Monday, February 22, 2010

How To Build the Washington Monument Out of Playing Cards

If you ever want to leave your co-workers weeping in jealous misery, drag a deck of playing cards into work. No, I'm not suggesting you break into a game of strip poker or fleece them out of next week's paycheck. That would be mean. And wrong. And leave you with absolutely nothing to do on your lunch hour!

I want you to build a house on the corner of your desk using nothing but your good looks, your talent and your ability to intimidate your co-workers into staying out of your office!

Card houses are awesome, the ability to build one a sign of the gods. Why? Because most people can't do it. It doesn't have anything to do with their hand-eye coordination. They just don't have the patience to perfectly weigh the cards against each other or the ability to hold their breath for hours on end.

In December of 2004, Brian Berg built what was then (and may still be) the largest house of cards in the world. Picture found at

Since "Nobody move, nobody breathe" is about to become your new favorite catchphrase, you don't want to find yourself hoist on your own petard.

The first step to any successful card house is to smuggle in a deck of playing cards. I recommend grabbing a used pack from a Vegas casino. Their cards are guaranteed clean, free of the smudges and scuffs that go along with ordinary decks for perfect weight, and a surefire way to intimidate your co-workers.

Nothing makes you cooler in an office full of geeks than saying you picked up a deck from a dealer in Vegas.

Every good structure starts with a plan. I suggest you craft yours before you start putting cards together. You can build the White House, the Capitol Building or the Washington Monument if you play your cards right, but you need that plan to tell you how big you want to make your foundation.

To Make the Washington Monument

Now for the tricky part. You have to actually start building! Take a deep breath, and give your hands a shake. You don't want nerves getting in the way. Now take two playing cards and stand them up in a perpendicular manner on your desk. Very, very carefully, tilt them together until the tops touch, the cards form a triangle with the table and the structure is standing on its own.

Repeat ad nauseum to form the base, then start building up. Remember, that second layer can be tricky. Cards are slippery, and the slightest twitch will send the whole structure crashing down around your ears. I recommend building a base that's approximately four card triangles by four card triangles and maintaining those dimensions until you reach the top. At the top, do a 3x3, then 2x2 structure until you have the peak.

Take a picture, then sit back and preen. Some idiot's going to come by and knock it down in a minute. Enjoy the glory while it lasts.

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