Joe Abbott's Weblog

Letters home to mom

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    • 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 →

Archive for the ‘General stuff’ Category

Quick update

Posted by joeabbott on May 7, 2017

Well, it’s been a furiously fast couple weeks but lots going on. Work is busy and commanding a lot of my mindshare right now; probably why I’m now (more than ever) not very productive with home chores. That said, we did get a little work out of me recently!

Cedar Plaque

My sister had a milestone birthday a few weeks back and we scrambled to get her something nice. She’s the youngest sibling and has been an active lifeline in keeping me up-to-date on my family “back home” and assisting with estate stuff when a dear uncle passed away. I wanted to let her know how much we value her help. So, we bought a little something at a art fair, got a nice gift certificate to a spa and some candy. And yet, nothing felt special enough.

Well, with our trip back to MN and the short time to accomplish a normal woodworking project, I settled on building her a small cedar plaque. Years ago she came out to Seattle and bought an art print with a native Pacific Northwest Indian motif on it; so, I found a couple similar images, printed them out on a company laser printer … and this is the cool part: this was a laser burner … a machine that could etch\burn an image into wood (or even cut right through it). After that it was just designing a small frame and getting it completed by the time we left.

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I was so short on time that I was still cleaning it the morning we took off and we wrapped it in paper towels in case the oil treatment was still drying! Anyhow, it came out nicely and was well received.

Work Party

The second “big” thing that has happened here is a work party up in Granite Falls that Suzy and I attended.

We bought property in a neighborhood that was sponsoring a 4-hour work session with your neighbors. As a gated community, the roads are private property and require the homeowners to manage … either hiring that work out or doing it themselves. As Suzy and I don’t have a home in the community yet, there’s no expectation that we’d participate but we felt we should. First, we’d get a chance to meet the folks we’d be living with; and second, we thought it’d make an awfully good impression.

We were right on both counts.

The only problem was that we drove the 130 miles (65 miles each way), raked gravel back onto the exposed roadbed sides for four hours, and missed out on putting that time into working on our property! That, however, was overwhelmingly negated by all the good stuff that came of it: we met wonderful people, we contributed to the place we’ll live, and enjoyed a fantastic picnic when it was all over. Lots of “win” in all of those!

So, I awoke this morning sore and quite tired, unable to really feel awake as I rolled about in bed. And Suzy and I will now spend 4-6 hours clearing brush on our property today.

Coda

Sorry this is so short but that’s it! Just a couple moments in the last few weeks that have been rewarding. Thanks for dropping by.

Posted in General stuff | Tagged: | 3 Comments »

There’s a lot going on in this part of town

Posted by joeabbott on March 5, 2017

Image may contain: tree and outdoorOK, maybe not so much going on but I’m feeling chatty. And, rather than try to ram it all into one post, I’ll drop a couple to make things a bit more digestible.

The first order of business is recognizing that I’m pretty tired and sore. Yesterday Suzanne and I spent 7-hours putting up fencing but, sadly, it wasn’t on our property. The good news is that it was for a charity so an organization in need benefited from our time and efforts; and that’s always nice.

Suzy volunteers at the Puget Sound Goat Rescue (PSGR) and I’m very supportive. Supportive to the point of thinking we have an obligation to contribute some of our time to a worthy cause; and, as it’s easier to think someone else should be volunteering their time, I make a point of committing some of my time when I’m able. So, when Suzy mentioned the PSGR was having a “fencing party” … and it didn’t have anything to do with swordplay … I signed up. Hearing that a fellow co-worker of mine had signed up helped!

Aaron and I worked together ages ago and as he’s one of the Nicest Guys in the World™ (and, really, he is), I was happy to drop in if only to catch up. So, at 7AM on our Saturday morning, Suzy and I drove across the valley to Aaron’s home and, along with his lovely wife Jane, they showed up their setup on 15-acres in Maple Valley. After a half hour of seeing their goat runs, deluxe chicken coop, barn and the beautiful outdoor setup of their home, we headed into the bramble-covered PSGR area we were going to fence … which, conveniently, was right next door!

If you’re a “Facebook person” you can read about the project here, but the post talks more about the many events of the day … and while I think I had a busy day, the Goat Rescue had it going on!

