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Week of Joe, 2010

Posted by joeabbott on December 23, 2010

About a year ago, albeit a bit more timely with respect to my birthday, I posted the Week of Joe, 2009 entry. In it I detailed all the wonderful gifts I received for my 46th birthday from my wife, Suzanne. This year my b-day was “cluttered” with lots of activities (nearly all of it great fun), so I’m behind in writing my annual post of Greed and Excess®!

But I’m catching up and here it is … Week of Joe, 2010.

In my youth I was a rapacious reader, consuming books and time poring over stories. I liked fanciful stories when I was very young, science fiction in my teens, tending toward high fantasy in my late teens … and then college hit. Text books were my companion and somewhere along the way my reading interests tapped the “historical non-fiction” market. These I like hard science and if you can combine any of the above (and combine it well … think, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke), I usually adore it. 

imageOne of the books I remember from my earliest reading was Fire-Hunter, by Jim Kjelgaard.

The story follows an early human (a “cave man”) in his banishment from his tribe and subsequent discovery of the bow-and-arrow, along with other inventions and realizations (e.g., over-hunting an area is bad). Kjelgaard recognized his invention introduces a “telescoping of time” and that the “developments that occur in the time-span of this book undoubtedly took many generations”, but tosses in a final “yet who is to say?” in the foreword.

Well, Suzy hunted out the book … I forgot that I had ever mentioned it … and I spent a few enjoyable hours reliving the story of Hawk and Willow. This was a wonderful gift and a nice tone-setter for the week to come!

Week of Joe is really that … a week of time in which I open a gift a day, get my pick of meals, and pretty much do what I want. Which is to say, not a whole lot unlike all the other days of my life, but with some of the things I enjoy appearing in wrapping paper. Yet some gifts are not wrapped, and those are great, too. Like the next present to come my way …

imageMost days, on returning from work, I’ll get the mail on the way into the neighborhood. On one such occasion, I found a Spider-man comic in the mailbox. It’s odd, because it was addressed to me but I didn’t order it.

Now, the previous year, to support some niece or nephew in a school fund drive, Suzy got me a Spider-man comic subscription. Oddly, the story had been retooled and it centered around a teenage Peter Parker, complete with blushing girlfriends, holding hands, and, of course, manic fights with all manner of bad guys. I’d read the stories and then send the comics off to my friend Pete … a comic book aficionado … so he could enjoy them with his daughter, Kate.

But, in a blog of digressions, even I realize I’m wandering! Suzy felt badly for getting me a less than age-appropriate gift and was looking to atone … I appreciated last year’s subscription and love Spider-man, but maybe I get a bit less out of the teenage variety. So, this year she did it again … but got me a great version! The “Big Time Amazing Spider-man”!! And so, for another year, I’ll get to read about my favorite web-head wall crawler!

imageimageIn addition to reading bunches, I like to write; as in, with a pen, on paper, and (snail) mail them to friends and family. Long ago someone said something about how great it is to get a letter in the mail: the unexpectedness of it; the novelty; the fact that someone somewhere is thinking about you.

That must have been a formative moment because these days I will write 5-6 cards or letters a month and send them off to people. Those people are mostly my mother or uncle, but I send cards for birthdays and notes to those who I have long neglected or just want to touch base with. It’s more effort, more time, and more costly than email, but very much more worth it.

Suzy knows this and, for my next gift, she got me two boxes of note cards to fuel my habit. One had a Frank Lloyd Wright design on front, the other were abstract paintings by Wolf Kahn. Delightful outsides to inspire my efforts on the insides!

On the next day I received a new wallet. Practical, utilitarian, and absolutely welcome.

