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Mt. Baker

Posted by joeabbott on June 23, 2019

Well, I shared many a story about training for our Mt. Baker bid but never divulged the details of our climb. It’s not out of mock modesty or failure in our attempt; I just tired of having Baker as a focus and once it was done, I sorta moved on.Baker Crew

On one hand I’d summited Mt. Baker (10,781’) several times previously and have climbed taller peaks, including Mt. Rainier (14,411’) and Mt. Adams (12,281’) just last year; on the other, I would be climbing with a new crew up a route I’d never been on before. So it should have been noteworthy. But, we have a lot going on at home including both our new home build and my wife is celebrating a birthday around this time, and work has been busy, so it was nice to take my foot off the proverbial pedal and coast a bit. But I’ve coasted and am ready to talk about our Mt. Baker outing.

Potential team troubles

Photo Jun 09, 12 13 16 PMimageI typically only climb with people I know. I’ll hike with darned near anyone, but if you’re on a rope with me, it’s a legitimate sacred trust and I don’t take it lightly. I commit to coming home after I leave for a trip and can only do that if I’m confident of my skills and the crew I’m with, so it was a little disconcerting (but not much) that I was climbing with someone I didn’t know. I minimized my concerns by having only folks I’d climbed with previously on my rope and I watched the “new guy” closely. As far as overall fitness … well, I had no concerns: he was in his early 20s, had done a stint in the army, and was on a rigorous climbing regimen. While his exposure to climbing was all in-the-hills (that is, he’d never taken a class), he appeared to have paid attention and had the basics down. Later in the outing I had a chance to see him in camp and on rope; while he did well and made no gaffes or missteps, he was a bit less assertive and low key. For me that was fine and reasonable when out with a number of other, more experienced climbers.

Then there was my buddy, Cy, who had climbed with us last year and was a great addition to the team. However, upon greeting him at the trailhead he said, “I think I have the stomach flu.” I really had no words of wisdom here. If the symptoms were mostly needing to go to the bathroom often, we could accommodate with a lot of stops, but Cy would ultimately have to make the call on whether he was well enough to start out. Both Heath (the leader on this trip) and I had considered what we’d do if we were down a man, so we had contingencies but in the end we didn’t need them. Cy agreed to head to base camp and see how things felt. And they felt good enough that he continued. Seems climbing is good for what ails you!

Beyond new guy (his name is Reese and he was Larry’s son) and Cy, the trip included Heath, Ron, Larry, and me; we’d be heading to the summit as two ropes of three climbers.

Old dog, new tricks

DSCF3047While I have a lot of experience and little concerns about this climb, my confidence was put to the test.

All throughout the spring I’d trained with 30-35 pound packs, and I’d done well, but on this trip my pack was topping 50 pounds! In addition to some extra cold weather gear, I had my climbing stuff (harness, helmet, picket, slings, prussiks, crampons, and ice axe), I opted to carry in the rope (it’s a 50m dry rope and weighed about 7 pounds), and shared some of the tent weight (about 3 pounds). My analysis suggested that of all the weight I carried, I should have left a pair of fleece pants and a lot of my snacks … besides that, I think I just need lighter gear!

While we left most of the weight at camp, I did think my pack was pretty heavy on summit day. I had a first aid kit, tarp, and a bit of safety gear, but not much else. I was probably tired … and it showed in decision making. One of my cardinal rules for climbing is: leave camp cold. Meaning, if you feel warm and snug while standing around in camp, you’ll likely get hot pretty quickly when you start exerting yourself. Unfortunately, I failed to distinguish between “feeling cold” and “it being cold” … and so on the morning we left for the summit, I started sweating immediately and didn’t rectify it until too late. The heat exhaustion was real and it hurt me.

