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Going through old mail …

Posted by joeabbott on November 20, 2017

I’ll just leave this here for a little smile should I ever need it.


John on the left, Jay on the right … me in the middle.


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Need to know … who is your computer talking to?

Posted by joeabbott on November 20, 2017

I used to post a number of things under a “trivia” category\tag … this is one of those items.

I spend a fair amount of time online and I’m much less interested in being on a computer without internet access. Yes, I can look at my digital photos or work on my SketchUp models without the internet, but there seems to be so much out information out there, that having internet access seems to be a basic expectation. But, whether thru legitimate business requirements or nefarious means, your computer can be an open door of information in and out of your house!

On one side, you want things like your Internet security programs to be communicating with a central server to pull down the latest virus signature information, people who want push requests from social media will want to be notified when things are happening, and news or sales events may be of interest … all are legitimate communications to and from your computer to an outside source.

But then there are communications you may not want or have authorized. Things like viruses or Trojan horses, corporations with whom you have a legitimate relationship but who may be drawing information about your usage for data analytics. Stuff like that. Stuff you may not be interested in sharing. Or, perhaps you just want to be better informed on who your computer us talking to.

Well, this article answers those questions by showing three easy ways to determine who your computer is talking to.

While it talks about using PowerShell, the program TCPView, or checking what ports are open, each of the three ways are easily and simply demonstrated … just type along.

Running the programs are easy but interpreting the results is a little harder. Mostly what I look for are unexpected entries. Here’s a sample of the output from the excellent TCPView utility

Process             PID Protocol LocalAddress LocalPort   Remote Address    Remote Port    State  
[System Process]      0    TCP    homepc.home    60668       https        TIME_WAIT 
[System Process]      0    TCP    homepc.home    60669      https        TIME_WAIT 
[System Process]      0    TCP    homepc.home    60661      https        TIME_WAIT 
[System Process]      0    TCP    homepc.home    60636     https        TIME_WAIT
[System Process]      0    TCP    homepc.home    60652       https        TIME_WAIT
[System Process]      0    TCP    homepc.home    60649      https        TIME_WAIT
Discord.exe       12548    TCP    homepc.home    60630       https        ESTABLISHED
Discord.exe       12548    TCP    homepc.home    60088      https        ESTABLISHED
Dropbox.exe       13964    TCP    homepc.home    50001       https        CLOSE_WAIT 
Dropbox.exe       13964    TCP    homepc.home    60634       https        CLOSE_WAIT 
Dropbox.exe       13964    TCP    homepc.home    60567      https        CLOSE_WAIT 
Dropbox.exe       13964    TCP    homepc.home    57781    https        ESTABLISHED
Dropbox.exe       13964    TCP    homepc.home    60099    https        ESTABLISHED
iexplore.exe      13684    TCP    homepc.home    60663     https        ESTABLISHED
iexplore.exe      13684    TCP    homepc.home    60664     https        ESTABLISHED
NIS.exe            3512    TCP    homepc.home    57914       https        ESTABLISHED
NIS.exe            3512    TCP    homepc.home    60109     https        ESTABLISHED
OUTLOOK.EXE       14724    TCP    homepc.home    60635     https        ESTABLISHED
OUTLOOK.EXE       14724    TCP    homepc.home    60662     https        ESTABLISHED
OUTLOOK.EXE       14724    TCP    homepc.home    60472      https        ESTABLISHED
OUTLOOK.EXE       14724    TCP    homepc.home    60667     https        ESTABLISHED
SearchUI.exe      17796    TCP    homepc.home    60656     https        ESTABLISHED
SearchUI.exe      17796    TCP    homepc.home    60659     https        ESTABLISHED
SearchUI.exe      17796    TCP    homepc.home    60658     https        ESTABLISHED
SearchUI.exe      17796    TCP    homepc.home    60655    https        ESTABLISHED
SearchUI.exe      17796    TCP    homepc.home    60657    https        ESTABLISHED
svchost.exe        3632    TCP    homepc.home    60666       https        ESTABLISHED

There are some parts I’ve snipped about the amount of data sent to\from the computer and I only included the details that indicated communication outside my computer.