While we took a half hour break at noon for pizza, chips, fruit, and water, the rest of the time was doing heavy manual labor. Aaron and Jane were in charge of using his tractor to dig ~2’ deep holes, insert a 6×6 timber, and shore it up with crushed rock. Suzy and I would follow ensuring the posts were plumb and then laying in cross bracing. For all sections we’d lay in two horizontal members; one high and one low. For the corners we’d install a single diagonal beam; and for other sections that would be in the middle of the fencing, we’d put in two diagonal members.

The corners were the trickiest because the field failed to follow a strictly rectangular shape, leaving us making cuts that had several angles to them. A couple sections gave us problems trying to get the right fit but most of them went into place relatively nicely.

The Seattle weather held off until the end but we eventually took a few splashes of rain and by 4PM we were done. The fencing wasn’t completed but we were DONE. Lots of hours stumbling over roots, carrying heavy loads, and trying to figure out how to look competent doing something for the first time. Tiring though it was, we really enjoyed the experience.

I will note that while I was asking questions and learning how to install a fence (Aaron and Jane were old hands at this by now), Suzy was scouring the understory for decades-old barbwire and various other metal accoutrements that were used in a fence long-since neglected. It was rusty and vicious but a pair of thick gloves and some bolt-cutters took care of the problem

While I’m looking forward to today and my light-duty garage projects and some sitting about, I’m happy to have had a chance, to be physically able, and give back a bit to a world that’s if not better, at least tidier and with the prospects of a bigger pasture to roam in.

Thanks for dropping by.

Posted in General stuff, Suzy | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

And we’re back!

Posted by joeabbott on February 6, 2017

WP_20170206_06_39_49_ProThis morning at about 6:30AM we lost power for about 10 hours; it was grueling.

With heavy snow forecast for the Seattle area overnight and an inch already accumulated, I’d planned on working from home. As my next day would be mostly meetings (we’re in the middle of quarterly planning), I could attend online and still be an active participant; not ideal but for a once-in-five-years storm I’d be OK.

At 5:15AM my alarm went off and I noted that it had prodigiously snowed that night, with about 8” standing on flat surfaces; wonderful to look at and I was happy I had other arrangements for the day. So, I returned to bed and around 6:30AM I heard a noise, looked at Suzy (who was awake) and asked if she heard her computers *bonk*. “Yup … and with the green flash in the sky, I’m thinking we’re without power,” was her response. And she was dead right.

WP_20170206_08_01_08_ProBeing without power is typically not a big deal, as we’re near the airport and facilities in that area seem to get a priority on being fixed, but as we’d find out, we were on the other side of the hill from the airport and outside the golden zone of immediate attention from Puget Sound Energy. And so, for the next 10 hours we did without, only seeing the “to be investigated” listed on our phones when we queried the myPSE app about our service. But, we weren’t sure when our power would be back. And so our day started.

Without power, I wasn’t able to get on the internet so I needed an option for that; which would be the library just up the way; easily walkable, but they didn’t open until 10AM. So, I tried what I could from my phone and then waited.

Suzy and I cared for our hens, shook heavy snow from the branches of our trees (many younger ones will likely suffer an odd tilt but none looked lost), and enjoyed a morning of reading. She had a cold breakfast and I opted to get out my camping stove and enjoyed some hot-water-grits. Not great but I’ve had worse … or none!

At 10AM I headed to the library, wanting to give them a little time to open and get setup. The heavy snow made slow going but I was there in short order … the trip made a little more easy because I was able to walk down the middle of the street. At the library I was met by closed doors and apparently no power to that building, either. Sigh.

Back home I trudged, connected to those through phone-mail, and I planned for the day off.

WP_20170206_07_52_26_Pro 1A little more reading, a bit of napping, and I offered to drive us out for lunch. It felt a bit disingenuous to take a day off for snow and then drive to lunch, but it was a late lunch and the roads had improved; what I feared the most was nighttime temps and icy roads. So we headed out … first to get gas for my trip into work tomorrow, and then to Qdoba for chips and a burrito. The roads were mostly fine: in some cases just two tracks for your tires and everywhere heavy accumulations on the sides, but I did manage to get stuck at the bottom of my driveway!

Yup, couldn’t get up. I wasn’t truly stuck as I could back down but I had to get my shovel out and shovel the whole thing off. Ugh … my back forgets those Minnesota winter days when we had to do this. While our driveway lent itself well to clearing, the snow was abusively heavy and where I’d pulled out, the snow was compacted to ice and needed a lot of work.