Beyond those two issues, I am finding that I don’t really do well climbing under headlamp. I thought I loved this sort of thing … the novelty, the hard-core-ness, the romance and mystique of being real mountain climbers. On this trip I just found it messed with my head, making my vision “swimmy” and making it hard to push on. Some of that could have been the altitude (although this normally doesn’t impact me) or the heat exhaustion, and it might have been fatigue-related. I hadn’t slept well the night before our trip and the scant few hours before we left base camp wasn’t as restful as I needed.

Anyhow, this trip had a lot to teach me and was the sort of climb that keeps me humble and learning. While I’d done Baker a few times previously, this outing was one of my harder climbs in recent years.

The way in and up

DSCF3064Beyond that little drama, there’s precious little to share. On the day we left the trailhead we marched up to the snowfields ascending the mountain’s flanks and had a little lunch. The area is gorgeous and I was tired, so that was welcome. On the way up we chose to pitch our tents at a higher camp, around 7200’, and we quickly stomped out three tent platforms. After that I dug a shallow pit that we could sit around (with our feet in the pit) and boil water, make dinner, or just chat.

Cy, who had the upset stomach, took some rest before dinner but was soon out and indicated he’d be good to head out in the “morning”. Everyone got their fill of water and around 7PM we turned in and awaited the 1AM alarms. Some time prior to 1AM I heard some commotion and one of our tent mates (Larry or Reese) found an actual mouse in their tent! They managed to get it out but 1AM came way too soon.

DSCF3074When I get up for an early morning climb, I have a cold breakfast (usually a Costco muffin as those things have hella calories!) and then get ready. I’ll have my boots and crampons out and set, the rope will be coiled, have the loops in it where we’d clip in, and my backpack would be ready to shoulder. All this can be done in 15 minutes when I’m just getting up. But, there were new climbers so it took the team about 45 minutes for everyone to get up and ready.

After that it’s just climbing.

While we had a starry night sky when we left camp, the weather turned sour and we ascended in a white out, with heavy fogs/mists that saturated everything. Add to that a stiffly blowing wind and any fabric was soon soaked and frozen. For most of the ascent we climbed blind and as we turned toward the summit at the top of the Coleman Glacier and headed up the Roman Wall, we got a bit of lightening but not much. Heath noted his legs were rubber but after considering the options he continued leading and did very well.

A bit less than 4 hours after leaving camp we topped out, took pictures, and turned our ropes around having me lead the way back to the tents.DSCF3089

While the way down is less interesting, as you’re just following your tracks, the daylight allowed you to see the many crevasses and terrain hazards, making for a lot of novelty. But, we got back into camp within maybe three hours and I took advantage of the early hour to lay down and get 15 minutes of shut eye!


As with many successful climbs, this one had little to no drama and nothing really all that unexpected happened. It was a lot of work in the early hours while I was feeling pretty poorly, but we touched top and everyone did well.image

After the outing I kept my gym and extracurricular hiking up, but with a bit less intensity and maybe a casual touch. While I love getting out, it’s nice to have a little time to focus on a few other things, too … like sharing stories here. Thanks for dropping in!


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Finding inner strength

Posted by joeabbott on May 23, 2019

I thought I’d written a post on “getting tough” but I can’t seem to find it. This topic has been on my mind all week, especially in the light of last Sunday when I got out (yet again) to Camp Muir. As with many of 2019-05-20_193227my hikes last year, the weather was poor, conditions were mostly white-out quality, and I wanted to be done. Just done. Those trips are especially important to me because these are the ones that teach me the most.

Muhammad Ali was once asked about his workout routine and answered:

How many push ups do you do? I don’t know. I only starts counting when it starts hurting.

I’m not sure how many times I have hiked to Camp Muir but last Sunday was one of those days that counted because it hurt. Let me tell you about it.


Tim, Ron, and I got off around 9:30AM from the parking lot and I was feeling pretty good. That said, it was surprising how much effort it took to clomp on up Panorama Point. We were following a couple other large groups, so tracks were good, but the quality of snow was such that every step felt slick. It was raining and while the temps were warm, the wind bit into my hands hard enough I needed to put on my gloves.