I look for a couple things:

  • Do I recognize all the programs listed in the Process column? (you can search on the names using a search engine if you don’t recognize it)
  • Is the Remote Port using the secure version of HTTP (that is, https)?
  • Does the Remote Address look right?

To answer the last question, I use a web lookup service like  Be careful … there is a TON of buttons to click, ads hidden as information, and other deceiving information on sites like but it does the trick if you can wade through the information. Here’s a sample of what it told me when I entered (one of the Remote Addresses listed above):

ASN and ISP for IP address

General traits like organisation, autonomous system number (ASN) and ISP associated with the IP address
ISP                              Microsoft Hosting
Organization                     Microsoft Hosting
Autonomous system number (ASN)  8075
Autonomous system organization   Microsoft Corporation
Anonymous proxy?                No
Satellite provider?              No

And the best I’m looking for is for the information to be consistent. So, while I won’t know whether the Autonomous System Number 8075 is accurate, I do know that I pulled the Remote Address from the iexplore.exe line, that iexplore.exe is the Internet Explorer app, and that it’s owned by Microsoft. So, as far as I can tell, everything is checking out OK.

While you couple probably write a book on this topic, I hope this brief introduction shows you there are ways you can tell what’s going on … and that you should! Happy hunting and I hope all your travels on the Internet are safe.

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You can meet the nicest people

Posted by joeabbott on November 20, 2017

ProjectScorpioThe Internet is full of folks you wouldn’t want at your dinner table but also a lot of really great people, too. I enjoy gaming so I bump into the former quite often but here’s a little story about the other sort of folks you meet.

As I said, I game a bunch and so I was excited with the announcement of the Xbox One X; a new gaming console that will boast some beefy performance and impressive native 4k HDR graphics support. The codename for the console was Project Scorpio and, one of the neat hidden “secrets” of the program was the inclusion of the Master Chief (from the Halo game) character riding a scorpion printed onto the motherboard. A geeky bit of fun that would tickle insiders.

The image to the right is a snip of a picture of the motherboard.

Sometime in November, a gaming enthusiast on Twitter going by the tag @Xbudz posted a pic of his own handiwork:


It looked so cool that I reached out to him and asked if he could share the artwork with me. I was merely hoping he’d send me an image file over email but he snail-mailed me three of these decals!! No mention of a charge or anything! It was super-nice. I talked to him a bit through Xbox One messaging and he said he just loves gaming and was happy to share his artwork.

The three images came in gold, brushed chrome, and pure black. And, to share the wealth, I gave one each to a couple other of my buddies and then put mine on my laptop! You can see my laptop (left) and my buddy’s laptop (right) showing off the #ScorpioChief stickers

     image     image

Since then, I’ve reached out to Xbudz and have added him to my Xbox One friend list.

So, the Internet is full of trolls and people who will say horrible things because they can but it’s also full of folks who are generous with their time and talents and I’ve met one. Hope your journeys on the Internet find you bumping into folks like Xbudz, because it’s just really fun when things like that happen.

Posted in Gaming | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

What does one do on a birthday?

Posted by joeabbott on November 15, 2017

Well, when we last checked in, I was taking a few days off work and pretty much had no plans. The one plan Suzanne and I discussed, heading up to Canada for a day of running around, just didn’t seem like what I wanted to do when the day came … so we stayed local.

As I’d noted, Saturday we enjoyed the Best of the Northwest art show and Sunday we went tent shopping … so what happened Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday? Let’s look in!


WP_20171107_15_54_05_ProThis day was my actual birthday and we went to a movie and Suzy made me one of my favorite dishes for dinner: home cooked ribs. She slow cooks and smokes them in the oven and I would rather have those ribs than just about any others out there. They are outstanding. But I‘m getting a bit ahead of myself.

The morning came and Suzy made me some steel-cut oats. Not sure why but I adore some morning oatmeal. I used to eat them with butter, salt, and 1/2 & 1/2 … a bit different than most. I kinda cringe at the thought of putting anything sweet on them and these days I cut out the butter, but love my salty oats! And from there we headed to the cinema.

imageNow we don’t go to many shows at all, and our last movie adventure may have been for Suzy’s birthday. I chose Thor: Ragnarok as my movie and I couldn’t have chosen better … it’s the perfect popcorn-movie. Plenty of action, lots of chuckles, and some wondrous nonsense about our spandex-clad superheroes saving the world from yet another alien invasion. I won’t pretend to have understood the entire story or make pains to relate what I did understand here, but I will admit to emptying that popcorn bucket and could have stayed longer. It was a great flick for the mood I was in.

