of a nail. If you want to fasten something and are unsure if it should stick, use a SCREW! I spent an hour or so digging out frack’n nails. This is not fun with 50 pounds of boards which you are trying to take them apart strategically as to not have them come crashing down upon your son 11 ft below. Luckily the fall was well designed with me catching the brunt of the wood as I fell off the ladder. I hate ladders. Billy and I decided I should continue the disassembly alone.

Once the pieces were on the ground, reconstruction went pretty well. Tisha helped keep the boards from tumbling back on me while I propped the A frame back up. All in all, the 4X6 was heavy but easy. And, the beam is much better at handling the G forces of my two kids swinging the spring away.


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