Around Panorama Point Tim started to drop back. This was to plan, or at least we expected it, as Tim hadn’t been out in weeks and just wanted to get in some steps and would meet up with us at Paradise at an appointed time. As such, Ron and I continued to move onward and upward.

Around McClure Rock we’d passed all but the quickest hikers and were following faint tracks by maybe two people. Rainier had seen rain all week, with intermittent snow, obscuring the hard line of ascent tracks and only leaving the dished trail. Unfortunately, the whiteout weather set in thickly and we were reduced to marching up the hill slowly, head hung making sure we stayed on route.

Two hours in Ron and I took our first break and sized things up. My knee was hurting and Ron asked if I wanted to turn back. As often happens on my hiking these days, some part or other (mostly in my legs) will experience acute pain for a short while and then be as fine as can be. I have no idea what’s going on but it’s always distracting. Combined with the whiteout and interminable plodding upward, I was eager for it to be over but not ready to give up. So we went on in silence.

Sometimes when I’m hiking I think about how great it would be to “magically” appear at the destination … and then I immediately chide myself for thinking such a wasteful thing. It’s a waste because magic like that doesn’t happen. It’s a waste because the very reason I’m out there (to build strength) would be sacrificed for a short term gain. It’s a waste because I would not only miss a chance to be physically stronger but I’d lose a chance to overcome a mental barrier.

DSCF2979While it’s always a challenge, I still resist the urge to stop; I keep on, the happier for reaching the destination when I do.

After our break we kept plodding up and ran into one group of four heading down. About then a two-man team leap frogged us and those were the only groups we saw on our way up after Panorama Point. At one point the winds blew away some of the clouds and I caught a peek of Camp Muir. When I pointed it out to Ron, he brought me back to earth by commenting dryly, “it’s still a ways up there.” And it was.

About 25 minutes later I did make and sought out the shelter in hopes of getting out of the wind. Once inside I near collapsed; cold, exhausted, and mentally spent. There was no shaking my fist at the mountain, no running the final stairs, arms in V. Simple exhaustion and happiness that it was over.

I ate a quick meal. These days I have a “Lunchable”, which is usually more food than I want to eat but probably not nearly as much as I should. Somewhere in there I slipped on my light down coat and got out my sit pad. I was as comfortable as could be but disappointed at how challenging that hike was. Just damned tough.

We then readied to go down. I strapped on snowshoes, worried the warm weather would have really softened the snow and aware that downhill steps are harder on the snow than uphill steps are. I’d also mistakenly packed my overmitts, thinking they were my gaiters … and so I was without proper protection from keeping snow out of my boots!

The way down was long and hard. Hard because each step challenged my thighs; I was feeling serious fatigue. And yet, I somehow made it down the four miles and 4600’ of elevation loss without falling over.

Our adventures were few on the way down but the sun did come out. While only long enough to give me a pretty solid sunburn on my face, it was nice to be able to see more than 10’ in any direction.

When we did get down we met Tim at the appointed place, but we were maybe 30 minutes late. He wasn’t any worse for the extra time and we all enjoyed the day in our own ways.

As I mentioned, I took a good sunburn to the face; my nose and lips taking the majority of the burning. I was pleased that the next day my legs were in fine shape and I scarcely noted the effort from the day prior. I guess that rigorous workouts throughout the week are paying off. But mostly I was happy to have mentally set a challenge that I found tough and stuck it out.

There’ll be mountains too high for me to climb, trails too long for me to hike, and other impossibles that challenge me in life, but I expect they’ll be fewer after days like last Sunday. Fewer now that I know I can push past discomfort and the demons in my head whispering about magic.

Thanks for dropping by.