After this we headed home. I contemplated a nap but instead spent a little time reading, a little time eating, and finished off Dark Souls 2 in a co-op session gaming with a guy named SolarX2. I’ve played Dark Souls solo, I’ve played with poor co-op partners, and then there’s Solar … he’s a great partner. He knows the game, plays a strong bit of Dark Souls 2, and is generally easy to talk to. If I’m out and about playing Dark Souls, I’d prefer his company. But, we may not play together much in the coming days as he generally sticks to that one game and we saw it to its conclusion. It was a lotta fun.

WP_20171107_15_54_15_ProAnd that was the day: plenty of relaxing, lots of “entertain me” time, and some excellent food. Hard to recall a better birthday.


2017-11-14 11.54.58This was the day we went to the Puget Sound Goat Rescue and I put in a half-day of manual labor … and then spent the balance recuperating. Chainsawing trees, hauling debris, and moving gravel (by hand, with a shovel, one scoop at a time) just doesn’t come with as much bounce-back as it used to. We started off on tenuous footing as I’d locked in the GPS coordinates for the Goat Rescue to some odd address in the middle of nowhere. When Suzy mentioned she’d never come this way before I shushed her with a “technology is great, ain’t it?!” kinda comment and proceeded in having us drive down private roads with posted signs proclaiming, “you are being photographed” tacked to the trees. After passing the elderly man walking his two tiny dogs a second time, we headed back to the main thoroughfare and drove right to our destination. Suzy-1, GPS-0.

My job for the day was mainly trimming branches but as we got out, Barbara (the owner\coordinator) announced there was gravel to be moved to the low spots around feeders to stop the growing wet areas. So I jumped to it.

First I addressed a small tree growing right next to a retaining wall; sooner or later the roots would win and compromise the wall. Maybe in a year, maybe five … but the roots would win. So that came down. Then there were a couple other sites with large branches either laying on or over the roofs of her shed. Those came down next. And because I needed Suzanne to help determine which branches needed trimming on other trees, I cut down the branches I had already removed and hauled it to the burn pile.

After that, as Suzy was knee deep in mud, I manned the shovel and started moving gravel. Let me say this about that chore: I’m no stranger to manual labor and blessed with a physicality that can hold up to a bit of work, but after the first two dozen heaping shovels of gravel, you start to ask yourself if you’d rather take full scoops and minimize trips, or reduce the weight in the shovel and take more trips. Considering my feet are gimpy and now my back was aching, I switched off: full shovel, light shovel. Rinse, repeat.

But, as with any chore, the longer you work at it, the sooner it’s done. And, with any chore done at a goat rescue … don’t get too enamored with your handiwork, it won’t last long. Before I’d finished patting down the last of my loads, the goats were in there peeing into the gravel, stepping over it, and generally pushing it out of the way. That work won’t last a week, but it’s a week they won’t have puddles under their hooves.

After this, Suzy and I visited three trees along the drive and beat back the branches that were too low and overhanging the road. And then to the lilac bush. The lilac bush is an explosion of branches that desperately needed trimming but it’s hard to beat back a flowering bush and not be aware you’re sniping off the parts that make having it nice: the flowering stems. So we were cautious and prudent and only trimmed up about 6 loads-worth but it looked nice.

I’d say “that’s it” but there was pulling of fence t-posts that no longer served a purpose, there was coiling of hoses, tidying of the shed, and of course doting on the goats. One goat in particular, Rosebud, gets special pets from me … and a branch from a cedar tree that she seemed to like an awful lot. But then it was time to go home.

Once home I showered and pretty much played video games the rest of the day. Suzy made us a nice hot soup, we had cake and toyed around with a puzzle, but I mostly rested. It was a good day.


The day isn’t over yet but we pretty much did a lot of nothing. Well, kind of.

On the productive side of things we signed of the loan we’ll need to pay for the house we’re having built (still in planning phase), we returned the tent we picked up earlier in the week, I cleaned up the garage and that was it. On the slacker side of things, I ate lunch from Pizza Addict (delish), I lolled about the house relaxing, and spent a fair amount of time doing computer work.