While I’ve been a trifold wallet carrier for years, she got me a bi-fold wallet and, as Bill Bryson seems to say a lot, I like it very much. The “fold in half” nature of the bi-fold keeps the wallet slimmer (think about it: folding in half doubles the thickness; folding by three triples the thickness) and that’s a real consideration for me. I used to carry a fanny pack but recently moved away from them. I personally don’t really care if I’m fashionable but I seemed to be going through them quickly and couldn’t find a new one that I liked. So, instead, I find a pocket somewhere to tuck my phone, keys, keycard (for work), and my wallet. Except now I have a slim enough wallet that I can sit on it (i.e., put it in my back pocket) without it being a literal pain in the butt!

imageIn a show of “no aspect of your life forgotten”, Suzy also got me a collapsible cup for hiking. Whenever I go out hiking, I need to consider how to drink and how to measure water (for adding to freeze dried). If I’m on a trying outing, I’ll forego most amenities, but those are farther between these days and so I enjoy a cup. I usually carry a thermal cup but that has three disadvantages: it’s bulky, there isn’t an easy way to measure fluid capacity with it, and, ironically, it keeps my tea too hot and I either burn my mouth or sit around all night with a beverage I can’t drink!

imageAnd so I received a silicone collapsible cup: it folds down smaller than a bi-fold wallet, it has internal markings indicating fluid capacities, and it should cool quickly enough to allow me to enjoy my tea with everyone else. A perfect companion for hiking! The only question I have about it is that it’s rated at 180 degrees F … and, if I’m not mistaken, my tea makin’ water is probably north of 200 degrees F! I guess we should see what happens!

In yet another display of remembering all the things I like, Suzy had a woodworking brand made for me! Plug it in, let it heat up for 15 minutes, and I can brand Handcrafted by Joe Abbott into all of my projects. And, I have already used it while making a shipping container that I sent to my mother! Now to retroactively stamp all those projects I have about the house and yard!

imageIn my 2009 Greed and Excess® posting I wrote about receiving a book on the Periodic Table of Elements. It’s fantastic stuff and I still go through that book. In an echo from last year, Suzy got me The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean. I’d read about this book on some news website or other that I troll and am fascinated: it’s a collection of stories about science and discovery specifically around the elements. The subtitle is: … and other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World From the Periodic Table of the Elements. I can hardly wait to get into it!

You might need more coaxing so allow me to reproduce the front cover flap here …

Why did Gandhi hate iodine (I, 53)? Why did the Japanese kill Godzilla with missiles made of cadmium (Cd, 48)? How did radium (Ra, 88) nearly ruin Marie Curie’s reputation? And why did tellurium (Te, 52) lead to the most bizarre gold rush in history?

The periodic table is one of our crowning scientific achievements, but it’s also a treasure trove of passion, adventure, betrayal, and obsession. The fascinating tales in The Disappearing Spoon follow carbon, neon, silicon, gold, and every single elements on the table as they play out their parts in human history, finance, mythology, conflict, the arts, medicine, and the lives of the (frequently) mad scientists who discovered them.

imageThere’s a bit more but, if anyone possibly required additional incentive, I’ll have to write them off as dispassionate, disinterested, or too busy reading People magazine to make time for the good stuff.

WP_000007That leaves me with the final gift from Week of Joe, and it was a good one: two tickets to A Christmas Story at the 5th Avenue Theater here in Seattle. While the 5th Avenue Theater is a venerable institution, A Christmas Story has been dearer to both Suzy and I since we first saw the movie many years ago. Since then we bought the DVD and watch it yearly, we bought the Jean Shepherd book on which it’s based (In God We Trust All Others Pay Cash), and now thoroughly enjoyed the adaptation to the stage as we followed the semi-fictional story (based on anecdotes from Shepherd’s childhood) of Ralphie and his quest for the ultimate Christmas gift: a “Red Ryder BB gun with a compass in the stock and this thing that tells time”.

And that was Week of Joe 2010, from the perspective of Suzanne’s gifts to me. I was additionally blessed this year by having my mother present who, in turn, bestowed me with additional gifts: treats from northern Minnesota, a tool that will allow me to smoke meats in the oven (yum!!), and, of course, a book: Dreams of Iron and Steel by Deborah Cadbury (subtitled: … Seven Wonders of the Modern Age From the Building of the London Sewers to the Panama Canal). Not only my cup of tea, but the cup overfloweth!


2 Responses to “Week of Joe, 2010”

  1. […] to the 5th Avenue Theater and enjoyed Next to Normal. I loved it. While I enjoy the Oklahoma and A Christmas Story, sort of plays (shows purely for entertainment), I love the work of artists who tell a deeper story […]

  2. […] living in MN allowed us to partake in an extravagance. Suzy had just treated me to the staging of A Christmas Story and so enjoying theater was in the wind. Not to mention that in college I took a few theater […]

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