Posted in Hiking, Me | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Aggressive sales offers still coming

Posted by joeabbott on May 18, 2019

imageThere’s a bit of morbid curiosity that keeps me saving, tallying, and graphing all the “special sale price” offers I’m getting from my woodworkers site; they just keep coming. Of the 138 days so far this year, I’ve received 109 offers from the Woodworkers’ Guild, meaning I’m getting an offer near daily!

The average of all offers so far has been just about a penny a day: $3.66, with the lowest offer coming on Mardi Gras ($2.22) and the highest “special” offer at $5.55 (which is still 86% off, I’m told) coming in several times. The most frequent offer is $4, which has happened a staggering 22 times. I say “staggering” because 22 times is a lot of times, but with offers coming in on an average of every 1.2 days, maybe it’s not that big of a thing.

And, because I’m a nerd with access to a spreadsheet, here’s your graph:


While the “Staycation” offer around 4/17 came close, at $2.49, and Cinco de Mayo has a sweet offering of $2.55, my best bet is still to wait on that one-day Mardi Gras offer at $2.22 … however, while they offered it just one day, I will note that I received three mails that day with the same offer. When if I click on the email offer I see that the page is still up, however I can’t transact the purchase as I’m told the offer has expired. And, actually, I’m a little surprised.

Anyhow, we’re almost half a year in and we have a bunch of data … drop in later to see if we can’t get lower than $2.22 for our year of Woodworkers’ Guild of America membership!

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Getting out

Posted by joeabbott on May 12, 2019

imageI’ve been doing a bit of hiking this season, preparing for a June 11-12 ascent of Mt. Baker, and this week we decided to choose a route for distance. The weather was unseasonably warm here, about 85°F, so I eschewed my planned pack weight and kept things light … maybe 20# but we planned to go nearly 20 miles. Not a bad day!

The route was an old favorite: Rattlesnake Ridge, a roughly 10.5 mile one-way trip. As we parked the car at one end, our distance would be double, as we’d have to get back once we stopped! As the day was approaching for departure, one by one my partners had other obligations or health problems arising but as I was packing and determining to go it alone, Ron shook loose from his prior plans and joined me. A long stroll is often enhanced with the company of a friend.

So at 7:30AM we departed from the west end of the ridge and started heading east. We’d planned for warm weather but the plentiful tree cover on the way made for very comfortable going. Both uphill and downhill sections of the trail were gentle and we soon found ourselves 2 miles in at Stan’s Overlook.


As you can see from the picture above, Stan had better views in days long past! Trees doing what trees do, the view was a bit obscured.

We headed on and my feet were feeling fine enough I had the attention to snap a few pictures of the trail, a lovely, well-formed path through second/third growth forests.


DSCF2963If Suzy had been with me, I’d have been able to ask if this were a trilium flower; in one section there were a number along the trailside. Just a lovely little white in a sea of green and brown.

About two miles beyond Stan’s Overlook we reached Grand Prospect and it’s telling the views are no longer “grand” as I failed to take a picture of any part of it. But, shortly thereafter, I did manage to snap one of Ron as were began the long, slow downhill section above “The Ledge” as we neared our designated lunch spot.


Not great photography but it gives the feel for a bright day with lots of shade on a well made path.

At Rattlesnake Ledge we were greeted by throngs of people. The way up to the Ledge from the east is a short 2-mile trek up some 900’ or so, making it accessible and one of the best hikes near Seattle when considering the “effort-to-view” ratio.


It’s telling that I’ve done this hike too many times when I consider views like the above as “pedestrian” and “ok” … they’re just fabulous and I should be embarrassed to have lost any sense of wonder at such sights. But, I was tired, the Ledge was crowded, and some dog owner bagged their pet’s poo but left the bag tucked by the scrub of a bush I was having my lunch at. I wasn’t feeling particularly inclined to be bright and cheery just then.

However, my meal was tasty and Ron had brought a small cooler with a chill pack in it and offered me a few wedges of a sliced apple. An exceptionally fine treat as the day was reaching it’s warmest temps and we were in the full sun. So, we finished up and it was time to head back west.