That’s it for the vacation time; tomorrow I head back to work. As I expect to put in a bit of extra time I’ll be driving in and after tomorrow and Friday, I’m off another week. Sounds pretty good to me!

Thanks for dropping in and seeing how I loll about, catching up on sleep and generally decompressing.

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Birthday thoughts

Posted by joeabbott on November 13, 2017

Today is my birthday, and Suzy and I started Week of Joe on Saturday; I’ve had two outstanding days, expect another today, and then have the rest of the week after that. Time to talk birthdays!


For the uninitiated, Week of Joe is the week-long celebration of me around my birthday. I get to choose my meals, the activities we participate in, and Suzy has a card and gift for me each day. We’ve enjoyed this tradition (including Week of Suz in June) for a number of years now, and while I always look forward to the lavish attention, it’s admittedly hard to see a big difference in most of the other weeks we share. And that’s a good thing.

As we become more aware of all the things we have and save our dollars for the new home project, I focus less on the gift part and like to do things with Suzy. I’ve gotten into a habit of immersing myself in hobbies that have me on a trail or in the shop or playing video games, so time with Suzy is at a premium. It’s the thing I most look forward to enjoying during WoJ. While it’s hard to see a problem in this celebration, the one thing that dents the enthusiasm just a bit is that it’s toward the end of the year when I have lots of other time off from work, it’s near a gift-receiving holiday, and it’s kinda wet and chilly outside for doing some of my hobbies.

But none of that stops me from having a good time with the time we have. So, let’s look in on the 2017 Week of Joe!

imageSaturday we went to the Best of the Northwest art show. I thought of it as a craft fair but when you get to looking at things … specifically the price tags … you realize it’s art. And I kid a bit about the whole price tag thing. Yes, they’re charging more than you’d expect to pay if they were wrapping still-stained popsicle sticks with colored yarn and passing it off as home décor, but it’s real, honest-to-goodness art.

While Suzy goes every year, I go occasionally and have to say I enjoyed most of it. I most liked getting into the booths, talking to the artists, and sharing a bit of time with these folks. I was in a metalworkers booth and spotted a photo of his shop, shared a bit of conversation over that, and then asked about a totem-looking piece in the picture. He went on to tell me about some support beams in his shop, how he learned to carve faces so he could adorn them, and then offered to show them to Suzy and me next time we were on Whidbey Island where he has the shop. It was a fun bit of conversation.

We talked to Pavel the puzzle-maker, some print designers, and Suzy re-engaged with a potter\sculptor who remembered her from a prior visit. The place is as much about people meeting people as it is about art. I used to be self-conscious about being caught looking and worried about hard-sells. Here people actually want you to look and there is no hardness in anything … just open warmth. I love it.

At the show we bought some glass art for our backyard. The piece has a dramatic flair and a great color (purple) that work so well with the spot Suzy picked. While it’s not a birthday gift for me, it’s a great little something to get during WoJ.clip_image001

That evening we went out to eat at a local BBQ place that, we found out after stepping in, was giving away free meals to veterans … as our Nation was saluting Veterans’ Day. So we shared a little time and space with those who have served our country; lots of Marines, Air Force, Navy, and Army shirts, hats, and jackets. And there was a group of older women who appeared to be old friends catching up and talking animatedly at the table next to us. It made our quiet conversation a bit harder but we continued to look up and share a tight-lipped smile as the table would whoop and belly-laugh at some story only shared with good friends … and the rest of a public restaurant. It was fun.

And so yesterday came and Suzy gave me what we call a Big Breakfast: scrambled eggs, sausage links, hash browned potatoes, and pancakes! A king’s feast to start the day … glorious. After packing that in and taking care of the dishes, we went outside and raked leaves. While it doesn’t seem like a WoJ sorta event, the rain had stopped and work needed doing so we got out there. It feels good to be productive and accomplish something like that … even though it’s a fleeting victory: there are always more leaves to settle in the yard.

clip_image001[4]After that we went to REI, a local outdoor goods co-op to look at tents. I’d decided I wanted a lightweight tent and needed to comparison shop. We chose to go to the “flagship store”, hoping to see as many of the models setup as possible. Unfortunately the place was jam packed with people, a number of folks allowed their kids to use the tents as a makeshift playground, and they only had a couple tents setup … and very few in the class I was looking for: small and lightweight.