After that was done, I got into the house, now about 57°F and was pretty chilled. So, under a blanket for a dozy bit of time on my (sore) back with a cat. And, around 4:30PM or so, Suzy was walking by and *pop*, the power came back on! No circuits tripped, no flashes of lights going out, just a hum of the furnace and digital clocks flashing.

And with that, we were back in business. There was a bit of futzing with the internet and the question of “what to do for dinner”, but mostly it was me heading upstairs to check in on work and Suzy enjoying her time with the cats. While I had been dozing, she had been more industrious upstairs doing a bit of tidying up and sorting books. It’s not a “fun” job, but we have amassed quite a few good books and sometimes it’s fun to look through them. This time, they were just a clutter and she was trying to put some order to the mess.

And now I’m here. That’s about it for our “snow day” and while the hassles were minor and we weren’t gone long, it’s good to be back!

Posted in General stuff | Tagged: | 3 Comments »

Weekend activities

Posted by joeabbott on February 5, 2017

WP_20170123_17_31_35_Pro 1My weekday activities are pretty routine: work, dinner, some gaming, and bedtime. I’m still getting over the fact that, to feel my best, I need to head to bed before 10PM … as “10PM” usually translates to falling to sleep about 45 minutes later … so there’s not a whole lot of time on weekdays when I get home. Monday and Friday are “free days”, days I can do whatever I want with the 3-4 hours before I need to start getting ready for bed; Tuesday and Thursday we head to the YMCA for a workout, one day with cardio, the other (a new fave) doing yoga; and on Wednesday we are spending time talking about the new house plans. I could share volumes on what we’re learning about in the house discussion but today I’ll look at what I’m doing the other two days of the week: Saturday and Sunday.

Those are also “free days” as we have few commitments asking time of us now. We have a few days on the calendar for special activities: gatherings with friends, work parties at some charity, and things like that. But mostly, it’s the Suzy and Joe Show. And the best way to say what we do is share a few pics!

Woodworking

Typically I have some project or other going but, right now, Seattle is continuing with a bit of a cold snap and it’s making it hard to get into the garage. A week ago I tried doing a project in the evenings but something happened again that I hate: because I’m rushing I made an error and cut a piece wrong. in this case, I cut four pieces wrong and it bugs me a lot. I stewed a bit wondering what I’d do and I won’t recut some lumber and I won’t change the design … I’ll fix it. Meaning, splice (glue) some of the existing wood together and use that. It’ll look fine once I’m done but it’s taught me that trying to rush (for me) is a no-win deal. I’ll just wait for it to get warm.

The picture to the right is from this project. I typically make all of my designs using the same thickness of wood; usually 3/4”. In some cases you need that sorta thickness, in other cases it’s just because I’m inexperienced and use a single type of wood for all the parts. In this case, I have a bunch of 1/2” thick pieces (that will be fine) but I’m making a bottom section twice that thick to give a “heavier” look to the base. I think it’ll look good … we’ll see!

Wedding

WP_20170128_17_44_51_ProWhile not a typical weekend activity, it’s a little something Suzy and I got to enjoy last weekend: a niece on Suzy’s side of the family was getting married and she choose to do it in Canada! Brush off the passport, get that suit out, and enjoy a road trip!

Suzy and I headed out early, got a nice breakfast in at a place in Lynden, WA by the name of Dutch Mother Family Restaurant. Suzy got a pannekoeken that was too large for the plate (but with crepe-like thickness) and I got a pancake; we both got eggs. And, while it was too much food, we wouldn’t have chickens to help us with the leftovers, so we gobbled it down and had to save the bakery treats we got for the next day’s ride home. We then headed to MEC (Mountain Equipment Co-op … Canada’s REI) and Lee Valley (a woodworking and gardening place … talk about perfect for Suzy and me!). We made a few purchases but then headed to the hotel to change.

The wedding was very fine and we enjoyed a night of socializing. But, the long day of travel and loud music got to me and we had to say our goodnights before the final dance. But, we have a few snaps … and, apologies in advance: Suzy has the better camera and better eye for photography!

