Also, shoutout to the Methow! The North Cascades is such a beautiful area in general.
And on the plus side, I've found out how easy it is to fix taps and replace door handles and all the simple stuff!
Maybe the article overstated their woes, but it sounds like they were very under prepared. And winging the technical parts. Like software the easy part is the build. The harder part is research and planning.
I have notions of retiring someday and run a wood shop. But I'm working on learning the basics and doing small projects.
My plan to build a custom shelf unit for our kitchen went over-time and over-budget (in the small). Reason: once it was made it became apparent that it lacked strength against skewing deformations, which would not happen ‘laterally’ given where it was sitting but would happen ‘dorsoventrally.’ (Apologies for the anatomical language—it could wiggle side-to-side along its width and who cares because there are walls on either side, but if it wiggles back and forth away from the wall behind it then maybe things start falling off of it or maybe it just collapses some day.)
This sort of problem is of course solved with crossbeams, but like then I had to buy a bunch of wood that was the right width, calculate an approximate length and miter angle for four pieces, of course I did not have the tools to make pocket holes properly (woodworking co-ops closed, thanks COVID) so I just did it roughly (you predrill the screw hole backwards from the flush surface back to the side of the lumber, then you use that hole to guide drilling the pocket) and of course I screwed up one of these four by drilling the pocket too deep because I didn’t have a drill press (thanks again COVID) and so I start low-teching that by just masking-taping the drill bit out to the appropriate depth so that I don't go over. Finally a pair of crossbeams goes in and... it's not symmetric. I think “eh you only see those edge-on so who cares” and install the other beams but the lack of symmetry in installation actually really matters because it means that the crossbeams are pushing the posts off-level, which means the shelves are off-level. Whoops. So this “it is finally ready!” moment turns into a “no it’s not!”
Then, a clever idea: pre-join the cross-beams together at the center of the X (they were not joined initially) before installing them, so they have to be symmetrical. Slight problem: the predrilled holes from attempt #1 in the side beams are now still pulling the crossbars in weird ways and attempting to mess with the level of the shelves. Solution is to just unfasten the X and swap which beam is proximal and which one is distal, then I can pre-drill the holes again, but I'd better just get the thing wood-glued in place first, even without appropriate clamps, so that I am 100% sure it is not going to take the shelves off level when I put those screws in. Finally everything works.
Irrationally undeterred from this success, I am now building a California King bed frame. It is almost exactly 50% complete—there is a facade which is stained but not finished and the center consists of two free-standing “pallets” (not actual pallets, but they look similar) which get bolted together, one pallet is finished and the other is not.
Delays so far have mostly been due to other life circumstances coming up, too much to do on weekends and hot weather baking my garage into unsafe temperatures... but there have already been a few overruns. I realized for example that at the outer corners of the bed frame my screws were going to be taking a heck of a lot of torque (the middle should have two posts side-by-side when the two pallets get bolted together, they can be a little lighter-weight) and revised my design to use some metal corner-ties. But those had a different geometry and so the 2x4s on the sides needed to be cut even shorter. Then I realized that I had calculated this ad-hoc cut assuming that it needed to be shorter by a 2x4's width on both sides but I had forgotten that I wasn't doing the same corner ties for the middle posts of the bed that get bolted together, so I bought a new 2x4 and while I was there I bought some tie plates to try to strengthen those middle posts a little more anyways. So we've only overrun the initial cost by 4 tie corners and 4 tie plates and one 2x4 which is not so bad, but still.
I do not recommend doing your own woodworking in order to save on cost, it costs a lot of time. I do recommend it if you feel like carpentry connects you to Jesus or if you have a really specific idea about what you want in a space and nobody anywhere seems to be offering that exact thing.
I built a small balcony garden off a few pine planks. Many mistakes were made along the way, some were corrected (how do you cut in straight lines with a jigsaw ? Use a maconnery ruler and a few clips), some were compensated by the overall overbuild. It took me a few months but I always expected it to take more time and money than buying it from Amazon. One nice thing is that it matches perfectly the width of the balcony! With this small success and many more, I will - maybe - have enough knowledge to build my own cabin in 40 years.
I feel personally attacked. Really though, I wonder how many things are on my 'Someday Maybe' list, that really I should just make more money to accomplish and/or find a youtube subscription that satisfies the urge to tinker on a particular topic.
When you look back on your summer/year, what will you have accomplished? What skills will you have developed?
If you don't really value a process/skill, but just want the material result (i.e. a cabin), pay a pro for it. If you just have an itch that needs to be scratched, watch someone else do it on Youtube. If you want it to be a part of who you are, pruning your list by moving items to the former two strategies should leave you enough time to develop it yourself.
I know quite a few very senior people who are proper old, and when I mentioned this to one of them, his response was, "at this point I'm glad to be alive, and no one glad to be alive has time for that stuff." This was just before he retired.
I think my life got measurably better when I pivoted from "I want to do this myself" towards "It's just as satisfying to watch someone else do this".
Downhill extreme mountain biking is really cool. And fun to watch. And expensive. And requires much more physical fitness than I've got. And dangerous (esp. given my physical fitness :). )
So true! Works for a lot of things. It's why I stopped playing dota.
Dota - the worst 'awesome thing' that can happen to your life.
It did make me a way better street rider though!
Also glad to have read this article. Was thinking (more like daydreaming) of building a Korean Hanok one day but it seems unrealistic without a lot of professional help.
