Thursday, May 26, 2011

How to Build a Mountain

The decision to climb Mount Vesuvius probably does not come lightly to most. Our inner Ahab thirsts for our outer toska, but what to do?

Fortunately, Olympus is easier to build than to find

First, you need a free stretch of wall approximately 5' wide by 7' tall. This of course will vary according to your stature and appetite for adventure, so you should measure accordingly.
  1. Standing with your legs apart, even with your shoulders. Hold an imaginary notepad in your hands, with your elbows in as if to write.
  2. Measure (probably with the assistance of another person) the distance between your elbows. This (plus 6-12") is the width of your space.
  3. Measure the distance between the floor and your wrists. This (plus or minus 2") is the height of your keyboard platform.
  4. You can approximate the additional distance between the keyboard platform and your monitor platform, but the rails are fully adjustable and your first measurements are likely to be wrong anyway.
Second, assembly the artillery.
  • Something to hike. 
    • Treadmills are popular, but they have a few problems:
      • Size. Difficult to move.
      • Design. Must conform the desk to the treadmill. Redesign tricky.
    • The elliptical unit has neither of these problems, so I chose the Stamina InMotion Elliptical Trainer ($100).
      • It's quiet, light and easy to move.
      • Adjusting the desk to accommodate it took less than 5 minutes.
  • Something to desk.
  • Backing up
    • The heavy load shelves only extend about 1' from the wall. You'll likely want to be able to stand further back, so you'll need a piece of plywood, particleboard or low grade lumber to serve as a keyboard platform.
    • You'll need to secure this to the heavy load shelf, so you will need an extra piece to attach underneath. 
  • Bits and pieces.
    • Wall anchors with screws. I already had some, but they're cheap.
    • Bolts, washers and nuts to affix the keyboard platform.
Third, call to arms.

The entire process should take no longer than 30-45 minutes. 
  1. Survey your site using the mounting brackets as guides. 
  2. Starting with the left, position the bracket so that it overlaps the upper and lower bounds of your previously noted height estimates. 
  3. Using a pencil, mark 2 vertical anchor points corresponding to holes in the bracket (uppermost and lowermost).
  4. Using a level, square these points using your previously noted width. Note: you'll want the brackets to be inside, by at least 6" of this width. Just as your own arms' core strength lies in a tight triangle close to your chest, the brackets should loosely align with the position of your elbows for maximum stability.
  5. Sanity check your final marked anchor points using a stud-finder (or just tap the wall with a hammer). If you're aligned with a stud, use a long wood screw; otherwise, anchors away.
  6. Once your mounting brackets are firmly attached to the wall, you need only add your shelving brackets and load shelves. 
    1. The lower shelf hosts your keyboard and mouse. You should be able to type without any strain or discomfort along your arms. Adjust until it matches you.
    2. The upper shelf hosts your monitor(s). The vertical center of the monitor should be at your eye level. You should be able to scan the entire screen without physically moving your head. Adjust until it is so.
  7. Adjust until you find the right comfort level while standing. Once you have done so, mark these positions (so that you can quickly return to them later).
  8. Add the elliptical machine into the mix. You will likely need to adjust both shelves upward 6". Repeat step 7.
Fourth, regroup and flank.

You are now probably standing too close or uncomfortably too far away from your monitor. You need to extend the plank and free your visual cortex. This is likely a one-size-fits-none operation. I originally estimated that 36" was the ideal distance from standing position to monitor, but this was far too great on first pass. I had to slim down my keyboard platform to just under 24". To minimize your effort, use your adjustable height chair by placing it on a stool or raised platform. Place your keyboard on the seat of the chair, adjust to the right height, and move back and forth from your mountain until you determine the optimum distance.

Cut your plank accordingly. Leave a secondary piece at least 6"x3" to secure it against your keyboard platform. Align the two and drill aligned holes. Place the keyboard platform atop the heavy load shelf for the keyboard and hold the secondary piece below while you secure with bolts, washers and nuts. The best part of this design is that you can still adjust the entire platform without any dissembling. 

Fifth. Grab your harpoon gun, your climbing gear, and a towel

Life has arrived you have arrived at destination life has arrived.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Seeing the Tree for the Forest

My hike today spanned the 3500 km of the Appalachian Trail. The journey I embarked when I began hiking my desk has already connected me with remote corners of the world, and as I reflect on the truths these excursions have imparted, I am wont to ponder the details that I have missed.

Like much of the rest of life, the value of the hike is in the journey and not the destination; we hike our desks both as an alternative to a quest for self or meaning--as these goal-oriented journeys fail the tests of scalability and time, and as a quiet affirmation: escaping the vast, unknown possibilities of the human experience, I know with certainty only that I can hike my desk.

Such is the satisfaction of the hike.

Thanks to Kevin Gallagher for providing today's hike.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Equipment Failure

When you've been hiking as long as I have, you know instinctively that equipment failure is a guarantee. Since the early days of my hiking career, I have kept a vigilant log of my successes based on the readings of my trusty pedometer. Yesterday, after a catastrophic mid-afternoon pedometer failure, I lost all of the data for the day's progress.

Not one to meet failure with anything other than rose-colored hunger, I turned to the numbers, to attempt to estimate my day's journey.  As my daily distance increases between 50-100% each day, I'm inclined to pencil in a 23 mile slam dunk against the undefended basket of Life.

Further, I see no reason to doubt the sustainability of these numbers, which is encouraging. One year from now, I'll be easily covering up to 876,000 miles per day. This is the same kind of math which the Fed generously and routinely produces for the public, which is all the foundation my optimism needs.

So, bravo fair pedometer. Your failure will be my sweet, sweet success. All the better if I'm not laden with the weight of empirical data. Monday could show some big, big numbers.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Trail Mix

What hiker does not need nourishment on the journey toward nirvana? Google has some advice in the form of advertisements, should one be so bold as to enter their spam folder.

"Savory Spam Crescents - Bake 12-15 minutes or until golden brown".

I can see others have found recommendations for the same (we can only assume) delicious tidbit.

When I make camp tonight, I will have to venture into the nearest town and gird myself with the necessary supplies. 7 miles across the plain has stirred the ancient hunger.

Sir George Mountain

The sites of the open road

The perilous terrain below

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Some People Climb Everest; I Hike My Desk

It's been said that behind every great man is a Tenzing Norgay. Behind me are ten.

Many try to scratch the itch of ambition with the satisfaction of goals which can actually be achieved.

Walking on the moon.
Discovering non-carbon-based life.
Falling in love and drowning there.
President of the World?

Contrary to the social norms and conventions which traditionally define success, I look to Sisyphus. That guy (albeit involuntarily) attempted to do the impossible. That smarts of the kind of irrational optimism this world desperately craves.

So, too, will I. I will hike my desk. A infinite number of miles over a finite (working) lifetime. Each mile down a mile no closer to the goal.

But I'll do it.

Because it's there.