 

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A walk in the woods

While destination hiking is always fine, Suzy and I enjoy just getting out and seeing new places: yesterday we were curious to visit Squak Mountain State Park. We’d seen signs directing us to this State Park on our drives and stopped in too late to truly walk the park but we did make ourselves known, familiarized ourselves a bit, and will be ready to better visit in weeks to come. It didn’t help that the rain was pouring (by Seattle standards) and we were making our trip with umbrellas … not the best hiking gear.

And yet, we have some snaps.

Out of the parking lot is a nature trail, and while it’s been years since I’ve learned anything new from these signs, I always welcome a stroll to see what (and how) they’re educating people. Suzy enjoys the signage and seeing how they make these things so durable in all types of weather!

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Coda

And that’s it. We’ll do a bit of shopping for our weekly groceries, maybe eat out, and will stop when we see something interesting, but otherwise we just are bobbing through the days, happy to be together and seeing and doing new things.

Thanks for coming along with us today!

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Let it snow

Posted by joeabbott on January 21, 2017

Seattle is just getting out of a cold snap that started with snow and then settled into days of mid-20s in the evenings to mid-30s during the day. Much more moderate than a lot of the country, but pretty chilly by our standards. We don’t usually have snow and seldom have cold, so this was unique. But, we enjoyed this view for a few days:

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Posted in General stuff | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

Odd jobs

Posted by joeabbott on December 19, 2016

Well, I didn’t get to cleaning my room … guess that’s what Monday is for … but I did manage a bunch of small jobs that were piling up in the garage.

Before

Just a few pics from the mess that was my garage. Some folks may not think it’s out of the norm, but I’d always parked inside the garage when I was able and only after getting a truck and parking outside regularly did I let clutter take the second bay. It was nice to have room for spreading out with a project: a place for lumber to dry, a spot to setup a table and work, or a sheet of plywood on two sawhorses so I could just have more table space.

But, I’ve never enjoyed leaving things out for days. There isn’t an after picture, but here are the befores:

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Relighting a deer

At one time we had well over a dozen lighted deer but time has culled the herd. And, we’re a little sadder for it. So, when one of our deer was just “out” and I wasn’t able to find the problem, we got creative! Suzy spray painted the little fella and I strung it up with a couple sets of lights. We then placed him in a part of the yard that didn’t have a deer and now we have one more place in our backyard that gives us a smile.

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WP_20161218_13_49_23_ProBirdhouse

My mother has always had an uncanny sense for when things aren’t quite right. Well, a couple months back I remember her recalling the birdhouses I’d made and we painted together and then placed in the backyard; she asked if they were still there. Of course, was my quick response. But, as Suzy was doing fall cleaning she noticed one was in a bit of disrepair: it was the birds favorite house (always the home to some family or other). It was the most sheltered and in the branches of the trees and also the one my mother painted … a happy yellow and white striped shelter with rust-colored eaves.

Time, and probably for being in the branches, had not been kind: the wood in various places was soft, cracks developed in places, and the roof completely came off.

So, a few weeks back I built a replica and Suzy lent her hand at painting it up. While we didn’t want to have a carbon copy and infringe on my mother’s design, we took notes and riffed on her look. It’s still a yellow and white house, but the roof is red. I had the pleasure of putting that up yesterday … after moving the pole it was housed on a forward a bit and out of the trees.

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WP_20161218_13_37_51_ProTrellis

While not a “big” project, it was another task that took a bit of time: repairing the trellis.

A few years back Suzy asked if I could make her a trellis; my answer, of course, was of course!

But, sometimes it takes me a bit longer to get around to my “of courses” than other times so I think there was skepticism in her eyes. Either that or the fact that I’d promised doing it a number of times in the past. Either way, I headed to my little shop, ripped a bunch of strips of wood of varying lengths, chamfered end, made a few “stand-off” blocks, and went to installing.

As with virtually every project I do, I winged it a bit, not sure what I was doing and certainly not having much experience but, in the end, we had a nice looking trellis: lots of vertical and horizontal pieces of wood for her growing things to grab onto. But, we find that other things like to grab onto the slats as well … things like raccoons and cats that are making their way over our fence. And so, every few weeks (mostly during the summer), I’ll be called on to fix up the broken and torn-down slats. Yesterday was that day.

A simple few nails it was back to looking like new.