But, we accomplished a number of things: we were able to compare and contrast a bunch of choices, we talked at length to a salesman, and we came home with a tent! And, after setting it up, debating a few more options, and considering everything … we came home with the wrong tent for me. During set-up I realized it won’t hold its shape without staking it out, and I was really hoping for more of a free-standing model. So, it’ll go back tomorrow, we’ll place an order for the tent I think will suite me better, and all will be well.

There are cards and gifts and cakes and all sorts of other goodies here on WoJ but that hits the highlights. I’m taking Monday (today) through Wednesday off and I’ll post more as the fabulous celebration of little ol’ me continues. Best gift so far? Time with Suzy!

Hope your celebrations are sometime you can look forward to all year!

Posted in Me | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

Raised bed design

Posted by joeabbott on October 29, 2017

In I must be getting handier I wrote about replacing the wood on our raised beds, but I realized I didn’t give a lot of details. Now, for a raised bed that may be just fine, but for my sense of understanding or documenting the project, I will be going into more detail in this post. Consider this your “I can ignore this post and be just fine” get-out-of-reading excuse.


Those that have seen my construction posts before know I love my SketchUp models, so let’s start there … here’s what the finished design will look like next to a “final” picture:

image  image

It actually came out like planned … not bad! So let’s get on with the build.

Store run

I had two 5/4x6x96” boards in my lumber loft already; as I was building two of these beds I figured I’d need ten more boards. While it’s not necessary for anyone who’s done a bit of building, here’s how I came to needing 12 boards for this project.

Each long side is made from two 8’ (96”) boards, and so we’ll need four boards for the long sides. The short sides (or ends) are 48”; so I can cut a single 96” board into the two parts for each end. With two ends, I need two boards for the short sides. That’s six boards for each planter, so for the two planters I need a total of 12-5/4x6x96” boards.

Because 5/4×6 are nominal dimensions, the board you walk out of the store with is not 5/4×6 … the finished dimensions are 1”x5.5”. The nominal in the description means that the lumber mill cut the board to those dimensions but they would later plane the boards smooth, taking away some of the thickness and width, arriving at a finished board of a smaller size. Ultimately this meant that the doubled height of the planter bed wall would be 11” high.

As we wanted to posts to be a bit proud of the wall height, the nominal dimensioning played in our favor: we bought a single 4x4x96” post, cut it into 12 corner posts, and each corner measured about 12” high.

As you’ll see, I needed a few more pieces of wood to pull this project together but I found those in my scrap bin. If you don’t have a scrap bin and plan to build the same thing I did, you’ll need another 8’ long 5/4×6 board, two fencing pickets, and an 8’ long 2×4.

Let’s get to cutting and you can see what I’m talking about!

imageShop time

I started by setting eight of the best boards aside for the long sides. All the boards were pretty good, but with the long sides supporting higher loads than the short sides, I wanted the long ones to have fewer knots and cleaner, smoother lines (meaning no warp or curve\bend to them). With the remaining four boards, I cut them in half so I had eight 48” long short sides.

At this point I dipped into my stock of cut-offs from old projects to come up with a few parts I’ll call “plates”.

As I’d seen the sides to the beds bow and pooch-out over time, I wanted to lock the two parts making up each side together. I very likely over-built this part of the planter but I have no regrets and feel it’s just fine. What I ended up doing was creating eight 5/4x6x11” “thick plates”, and 16-3/4x6x11” “thin plates”.

I screwed a thick plate smack in the middle, tying two boards together at the center, and then used a thin plate on each end. To the right is what one of the long sides looked like.

Here’s my thinking …

With the middle portion of the boards seeing the highest loads, I wanted a stronger joint at that location. A thicker board meant the screws I drove in would have more holding power. More holding power gave me that stronger joint.

imageThe ends were buttoned together using thinner plates less for strength (although there’s some of that) and more to keep them together when I ran them from the garage where I was building things, back up by Chickenville where the raised beds are located. I’d have hated to have screwed them together at the center and then had them tear out in transport.