If mountain biking is your dream buy a Trek with electric motor in it. They can give you extra lift till you accelerate to 75 km/hour with a dongle of $120. Instant pro biking experience without much practicing.
You are too young to accept any physical limitations of your body. Navy Seals talk about that being tired is just an emotion like feeling happy. Its all about your mindset.
It's a sad state of affairs if the exchange needs to be "please share your situation with me so I can know if it's appropriate to offer words of encouragement" before offering words of encouragement.
Lets take an example of the most brilliant people of our time while also extremely handicapt Steven Hawkins.
What would he care he was excluded in a statement like this?
But it isn't really. Even taking that statement at face value you're still talking about people who are selected for their physical skills and then spend much of their prime training and preparing physically like their lives depended on it. Because it does. But they suck at many other things and they do have an excuse to not be able to do them.
One person cannot "specialize" in too many things and downhill extreme mountain biking is not a thing to do half-assed without risking your well-being. Getting the skill and the physical strength to do it is both time consuming but more importantly very risky.
I doubt you’ll hit 75kph with a 36V Motor though. My 52V mid drive would get me to around 40–50kph on a good day, flat terrain, no wind, and pedaling hard. I put it back to 25kph max because riding so fast on a bicycle was too dangerous in my opinion... cars don’t expect you to come so fast, and I was getting too dangerously confident. I was also worried about the consequences should I get in a crash and the bike is investigated to see whether it was legal.
For those interested in diy, the tsdz2 mid drive is a pretty good motor that has a torque sensor and that you can add to most bicycles. There is also an open source alternative firmware for it that’s pretty good. See https://github.com/OpenSource-EBike-firmware/TSDZ2_wiki/wiki
You don't need to be a great mountain biker to go dangerously fast, it's very easy to become overconfident, and the downhill nature means that you might also fall from certain heights on top of already carrying speed, and not necessarily on soft dirt, maybe onto rocks or into a tree. It's a gnarly sport.
The commentator you were talking to should at least go on some mellow bike rides or something.
BUD/S has like a 25% pass rate, of people who are even allowed to try.
Not saying that a navy seal can't just decide to not be tired anymore, but for the rest of us mere mortals....
No critique. When you have to operate under circumstances like that and your life and your fellow soldiers lives are at stake it makes sense.
Has inherent problems though.
... in the field. Same with pilots -- they issue speed to dudes flying bombers long distances.
But they're not taking speed during selection and training. That's just you, and figuring out if you can hack it is the point.
We're building a shop. I've contracted most of the build out, but found that I could save $20,000+ by DIY'ing the radiant heat portion myself. Took about a days worth of planning and research, another to lay down the pipe before the floor was poured, and another to hook everything up.
Honestly, the cost-differential was enough to make me think that I should start a company that installs radiant heating. I can't think of many other professions where I could clear $20,000 for 3-days of work.
I'm planning to DIY the solar-install on the same shop here in a couple of months, we'll see if that's as much of success story.
Another benefit of going solo on my solar project was learning that I could legally install panels on a part of my roof that everyone else thought I couldn't use because of old setback rules. I was able to fit eight additional panels on my roof after discussing the issue with the city inspector.
Most of my prep time was spent writing my permit application. If you want to use mine as a reference or template, file an issue on my github repo for the project  and I'll upload it later. I'd also be happy to chat about the gear I chose, where I bought it, and share a list of materials.
 https://github.com/hamikm/solar-report (side note: I wrote this to help analyze my surprisingly complex electrical bill because custom date ranges were buggy in the Enphase app at the time)
My wife went to school with a guy who didn’t like college. He took a summer job on a road crew, learned how to use an excavator and got hooked. Dropped out, saved up, and bought a used dump truck, which basically made him.
Started out hauling stuff and then got into water/sewer work and excavation.
He’s up to about 20 trucks a decade later, and pays the bills with the sewer work. He leveraged the assets he had (trucks, diggers) and won demolition contracts — they make money on demolition. Like $75-200k for an emergency demolition if they can get there in 90m.
When he quit his job the parents wept. He was the first kid to go/finish University in the family.
It went from 3 guys hanging board to a 40-50 million construction company in 2 decades.
Some jobs benefit so much from equipment and skill that it won't ever make sense to DIY. Some jobs are just a bunch of labor that you could do, and probably do better because you care to do it right.
DIY solar seems like a ROI for a DIY project. Just stay safe on that roof!
Yeah - I live in a state with essentially zero incentives, so to make Solar pay for itself I have to rely on net-metering plus the 26% federal tax rebate.
If I went with a commercially installed system, I'd be looking at a 15-20 year payback. If I can DIY, I should be looking at a 6-10 year payback.
And I don't mean that in a demeaning way at all. If anything, such folks have found a middle path in life. At opposite extremes, you have folks who actually have to go do all those things versus those who can squelch their own interest in nearly anything by merely thinking about it for a few moments...
I think some people fail to understand how hard it is to be a good contractor. Just like software engineering it requires a lot of education and a lot of experience.
You won't get it right your first few tries no matter how smart you are. Just like no software developer ever got things right when they were first learning to code.
ps: school should make kids build more stuff, you get real use case for a lot of mathematical thinking out of cute stuff hands on.
Source: my brother nailed his hand to something in middle school. He's got a Ph.D now, for the record.
Building many structures (or any given sub-specialty, e.g. plumbing) on a predetermined schedule and budget and making money doing it without charging so much money that you get undercut out of business is what requires skill.