Birds on a wire … er, branch

I wrote about “Stuff in the backyard” before … search this site for “SITBY” … and it should be clear that those instances were just snapshots; we keep adding new stuff all the time. This past year at the Washington State Fair, a booth selling metal cutouts in the shapes of birds caught our eye. While the signs by all the different shapes noted the species of bird, they all looked like “sparrow-type” birds to me.

Suzy, having a cuter eye (as well as a more acute eye), chose a fine selection of birds and a cat … which then sat in my “when you get a chance” pile until now, December.

While the delay might annoy some, Suzy never said a word and when I was able to use one of the branches that came from our property up north, I was happier for the delay. So, with the clear weather, a little time, and Suzy helping me with the positioning of the birds, we added a bit more to the “stuff in the backyard”.

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Squirrel knocker

I can’t imagine those two words ever making sense to me before now, but in her travels, Suzy found a door knocker in the shape of a squirrel. And so, it becomes one more bit of stuff in our backyard. Now, to be clear … “stuff in our backyard” is hardly a pejorative. We adore our backyard and spend plenty of time there. It’s where we go to spend our energy and to get energized in return; it’s a place of living things and stuff we care about. And now … home to a door knocker shaped like a squirrel on our gate.

Love it.

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I like to believe it’s because they were cold, but the ladies were unimpressed. Squirrel, indeed.

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Fixing some lighting

The last project of the day was to fix a bit of up-lighting that we had on some of the SITBY. We enjoyed these lights but they went out and what we thought would be a simple project of replacing a battery turned into a bit more of a fix.

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Upon taking the battery covers off, it became apparent that these weren’t water-tight and, when water got in, it would sit on the electrical components. One of the items was simple to repair: just buff the terminals with a bit of sandpaper and you were good to go. Unfortunately, when removing the terminal plate to clean it off, the connecting wire pulled clear. So, I ran out, got a solder iron and some solder, and reattached the wire.

Like many of my projects, it wasn’t quite that simple. There was the head-scratching, the mild cussing, and then the “how the hell?!?!” moments … but in the end, let’s just say that it was a simple solder job and a good thing my incompetence didn’t require too much more education … the wire I was soldering wasn’t getting any longer!

And then the second lamp. If you look at the below picture, I believed it was the component on the upper left on the board that was so corroded that it just ceased to function. But, when I pulled the wires clear and ran leads directly from the bulb to the battery, it still didn’t light up. While there’s a goodly amount about electrical stuff that I can still learn, there may have been more than one thing wrong here. By the time I was done, there wasn’t anything “Goodwill worthy” left … unfortunately, this one went into the trash.

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Coda

And that was my day. Well, the fixing things up part. I never got around to cleaning my room and my workbench in the garage still demands some tidying, but I felt like it was a productive day. That evening Suzy and I watched our annual viewing of A Christmas Story and I then played a bit of Xbox and finished the game Dark Souls 3. Gads I adore that game.

It was a great day and one that tees up another good one to come … today. I hope your holiday is turning out to be as productive and fun as mine. Thanks for dropping by.

Posted in General stuff, Home projects, Me | 1 Comment »

I’m back … but won’t be writing much today

Posted by joeabbott on September 18, 2016

For those who follow this blog, you may have noted a lapse in postings … and during high summer! It’s not lack of activity that I want to share, it was that my computer gave out a bunch of weeks ago and I just addressed it yesterday.

You see, I normally leave my computer on … I have a large RAID array that I keep with pictures and info on it and I like the “instant on” of my desktop system. But, one day the system started acting funny and so I rebooted … and nothing happened. Well, the thing that happened was that my machine would whir to supposed life but nothing from the computer appeared on the monitor. I got a Samsung logo when the monitor first came on, but no BIOS information or startup data showed up. I assumed I blew my video card.

Well, on talking to a guy at work, he thought that was a reasonable assessment and offered to bring in a video card for me. As favors go, this one dragged on for a week or two before I gave up on him. Then, L-I-F-E got in the way and I ended up changing jobs (still at Microsoft and even working for the same team … a looong story that I won’t go into here), and I took a week off from work.

Well, with chores up on the property and enjoying some time with Suzy … all while we nurse various over-use related injuries from all those projects … the computer sat. I’d think about it but with a laptop computer, most of the critical stuff was getting handled. During that time I ran to a local Re-PC (a reused PC shop that I’ve dropped off several old computer chassis) and as I was muttering about which video card to select from their bin of As-Is cast-offs, a clerk overheard me.

