Joe Abbott's Weblog

Letters home to mom

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  • RSS Cat Cartoon w/o the Cartoon

    • Coda
      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 →
    • December 31, 2011
      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 →
    • December 30, 2011
      A happy young lady shares a table at a tony restaurant with her cat; they both wear festive, cone-shaped party hats. The woman gaily says to the tuxedoed server, “One martini and one glass of milk.” The cat does not … Continue reading →

Experimentation is the key

Posted by joeabbott on August 13, 2017

DSCF1114While I’ve complained about my SPOT device the past few weeks, I’ve also continued taking it on every hike; learning what works and what doesn’t. This past weekend, I learned in explicit terms what doesn’t work. My most recent attempt was to put the SPOT on a lanyard and wear it around my neck. Yup, it bounced against my sternum as I gasped breaths, the cord chafed at my neck in the heat and sweat of the day (although, there wasn’t that much heat), and it was a general nuisance, but to get better performance from my SPOT, I’d give anything a try.

imageAnd it failed. Big time.

Aspiring to the best qualities of Thomas Edison, I know what doesn’t work. And, I’ll keep trying to figure out what does, but to the left is my 17 mile hiking profile from my trip along Rattlesnake Ridge and back from Snoqualmie Point.

While you can’t see it from the picture, there are actually four points showing and, yes, the checkmark means those are the places I checked in. And, yes again, I did have the Track setting enabled. Which means that I didn’t capture a single location from the tracking software. Not a single one.

The way across the ridge is pretty straightforward on good trails with, admittedly, a bit of tree cover. However, across the entire back of the mountain we were on gravel roads walking through clear cuts. Not only weren’t we under trees, there were no trees!

And yet it’s very sad that the only times I was able to get a signal through was when we’d stop, position the SPOT to lay back down on the ground (face up to the sky) and let it sit like that for 10 minutes or so.

DSCF1019The antenna in the SPOT is located in the front, so that’s the desired positioning of it to give it the best chance at sending and receiving signals, but I was very surprised that not a single event was captured while worn as a necklace. Maybe it was the positional aspect or maybe the bouncing about, but it didn’t register a single location when worn as a necklace.

As I continue to find out what doesn’t work with this device, my next effort will be to find a way to position it on the top of my pack facing the sky. That should be my last, best chance to get this thing working reliably. And, I suppose, find hikes that are less tree-covered.

Here are a few pics from the trail:

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The trail is just over 10 miles from Snoqualmie Point to Rattlesnake Lake; we planned to stop at Rattlesnake Ledge and head back the way we came … making it about an 18 mile day. Heath’s GPS said we made it just under 17 miles as we stopped at an upper ledge\viewpoint and didn’t head to the Ledge proper. That was fine by me. As you can see in the final picture, the trail was under maintenance in one section so it was detoured to the back of the mountain … right through a clear cut. Not the sort of scenery you want when making a little hike.

We had full trail packs on as we are training for a stint along the Pacific Crest Trail, planning to travel roughly 75 miles from Steven’s Pass to Snoqualmie Pass. We’ll average 15 miles days and this was our trek to see how we felt after a single day with 35# packs. My feet were killing me! The trip will be a real test of endurance, strength and pain avoidance. Anyone out there interested in a similar challenge: don’t wait until you’re over 50 year old (like I am) before trying this!! It may not be “fun” but it will be rewarding.

Well, thanks for dropping in; may your trails be maintenance free and, if they aren’t, I hope you can avoid the clear cuts.

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More Seattle adventures

Posted by joeabbott on August 2, 2017

Seems we enjoy a bit of glassblowing here in Seattle … and when you can share that with traveling family and friends: all the better!! Here’s a picture that has my mother flashing a “thumbs up” … proof positive we had a fantastic time!

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In the pic: Natalie, Suzy, me, mom, Ashley and Jay. Karen was taking the picture and she did a great job!

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And another

Posted by joeabbott on August 2, 2017

In addition to enjoying Seattle Center, we passed through Pike Place Market! Here’s a shot of my brother Jay, mother, me, and nieces Natalie and Ashley. Oh yea … and Rachel the pig!