The short sides (left) had an extra block of wood attached to the very end; this would allow me to screw the free ends of the long sides into something thick and provide superior holding power. Essentially, it keeps the rectangular raised bed rectangular.

When I built the old version, I slotted the corner posts and nested the free end into the post. I wouldn’t be doing that this time so the extra block gave me a strong piece of wood for the connection. Here I just cut a 2×6 I had laying about in half and was confident it would do the job.

As for the placement of the thin plates … I just screwed them in with an inch or so to spare to avoid the “extra block of wood”. In retrospect, you do not need both the extra block of wood and the thin plates on the short sides, and I’d avoid using them if I had to do this again.

And I’ll make a final admission. We just finished our summer cookouts and fire pit evenings and I burned a lot of cedar cut-offs over the past few months. If I had a choice between using that cedar in a project or burning it, I’d rather use it on a project. But, I only have so much space to store lumber scraps, so I end up burning more than I’d like.

The thin plates were made from a few extra planks I had from the planter box I made earlier (I made a thing), and the thick plates were from a few cut-offs I had stored so far back in the lumber pile I have no clue how they came into my possession.


imageNow I wanted to avoid some of the rotting out that happened in my corner posts so I planned for the corner posts to be completely outside of the bed. Doing this was easy: just set my table saw blade height and fence depth, run each block over the blade twice, and I would be done. The first pass I took I just removed an inch or so of material, but that ended up looking, in a word, stupid. So I got a bit more aggressive and removed 2”, leaving my sides about 1.5” thick.

I’m not sure if this is the perfect dimension, but it looks OK. I suspect there’s a better dimension to use but I’m not a fiddly sort and this seemed fine.

Rinse and repeat on each of the eight corner parts … see the pic to the left.

The cap was super easy. So easy I’m delighted at my own craftiness. Or maybe because I could do this simple thing and it turned out OK.image

With some of the leftover 5/4 cedar I had in my loft, I cut eight caps … and, actually I cut 10 but a couple of them had defects I wasn’t happy using on our beds and they served as test pieces for the table saw cutting.

I then tilted my blade 10°, got out a jig I made years ago that allows me to hold thin pieces of wood on end securely, and I ran that over the blade four times. It was that easy. I included a little picture to the right to help imagine what I was doing.

I then just screwed the caps onto the ends of the posts, driving the screws from the inside notch I cut out of the post, into the bottom of the cap. Easy peasy.


At this point things broke down just a bit.

My intent was the screw the four sides of the bed together and then hide those screw heads with the corner post and attach those with screws coming from the inside of the bed. Meaning, there’d be no screws visible from the outside.

Unfortunately, I mis-measured or mis-planned something somewhere. I had already screwed the corner posts to the short sides but when I got outside, the pilot holes I’d created for the long sides were covered up by the post. I figured I could just remove the post and fiddle around, but placements caused problems and I didn’t have longer screws to make the connection through the “block” (as opposed to the plates). There was probably a solution somewhere in here that could have maintained the purity of the “no screws” philosophy, but it eluded me.

And so I ended up using the pilot holes I’d created for the sides, these screw heads were hidden by the post but I then drove two screws (one high, one low) through each side of the post to hold it onto the corners. The screws are visible in the pics but they’re not so noticeable. A little something to do better when I make my next set.


And that’s it: a lotta words about a little project. But one that I ripped out quickly and it came out well. I guess I am getting handier … now I just need to work on my concision to make these posts shorter. Thanks for dropping by my shop for a look-see.

Posted in Home projects, Woodworking | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

I must be getting handier

Posted by joeabbott on October 28, 2017

When Suzanne and I bought this home over 2 decades ago, I wasn’t much of a handyman. Below-average skills tempered by above-average interest and a sincere desire not to mess up too badly. Over the years my skills have improved and I see messing up as just a path to getting better … it’s not that big of a deal; my interest in being handy hasn’t changed a bit.

This comes to mind as we recently rebuilt the raised planter beds we had in the backyard and, upon completion I realize we didn’t really take any photos, didn’t make a big fanfare of it, and the most concerning question was: is there any lumber from the original project that we could save? There wasn’t, at least not for using in the raised bed project, but I still have them in the garage where I’m considering whether they could be saved for any project.