Now, apologies for the side note on appearance, but this guy slayed me. He was THE canonical computer nerd: tall and a bit gangly, bad complexion, voice either breaking or just unused to talking to people, greasy hair and clothes were unkempt. But, he was confident in his assessment that it was my RAM that needed addressing. He was so confident, that I walked out empty handed and, again, put my quest to fix my computer on the back burner until I could research RAM.

But yesterday I decided to do something about it.

So, I crawled under my desk, popped the cover on the chassis, marveled at how clean and tidy everything still looked, and found the RAM. The test which was bad, the clerk told me to pull out one stick (leave the other in) and restart the system; then try with the other stick. One of the two should be “bad” and give me the same problem I saw before. Unfortunately … or is that “fortunately” … both sticks seemed to work fine. And when I put them both in, it still worked fine.

So I’m not really sure what happened previously but it appeared to be fixed. However, as the system was “getting old” but I still wanted to keep it around, I went back to Re-PC and picked up another 4GB of RAM (for the cost of $5.49) and now my system is up, running, and I have more memory for doing all my doings.

So, I should be back in the saddle and ready to post some stories. Next weekend I’ll be out hiking so I won’t be writing but will be getting material for a future post!

Thanks for watching this space and hopefully I’ll have more stuff of interest soon!

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The highs and lows of clearing your own lot

Posted by joeabbott on June 26, 2016

When we bought our lot, we liked that it was about 65 miles away … not too far, not too near … but it always makes for a long-ish drive to get there. Not too long, but long enough that planning on having an audio-book is a priority.

The problem comes in when we get to the property and something goes wrong.

Our goal yesterday was to use the new brush cutter head on our Stihl trimmer to continue making progress against the overgrown lot. As we pulled in, we went through the now-familiar routine of stretching after the long ride, getting a few items out of the shed, and assessing the daily projects. We’re at the point where it feels like we’re just “doing more”. We trimmed one edge of the lot, we cleared a stand of trees in the middle … and now it’s just beating back the massive center portion that’s 8’ high with alder, maple, and wild blackberry shoots.

As Suzy surveyed the yard, I changed out the head on the brush cutter and tried starting it up. And tried, and tried, and tried. I’m pretty sure I tried some more. It got bad enough that I even pulled out a manual and read that it might be a sparkplug that got wet. Oh, ok, I thought … when I was changing out the head, I must have tipped it in a way that allowed fluid to dampen the spark plug.

Upon carefully taking the sparkplug cap off … the entire cap came away in my hands. The spiral coil of wire that loops around the top of the plug had separated from the wire leading to the engine! It needed to be soldered or replaced.

And now I hit the tipping point.

Miles from my home shop, miles from the store that sold me the unit just a weekend or two back, at a lot without other tools that would allow me to do work that day … I was pretty angry. Mad that we didn’t have the second string trimmer to make progress against the yard, mad that I bought a brand new tool and it was broken on the second outing, mad that I had a lot requiring so much time and effort and money. I was just plain mad.

After walking the perimeter of the lot, we packed up the chairs and the few tools we had and popped the trimmer into Suzy’s car and headed back home. What else could we do?

Upon hitting town, Suzy stopped at a local Ace Hardware and I ran in to ask if there were local Stihl dealers … I didn’t expect to hear much beyond “in Lake Stevens” or something directing me to another community some distance away. But, our luck appeared to be turning and the nearest shop was around the corner and down the road a quarter mile.

So we drove to Glen’s Hardware and while it’s not much to look at from outside, they had a goodly supply of Stihl units and a couple guys at a bustling desk. When it was my turn I asked the guy if he could repair “this” … whereon I handed him the wire that’d broken off and the cap. He looked at it a second and, without looking up, asked where the rest of it was. Meaning the rest of the trimmer unit.

I mentioned not wanting to bring it in if they didn’t have time to get to it today and he said he could.

By the time I got it in, another 2-3 people had wandered up and I started thinking about things Suzy and I could do with our afternoon while we waited … or see if they had Sunday hours to get it the next day. But, on seeing me, the guy grabbed the unit, popped it onto the shop workbench, and started taking off the cowling!