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Here’s a cute picture

Posted by joeabbott on August 2, 2017

A couple weeks back my mother along with my brother and his family came out for a visit. We had a grand time and among the many places we visited was the Chihuly Garden and Glass Exposition at the Seattle Center. It was a beautiful day amid beautiful works of art … with some beautiful people! Here’s a shot of my mother, niece Natalie, sister-in-law Karen, and niece Ashley. It’s hard to imagine a better group of folks to enjoy the afternoon with.

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One More Thing–a book consideration

Posted by joeabbott on July 30, 2017

Image result for one more thing novakI’m not calling this a book review … I just don’t have the chops to give this book fair assessment in my current mood, but I will consider it; come along!

B.J. Novak is perhaps best known for his work with a television program called The Office, a show on which he was a writer, director, producer and actor. That’s a lotta hats for a guy I only knew as Ryan Howard, the temp worker in the series. But, after reading One More Thing; Stories and Other Stories, I now know Novak as an author.

I read One More Thing on the bus ride to and from work every day, always looking forward to the amusing stories but mostly for how Novak wrote: his style is unlike anything I’ve read before. It’s taken me a bit of thinking, but I believe it’s the references he uses, the language of the day, or maybe his willingness to write things I haven’t read before. He intimately gets into the heads of his characters but can also hold them at arm’s length to talk about them dispassionately. The novelty is lovely and compelled me to read one story after another.

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I mention that he uses references … by this I mean he’ll write a story that uses a personality I know and position them in odd situations as a main character. Johnny Depp, Tony Robbins, and others (many in a “Nelson Mandela roast”) have speaking lines and thoughts … making it a queer sorta “can he do that” moment for me to process. While I know little to nothing about most celebrities, I’m struck less by a “did that happen” thought than a “that seems plausible within the realm of comedy that may happen” and part of the tickle I get from the stories come from this.

By “language of the day” I not only mean the current vernacular but also what he writes about. He’s unabashed in dropping the F-bomb but isn’t using it as a shock mechanism that turns a person (or maybe it would just be me) off. The first time I caught the word I wondered if this would be “one of those books” but it was used sparingly and within character and affords the writing a bit of street cred over the carpet bombing usage that some writers opt for. Perhaps this is just a reflection of the company I keep and it not being the go-to word for impact and effect.

More than usage is just the things he writes about. In a retelling of the Tortoise and the Hare story (yes, the Aesop Fable), he takes us into the psyche of the Hare after losing the race, Another story that had me reeling was Julie and the Warlord in which we get a peek into what appears to be a blind date between a young lady and a literal warlord from war-torn middle-Africa. The concept is bizarre, the conversation banal, and the absurdity had my mind figuratively gasping like a literal fish out of water. “What??” was the thought going through my head.

This sort of treatment is given to implausible scenarios as well as “that could happen” pieces … enter “The Something” by John Grisham in which the titular author sends a draft copy of a book to his editors who release the novel under a placeholder name. The book sells as a Grisham novel would but we enjoy the thoughts and conversations from Grisham that explore his contrived vanity, artistic sensibility, and other emotions. Again, bizarre but entertaining nonetheless.

Who would consider writing about such things?

Well, Novak, for one. And he does it a lot … overall the book is some 64 stories spread over 275-ish pages. The shortest stories are barely three sentences where a few of the longer ones span 15 pages … so none are novellas and the change in length helps to add both novelty and interest in flipping the pages to get to the next story and enjoy that curious nugget. At the risk of violating a copyright or something, I’ll share one of his stories: Romance, Chapter One

“The cute one?”

“No, the other cute one.”

“Oh, she’s cute, too.”

And that’s it. On one hand I want a little more heavy lifting from my authors, but as a single story from over five dozen, it’s a fine addition. My mind swirls to flesh out the speakers, I place them in a scenario that’s fitting, I wonder if such an exchange might be realistic (and come away thinking it probable), and overall I’m entertained by something fairly simplistic. Who would include a story like this in his novel? Again … Novak, B.J. Novak.