For N=1 you rarely have to be a pro to do it right.
The labor itself might be low skill, but the experience required to do the job well and to create a lasting structure takes an enormous amount of time. "should I use ceder, spruce, pine or Aztek for the exterior door casings? Should my subsill be 7 degrees or 14? Should I use felt paper or tyvek for my weather barrier, which type of tape should I use for each type?"
And this is why companies hire a hundred fresh grads for every gray hair. 99x/100 they don't need super high quality work output.
In all trades there's a hesitation to look at something and say "screw it, it doesn't really matter, just do what's cheap" unless you're being told to and software isn't immune from that (in software "told do" seems to come mostly in the form of time pressure whereas in the trades it's what the number job is paying). Sure it's nice to do "good" high quality work but a lot of the time it really isn't necessary or it's strictly wrong because whatever it is you're building needs to be built to a price point. It's only when you push things to the limit do all the little marginal details (the stuff the experienced pros get right) start mattering. That tends to accidentally happen more (at least in my estimation) in software than the trades because labor is so expensive and code is so easily portable.
Also, janky setups and quick-n-dirty fixes abound in all trades. You just only see them in trades you know about.
If timeline isn't the most critical factor a homeowner can do an excellent job. Often even better than the professionals because you will be willing to spend extra time and attention to get everything perfect.
And then get the wrong stuff, which the contractor will make do anyway if there's even the remote possibly it will work. and so on. After a while and some $$$ wasted you will get a feel for what's reasonable and what's bogus.
I became a homeowner as a never-interested DIY with EE/CS degrees. We had an unfinished basement that we paid the builder to finish only the electrical, plumbing, and framing. I'd always heard drywall'ing was easy so I left that for me to do.
At the time I knew nothing about lighting, fixtures, eletrical work, etc. Ended up agreeing to J-boxes for basement lights rather than cans, and a few other money-saving things (for the electrician).
Before doing the drywall myself, I ended up rerunning all the basement lights, running tons of outlets, installed an electrical subpanel in my garage, new plumbing lines, etc. All inspected and approved on my own permits.
I maybe watched ~200 hours on youtube (easy to do at 2x speed) and read a lot of electrical and plumbing code. But when I was done it was "done right" and not done to "save money".
I ended up saving a ton of money on the electrical and plumbing, easily in the thousands, and only saved $700 on the drywall labor. Moral of the story, don't hang your own drywall by yourself. Pay for it if you can't get a couple friends to help.
The latter can really kill a project if you can't get it right consistently, preferably first time.
That's where the skill comes in - not just the physical labour, but the experience needed to make allowances for material tolerances and other possible gotchas.
Professionals (should) have that knack, amateurs rarely will.
Generally all contractors say "the next guys will take care of that". For example, when framing you don't really care if the studs are really straight or if the walls are square. The "next guy" will take care of that.
True enough, when I was drywalling I had the builder come back to take care of some bowed studs that should never have been used.
I've also volunteered at Habitat for Humanity and can confirm that very little "accurate measuring and cutting" was occurring. They'd quickly measure some things, shout out numbers, and then use a circular saw to rough cut it out. But that was it - they didn't refine it after that and went about their merry way.
I have to believe that the accuracy of a foundation is more important but I think it's a fool's dream. They get "close" and they're checked out before the "next guy" has to fix it.
Unless a 3d printer or CNC machine is responsible for the accuracy you better count me out.
The finish work is the final last guy. The guy that did our trim would randomly yell out swear words every 20 minutes. His life is hard. And he was expensive.
I do have a guest bedroom in my house where I once had some time during a holiday shutdown when my job situation was a bit perilous. I had some crumbling plaster so I put some drywall up. It's... functional.
Painting is one thing I do myself. I do it enough I got reasonably good at it and--for touchup--I can reasonably take shortcuts that someone I was paying couldn't.
I've saved myself hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years by doing my own work, but now I can only see defects everywhere because that's what I've trained myself to look for.
There are a million jobs I still need to get to, but at least I know that once they’re done I’ll be happy with the result. Having only just started down the home diy route, there’s a load to learn and I still make a lot of mistakes, but I’m improving, and it’s satisfying to know that next time I’ll get it right, faster and cheaper than before.
But I think that the schmo vs pro divide is real when you get to electrical, plumbing etc. HE’S the pro, and I’m the Schmo. As my favorite interviewer says.
IMHO, this is backwards. Electrical work is twisting wires and screwing them down. Plumbing is gluing or clamping stuff together (unless you're sweating copper). The actual mechanics of doing it takes little skill and pros aren't going to be that much better/faster than you. The real difference is the amount of knowledge the pro has of codes and how things need to be. However, the concepts for residential are pretty straight forward though and relatively easy to learn. You can pick them up starting with simple stuff.
Compare that to something like drywall. Your drywall finish work is going to suck compared to a pro and they're going to do it way faster than you could.
That said I'm a cheapskate and do my own finish work even though I hate making things look nice.
Often these pros are also the ones that are easiest to find because the ones that know what they are doing are in high enough demand that they go mainly off word of mouth and friend-of-a-friend type business.
We bought a house three years ago that was built in 2006. The number of things I've found that were done just blatantly wrong has soured my opinion of general contract labor quite considerably.
I hired someone to fix some water damage by a door about three months after we moved in. The next spring when it rained we had a literal waterfall coming in from the top of the door frame.
