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Letters home to mom

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      Posting these cat-cartoons-without-the-cartoon was a long journey that I don’t know if I’ll repeat soon again. A daily blog is tough … even when you have your material handed to you! But, I couldn’t have done it without the artwork … Continue reading →
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      Father Time is riding out his last few minutes of being the temporal keeper for 2011; he sits in an easy chair with a calendar showing “Dec 31” behind him and a grandfather clock pointing to the time of 11:53. … Continue reading →
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Shoveling the driveway

Posted by joeabbott on February 10, 2019

2019-02-09 09.50.08Shoveling the driveway back in my boyhood home of Minnesota was a fact of life. You never “came of age” and were appointed a special shovel … you just got out and did it any of the many number of times it snowed in a given winter. Here in Seattle, things are different: snow is rare, accumulations rarer, and the accumulation that sticks is rarer yet. Well, the unicorn that is “snowstorms that dump a lot of snow that sticks” not only hit Seattle once this year, but a second time a week later; and we’re hearing of more snow to come.

A few homes in our neighborhood do not shovel; either from a lack of the right tools, the belief that it’ll soon melt off, or sloth itself. Our driveway is too long and narrow to ignore getting its shoveling done anytime we have snow that will stick, so when last week’s snow fell, I was out on it. And, as I came in I recall saying to Suzy, “there’ll be a time when I can no longer do that” … it was hard work.

But it snowed again the other day, and while the fatigue from our prior snow was still fresh, the time for me not shoveling wasn’t upon us just yet. 2019-02-09 09.25.20

While I got out the shovel and tackle the driveway, Suzy cleared the stairs and walkway … which included a bit of chipping away ice with a scraper and tossing down sand. The better to get packages delivered to the actual door! We were the first to start but Suzy noted we’d shamed a few other neighbors into action and before the end of the day, many of our neighbors had cleared drives. It looked downright Minnesotan out there!

Here are a few pics from our heroic efforts.

2019-02-09 09.49.582019-02-09 10.05.08



I’m not looking forward to the next one but am confident we can handle it when it comes in; I’ll just be happy if my back is rested when I see the next flakes falling. Today Suzy and I will take a walk. I’m not sure how smart that is, and I imagine we’ll be breaking a trail, but it’ll make up for missing the gym for all its closures.

Thanks for dropping by and feel free to comment on how foolhardy it was to clear the turn-around lane or any other critiques you may have! As always, just a pleasure to share a day in the life with you!


Posted in Home projects | Tagged: , | 4 Comments »

Security camera feeds

Posted by joeabbott on February 10, 2019

OK, we got a security camera and it’s been great for two things: making sure our hens are in for the night and knowing when the FedEx man is dropping something off. It’s been great!

We’ve found that our hens will get hungry for a late night nibble and jump out of their shelter for a kibble snack in the early evening hours, after it’s dark. Well, if they’re outside much past 8:30PM, we have an automatic door that will close, securing the shelter for the night … and it doesn’t have a doorbell or way for the hens to open it themselves! So, either Suzy or I will have to walk up and hold the door for the truants to get in. But these days, rather than squint up at the coop, we can just pop on the chicken-cam and see for ourselves!

Here’s a picture from right now … it’s morning and the hens should be out, but they hate the snow and would rather lounge about in the woodchip duff Suzy has layered into their shelter!


Guess I can’t blame them: cozy woodchips or cold, damp sand.

As for the package deliveries … these are less about seeing someone on the camera than it is about getting a ping on our mobile phones when one of our cameras out front captures some activity. Recently we were at a late meal when we heard Suzy’s phone chime (and, yes, we turned off the chime when the chicken camera captures movement … we’d have 50+ chimes just for the hens!) and so I looked out front door. The UPS deliveryman had opted against climbing our icy stairs (smart!!) and put the packages by the garage door! We might not have seen them there, especially overnight, so the security camera did a perfect job.


The image above is a little funky as it takes on a “night vision goggles” sort of look when it’s dark out.

These cameras have been fun to have and look at, and while they weren’t cheap, they have zero operating costs unless you count the energy for the rechargeable battery recharge. Images are stored “in the cloud” for a week or, if we’d like, to an attached hard drive. The system has been super-easy to setup and configure; I’m even surprised at the range of the unit as our chicken coop is about 100’ behind the house.