The trail back was notable only in its absence of other hikers, after such a dense group at the Ledge. We bumped into a few long-distance travelers but not many. We did meet one duo who were hiking along and displaying my least favorite habit of the modern hiker: the Bluetooth speaker song-blaster. They passed us just after we were leaving Grand Prospect behind and then, inexplicably, they came back our direction. I pulled off the trail to let them by, glared my least friendly glare … they didn’t notice as they never looked at us … and then soon left two foot-sore hikers behind. But behind in a delicious silence with only the sounds of birds and breezes. It was nice.

At this point we were nearing our parked car and the hiking day was over while it was still reasonably early, being 3:30PM; an 8-hour trip to go 16.6 miles, according to my GPS. While the overall trail is about 10.5 miles, we stopped about 2 miles shy of that when we lunched at The Ledge.

imageThanks for dropping by and seeing what I’ve been up to. My feet need a little rest today so I think Suzy and I will find some dim sum and do a bit of weeding in the garden and then I’ll find somewhere restful to get my feet up. I hope your trails are as scenic!

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Cyber security … that pain that’s good for you

Posted by joeabbott on April 28, 2019

I’ve been trying to improve my overall online security stature but it’s hard: it’s inconvenient, requires extra steps, and not what I normally do. But it’s so darned good for you I can’t put it off any longer for the comfort of a little ease. This is coming up now because I just enabled “two-factor-auth” (TFA), also known as “multi-factor-authorization” (MFA), on my Hotmail/Live account and honestly … a bit of a pain. Follow along as I babble, please.

An education

imageAt work I’ve changed organizations and now report through the Microsoft Azure team; the folks who bring you Microsoft’s cloud computing. As part of that transition I took training in overall security and one section was called Securing You: Basics and Beyond. The session was mesmerizing. So much so that I contacted the speaker and asked if I could share his information here and he agreed.

A part of the talk focused on the history or evolution of hacking on the internet. How it started from simple things like someone showing you some illicit picture to sending mail on your behalf or grabbing your address book contacts. From there things escalated quickly to trying to get at things of real value: your money. On the “bad actor” side of things the profile went from “script kiddies” … typically untalented/untrained youths who come across a script that targets an exploit to the modern bad actor: someone who is technically savvy, has paid significant money for supported software allowing them to exploit your information, and services that run 24-7 doing the hacking for them.

It’s kind of equivalent to comparing the old country butcher to a modern day factory food production. There’s just no comparison in scale.

Additionally I learned that the bad guys aren’t interested in a one-time hack: they’re not looking to try logging into a company’s servers as you. They get into a company’s infrastructure, lurk for months learning the systems, and then steal the entire systems! Once they’ve downloaded a company’s sensitive data to their systems, they have all day and can attempt cracking it as long as they’d like.

It’s phenomenally disturbing.

Changes are annoying

And so we need to change our behaviors to stay ahead of the bad guys who have changed theirs.

One way to change is to use MFA, which asks me not only to use a password to access my account, but to use a second physical device to prove I’m me. A physical device such as a phone. The thinking goes along the lines of … someone may have found my password or someone may have found my unlocked phone, but it’s unlikely that someone other than me has both. Carrying my phone around all the time isn’t natural for me; I don’t like it and it makes me feel like some social media obsessed youth. But it wasn’t always natural for me to carry around a wallet or set of keys … and as someone who may need identification or access to secure locations, I now need those things.

The question that made me decide to make the change is: are the things you’re trying to secure worth it? And as I’m nearing retirement, have my financial assets online, and have both a nest egg and fewer years to rebuild if something happened, then yes, it is worth the inconvenience of change.

That said, I just spent the morning trying to get a number of my devices accessing my information to work with MFA. I’d take you through the steps but will simplify things by saying: it’s annoying. But worth it!