Before I could run back to the car and get my wallet, the guy was walking through the back doors firing it up! And, on telling me it had some adjustment problems (that he’d fixed), he presented me with my repaired tool and a $6.73 charge.

Now I knew my luck had turned. I nearly told him to keep the change from a $10 but returned to car with the repaired trimmer and let Suzy know that “Grumpy Joe” had been replaced by “Giddy Joe”.

After this we drove down the road another couple hundred yards to a nursery on on the outskirts of Granite Falls and spent a half hour among a fantastic assortment of trees and plants, getting to know their offerings and the onsite manager, Justin. We didn’t buy anything, but got to know what they stocked, got some prices on bulk materials like gravel and topsoil, and generally made ourselves known. I’m sure we’ll be back.

And as we drove back to our lot with our repaired tools and attitudes, our decision to buy a lot in Granite Falls was reaffirmed. It’s just a nice place to be and spend some time and get to know.

I’m sure I’ll have other days of highs and lows, but hope, for the most part, the highs are sitting on our chairs under the shade of the trees on our lot looking at our property … and the lows are just the work it’ll take to get it into order. That’s a balance I can enjoy.

Thanks for coming by.

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Where were we?

Posted by joeabbott on June 25, 2016

It wasn’t the worst headache I’d ever had, but it kept me inside and immobile for a couple of days. And it reminded me that we’ve been go-go-going … because, other than the headache pain, it felt good to have a few days “off”.

The cold was just something going around at work … I thought I was just developing the deep-ish voice I get when I’m over-worked, but on Friday, when a few co-workers mentioned that I didn’t look well, I took off around noon, went home, and slept most of the balance of that day. And then did the same on Saturday and Sunday, too. They were rainy days and, as I looked toward my Xbox to take away some of the tedium and give me something that wouldn’t demand too much focus, I tried a game I’d played before: Dishonored.

And what a blast I’m having.

About two years ago to the day I wrote this in my blog:

I picked up playing a game called Dishonored. It’s a 2012 release and I’d popped it in months ago and played a bit but came back to it after that hiatus. And what a smashing time I’m having with it! The game is near-genius and high quality … none of this Nier or Space Monkey goo I’d had in the Xbox! I’m having a lot of fun and will likely play it a second time.

In the game you are a body guard framed for a killing and sentence to death. You’re broken out of prison on the evening of your execution by those who believe in your innocence and are now out to find the real killer and save one of the royal family who was abducted. The game sprawls on with an otherwordly character, The Outsider, who intervenes and gives you some mystic powers, with a betrayal, and a great steam punk city to explore. Again, great stuff.

What I like most is that you can play the game either “low chaos” or “high chaos” … meaning either stealthily sneaking past and knocking out enemies, or putting them to the sword and leaving a trail of blood. I’m choosing low chaos, avoiding deaths and remaining unseen. It’s suspenseful fun and is making for a great break when I get home.

Same game, same reaction. As the game I’m playing now is released on the Xbox One, I can get all the achievements all over again. Since breaking 100k GS I’m not as motivated to get all the achievements in all the games, but I am having enough fun that after, again, playing through on “low chaos” and using minimal powers, I’m raising a bit of ruckus and laying down a bit more mayhem. It’s just a brilliant game.

Today Suzanne and I will head up to the property and do a bit more clearing. Now that we have pictures from our efforts over the last few weekends, I’ll make a post.

Thanks for dropping in.

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All evidence to the contrary …

Posted by joeabbott on March 6, 2016

Despite and outward appearance of neglect or a potential lack of activities, I’ve both thought about this blog often and have had a lot going on. Each project or weekend I seem to frame in the narrative that would carry it onto these pages. And yet I’m not making time for sharing a few of the minor activities that provide the breadth of experience to our lives. Let’s rectify, shall we?

Property

Suzy and I bought five acres of property in a neighborhood some 65-miles north of our current home. We like the Seattle area, so we wanted to stay “local”, but a couple decades of living in SeaTac (a neighborhood that is home to Seattle’s international airport) have left us looking for a little more room during the day, a little more dark during the night and a little more quiet at all times. So, after many weekends of visits to various parts of Western Washington, we settled on the land we purchased and are excited with the potential it represents.

But, it’ll be somewhere in the 3-5 year range before we build a home.