I've since torn that entire wall down to the studs, cleaned everything up, put it back together correctly, and rebuilt the attached deck.
I don't know how much that would have cost to get fixed by a professional (supposing I could have found one that actually knew what they were doing), but I'm guessing it was easily $10-$20k of work if labor was factored in.
Differentiating and correctly selecting the true pro out of a lineup of estimates is a skill in and of itself. For most construction tasks, I'm better at the task itself than I am at finding someone who can do it better than I can.
High skill labor usually involves lots of expensive one time costs. I don't see how there is an opportunity to save money.
This is every job ever. Wait until you see the quality of code that runs big backend systems...
I wonder what I'm not finding because it isn't listed on Zillow
People who've owned empty, vacant land for decades tend to have either inherited it or are long term real estate investors. Frequently they will have tried to sell it in the past and not gotten enough interest.
Obviously, doesn't work everywhere. Higher demand areas are going to be completely different.
But it worked for us when we decided to move to the boonies.
On one hand is taking pride in doing something yourself.
On the other hand is paying the expert to do it.
I know my limitations. In-bounds, I'll do it. Out-of-bounds, I pay the expert. I've learned my lessons and I have no regrets.
I say this from a family known for "inherited" stubbornness, cheapness, and generational Great Depression learning.
I still do things myself, but I'm more and more looking to just hire the bigger things done. I know how to do it, and probably would do it better. But I don't have the time.
I would bet that most people that try to build a cabin do it more as a passion (with bad calculation on timing and cost estimates) than as a way to save money.
There's bad outcomes and then really bad.
The Methow is a hard place to visit because you'll need to leave again.
I admire a meaningful and quick fix more than a professionalistscwork, adhering to piles of regulations for no appearing reason but let many others profit from my money.
I also understand that amateur is from latin and actually means to love what you are doing.
So get out of your comfort chair, put the gaming controler aside and re-learn some basic skills. With every project it becomes more and more rewarding.
I have little experience with handiwork but I'm imagining if an amateur developer said this in regards to building a maintainable and scalable application (as I imagine a house to be) from scratch, and scoffing at tedious time-wasters like writing tests and hiring QAs.
As an experienced developer I know the tradeoffs of cutting corners and various quick fixes and so can apply them judiciously, but I know if I ended up working on or taking over that codebase, I'd most likely end up having to tear out a lot of that developer's work and redo it, or else have a headache trying to build and improve around it.
YouTube has upped its recommendations for this kind of stuff in the last few months. Everything is van life, off-grid, travel, tiny home building, etc. It's really curious and I'm not sure what to think about it. Everything is about being a creator and getting an audience for your YouTube, Substack, Patreon, etc. I'm pretty conflicted over this.
I presume this also removes them as a factor in your recommendations.
You presume too much!
That is helpful to know. I too have run into the errant click problem in YouTube. Drives me nuts.
For one recent example, there was an article about Elon Musk and his girlfriend who releases music as Grimes. I clicked play on one of the embedded music videos and watched about half of it. Ever since then youtube has recommended tons of Grimes videos to me.
I've also noticed that videos my wife or kids watch get recommended to me sometimes.
My work and home gmail accounts get completely different videos because of how I use them. At work it's all background music and albums and at home it's more fun stuff.
I took up with some TechShop stuff -- before it folded -- and enjoyed my work on laser engravers, and the CNC machines, and the lathes, and whatnot. My educational background and IT experience were certainly a help, and I thought, "Dang, it sure is nice to construct a physical object at the end of the day instead of an arrangement of magnetic fields that will simply be blown away when some high muckety-muck notices whatever fad has changed."
I jumped ship for something adjacent where I use my IT skill constantly. Programming wasn't in the job description, but my ability to program brings a certain level of power. All of my decades of IT experience is very helpful here and I still feel like I am doing something with an actual concrete output and utility.
So, I sympathize with the urge to pull the ripcord on some kind of jetpack and blast far away into the sky, but there are plenty of places that are not what HackerNews thinks of when they think IT that need all of your skills. Perhaps I like being a medium-sized fish in a smaller pond, it could be that, but it does feel fairly nice.
My computing interests lie in automating tasks previously performed by humans, ETL, and analysis. I was doing web stuff back in the 1990s and went through so very many CRUD apps, but this is where my interests lie. What this means in my current job is that I find time-consuming tasks done by my predecessor and say, "Let's make this faster." Or I can look for subtle errors.
Just as an example, because I am routing emergency services to houses and workplaces, I have a network of streets to deal with. Imagine them as a graph, where most of the data is attached to the edge rather than the node. Now, people have drawn these streets in using tools like ArcMap, but there can be problems. How many different kinds of mistakes might exist in connecting roads together? Try to enumerate the cases.
I have found ten thus far. Each case is something that, if a human eyeballs it up close, they could say "oh yes," but it is not readily apparent. And so I have written code for a number of these cases that takes my human domain expertise of what is wrong with something and translates it into something even a rock (silicon) can understand. And the end result of finding these little mistakes is very real: help gets to someone just a few seconds faster.
I interface with organizations that are not other IT organizations: property records, postal records, phone records, and so on. Sometimes this means wrangling proposed plats from developers. It's all real stuff, and it's all done in service of helping people who have immediate needs.
It's very different from being in a room full of people who have little stickers on their Macs making Agile noises about whatever random shifts have occurred in the "client??" (and doesn't that word encompass a multitude of sins)'s latest wishlist.