What can you do?

imageMFA isn’t available everywhere and it’s just one tool in an arsenal you can use to protect yourself online. The Basics and Beyond class shared the following suggestions on steps to take to secure yourself in the modern online age.

Check Your Accounts at
  • Check to see what usernames/accounts may have already been compromised.
  • Sign up for notification when new compromises expose existing usernames again.
  • Want to check an old password for fun? Visit:
  • Note: just because it doesn’t show up here doesn’t mean it hasn’t been exposed.

Password Strength Checker (one option):

  • Note: KeePass (see below) also provides a password strength calculation.

Password Managers – “freemium” — they have great, free options, including syncing across devices:

Password Managers – open-source — may be less convenient, and slightly more secure, 2FA may be harder to set up:

Turn on 2FA Everywhere Possible!

  • Well-known authenticators include Azure Authenticator (app), Google Authenticator (app), Yubikey(physical device).

VPN services – two good options, for computer/tablet/phone:


If you have questions, feel free to drop them below … those with my personal email information can send me something directly … and I’ll be happy to try to answer. I’m not an expert but I can no longer pretend I’m not informed. I didn’t touch on Password Managers because that’s an entire post all by itself and I haven’t started using them. I have a reasonably sophisticated process for creating and keeping passwords but I have almost a hundred that I need to manage and keep track of and I will admit it’s getting harder.

Thanks for dropping by and I hope your online presence remains secure!

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More time off

Posted by joeabbott on April 17, 2019


Well, I tend to post a lot about vacation time but mostly because that’s when I get a chance to post at all. Or, at least, that’s when I make time for it.

I’ve had this week off and it’s been rewarding. Note that I didn’t say “fun”, because it’s honestly been a lot of work!

It was raining over the weekend, so we didn’t get out much. Saturday was spent running errands but it started with a very fine breakfast at the Sunbreak Café. The Sunbreak is a great place to enjoy a nice, long breakfast and linger for a bit with a cup of green tea before getting on with the rest of the day; which is what we did.

Sunday we cleaned our house. And by that, I mean the new house that’s being put in up in Granite Falls. We’d been there a few times over the past month and just noticed things were getting messy. Stuff we’re sure someone would clean up before we moved in, but this is our property and our home and we felt we should be that someone.

ProjectManagerLots of nails still lay about the house and yard, snippings of tin from flashing installations were found around the yard, bits of shingles or underlayment, screws and nuts … just a lot of construction stuff. But the things that got both Suzy and I more were the bottles, fast food packages, and litter from the construction workers’ breakfasts and lunches. I went to work cleaning that up as Suzy addressed the house.

While we’d swept once before, now everything was dry and the construction crew was cutting boards and flooring inside the home, making for mounds of sawdust and other small detritus. While I gathered a bag of garbage from outside, Suzy had about a quarter bag of just stuff swept off the floor!

While we were there the rain came down hard and we enjoyed a few magical moments of silence with just the heavily falling rain as we looked out at the trees in our back-40. It was nice.

On Monday the rain stopped so we tended the yard at SeaTac. Around the lawn in our backyard we have a ring of azaleas that Suzy wanted moved, so while she dug them up, I prepped a few shallow holes in Chickenville, hauled them up the hill, and buried them on our hillside. Only time will tell if they take: the soil is thin, the area is dry, and my planting job wasn’t great, but they’ll get watered and we certainly brought a lot of dirt in the roots with them.

As Suzy then planted in new shrubs around the backyard lawn, I sharpened my chainsaw and cut down one of the arborvitaes that surround our driveway and had died. One of the errands we ran Saturday was to Costco where we saw a 7’ arborvitae for sale at about $20. A pretty good price for a tree that size and we just happened to need one! I still need to get the roots out but that’ll be a task for later today.

