Written by Ben Ellison for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub
While I was already fairly "seasoned" when I wrote my first Panbo entry 10 years ago yesterday, I feel like I have a few more years of obsessing over marine electronics left (Panbo itself turned 10 on 2/4/2014). Today, though, I'm going to share a few non-marine infrastructure improvements I've made, mainly to Panbo's completely redone edit office. I haven't been very shy about personal matters over the years, but I never showed the horrid mess of a home office where I did much of my work. And I wouldn't now, except as a "before" to an "after" I'm very pleased with.
Ta-da! This is not only a much more pleasant and efficient work area, it may also include some ideas that could make your own office happier and healthier. The project began last July when I moved the working parts to another room and either stored or threw away every single dusty magazine, unused gadget, and stick of furniture. Then a sharp young man, far more limber than myself, replaced the hideous carpet and shrunken spruce flooring with pre-finished oak and also cut a new window into the massively thick north wall. I love the energy-efficient solar-oriented home I built -- well, started building -- in the late 70's, but I was a little carried away at first. There were no windows on the north side, for instance, and no electrical outlets in any of the exterior walls, which are framed with true 2 x 6 inch studs with an added layer of urethane foam insulation on the inside (and outside, too, on the north side). It's not easy to add anything to these walls. But look, no cables on the floor!
For much of the last 35 years my office was the least finished room in the house, and at some point I clearly gave up on cable organization. It was an odious task to go under the desk to fix something or -- heaven forbid -- to install a new computer. So, one major goal of the redo was to create hidden raceways that could contain all the wired tech in the room plus the new cables that will, no doubt, come along.
Part of the solution was replacing all the slap-dash shelving with two sets of semi-custom maple cabinets sourced online from Highland Designs. They're not the highest quality, but they became quite solid once finished (I favor Watco Natural Danish Oil) and screwed in place, and that corner cabinet does a pretty good job of disguising the power, cable tv/Internet, and phone connections behind it along with much associated gadgetry. I've also drilled numerous just-below-shelf passways, and that is a dark yellow cable raceway under the window looking somewhat similar to a chair rail moulding (with a fish line already in place).
(Note how the large ash tree seen standing in our backyard in the "before" photo is now on the ground, still waiting for the end-of-driveway snowpack to clear enough so that a crew can get in to make firewood. It fell during the first -- very wet and heavy -- snowfall of the year and nearly destroyed the PanboMobile parked on the south side of the house when I still was cruising boat shows in early November. While we're now fairly convinced that spring is really here - check the open windows - it will be a long time before we forget the winter of 2015.)
The new cabinetry on the west wall similarly covers up an electrical outlet I put high on a wall (reasons forgotten) and I'm using that for a pretty elaborate charging station. Besides having only three power outlets, the room had just two rough overhead light fixtures controlled by a single switch outside arched doorway (which was recycled along with the fir paneling seen around the kitchen from the old Camden High School just before it was demolished in 1979). I'm very pleased with the continuous track lighting solution you can see in the photos. All the components are standard Cal Lighting HT Series and were sourced online from Lighting Design Experts, who have a fabulous 30 day free return policy. Thus, I was able to order extra track parts because I was confused about how some went together and extra fixtures because I wanted to balance the lighting around the room.
I ended up using several different fixtures and lots of different LED bulbs, though all with roughly the same 3000K medium warm color temperature. But the cherry on top is a Lutron Caseta Dimmer Kit that I replaced the old switch with. Now I've got lighting similar to what I've been striving for on the boat - efficient and high quality LED brightness when needed with smooth flicker-free dimming down to near zero. Plus, I can control the lighting with the included wireless white Pico remote seen on my desk above. The desk, incidentally, is in standing mode in this photo, and switching to what's called a sit-stand desk was a big motivation for this whole project.
Now we're at the truly "not very shy" portion of this entry. I wanted to try a sit-stand desk because I've been plagued by arthritis pain in my left hip for the last few years. And you could say that it didn't really work given that the x-ray above shows the major joint replacement hardware implanted there on March 2nd. But in fact, being able to switch positions up and down during an office workday had already given me a lot of relief -- it seems much more natural, and I'm pretty sure it would benefit many -- and it was especially great during the recovery process.
What you see below in full up position is an AD111HD electric adjustable height desk frame from Ergo Depot -- which also supplied my beloved Muvman boat stool -- topped with a solid, blank 80- x 30-inch birch door. And what I'm demonstrating is a feature that I hadn't even anticipated. I did figure out the trough that holds a gigantic Tripp Lite outlet strip and surge protector and also keeps the cables mostly out of sight as the desk goes up and down. But it wasn't until I had the whole rig assembled that I realized I could put the Aerion chair (that was perhaps my first useful hip-and-back-relief gear investment) at maximum low and wheel around under the desk like a high-tech garage mechanic, which I should do again soon to better fasten that cable running to the desk's up-down control near my head ;-)
So, I may be sitting in the exact same place where I wrote "Look, Ma, I'm blogging" 10 years ago, but that place has a new lease on life and so do I. Just six weeks out of surgery I feel years younger and confident that I'll be crawling around Gizmo's tight spaces pain-free at the end of the month. And some day I'll illustrate improvements I made to Panbo's basement lab a couple of years ago, a hint of which just happened to pop up in the screensaver as I snapped the picture above, as did an image showing some of the wonderful offspring who now live wonderfully close by (though mom has passed). Having them around was even better than a sit-stand desk during this long winter, and I'm especially grateful to my very tidy spouse, Andrea, who had to wait 20 years before my office got decent, and who, by the way, has been doing a bang-up job as Panbo's copy editor ("...when he is patient enough to allow me the time to edit before publishing") and ad manager since her retirement. I'm also extremely grateful to the Panbo advertisers who help to keep this micro enterprise afloat and to AIM Marine Group who brought me back to the good magazines I was working with 10 years ago, and more. And, of course, to you dear boaters who actually read what I write and even respond sometimes. Let's keep on truckin'.