My guess is that tons of these kinds of jobs are out there because the real world still exists and the people in it are often using computers, but perhaps not as "centrally" to their jobs. However, people like you and I can provide options to them that they did not have before, and sometimes may not have even envisioned. Just as a case in point, this new place was setting up some machines and had a few tedious configuration problems, so I used batch files and a few more things to save them time and add reproducible results. They were shocked but this was stuff for me where I had to dust off things I had forgotten a decade prior.
In my previous job, I found areas of satisfaction as I noticed above, and they were all tied to people (not users), to physical objects (rather than instatiations of some class), and so on. I noticed how much churn there was, how often things would have to be redone not because anything realistic demanded it, but because of style, or some kind of platform migration, or something else End-of-Lifed, and so on. Indeed, constant platform migration made me realize that nomads are not known for their lasting works of architecture.
I was part of that big "brain drain" where someone says, "Hey, you are good with computers, right?" and off I went. I had figured out that the sciences would be long and without a lot of payoff, so I did not look back too hard.
I suppose I got a reputation as someone who gets a far-off look when an interesting problem is described and was asked to apply to my current job because of it, despite it being a different sector and problem set.
I am in my thirties, and a career shift seems more and more inevitable. I seem to have swallowed several blackpills about various industrial complexes and see no bright future of the internet/tech in general, rather the opposite.
What's your age and what is you plan? I am actively looking for some kind of path at the moment for ex-tech people..
If anyone has any input i am all ears!
I have no plan for making money, and I doubt I have enough stored wealth to last more than a decade. Health care in the US being what it is, probably not even that long. These are so far the only reasons I haven't already done it.
Of course just having the right skills isn't the same as achieving the dream. I still have to put in "the work" after I paid the entry fee.
seriously though, i’m glad they were able to tie their profession in by sharing their story, i really enjoyed it. if i were to embark on this kind of thing i’d probably end up writing some software to help with the effort.
The major caveat: prior to my generation, the entire family was involved at some level in construction; from owning and operating to general labour.
It's _not_ a simple task, and the level of skill and intelligence required is something I think is often misunderstood or wholly overlooked by my peers in the tech industry. There's a kind of snobbish belief expressed by _some_ that because they can grok a complex software system they should be able to build a house; but that's a bit like believing that because you are able to write you should be able to easily be a sculptor. There may be shared core concepts, like the story being told and the ideas being conveyed, but the skills and knowledge involved and shared are few.
Now I write software and I work with a lot of people who dream of going off in the woods and building a cabin, as though it's the same as building software. I have to remind them that "there is no undo". "Measure twice, cut once" is a phrase for a reason. You can't refactor your cabin half way through building. Surprisingly many of them never even considered these things, let alone the tricks or techniques needed to do a good job.
I think a lot of white collar workers see what blue collar workers do as perhaps difficult physically, but not mentally. But that couldn't be further from the truth. And this is especially true when you're trying to piece together an entire cabin by yourself.
Agree completely. I have a project car and have a particular buddy who's a great mechanic. His understanding of the various systems on a wide range of cars is quite deep, and he was incredibly helpful when I got stuck with things. If it was just the physical effort, i would've been finished with the project years before I did, but the mental challenge of figuring out how one system worked and how that system needed to properly integrate with all the other system was far beyond what I thought it was.
As a counterpoint, my buddy didn't get why I might be tired at the end of a long day of work. He didn't seem to get the connection that the high level of mental effort that software development could be physically tiring as well.
There's a lot that white collar workers and blue collar workers can learn from each other, but you don't have to build a whole cabin or a project car or a whole application in order to see what things are like when the shoe is on the other foot.
What I find curious is that this viewpoint, while widely shared in trades, is not a universally shared value in tech. Many in our industry will prefer to write something themselves, or rewrite an existing project, rather than farm that work out to an expert or adapt to what they already have.
Particularly in my segment, video games: it's all well and good to write a game engine for fun, but _so many_ indie studios spend enormous amounts of their time, effort and cash on developing new engines afresh.
I can only imagine what the housing industry would be like if sub-contracting weren't as popular as it is.
> I think a lot of white collar workers see what blue collar workers do as perhaps difficult physically, but not mentally.
Aye, this is what I was alluding to as snobbish.
Actually you can. And with the similar ramifications to the project budget and timeline.
2. I sanded outside on my small balcony and wipe the dust with a rag. Cutting the wood was tricky. I put the cats in the bathroom, wore a mask and did it while running my HEPA filter at full speed. Then I vacuumed any dust on the floor with the Roomba. I cut the wood by placing it on a couple sheets of foam insulation, with the blade depth set so that it would not contact the floor.
After cutting, I moved the HEPA filter around my apartment a bit until the air quality sensor went from red (bad air) to blue (good air), and opened the windows. I know this isn't perfect, but I haven't had any coughing fits thus far.
3. I used an oil based finish (OSMO) that is low VOC, pet, food, and human (children) safe. It's not gloopy or wet once applied, just slightly damp. Cats jumped on it a bunch before it had fully cured without any apparent ill effects, on the cats or the desk.
Definitely an "if will, there's a way" kind of endeavor. The desk is perfect for me though. Just the right size, height, and appearance. Trying to build a stool with the scrap wood leftover, but the wood is quite hard to cut with a jigsaw and pretty heavy.
I think part of what I learned is that it's worth it for me to pay a professional.