This isn’t great literature but it does introduce me to a writing style I find unique and compelling. While I likely won’t reread the book, I’m happy to have had the first reading. Thanks for the entertainment, B.J. I’m looking forward to picking up your next novel.

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Mt Teneriffe–a morning hike

Posted by joeabbott on July 29, 2017

I hiked Teneriffe today and that trail is a bear … I’d use stronger language, and feel like I should to convey just how challenging it is, but I think you get the picture. Rocky, steep, and winding straight up a ridgeline, it worked me hard and just didn’t let up. Let me tell you about it.

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The listing above notes 14 miles but that’s using some old logging roads; you can cut that down considerably if you use the old climbing trail and so we did; while I’m not a distance hiker, I can see the appeal of using the old roadbeds to get to the top.

We missed using the new parking lot by what appeared to be minutes. They just opened it to climbers’ parking but there was a maintenance vehicle at the gate (which was opened), so we headed to the old parking spot: a school bus turn-around. It’s marked for hiking, so the parking is legit, and it lends itself to heading up the old trail.

The first part of the trail appears maintained for hikers to get to Teneriffe Falls; what would be a spectacular cascade if water had been present. As of today, it’s a mere trickle that drips from moss and old lichen, pooling beneath the lower stones and running away nearly silently. We paused briefly here and, had we known it, we could have bade farewell to the best part of the trail. What followed was steep, nasty, and filled with ankle-breaking broken fist-sized rocks. A terrible hiking bed.

I’d guess we cut a couple miles off the hike by heading up that route, ultimately putting in something like 11 miles, as opposed to the posted 14 miles. I wouldn’t say it was worth it, but I did enjoy the challenge and the direct-line ascent. At the top you break tree line and can stop at a rocky outcrop, or continue another 100’ to the summit and get commanding views in 360° with Glacier Peak, Mount Baker, the North Bend valley, and Mount Rainier all playing prominent roles. It was stunning.

Here’s my friend Heath with a view to the south: Rainier on the horizon and Rattlesnake Lake in the mid-ground; North Bend and I-90 are mid-screen.

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On the way down we took the logging roads and while it was longer and the roads aren’t anywhere near as nice as the early parts of the trail, they were serviceable. About 3/4 the way down we took an unmaintained trail between the logging roads and the climbing trail to get us more quickly to our car … and when we got to the climbers’ trail, I remembered immediately why I hated it.

Anyhow, it as a great day with good friends and a wonderful mountaintop … I just wish I didn’t have to tolerate those trails to get there. I will note that I had my SPOT on again, 100% of the time from leaving the car to getting back. How did it do? Well, here’s my map from about 6-hours of being on the trail:

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I’ll just say … <sigh>.

But, thanks for dropping by and seeing where my boots have taken me this weekend. I hope you had a chance to get out yourself!

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Did I tell you about the time I fixed the gate I built?

Posted by joeabbott on July 29, 2017

I built a gate into Chickenville and it started to fall apart. And so I fixed it.

When we brought chickens into our life we decided to cordon off a part of our yard to create what I call “Chickenville” … the part of the yard that belongs to the chickens. They range there, the live there, their coop is there: and anything we put on that side … a bench, plants, art … is theirs to do with as they please. But, with only one entry point on the north side, we wanted another entrance, so in summer 2011 we put in a gate on the south side that’s been a fantastic addition to the yard.

However, for a couple years now, I thought the gate was warping. The gate closes against two blocks attached to the upright but very slowly, a gap has been appearing between the upper block and the gate. It was a small gap for a long while but recently it grew to the point I couldn’t deny what I was seeing: the gate wasn’t warping, the upright post was starting to slump.

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The true test was when I wiggled the post, it was clearly broken off beneath the soil. It wasn’t completely busted, so my strategy was going to be sinking another post directly next to the original but deep into the ground, and then screwing it to the existing post such that it held things steady.