That’s it from our little corner of the world; thanks for dropping in and know that if you come in person, we’ll hear a little chime before you get to the door … time enough to start the kettle warming!

Posted in Home projects | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Seattle Winter

Posted by joeabbott on February 9, 2019

Here’s what I plan on doing the next couple days: staying warm.

A week or so back Seattle got hit with about 4” of snow … some parts of the Puget Sound region saw a little more, some a bit less. After about 2 days of weather above freezing (but still in the high 30°F range) things largely returned to normal but for those first few days there were a lot of business closures, traffic issues, and people working from home.

Yesterday, Friday, we got hit with another big snowstorm. This one had been predicted and warnings had gone out: stay home if you can … the snow is starting around noon! I got up early and around 6:30AM I ran out to get Suzy a full tank of gas, picked up a few bags of sand (a couple for the chickens to line their coop and some for emergency), and then ran to the grocery store for a few staples. Then back home.

While I shouldn’t mention this, I don’t think anyone really reads this blog, so I’ll share that I did run into work. I’m part of an Xbox Insider program and they had some hardware they were offering me a chance to test … so a long weekend snow-bound seemed like just the opportunity! I ran in and was home again before 10:30AM. So now I was set … let it snow!

And snow it did!


I haven’t run out with a measuring stick, so I’m not sure how much snow we received here, but I’m seeing 6”-8” on some of the news feeds. While this may not be a “snowpocalypse” for some places (I’m looking at you, Minnesota), it’s a fair bet the city will be immobilized. Our local YMCA closed early on Friday and planned not to open at all today. Suzy and I are planning a walk to a local shopping mall, it’s a bit over 2.5 miles one way, but we’re not sure what will be open. And this will depend on how much energy I have left after shoveling the driveway.

But, we got a lot of snow and the weather forecasts for the next week are for temps to stay below freezing and more snow to come!

Wherever you are, stay warm!

Posted in Trivia | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice

Posted by joeabbott on February 6, 2019

imageIf you have the ability, play this game: Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice. There’s nothing else like it on the market. Part hack and slash, part puzzler, completely mind changing.

The game starts out showing the back of a young Celtic woman, Senua, paddling a crude canoe through fetid waters, rank with corpses. A voice over talks softly about her being on a journey, having nothing left to lose, and that she’d be afraid of dying but that she was already dead. When she stops and lands the canoe, the voice over states there’s no going back and in a show of defiance the woman looks at the camera, places a foot on the boat, and pushes it away from shore and out of reach.

There will be no going back.

Soon after the voices start. Soft and pervasive, into the left ear and then the right, swirling around your head; the game states it’s best experienced with earphones and I never took mine off. The voices are 20% cheerleaders, 40% fearful, and the balance your worst enemy: laughing at and chiding you as you control Senua through a tortuous landscape on a quest to find the soul of her betrothed, who had been murdered in a Viking raid. It’s a gory, bloody story, and one told from the point of view of someone suffering from psychosis in the late 18th century. Sympathetic mental health care appears to have arrived a long time after this story took place.

While the game contains clever visual puzzles to solve, dozens of “lorestones” sharing stories of the “Northmen” mythology (think Odin, Ragnarok, and the like), and challenging sword fighting, the thing that immediately and completely sets Hellblade apart from every other game is their treatment of mental health disorder and issues. Over the development of the game, many doctors in the mental health field were consulted, patients willing to share their situations impacted the writing, and the guidance of both helped craft a realistic, sympathetic, and profoundly scary story of a woman beset by mental health illness.

The story is Senua’s quest to return her lover’s head (his literal skull she carries about) to Hela, in Hellheim; in doing so, his soul which Hela keeps might be returned to his head: the “seat of his soul”. Along the way she fights Viking brigands, a number of Norse gods, and must puzzle her way through nightmarish scenarios involving putrid swamps, burning villages, and dark mazes. And always in the company of voices.

However, not all of the voices accompanying her belong to “the Darkness”, as she refers to her psychosis; she is also instructed and guided by a learned man, Druth, she saved a while back, who had been abducted and tortured by the Vikings earlier; and her slain lover, Dillion. While Druth’s stories have shaped the world she experiences, it’s Dillion who tenderly encourages her on, attempting to shield her from the Darkness which ravages her mind. And yours.

