Tuesday, February 18, 1997

Bob Vila for the Web

Editor's NOTE: This is a moldie oldie that I pulled from a text dump archive. None of the links will work anymore (or 99% won't) - but the names and companies have NOT changed.

In this frenzied world of ever-changing software, (sort of) WYSIWYG HTML editors , IP addresses, CGI's, and other things technical - I've often found myself wanting to turn to a down-home, friendly Web guru to give step-by-step directions for creating cool web stuff. Sorta like... well... a digital version of Bob Vila.

For those of you not familiar with Bob, he's the host of the popular cable show "The Renovation Guide" and was creator of "This Old House" (before Sears bought it) - both programs for the would-be do-it-yourselfer. In his shows, he and his sidekick (read: butthead slave) Norm, would add a bathroom, a bedroom, or redesign a kitchen in a half hour. I like to watch these shows because people with fix-it/construction skills amaze me.

I'm no Bob Vila - in fact, until this past weekend, whenever something needed fixing around the house my wife knew just what to do: CALL SOMEONE who knows what the hell they're doing! She learned this little trick when I would "fix" things that would later need to be REALLY fixed by someone else anyway - this way she can cutout the middleman (me).

There really is a point to this, I swear.. but first, let me set up the story:

My wife and I had a problem: our dogs (Mac and Panda) have slowly turned our once-picturesque backyard into a missile test site. Panda (border collie and akita mix we got from the pound when she was a year old), bless her heart, feels it's her duty to return to China via our backyard. She digs (daily) holes that can easily accommodate a compact sedan with room left over for 3 miles of broken sprinkler pipe.

Our once well-behaved "baby" - Mac (pure border collie who we got from the pound when he was a puppy), not one to be left out of the festivities, has learned to also dig 4 or 5 smaller holes in his never-ending search for rocks to play with.

My wife likes to garden. She loves to plant seeds, bulbs, shrubs, and lovingly watch them grow. She does not like the fact that our backyard looks like a white trash reject. She suggests building a dog run by filling our side yard with concrete. Bob is not Bob Vila. He once took 2 hours to hang a spice rack that's still crooked and will not come out of the wall EVER. Bob thinks to himself "hey, concrete, what's the big deal?" Bob remembers the spice rack and comes to his senses.

Long story short, we asked the advice of our relatives (all of whom are absolutely GIFTED in the construction/fix-it department - plus they have all the COOL TOOLS!) about the project. WHAMMO-
BAMMO two weeks later they all came up to our house. They dug a trench for a new drain; removed our entire fence (in WHOLE sections, no less); flattened out the side yard by removing wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow of dirt; built forms concrete forms; had the concrete pumped in to the back of the yard while finishing the front concrete forms; "floated", edged, smoothed and finished the surface; replaced the fence (and set three new posts that were damaged)... well, you get the idea.

Out of all those tasks, I had the most strenuous jobs: writing the checks, making HomeBase runs, bringing refreshments out, etc. I even bought a power saw (my first) when my relatives mentioned that cutting through 125 feet of lumber with a 10 year old handsaw wasn't exactly fun.

That brings us to the point of this column: it's one thing to watch folks do it on TV, but it's a whole different ball game when you set out to actually do a project. I learned that when a group of dedicated people get together to accomplish a single goal, there's nothing that can't be accomplished. I also learned that I don't personally have to know how to do all the aspects of a job to get it done. All I have to do is just do what I do well, and give the freedom and tools to those with other skills the room to do what they do well.

Reader Exercise: Share your own particular talents (or knowledge) with other people with different talents and create something cool!

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