And this is peanuts in the construction industry, this kind of stuff is built every day all over the world. Nowadays when I walk around I'm constantly in awe of everything that people have constructed. I can't even fathom constructing a skyscraper in NYC.
I would say though that people with an engineering mindset should be able to find some success in building things. You just have the respect the process and the skills and accumulated knowledge involved, it's gonna take a few years and a bunch of projects and mistakes before you get a sense of what you're doing.
That's one reason you see more planning, training, apprenticeships, and established guidance in construction than in software. Iteration isn't a great technique.
After a bear gets into your bird feeder, you build an enclosure for the outside trash cans and the chicken feed. It takes well under half the time and you cut the rafters right the first time. All the while, you marvel at how little overlap there is between furniture making (your day job), and carpentry.
Then you start thinking about more fully featured structures. Hypothetically speaking.
Last year we purchased a property that needed a lot of work to make it liveable. It took 2 months and all my energy but I got pretty good at everything from replacing rotten flooring to doing my own plumbing. It’s amazing how many tricks you need to learn to become efficient though. That and the tools. Without a good base set of tools you’re a bit trapped (and you’ll always wish you had more). One thing that surprised me was that anytime I had tradespeople there they had nothing to offer on other trades. The sparks (electricians) would say “oh I don’t know anything about plumbing” for example. I’d have thought you’d just pick it up along the way, but apparently not.
There's a word for this: Type II Fun. Type I Fun is when you're having fun and you know you're having fun while you're doing it. Type II Fun is when you're absolutely fucking miserable the whole time, but afterwards you and any of your friends that were with you say it was the best time ever.
Lots of outdoor activities that are supposed to be Type I Fun end up being Type II Fun. Lots of activities that aren't supposed to be fun at all end up being Type II Fun. (basic training is a common example) I've heard Dwarf Fortress is Type II Fun, but I could never get into it.
This whole process of building the cabin sounds like a class example of Type II Fun to me.
It's the most fun I've had in a decade .. my joints are swollen, I've got bruises and scrapes on my hands and feet, skin on my hand is actually rough.
I work from home nine-to-five, software. I can't wait to finish work to actually go outside and work on the shed.
I've actually considered quitting my job and doing this full time .. but it won't pay nearly enough as I'm making in software and my financial commitments won't let me.
The fun type system comes from the climbing world. Climbing offwidths is commonly cited as a type of type III fun. This is a classic example:
He had a constant inventory of what he called "Divorce Cabins". They were half-finished DIY cabin builds or renovations that turned out to be way more stress and work than the couples expected. This tended to lead to divorce, which lead to a forced sale of the property.
Experienced contractors would pick them up at a discount, finish the work with their crews, and sell them off.
These things are doable if you have infinite time and money to spend on renting the right equipment and hiring help for jobs that require experience and/or multiple people. However, it's virtually impossible for someone to do on weekends alone.
I think that if you have to build a cabin that conforms to certain building guidelines, bank standards, codes, mainstream retail expectations.... then for sure you are going to encounter expenses and risk.
But I really hate this notion of "just pay someone to do it correctly", because this proposition also has a ton of risk and expense associated with it as well. Not every contractor who takes a job is Bob the Builder.
For me, if I was serious about building a home for myself so that it's customized to my taste and an extremely good value, I would throw all of the rules out of the window and build it exactly like the real cabins out there in Alaska and Siberia whose style has been perfected over hundreds of years.
After 3 months of advance planning, I finally realized the gravity of my mistake when the delivery truck lifted half a ton of wood onto the sidewalk and drove away. For me, it was just enough of a project to seriously endanger our relationship and get me to my mental and physical limits, but hell, it turned out great.
There's really something to physical work and woodworking in particular that is haptic and makes you proud inside which you don't get at all in software engineering.
Would I do it again? Absolutely not, that was nuts. But I'm still glad I did and I enjoy doing some woodworking from time to time (like that bottle rocket launch pad for my daughter lately).
In the end I'm also pretty glad I'm in a job without breaking my back before I'm 60.
For example, there probably is some work that the software world can do to transform how humans currently go about cooking food. A wifi crock pot is a step in the right direction, but what about a wifi controlled airfryer, or a system of machines that is coordinated to do food processing in more human-ways?
Hardware and software alone by themselves are unable to solve this problem without working together: a knife and a pneumatic arm can't achieve anything without human/AI/preprogrammed input, and a human cannot possibly take themselves out of the cooking equation without some physical device, i.e with just an app and a database.
You're forgetting time. Not sure if you've seen "Dick Proenneke in Alone in the Wilderness" (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jG3fUIoXQ5A).
It's a great watch, and a good example of what I think you're referring to overall...that said it looked like an extremely hard way to build and from personal experience helping my sister build their holiday home, also not an approach I would recommend to anyone that doesn't have a very strong conviction and/or passion to see a self build through.
For almost any task you'd consider hiring a professional, there is less risk and less cost, which is why professional exist. They are the best option for a wide range of cost/risk tradeoffs.
>Not every contractor who takes a job is Bob the Builder
But the majority are a lot better than the average person thinking they can build. Experience is a useful thing, in software dev and in building.
If you have the time and desire to do things carefully, truly, then you will do things carefully. You'll find that tradesmen have plenty of expertise and money-- the only thing they don't have is time, and it really shows.
This is not the metric. It's a self selected post hoc measurement, subject to mental bias.