While digging the hole for the new post, I found the problem but didn’t take any pictures … you forget that sorta thing while you’re sweating and spitting mad: the wood I’d used for the gate was rotting away under the soil and a piece had so completely eroded that I had two lag bolts sticking out into the middle of nothing … the wood had just disintegrated!

Well, I removed the bolts and was able to use them to tie the new setup together. This time I added concrete to hold things in place and while I am under no illusion that this will “last forever”, it’ll last at least another half decade and I’m hoping for more.

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After digging the hole, I found that some of the the original structure wouldn’t allow me to lay the new post directly against the slumping post, so I needed to add a spacer. I was hoping I had a 2×4 pressure treated stick in the garage but I didn’t … so I took a couple 4×4 sections, cut them in half, and used them as the spacer. The four smaller sections weren’t as clean as a single piece of lumber, but it did the trick and kept me from spending my way out of another problem.

After chamfering the top of the new post sections, I tied back the slumping post with some bungies I had laying around, clamped the posts and spacers together, and then drove the lag bolts through the stack. I then used some concrete that I had tucked away on a shelf (it was just a partial bag) and covered the rest of that hole with some of the soil I’d removed from the hole. And then let it set.

Here’s the gate after the concrete cured and I was able to remove the straps. Good as new!

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Coda

While I don’t celebrate my failures and things breaking, one of the things I like best about building stuff is that, if I have to build them a second time, I can do better and if something goes wrong, I can fix it. It’s an incredible feeling.

Thanks for looking in and I hope your gates, literal or otherwise, always swing open and close to your liking.

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Amazing Amazon

Posted by joeabbott on July 28, 2017

I normally don’t crow about retailers, especially one that doesn’t need my advertising, but over the past few weeks or so, I realize how much Amazon.com has become a part of my life. Also, where others may have had bad experiences with Amazon, I’ve never had a problem they haven’t resolved in my favor. Given that I just sorted through a half-dozen receipts in my inbox, I thought I’d spend a few minutes talking about my experiences.

Printer

My wife and I have a home network with a wireless printer located in her home office. At one time I was able to print to that printer without problem … or, with minimal problems. It’s never been plug-and-play, but I could print after a bit of futzing. Then, either going to CenturyLink for broadband internet or Win10 or changing our router or something else, but I suddenly stopped being able to print. I don’t print often, and only in black-and-white, but my new option was only to save a doc to the cloud and have her print for me, or use my Surface and fiddle around a bit, I needed a change.image

So I wanted my own printer but I’m pretty frugal so I wasn’t willing to spend much. Enter Amazon Prime Day.

I chuckle at Amazon Prime Day a bit as I had a friend call it “Grannie’s Panties Day” … his point being, “yeah they’re selling a lot of stuff but who wants it”. And, true that, Amazon seems to be cleaning out warehouse space or getting rid of stuff that doesn’t move quickly. But, they had a well-reviewed laser printer for about $50. I forget the exact price but when Suzy told me about it, we jumped … a bit of checking out online reviews, some comparing and contrasting, and I was sold. The only “hiccup” is that it didn’t come with the cable to attach it to the computer … and I put that in quotes because the selling information was super-clear about that. Nothing hidden.

imageCable

Well, I was sure I had a USB cable when we ordered the printer so I wasn’t worried … but, when the printer showed up, I couldn’t find it. No worries, there are plenty of places that sell cables. Now I’m not an Amazon-only shopper but, after looking around online, I wasn’t able to find a better price on a 9’ cable … even from the manufacturers site who made the cable I ultimately got from Amazon. And, Amazon was the only place offering free shipping. Crazy! Given that I wasn’t in a big hurry, I even opted for the shipping “delay” in exchange for $5 off my next purchase. Nice.

Batteries

AmazonBasics AA High-Capacity Rechargeable Batteries (8-Pack) Pre-charged - Packaging May VaryAround our property we have a bunch of solar-powered lamps. A bunch. And, over time, they go bad … or, that batteries in them go bad and they just stop working. Well, we collected up all the lamps that weren’t working and had maybe 15 lamps in the garage. That seemed like too many to pitch or send to Goodwill or another donation center, so I spent an hour taking them apart, cleaning them up, and testing the batteries. In the end we had 7 of them that just weren’t going to work, even with fresh batteries, but the rest seemed OK.

