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Editorial: So many projects

My father is not the kind of man who settles for half measures. Or three-quarter measures. Heck, in some cases he's not even happy with full measures.

There's little room in his mind for doing things less than all out and even less, it sometimes seems, for recognizing when a project is getting just a little out of hand.

When I was much younger he took an interest in photography. He got himself a nice camera, which entirely reasonable. Then he decided to turn our basement into a darkroom. Which is a bit like someone joining the office softball team one weekend and building his own Field of Dreams the next.

That job was never finished -- we moved before he ever developed a photograph there -- but that darkroom is where I learned the truth about Santa Claus. I woke up late one Christmas Eve and went looking for my parents. I found them in the basement frantically stuffing stockings. And that's when they explain-ed that Santa, as busy as he gets during the Holiday season, occasionally subcontracts. It was a hard truth to accept.

I think I was about 16.

He's the same way about just about anything he gets into. We have had a friendly family NCAA tournament pool for as long as I can remember. He's got spreadsheets that track not only how everyone is doing this year but how they've done every year since the pool began. Want to know who won in 1996? He can tell you that. Want to know who has the most cumulative points through the years? That's in there, too. He can pull up average scores and margins of victory. It's like someone gave Rain Man Excel.

When he was a runner, my dad ran every day for something like 46 straight years (by the time he finally stopped, nobody knew where he was). When he took up golf, he learned to make his own clubs. He got into biking and bought a bike shop worth of tools. He's got his own official shop stool. And not even getting mugged could keep him from a class that taught him to tear down and repair his bike.

Sometimes this -- let's just call it enthusiasm -- works in my favor. I got a nice set of golf clubs out of it. If my bike needs repair, I can feel confident he knows how to dismantle it and diagnose the problem. Getting everything back together is sometimes an iffier proposition, but you take your chances, I guess.

A few weeks ago, he announced he'd decided to replace a fountain on his deck. He said the project had gotten a little out of hand.

"Anyway, the living room's a lagoon now," I joked.

I wasn't too far off. Apparently the process of replacing a relatively small, professionally made fountain led, for reasons that are still a little unclear, to buying what amounts to a green plastic horse trough and building a coffin-sized wooden enclosure to surround it. The finished product is something like two-thirds the size of the deck. Which is fine, if that's how he chooses to use his outdoor space. It was less fine last weekend when he needed help getting it onto the deck, a process that involved carrying a massive wooden box around a cluster of townhomes, using an electric winch to hoist it, then praying it didn't tip over onto you as you wrestled it over the railing.

We survived the process and got the giant wooden box into place, but it was touch and go for a while. I still have scars. Both physical and mental.

I'm not sure what my dad's next project will be. But if he starts muttering, "If you build it, he will come," it's my brother's turn to help.