Sometime last year we noted the raised beds were starting to show some wear and tear. I used some rebar I had in the corner of the shop to help support the walls and ends but earlier this year we realized it wasn’t enough. We used a good quality cedar in their construction back in 2010 … but that was back in 2010. I was mighty proud of that job and detailed it back in this post: Raised Planters. It was a good bit of work and I’m still happy with how that came together, but take a look at what over half a decade of Seattle weather can do to cedar:


The planking along the sides suffered similarly: edges and ends rotted but the exterior face was OK. Which is why I thought I might be able to save it. No luck.

So, one Saturday afternoon, Suzy and I headed to the local big box store for a shopping trip. She picked up some crushed gravel and sand for this project here (and you really should take a look … it’s a very fine bit of work), and she helped me pick out some 8’ planks and a 8’ 4×4 post: we weren’t repairing, we were replacing!


After getting them home I decided not to rebuild the planters exactly as I had, but to make a few minor improvements. Because the posts seemed to rot the most and they did where I had cut them, I left the posts outside the planter. I also screwed them to the planks but drove all the screws from the outsides.

Finally, I added a couple of wooden mending plates between the horizontal slats. Looking at the old planter beds, it was obvious the pressure of the soil inside was pushing the boards outward and they were separating. By adding a few mending plates between stacked planks, I hope they hold together better.


When I started building the replacement beds I didn’t really have a committed plan. I asked people at work what they’d done, used a reference someone recommended, and went from there. I like how they turned out.

In addition to seeing improvement in my skills by not taking pictures of the journey, I built the caps for the top of the posts without even thinking about it. Cut out some square blanks from an extra piece of cedar I had in the garage, angled my table saw 10°, buzzed each piece on all four sides, and screwed them on. The caps took a long time to figure out when I originally built these planters!

To install them I brought the lumber outside, screwed them all together, and, with Suzy’s help, placed the empty raised bed over the dirt mounds left standing after we pulled the rotted wood away from the old beds. I then marked where I’d need to shovel dirt away, moved the empty forms to the side, dug away a couple inches from the scribed line, and then placed them back over the mounded earth. Then we shoveled soil into the gaps, raked the beds and were done!

So, I’m a handier handyman now than I was 17 years ago, but what I’m really looking forward to is how handy I will be seven years from today! Thanks for being with me on this journey.

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Little stories

Posted by joeabbott on October 22, 2017

A handful of years back this world lost my uncle and, in that moment, a great storyteller. He comes from a family of storytellers: his mother (my grandma), his brother (Uncle Bob), and now I’m finding the same comfort hearing the little gem-like tellings from my mother (his sister). These tales come out typically in firsthand conversations; perhaps on a long drive or maybe over a game of cribbage in the evening, or anywhere folks gather. Most recently, I’ve received a few in mail or email and in that they’re golden … the easier to read later or to share.

To be clear, these aren’t structured stories with proper beginnings, middle, and endings. They aren’t about great people or pivotal times in history. They’re not incredibly worded and masterworks for language study classes. These are small stories about small town happenings in average times. Sentences may not be complete, may trail off, and maybe a less apt word is used here and there … but they’re short and simple and always make me smile.

These stories are more important than all those things they’re not … they are about the lives and dreams and times of people in and around my life. And here’s one I’ll share that came from my mother a couple months back. While she’s passed on many years ago, it arrived on my grandmother’s birthday and in response to mail I’d sent to my mother remembering some trait or other of my grandma.

Thanks a lot, Joe.  I love hearing memories that you kids hold dear. 

She [ed. my grandmother] had a wonderful heart and at one time or another nearly all her siblings spent time at our home.  Aunt Clarice was there with Terri and Monica, before her little John was born, when Uncle Ted was in the service, in Alaska.  They used my bedroom, and I’d moved up into my mom’s sewing room.  Little did I know that I’d be staying there again, helping out Uncle Joe!   Uncle Jack (John, she always called him) came over for years for Sunday Dinner with our family, and to read our Sunday papers, and when the City told him they were taking down his house (the oldest in Virginia), he returned to my family home for his last days. 