After collecting and testing the batteries from all the systems, I still needed a few more AA rechargeables … and, just like with the AAA lithium batteries I’d ordered for my SPOT, Amazon came through with new ones for the lamps. And now our walkways are bright and cheery even at night.

imageKeyboard

One of the reasons you’re getting a long blog post is because I’m testing a new keyboard. I don’t like bright lights … I don’t turn on overhead lights in my office at work, nor at my home office. Occasionally I’ll pop on a desk lamp, but that’s infrequent. Unfortunately, even though I’m a touch-typist, I’ve been finding it hard to find the right hand-placement and keys while working in dim lights. Enter the LED lighted keyboard.

This one was a little more expensive but it had a few bells and whistles that I liked: variable colors, programmable keys, inverted T-shaped arrow keys, dedicated number pad, and stuff like that. When I’m at a desktop computer, I expect to have a fully functional keyboard … this had all the same features as my last keyboard but has those LED lights, too!!

Enter Amazon … but this time, Smile.Amazon.com. This is the exact same company and stock as Amazon.com (including my orders, lists, and Prime standing) but a different URL entry point. And, a percentage of the money I spend made through the Smile.Amazon.com site goes to a charity of my choice … enjoy the extra money, Puget Sound Goat Rescue!

Coda

While I’m somewhat self-conscious about my consumer-minded habits … yes, this past month has seen a lot more purchases than usual … but I was also struck by how I think little to nothing about heading to the Amazon site (remember: Smile.Amazon.com) and ordering what I need. Free shipping is now standard in my mind and when something isn’t on my doorstep within 2-days of placing the order, I’m now wondering “what happened”. Amazon has been a game-changer for how I live and what I expect.

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I’ll let the SPOT track speak for itself

Posted by joeabbott on July 25, 2017

Here’s the latest track from a little hike up Mt. Pugh … a 5.5-mile (one-way), 5380’ gain peak in the middle Cascades:

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About 20 locations on a roughly 8-hour outing with well over half of the trail well-above tree line.

Regardless how the SPOT performed, it was a wonderful outing.

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SPOT apologies … sort of

Posted by joeabbott on July 16, 2017

Well, I got out on a hike yesterday with the SPOT using lithium batteries … and, yes, while installing them I saw the printed notice to use only lithium batteries in this unit. And, I think I got better results. First, here’s the map from my wanderings:

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We started and ended at the far left … at Rattlesnake Lake or, more properly, Cedar Falls Trailhead. Our route took us east about 10 miles on our bikes to the McClellan Butte trail intersection (we cut off about a quarter- to half-mile of the trail by riding in) and then up the hill to the summit. Due to there being a Mountaineers climbing party on the trail, as well as about a half-dozen couples or small groups, we omitted the scramble to the true summit. I find the thrill of being on top of something is diminished by crowds and the danger added with over a dozen others up top just wasn’t worth the risk.

Anyhow, the SPOT did a lot better … it signaled nearly all of the “I’m OK” messages (the checkmarks) but was again pretty spotty (hehe … lame pun intended) on the parts of the trail with even modest tree cover. The ride in took about a leisurely hour and we only got a few tracks marked … interestingly, the coming and going signals were in the same locations (2 and 12, 3 and 11). The trail didn’t appear heavily treed but the route up McClellan’s Butte was … and, as you see, we only got signals out at the summit.

I continue to be hopeful and disappointed by the SPOT performance but the improvement I saw this week was heartening. As you can see, I’m an optimist in these sort of things. I’ll keep dragging it about in hopes of better tracking on my trails to come.

I’ll end with the view I got from the top … a picture-perfect Seattle day with rolling green hills, multiple ridgelines to the horizon and Mt. Rainier above it all. Hard to get much better than this.

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Thanks for dropping by and taking a look at my doings.

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