Tuesday came and as happens most Tuesdays that I’m available, I headed to the Puget Sound Goat Rescue with Suzy to provide a day of labor. As she mucked and cleaned, I installed 6 new gates on some pens that required replacements. I recall in my adolescence that I’d feel all grown up when I’d ask politely to be excused or exhibited some other grown-up trait, just like I felt yesterday when, after getting the last gate in when I said to Barbara, the director: Suzy mentioned you had some trees you wanted cleared from a shade garden; can I help with that?

OverseersBut by now I was dog-tired. Monday had really put the hurt on me (did I mention spending a couple hours pulling weeds?) and my back and arms were tired. Then the physical work of getting the gates in had me ready for a nap, but I’d only been there a few hours so I hoisted myself by my bootstraps and kept working. As Suzy tended landscaping and hung some bee boxes strategically around the lot, I thinned a tangled grove of now-dead vine maples and hauled most of the wood to a burn ring … and was met on the way by a herd of goats enthusiastic to help nibble off any buds that weren’t going to be used by anyone else.

LittleHelpersAnd so came Wednesday when we traveled back to Granite Falls to meet the electrician and finalize a lot of placements of lights and switches and whatnot. We just returned from that run and while Suzy is taking a small nap, I’m eternally grateful that I can do that on the car ride south. She’s awfully good about letting me doze when I need to just catch a few winks.

We’ll see what comes of the rest of the week but I plan on staying busy … but, hoping we can squeeze some less toilsome busy into the schedule, too!

Thanks for dropping by!

Posted in General stuff | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Bookshelf design

Posted by joeabbott on March 31, 2019

MDSC_0249y wife and I are in the privileged position of building a retirement home that will include custom millwork. We’re at the point where we’re making design decisions that will stick with us the remainder of our foreseeable days of living in a home together: stuff I took for granted is now consuming real time during our evening discussions. You see, we have a lot of books. A lot. As we intend on keeping them, it’s incumbent on us to decide just how to shelve them.

When we moved into our current home some 20 years ago, we had a lot of books (and stuff for the shelves) then, and it’s only grown. While our move into the house pre-dated the internet and Wikipedia, a friend who was helping us move the set of encyclopedias noted, “you know, these are available on CDs these days.” Our current library was satisfied by buying 5-6.5’ IKEA bookcases, along with a corner shelf and a few thinner shelves; altogether is was spendy but looked good and we filled them quickly to the point we needed other solutions throughout our home.

And so while designing our retirement home we included a “media room” that would showcase our books on what we described to the builder as “a wall of shelves”.

Now, we’d envisioned a large wall of floating bookshelves in a creative layout, allowing our cats to use the shelves as staircases to higher vantages. Whether we’re indulgent to our pets or just accept the cats would do that regardless of our feelings is immaterial: that was our vision. After meeting with the builder and the “cabinet guy” at our home one weekend morning, we came away with a design that more closely spoke to “five identical bookshelves set side-by-side.” Not really what we were looking for.

And so we started a series of mockups.

I like SketchUp as it’s easy to use and I could quickly knock out what might look like a bookshelf even if it didn’t contain the details for actually building it. The space we’re trying to fill is big: about 14’ with 9’ ceilings. I retained some of the design work that I’ll show here … this being my first attempt:


It was met with a “hmph … how  are we going to store all our books on that?” And she was right … there were just too few shelves, but I was worried about cost at this point, knowing that floating shelves were expensive. And, in my original first draft, the cabinet at the base spanned the entire width of the area.

My second attempt was only slightly more successful, bringing back the flanking bookshelves and arranging the hodgepodge of floating shelves to something more orderly:


Again: forgive the broken appearance as I lost some of the details to time as I was modifying these things on the fly. Suzy thought we were getting closer but wasn’t sure about the floating shelves. Before tackling anything else I roughly mocked up something that cleaned those up


Closer, but still not getting the reaction I was hoping for. At this point, and you can see it in the images above, the dimensions I was using had started to conflict with the cabinet maker’s dimensions, leaving me with parts of the millwork that was inside our walls! But, we soldiered on through a couple more iterations until we hit on this:


Two flanking 8’ bookcases, each about 4’ wide. In between at the bottom we have a base cabinet supporting our TV and above that we have three sets of two 3’ floating shelves butted against each other and the side bookcases. We haven’t settled on things like the height of the shelves or how much vertical room between them, but we have a lot of space to play with.