Uncle Stanley and Uncle Wally also were cared for by your Grandma.  I’d bring lunch upstairs to Uncle Stanley and he’d have me go into his wallet, in the drawer of that little desk up there in “the boys room”, and with shaky hands he’d count out 6 $1 bills, “for the children”.  And always there’d be a $100 bill just before Christmas, that I’d use to fill the Christmas stockings.  And of course Uncle Wally used to go to the Target in Duluth (first one in Minnesota) to shop with Grandma and they’d arrive at our house with his trunk and back seat piled high with all manner of foods, which we would so happily haul into our kitchen. 

And Aunt Mitzie – well, I was glad to be able to put food on the table for all of us, but at Christmastime she always made me feel like a Queen, with her opulent gifts to me  – once it was the Fruit of the Month Club, and our first delivery was a box of kiwis which none of us had ever heard of as they weren’t in our stores here yet.  Imagine, those funny fuzzy brown things, and all of us looking down at them with our mouths open! 

The funniest sibling that came over was Aunt Rose, who used to crochet slippers for all you kids.  She and my mom would be talking in the breakfast nook, and splitting a beer (shocking, as my father neverI imbibed), and more than once they’d break into speaking Polish when I’d come into the kitchen and once they were laughing so hard they both rushed upstairs to the sewing room, and continued their laughing.  We all laughed too, and I wonder what it was that was so hilarious. 

Uncle Ed used to come over with his wife Ailie, whom I liked because she had a great sense of humor.  And they’d bring their kids, Liz (who became a nurse, married a doctor, and they live in Duluth; And Eddie became an attorney and practiced in Chicago – I think they had a family even bigger than ours, and often have a photo of all their kids/grandkids on their Christmas card.)  Both Liz & Craig  and Eddie & Cora came to UJ’s funeral, and always visited him when they were in town.  I wonder if you have memories of them? 

Well, you’ve probably heard all these stories many times, but it’s fun for me to look back on my childhood, as it was full of happy times.  And also lots of summer vacations – out east or into various parts of Canada. 

Have a good day, Joe.

Love,  Mom

And how could you not have a good day after reading such a beautiful thing?

I’m not sure what brought this topic to mind; maybe the article on Humans of New York that I read in this morning’s paper. But it’s sure a fine read the second time … and saved for many more reads in the future.

Thanks for dropping by and sharing this little story with me.

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Go, Rock Island Independents!

Posted by joeabbott on October 15, 2017

WP_20171015_13_04_32_ProA couple months ago my brother-in-law sent out an email to the extended family saying:

Dear Family,

With all my genealogy work, I have done some research on your Grandfather’s football days in Rock Island.  I started visiting the Rock Island Independents website ( and noticed the team photo they had on their site had the wrong names to some of the players.  I emailed the photo from your Grandfather’s collection with the names of the players.  Simon at the website used the photo I sent him on the website and with credit to the Kraker Family.  I also sent him the photos of your Grandfather and Jim Thorp.

While visiting the website I saw they were playing a football game with the 1920 football rules over the last few years.  One day I received an email from Simon, at the website, inviting me to their football game.  He included a copy of the game announcement of the game.  On the announcement, he used the photos I sent him of your Grandfather and Jim Thorp. 

If any of you are interested in going to Rock Island let me know.  I might be fun to have the Kraker Fan Club at the game. 

And then, a week or so ago, I got a package in the mail from my mother … the package was a bit beaten up but the contents were in perfect condition: I’m wearing it in the picture to the right! Yup, a Rock Island Independents t-shirt, perfect for wearing today, the day of the game being played by 1920’s football rules.

Here’s a copy of the picture my brother-in-law sent to the RII website:


And my grandfather? He’s the good looking fella with the perfect stance and the superman cowlick wearing #3:


While I may not be able to catch up on the scores on ESPN, I’ll check in with the family and the Rock Island Independents site to see how they fared but, either way, they have a fan out here in Seattle. Go, RII!!!

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Fall is coming

Posted by joeabbott on October 9, 2017

Seattle actually has a drought climate for 3-4 months out of the year. That’s forgotten most of the time as the other 8-9 months are spent in varying degrees of rain and now the rains are back. A curious matter that in equal parts bemuses and amuses me is the fact that, when the rains first start returning, they only appear on the weekend


While the forecasts are often wrong, it’s surprising how often we get these sorts of predictions.

Fall is coming.

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