The novelty of constantly hearing voices telling you you’ll fail, letting you know people don’t like you, calling your efforts vain, and breaking you down along your journey starts out as strange, but grows wearying as the game progresses. Soon, however, you are able to pick out the faint “look out” that tells you to parry a blow, hear a “behind you!” to encourage you to dodge an incoming attack from the rear, and the welcome “focus!” that lets you know your character should trigger the time-altering skill of the same name (“focus”).

Those are helpful and game changing when you realize you can tease out suggestions that actually aid you. But I doubt that people suffering debilitating mental health issues get that sort of assistance.image

The voices are only one part of the experience: Senua also hallucinates monsters in the shadows, has her sight altered to create a shattered or tunnel-vision world, and walks through kaleidoscope landscapes. But none of those last long as a grim, brutal, filthy world soon returns along with voices taunting things like, “hahahha … she’s so tired and hurt; she’ll never make it!”

I was immediately taken by the game’s novelty but over the the two weeks or so that I was playing, becoming more impacted by Senua’s plight, both mental and physical, and having invested time in moving her along her journey; I felt myself becoming more sensitive to the voices and hallucinations caused by her illness. It occurred to me how attuned I had become as I not only sat silently through the final 7-minute cut scene, the 5-minute credits, and then watched a 20-minute “making of” video about the game design and creation, but even visited the website made by the developers reaching out to people suffering from mental health issues:

While I play games for fun and sometimes groan at moralizing I find in them, I never felt a preaching tone or a “did you notice the lessons we imparted to the story?” sort of vibe here. Just a game whose protagonist experiences realities in a tragic but sympathetic way. Hats off to Ninja Theory, the game designers behind Hellblade for boldly and deftly bringing this story to the gaming world.

It’s been a sincere pleasure experiencing your story: Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice.

Posted in Gaming | 2 Comments »

Now where were we?

Posted by joeabbott on February 3, 2019

DSC_0147Last time I meaningfully posted was about three weeks back, relating a trip up Granite Mountain … as with all my climbing and hiking trips, the memories of the early morning, cold weather, and physical duress has faded and I just remember azure skies and endless white across the jagged teeth of the Cascade mountain range. Those memories keep bringing me back.

But my days are full of work and my free time increasingly consumed with details around our new home. While Suzanne is leading the charge, the past few weeks have been full of visiting the site, making choices about stuff that, once you live in the house you take a bit for granted (when’s the last time you really noticed your faucet design?), and then dealing with the financial aspect. We commit one of our weekend days to the property and then time during the week to whatever decisions need to be made.

My other weekend day, typically Sunday, is then spent hiking. Getting in shape is a bit of a rollercoaster and getting rollercoastery … I just set Fridays aside as another gym day. This means Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays are gym days. Good thing we have Mondays and Wednesdays for relaxing!

The commitment for another day at the gym was spurred by the fact that I’m not dropping my “winter weight” in spite of all my getting out.


The two big outings since Granite have been Rattlesnake and Mailbox.

Tim and I did a hurry-up hike up Rattlesnake Ledge a couple weeks back. Why hurry-up? Well, Suzy and I needed to get up to the property (for a second time that weekend) to talk details with the builder. the hike wasn’t terrible, however, as you can see from the pic below, it was pretty socked in. And for those in the know, Rattlesnake is a pretty modest hike.

IMG_20190121_090242 - Copy

The other outing came the subsequent weekend when I headed up Mailbox Peak with a couple friends. While we hiked in through “the soup”, the skies were clear and blue up above it. Simply gorgeous. And Mailbox is a rigorous outing. While the distance is short (about 2.5 miles one way), you gain almost 4000’ along the way! Now that’s a thigh-burner!

Mailbox panorama

The house

The house is coming along.

While I don’t have an “overall” shot from our most recent visit, we have all the windows in, the backdoor sliders are in, the roof is completely shingled, and plumbing is starting to be installed! Double-click the pictures below to get larger views but here are a few shots.