Overall, this was an engaging project, iterating through the designs, trying to determine exactly what we wanted. I can’t say that I was having fun, and Suzy was surprised that I liked the process … it seems I was getting frustrated. But that’s how these things work: you have a hard problem, you keep at it, and the result is all the more rewarding.

As I noted, we’re in a privileged place; not only being able to afford something like this but being able to work together to figure out what we like and don’t and coming to agreement. These are busy days and a bit tough, but I couldn’t be happier. Thanks for dropping in.

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Bird checking out the camera!

Posted by joeabbott on March 31, 2019

We get dozens of pictures on our home security system daily, and most of them are of the chickens but we get a few delivery people going about their business and maybe a stray cat or two enjoying our property as their thoroughfare. But when Suzy said: check out the driveway camera from yesterday at 7:18AM I got a treat!!

Yup, a common bird flew in to check things out and gave us a couple of awesome shots!




Now this is a good reason to have a security system! Just sharing a little something that gave me a smile.

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Knowing how to use it

Posted by joeabbott on March 30, 2019

A half year ago I got a little bonus and set aside some money to buy a “nice camera”. It was a splurge purchase for a couple reasons: first, with the ubiquity of cameras in phones (and their high quality), even people I know who take nice pictures argue you can do most anything with a phone; second, I’m not a good photographer and never really spent the time to learn; and finally, when I take pictures my mind’s eye sees a thing to record, not art to capture. But I’ve never been one to let good arguments stand in the way of me having my fun.

ImageSo a few months back, during a Black Friday sale, I purchased an entry-level Nikon D3500.

I got it at Costco for a couple hundred dollars but it felt like a super-luxury item … kind of like a pen that’s too expensive to use for everyday writing or something. I’ve taken it out a few times with Suzy but for the last month or so it’s sat at home: I’m cautious about damaging it and not sure which of my mountaineering trips I can take it on that I won’t regret it later. But, I’m starting to think I gotta get over that and be a little more bold.

All of this is to say: expect a few more pics in my blogs. And to start things off, we can take a look at some of my prior images.




Some of the pictures I tried to be “arty” but all had their reason: the top of the gazebo was for future reference should I build one, the framed house and stairway as it’ll potentially inform some decisions on what I do in my shop, the chicken huddled on the snowy hillside was to check out the zoom on the camera, and Suzy in the gazebo because I love the heck out of that girl.

But now I need to start the long, hard journey of looking over what I snap, understanding why it’s good or why it’s not, and then taking the steps to improve.

I got a camera a while back and I’m kinda jazzed about it and building up to the point where I’ll get over it being anything but a tool for me to use to capture experiences in my life. Thanks for walking along a bit on that path with me.

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Check in on our “one-time offer”!

Posted by joeabbott on March 23, 2019

imageA month ago I posted about an aggressive but benign advertising campaign: a woodworking information company that was hell-bent on getting me to subscribe. Again, I likely will be signing up sometime and even their most expensive offer is within most anyone’s budget, but I’m seriously curious just how low they’ll go.

And, in the 81 days since the start of the year I’ve received 62 offers; the highest “special offer” was $5.55 (a “you’ve been invited” sale) but the lowest has been just $2.22 on Mardi Gras. They were playing off a “Fat 2s-day” theme.

The average is about $3.65 … a penny a day, for those looking at the daily cost of things over the year. Here’s a chart of the offers they’ve sent me so far:


No discernible pattern yet but I plan on watching for at least a year and, if 2020 is the same as 2019, I’ll be joining in late February around Mardi Gras (which is 2/25/2020)!

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