We plan on retiring to this property and it doesn’t make sense for us to have two homes. The property is too far from my work to be convenient, but I might be able to commute from there to work for a year or two. Much more than that and I’d start hating the commute, but I could live with it a bit. So, for the next couple years we’ll spend a weekend or two a month making forays from our current home to the property.

We’ll see what the land has to say to us, where our home should be built, where we should put in gardens, and where we put in my workshop and our hobby barn. With room for chickens, of course!

imageShed

To house a few property maintenance tools, we’ll erect an outbuilding on the lot. We petitioned the home-owners’ association and received their blessing to put up a shed and have talked to both our new neighbors about the plan. Without concerns from our future neighbors, we started plans on what to build.

Knowing my proclivities to build stuff, I quickly sketched up a small, 4’x8’ building and then planned out the cost. Without trying to save money (and planning for cedar siding), that structure would cost almost $900 with the majority being for the cedar siding. For a small building, this seemed bit too much.

So, we ran around the city, looking at everything from Home Depot to Tough Sheds to Craig’s List and then a few more. From all we were seeing, $900 seemed in the ballpark with the exception being for “plastic” or “tin” sheds.

As I started sharpening my pencil to see where I could save some on costs (mostly considering going with a man-made siding), Costco had a sale on a “plastic” shed from Keter.

Now, I really dislike most plastic sheds as they look cheap and feel even more flimsy, but the Keter surprised me. The decking/floor was solid, the sides held up without moving to a gentle shoulder-bump, and, from a distance, they looked reasonably like a “real” shed.

image

With the model for sale being hundreds less than my plan and for the overall floor plan being ~7’x7’, it looked like a winner.

However, the boxes it comes in were so large, Suzy and I took a few days to work out how we’d manage it. We initially thought we’d just rent a flatbed truck from Home Depot (next door to Costco) and drive it home (about 1.5 miles at most). However, the Costco by our house sold out of these! We found a few more at the Costco some 25 miles distant, but didn’t want to pay for a truck to get it home.

So, after a bit of measuring and figuring things out, we inserted a couple heavy boards across the bed of my truck and put a heavy piece of plywood over them. This allowed for the shed boxes to sit above the wheel wells and it actually fit in the bed. Nice!

Unfortunately, the boxes are so heavy, we’re not sure how we’ll get them back into the bed for the transport to our property … it took all we had just to slide them out of the truck and onto the garage floor! Oh well, we’ll cross the bridge when we get there.

Letting my redneck fly!

I’m not really a “gun guy” … not anti-gun, but they don’t play a big role in my life. That said, I do own a BB gun and, for the most part, it just sits in a closet. But, I wanted to build a small box to store it in. It was part that, and part wanting to use up some old 3/4” MDF sheet board that I had in the garage for the last 5 years or so.

The box was going to be pretty simple: a four sides and a bottom butt-jointed and strengthened with dowels, splines or biscuits, and a top that pivoted on a simple dowel hinge. Here’s what it will look like (with the sides blown off for visibility):

image

I pulled out my MDF and was happy to see that its 49” length was sufficient to make the longest parts … actually, my original model called for 48” long parts but I added an inch to avoid cutting. I then started cutting and had the sides, ends, bottom, lid, and inner supports all cut when I started grooving the sides (notches for the supports to fit in), when I realized that the part was too short.

What?!?

I then realized that, when I started cutting my boards, rather than cutting the sides 12” wide by 48” long, I cut the board the wrong way! And all my parts ended up about 34” long.

Holy buckets!!!

Talk about spitting mad. The worst part is that I’ve done something very similar to this a couple times before. There must be some dyslexic confusion in my brain that causes me to be blind to making this error.

Well, needless to say, I can’t use those parts and I put the gun box plan on hold for a while. And, I need to find a way to avoid making this mistake again.

So, I got in a little shop time but have nothing to show for it. In the coming week, I’ll share with you a Mason Bee Box that I built for Suzy (and our Mason Bees).

Coda

Along with the above, work is keeping me busy, various video game exploits are occupying my evenings, and spending time with Suz as we bop about the city fill our days. So if I’m neglecting this blog, I’m not neglecting life and we have a lot going on. And to that note, I’ll try to leave a bit more “evidence” of our doings here on this page.

Thanks for dropping in.

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