This last visit, Suzy and I spent the day cleaning up. There’s a growing debris pile in the driveway portion complete with trash bags of fast-food dinner waste and soda containers. For the most part the construction crew has been excellent but we’ve found a forgotten sandwich here, a pastry there, and whatnot. And then the nails … nails were strewn or left everywhere, and mostly in places where they were getting rusty and useless.

So we each grabbed a heavy duty trash compactor bag (the better to resist puncturing), donned our gloves, and did a walk-around the entire property out to the road picking up whatever trash we could find. After that, we each grabbed a magnet and circled the perimeter of the house (twice!) including the inside to pick up nails! I imagine we must have found about 40-pounds (about 18kg) in the two boxes we collected.

But we weren’t done! At that point we grabbed brooms and started sweeping out house! We’re not confused about the stage of construction we’re in, and we know it’ll get more dirty yet, but there were too many small plastic parts, bits of wood, and debris of all sorts in all rooms. Just getting all the detritus off the floor made the house feel bigger and like a place we’d want to own. And, by sweeping up all the damp sawdust, our floors can now start the process of drying out after being exposed to the elements during a Seattle January!



And that’s it! I appreciate the traffic here and comments below or through mail/text; it’s gratifying to have people who care enough to peek in. Have a great week!

Posted in General stuff, Hiking, Home projects | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Wow …

Posted by joeabbott on January 19, 2019

OK … here’s a “spot the phishing scam” for the beginner level students. I’ve done nothing to alter the content or the layout.


Intrigued at attempts like this, where the phisher appears to be an idiot, I recalled an article I read somewhere … I actually think it was from the guys who do the Freakonomics stuff. They were actually talking about the “Nigerian prince needs your help” scam, but I think it applies here.

In that article, they addressed why a very poorly written, thinly veiled scam attempt was even tried, much less successful, and they came away with the belief that the format was intentional and acted as a filter to remove those who would never fall for the scam in the first place. Those who even answered, however, were just a little bit more naïve and stood a chance of falling for it, so the scammers could devote their time to those susceptible and completely avoid those who wouldn’t be.

It makes sense and suggests the above was either a mistake that even the scammers regretted, or their way of filtering out those who would never click the “Sign In Here” link. Ever.

Even after I get done dismissing a phishing scam, I love reading through the contents … the inept wording (“Thank you for being a our …”), the logical disconnects (we’ve limited you account access so you need to sign in … umm, why?), or the pure evilness (“We need your help securing your account to prevent unauthorized access”). I hate these guys … just making life harder for others; think of the benefits to the world if they just focused on actually writing quality software or helping folks in need.

Oh well. Have a great day and again … just toss these out immediately.

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Granite Mountain

Posted by joeabbott on January 14, 2019

Just a little post.

My life seems to be a series of super-saturating myself with a single pursuit. I tend to devote a tremendous amount of energy toward one endeavor but move on to other things after a while. On a car ride with a buddy I realized some of that passion sticks around as I was able to recite names and events from J.R.R. Tolkien’s Silmarillion fantasy novel at length. Anyhow, hiking and mountaineering have been a large part of my life for the better part of the past 25 years and this year I seem to be keeping it alive.

Yesterday we hiked Granite Mountain and I must say it was gorgeous.20190113_104214

20190113_105255Heath picked me up around 6:30AM and we started hiking from the trailhead just after 7:30AM. It was just getting light out so we didn’t need our headlamps as we headed up the roughly 4.5 mile trail to the summit, picking up around 4000’ of elevation in the process.20190113_104347

No one passed us on the trail and the only people we saw were a few people coming down as Heath and I swapped leads easily. Once we hit the open slopes we encountered a lot of chilly wind with gusts probably topping 30mph; the blows weren’t holding us up but they’d push a casual step off the trail or cause you to stumble if it abated quickly. But the skies were a perfect azure and we were the only ones at the summit, making for a short and quiet stay at the top with incredible views.

The march down was hard on my feet as I was wearing my heaviest mountaineering boots, as I’d anticipated doing a little snowshoeing, and the boots weren’t taken care of well when I last put them away. I was told “boots are like people … they enjoy being warm and dry”. Unfortunately, after my Mt. Rainier bid last year, I got home and plunked them on a shelf without prepping them. And now the toe box was collapsing on my toes, causing a lot of pain when heading downhill. But, I’m no stranger to foot pain so after some attempts at adjustment (nothing seemed to help for more than a few steps) I just kept hiking on.