The proper way is to measure all pros that do a task, then the ratio that did badly, then do the same thing for amateurs, and do so carefully (preferably somehow double blind) to remove cognitive bias. Then compare ratios.
When such things are done, I find almost every time notice my (and likely your) anecdotal claims vanish. I suspect this is such a case.
A good example is a friend owns a business that handles two cases of building things: doing it themselves first time, and fixing screwups done by amateurs. Literally (I've seen the books because I was surprised when he told me this) 75% of their revenue is repairing things people screwed up by not hiring pros, and then it costs much more. (It's related to wetland construction issues).
It would be like if I lived in Thailand and then complained that I got electrocuted trying to set up a really complicated AC system. If you aren't willing to put in the time to do that kind of electrical work safely, then ask yourself why you really want to live in an area where that type of work is a pressing requirement.
I don't subscribe to your philosophy that all contractors are superheroes that are immune to messing things up. I'm not paying $125 an hour for a guy who lives in a tin shack to come and tell me how much of a pro he is just to disappear the moment I discover some deficiency in his work.
Failure through believing your skills are above what they are is not unique to wetland.
>I don't subscribe to your philosophy that all contractors are superheroes
I've never stated anything close to that. Since you've moved on to strawmen, there's no sense discussing further, since you apparently left this discussion some time back.
With my current home, I've brought in contractors half a dozen times. Half of those were terrible, terrible experiences. The other half saved me vast amounts of time. However, even with the solid contractors, for them it is a balance of time and money leading to some cut corners that, as the home owner, I would never cut on. But time, time is the thing I don't have enough of, else I would figure out most things.
Sure, if your time has no value, then you can learn to be professional at everything. And for many tasks the amount you'd have to pay to learn to do it far exceeds the cost of hiring someone, since they amortize their training time and tool cost over multiple clients.
Since time is finite, that's why it often pays in both time and money to hire someone.
> With youtube, you can...
Youtube and the like have led a significant number of people to assume they have skills they don't, and the effect is large enough there's subfields in econ and psych that study this effect. For example 
Contractors usually will cut a corner to save money and time, for example they may not tighten everything back up as well as it should be when operating on a furnace, only for you to encounter the smoke/leak next year when the machine vibration finally kicks those bolts loose.
I realized I would be spending at least 4 hours in traffic every weekend to double my house work.
Instead why not just put all that time in making my home in the city as habitable as possible?
Maybe some day but it would have to be a permanent and only residence.
I have my condo in a mountain town with fiber. HOA dues and tourists are issues; I'd love property I was willing to invest in and reasonably accessible time-wise but Nevada is expensive when it comes to real trees and I'm done investing in CA. Been here awhile before the exodus.
He killed three people, one of which was arguably unintentional. Further, he has continued writing and appears perfectly lucid, even into his 70's. You may disagrees with his ends and means (I do), but I find it curious that out of the hundreds of political revolutionaries who used terror and murder over the centuries, Kaczynski is viewed especially through the framing of insanity.
How precisely will letter bombs to universities and airports in one country lead to the collapse of global industrial society? The "best case" rationally would be an end to all physical package mail as an unacceptable hazard. Even if somehow achieved how the hell will that stop the inevitable reindustrialization as hunter-gatherers seek a greater edge over nature and rivals? They would eventually reach the top again and curse that goddamned idiot ancestor for the millenia of needless suffering.
Not to mention the ideas of "freedom" are laughably naive and historically illiterate. He is just yet another small rigid mind who demands that the world become something simple enough to understand instead of trying to understand all of its complexities.
I don’t think his ideas are as laughably naive as you think. He was an accomplished mathematician who was disgusted with the societal rat race and thought many aspects of technology were making life worse, and I actually tend to agree with that. But he was also a nut job who killed innocent people
Think of all the former or current colonial and imperial powers, and their leaders. They have lots of blood on their hands, but most of them are viewed far less critically than they should be.
It would be good to change that, but it's an uphill slope, not least because you need to tackle current and recent world leaders as well.
It's in the same category as the ancient "history is written by the victors."
So either cynical or realistic (depending on your perspective).
For other people to consider you a political revolutionary it helps to have a political ideology. And more than one adherent to it.
Historically, people don’t weep over And usually don’t consider the suffering of others while enjoying the fruits of labor of people who sweated blood and died in the process of building something (spiritually or physically) great.
I feel dirty thinking like this, yet I’m fascinated by imagining what it’s like to walk in another persons shoes
At some point I got married and eventually had kids after which these kinds of romanticized ad-hoc adventures became impractical. Sometimes I wish I'd been more focused when I was young. I feel like I probably wasted a lot of time pursuing ideas that had a high risk of not being sustainable for the long-term.
I find myself giving younger people advice that I would have balked at at their age. They don't listen to me of course, just like I didn't listen to more experienced adults when I was in their place. No one wants to be told, "Don't follow your dreams. Weigh the risks and the potential return on investment first". I guess part of being young is taking those risks and learning from your failures. And sometimes, chasing an impractical dream pays off. Sometimes they pay off big.
But now days when I get the wanderlust or some feeling of discontentment and find myself wondering, "there must be more to life than this?", I just try changing something small in my routine, like, "you know what? I think I'm going to start taking walks during lunch every day.", or, "I think I'll study this new language for an hour every night after the kids go to bed.", or, "I think I'll build a garden enclosure in the backyard". I often find that by changing something small in my routine, I can break out of the monotony and feel some sense of accomplishment I hadn't noticed was missing.