At the end we treated ourselves to a meal at the North Bend Bar & Grill (quite nice place to eat if you ever get the chance) and then home for a long evening of leisure. Granite Mountain is a nice destination to get back into a season of hiking!

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Cats–Trimble and Trasper

Posted by joeabbott on January 12, 2019

2017-05-29 16.55.54P1120670We have two cats living with us right now: Trimble and Trasper; Trimble has been with us since 2005 and Trasper has been here since 2012. Neither honorific “means” anything, just made-up titles that have entered our vocabulary and stuck.

When Suzy and I first met she owned a cat named Trooper, who was a very proud cat; a beautiful pure-white fella. I grew up with cats but Trooper was hers and had a way of letting me know he considered me the upstart. So Suzy bought me a little tuxedo cat who bonded with me … and I with her … forever; she got the name Trout. 2017-11-21 15.22.19

Anyhow, those two became naming progenitors as later cats went through a moniker-vetting process in which we tried all manner of Tr*** names to see what fit. For Trimble and Trasper we have found the names fit and they’re as much a part of these cats as their fur.2017-08-07 17.46.45

P1120312P1120310But, I started this post to introduce you to our feline friends, not talk about names.

I’ve shared a few more here of Trasper (our Siamese-colored cat) than Trimble (our grey cat) because Suzy was looking for just the right photo to use to paint Trasper … she makes a large oil painting of all our cats and Trasper didn’t have one just yet.

While Trimble can most often be found looking for the warmest spot that gives him a clear line of sight around the yard, Trasper is walking nearly every inch of that yard, finding new things and making sure he’s approved any recent activity. Once he’s done that he’ll settle down somewhere, but he has a dozen favorite spots and I’m never quite sure where I’ll find him. Under the ferns on Tulip Hill is a favorite when the sun is warm and high in the sky.

Both cats wear collars when they’re outdoors … it’s most easily seen in Trasper’s picture in the lower left. The collars have an Invisible Fence vibrator on it so our cats will stay in the yard, and a GPS-style radio locator on it so we can find them when they don’t feel like coming in. That said, both cats are exceptionally well-behaved and we often astound visiting friends when we can slide the backdoor open a bit more, callout “Trasper, Trimble … time to come in” and they both come trotting.

Thanks for dropping in and meeting our two pets: Trimble and Trasper.

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Simple pleasures

Posted by joeabbott on January 4, 2019

Every day I go to the Bing website and participate in clicking through the various news articles linked from the bottom of the page. Amongst the too many articles on movie stars and stories about people behaving badly, I’m often exposed to something surprising (seems a young boy was killed by fish fumes … really? How does that happen? Spoiler: food allergies), news from around the world of which I knew nothing (big storms hitting Thailand), and every week I get a Test Your News IQ post.

These I like.

The Bing News Quiz is usually seven questions long and covers topical news from across a broad spectrum. Let’s take this week’s quiz together!

What caused campground closures at Yosemite and Joshua Tree national parks?

  • Overflowing trash and toilets
  • Sasquatch sightings
  • Avalanches

I’d originally wanted to say Avalanches, noting the season, but I was surprised the partial government shutdown wasn’t an answer. Then I noted that Overflowing trash and toilets would be the result of a partial government shutdown and chose that. It’s the correct answer: Overflowing trash and toilets.

Who announced a 2020 presidential run?

  • Jay Inslee
  • Elizabeth Warren
  • Both are correct

As Jay Inslee is the current governor of Washington state, of which I’m a resident, I knew he had tossed his hat in the ring. And while I wasn’t positive, I thought I’d remembered seeing a news post featuring Elizabeth Warren and guessed the only reason I’d see her in the news is if she were a candidate, too. So I chose the correct answer and was feeling like a smartie: Both are correct.

Which airline mistakenly sold first- and business-class tickets at a steep discount?

  • Air Canada
  • Cathay Pacific Airways
  • United Airlines

This is the sort of question I wouldn’t have a clue about, except it had been featured in the news blurbs that I’d noted enjoying clicking through. So, for another easy correct answer I selected: Cathay Pacific Airways.

Breaking a years-long ban, two women in India did what?

  • Drove a car
  • Entered the Sabarimala temple
  • Wore motorcycle helmets

Another easy one as this was on the front page in today’s newspaper with a third woman breaking the ban. I wasn’t positive of the location but selected Entered the Sabarimala temple and was on my way to having a perfect quiz!

Netflix is warning against a dangerous craze inspired by which film?

  • The Polka King
  • Bird Box
  • Bandersnatch

I think there was must have been a news tidbit on this one in yesterday’s Bing stories because I was immediately familiar with the answer: Bird Box. Now I may be the only person around who hasn’t seen this movie but I had read that in the movie for some reason, people had to travel a great distance blindfolded … the motivation for young folks to do all sorts of stuff in a similar fashion. This sort of story makes me worry for today’s youth. Seriously.

At five for five I was on the way to a perfect score, something that happens about half the time, but it’s always easy to be stumped on any question … two left today!

Which country landed a lunar probe on the far side of the moon?

  • China
  • Canada
  • US

As a space junkie I knew the answer to this one and had even read a bit about that probe having driven around a bit on the far side of the moon already. Great stuff and kudos to China for their adding to our understanding of the solar system … even if it is “just” our moon.

Last question!

What is the new Girl Scout cookie flavor?

  • Umami
  • Caramel Chocolate Chip
  • Fat mint

OK, as I mentioned, there may be a question for which I’m completely stumped and it was guessing time! I didn’t even have a tiny hint on this one.

I eliminated Umami without confidence. While it’s a legitimate flavor… along with sweet, sour, salty, and bitter … it’d be weird to have a cookie dedicated to one flavor. But, I wouldn’t have been surprised if it was the answer.

Of the remaining two, “salted caramel” seems to have run its course as the flavor du jour, but it was plausible. In that same vein, “fat mint” seems to be a flavor that, while possible, had the potential for public fallout for including “fat” into something young girls were selling.

So, at the toss of a mental coin I chose Caramel Chocolate Chip, like more out of hope (as it sounds tasty) than anything else and I treated myself to this:


And that’s my simple pleasure: taking a quiz and getting them all correct. It’s not bad that I stood the chance of learning a little something in the process … now I just need to find a Girl Scout so I can get in an order of that new cookie flavor!

Posted in Trivia | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

Time off day 25-Tuesday

Posted by joeabbott on January 1, 2019

2018-12-26 10.00.17Well, it’s a wrap: today is the first day of the new year (2019 for those of you not keeping track), a company holiday, and the last day of my vacation; tomorrow I return to work. Rather than looking back at what I did with the day, I think I’ll look forward a bit.

I’m not great at New Year’s Resolutions; I find motivation for change in reflection, not some random date. Although the pros at making resolutions might suggest that’s what a new year helps you do: reflect on the past year and allow you to find opportunities to change for the better.

I’ll make a familiar resolution to lose weight; since my birthday I’ve just about free-fed on whatever I’ve wanted, knowing I was indulging and eating to excess on high calorie food. As a warning sign, one of my pairs of pants I wear when I start to weigh a bit more is feeling snug. Danger!

I also want to make some progress against my backlogs. I have piles of stuff in my home office that I’ll “get to later”, games I’ve purchased but haven’t played, and stuff I want to do with Suzy that gets delayed because it seems there’ll always be more time later. A little less procrastination wouldn’t hurt things all that much.

And, rather than add a bunch of other items, hoping one of them sticks, after losing a bit of weight and working off my to-do list, I’ll finish with a third resolution and see if I can be successful with these three: I wish to be more patient. I don’t have a lot of heroes in my life but my uncles always struck me as thoughtful, controlled individuals, and I think there’s a lot of merit to their approach on life compared to my style. I sometimes jump to conclusion, finish other’s sentences, and make assumptions that aren’t always right. I think I’ll try listening more and talking less.

And, I’m sure to falter on my way to improving but I’m nothing if not resilient and willing to do better tomorrow when I stumble today.

Today’s image is the crew at our new home erecting part of our new home; not a bad metaphor for improving one’s character: building a house.

Thanks for dropping in for my month-long journey, it’s been my pleasure jotting these notes down and watching the days zip by. The best of 2019 to you all!

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