But even then, there is still some voice in the back of my mind that says, "someday, when the kids are old enough and out of the house, I think I'll take one last big risk and embark on some kind of unlikely adventure."
Anyone who has worked in food service in any way knows that it's brutal. Liking a thing, coffee, coffee shops, or anything ... very much does not mean you'd like making it / running something making that thing.
Personally I like video games ... I code web boring apps... for reasons.
> More than 60% of restaurants featured on the show "Kitchen Nightmares" are now closed, according to Grub Street New York, which did the math. Approximately 30% of those kitchens closed within one year of their episode's air date.
I live in a big house out in the country on top of a hill. Pretty much everyone who walks in the front door for the first time and looks out the living room window exclaims about the view.
What they don't see that we're so exposed that the wind can come howling out of the North so loudly that you can't sleep.
My wife is a horse trainer. People, women mostly, are envious of the lifestyle: being out in Nature, working with horses in the fresh air. No one asks about her broken bones and the titanium pins holding her ankles and wrists together. Doesn't occur to them that whether it's 100F and humid as hell or -25F and the wind's been screaming nonstop for days that you still have to trudge out there and feed and water them.
It used to bug me. Now I barely notice. I just smile and say, "yeah, we like living out here."
Form validation though, after 20 years ... urgh
Take away quote: “But the high summer honeymoon soon give way to an autumnal realization that the list of skills required to really make the business work was topped by secretarial and bookkeeping efficiency, home improvement handiness and a nose for where to source the cheapest toilet paper.“
Now wouldn't be the time to do it, though, most of the coffee business is commuters and office workers on break, which... yeah.
(I write operations software for food-service businesses, so I'm fairly familiar with the market dynamics.)
My estimate is: you could start a towed coffee trailer for 10-12K, about 8K of that on the trailer, the rest on some basic equipment and decoration.
Rent the espresso machine & grinder for 150 / month (including maintenance & repair) instead of buying for 8K. Food & drinks wholesale: croissants are 0.2, donuts 0.5, fancy Italian water 0.6 and they sell for at least 3x as much
As the article says, even the most deluxe coffee is cheap. I calculated a cost of 1.09EUR for a latte, including 10g of coffee, 300ml of fair trade milk, a bio degradable cup + lid + sleeve and takes 3 min to prepare.
The hard part is learning to operate a professional espresso machine and dealing with the local laws about food trucks.
But yeah, best not during a pandemic.
Food cost at 30-35% of sale price, as it sounds like your latte cost indicates, is pretty much in the sweet spot for food service; it's also nice in that most of the ingredients for coffee keep well enough to minimize food waste. Pastries are more of a challenge to do efficiently.
This is part of why food in less-dense areas dominated by big chains - when all your customers need to drive half an hour or more to get to you and food culture isn't driven as much by novelty-seeking, it's hard to get a following before your runway runs out. Big chains are very experienced/cost-efficient, and have the capital to last if things start slow.
If you don't need to account for narrow streets in a big city, and congested parking, then short buses are often a steal in the US. Plus lots of room. That said, there is a coffee van owner who lives near me and they can easily park the vehicle in their double driveway.
> Sometimes, during those months of toil, our anger burned so intensely that we thought the boards we threw into the woods might never land.
To paraphrase Gandalf, next time throw yourself into the woods and save us all a deal of trouble.
I don’t know who needs to hear this, but Wherever you go, there you are. Few people get the Eat, Pray, Love ending. Usually you come back finding that you shouldn’t have had to leave in the first place. If you feel like chucking it in, live an austere life and save up first. That lowers your cost of living, and focuses you. If you can’t take that, then you won’t handle the next phase. If you can handle that, you may find you don’t even need to go. Evaluate before following through on the rest of your plan out of some sense of completionism.
I lived out of two bags the first time and a car the second. I learned a lot about myself and the world. I had a good amount saved up, but I've met people who've done similar trips and haven't. I got the idea from a guy I met in a hostel who saved up $10k in a year from his job waiting tables, and traveled for a year off of it. My best friend lived in Germany for years off of <500 euro a month teaching English.
It's not an easy life for sure. Eventually that server went back to work at his restaurant, my friend teaching English returned to Ohio and I got a job in software engineering. I still wouldn't trade the experience for anything.
A quarter acre isn't big enough to throw for distance. But the fact that he describes the land as a fern meadow (sic) pretty much sinks it. He was tossing onto the neighbor's land.
You could be right about them cleaning up, but the overlap between "throws tantrums" and "good forest steward" is far from perfect. I bet there's still bits of wood out there, next to broken plants.
A more positive form a comment like this could take is to explain what relevant information the article included past the break. Then we'd all learn something, or at least those of us who didn't read the whole article would.
Youtube channel Wild Wonderful Offgrid  built a much bigger absolutely gorgous house...but on flat terrain and over two years.
The other thing I've noticed is that many successful projects have pretty permanent "temporary" accomodation on site that take the pressure off needing to complete it asap.
And then sometimes the house is also sheet-metal-clad and looks pretty barn-like—it's just better sealed and insulated and has a few more windows :-)
Also, I suspect that if you're building a smaller cabin-type house in the woods, you don't also want a barn. Maaaybe a shed.
My dream house would have some interior unfinished space that opens to the outside for use as a shed/workshop. Basically think of a large unfinished mudroom with storage for tools, a lawnmower, shelving, a workbench, and maybe some larger stationary power tools like a band saw and drill press.