Joe Abbott's Weblog

Letters home to mom

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

It’s all in the context

Posted by joeabbott on April 27, 2018

When I hear Suzy utter a “Gah!” and we’re on the streets, I look for an exceptional interaction or individual somewhere in the crowds. When she gives that same “Gah!” at home, I reach for a newspaper or magazine to usher whatever bug, beetle, or critter outside that’s somehow made its way inside.

When I heard “Gah!” earlier today, I replied with, “I’ll go get a cart.” You see, we were at a place that was selling plants and I knew my miss had espied a must-have something or other. When I asked about her current find she proclaimed, “It’s on my list,” then added, “The undersides of its leaves are fuzzy.” Reading my expression she finished with, “That’s all,” all the while sympathizing with an individual who might need more to make a plant special than the fact that it has fuzzy undersides to its leaves.

As a side note, somewhat related, we expanded the plant storage we built a few weeks back. That’s all … thanks for dropping in.

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Posted in Garden, Me, Suzy | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

I’m tired … but a good tired

Posted by joeabbott on April 24, 2018

imageWell, these past few days have reminded me of a line in the opening to David Sedaris’ Theft by Finding in which he says something like: In order to write about a life, you have to live it. The book Theft by Finding is the published Sedaris diaries where he gives a nod to the fact that in order to have something to write about, you need to be away from the desk … or, in my case, the keyboard. So what have I been doing with my time? Glad I asked myself … let’s go!

Saturday was the sort of interstitial day you have when you’re between big things; in my case it was work and a week-long vacation. So, Suzy and I went to the movie Black Panther, a Marvel comic book superhero extravaganza in which a good man becomes king and also has a snazzy cat suit that empowers him beyond imagining. Or, beyond imagining for me but the folks at Marvel had things well-in-hand as the titular king does incredible things.

While I enjoyed the movie I did so no more than any other superhero movie. It was great in all the ways a multimillion dollar affair can be great but it had a lot of heart, and that seems to have played well to audiences and critics. It was a fine way to spend an early afternoon.

After that, I came home and started building a small station for storing some climbing gear and allowing it to dry. I now need some 16”x30” plywood and my table saw is behind a bunch of stuff … so, things stopped there until I can clean up that space.

And then Suzy and I frittered away our evening and I turned in early.

On Sunday I hiked to Camp Muir on Mt. Rainier with a friend. We only got to 9000’, so we didn’t make it to Muir itself, but we put in a long day on the snow and enjoyed some spectacular weather. I can’t imagine not sharing more later, so I’ll leave it at that. And that was the day … not much left in terms of time or energy for anything else!

On Monday Suzy and I had a work day. Sort of.

For a couple days our cat, Trimble, had been acting ill, as if something was caught in his throat. He’d make a snotty *snerk* sort of sound, wretch a bit, and occasionally vomit clear liquid. It was clear because he hadn’t eaten anything in a couple days. And that’s dangerous for a cat who is so lean. The vet email over the weekend led to an early morning visit … it was the first time he’d had to be taken to a vet in years, as our vet will make house calls … and, even though he was improving, we our Trimble to the vet.

While he was acting better, he still wasn’t eating, and so our trip entailed: manual inspection, x-rays, blood and urine samples, subcutaneous fluids, syringe feeding, and a lot of TLC. It was a good vet (Island Cats on Mercer Island) but it blew the budget for veterinary services by a mile. We still haven’t heard back but we came home with a new pet. While Trimble had been sleeping a lot, spending time under the bed and looking a bit manky, he suddenly had an interest in going outside, being awake, and was generally sociable. Not sure if he’s “over” something or just had his share of adrenalin, but I awoke with him at my side and was happy for that change.

After getting back from the vet, we had lunch out and then it was chore time. While I mowed and edged, Suzy weeded. While I hauled and spread compost, Suzy weeded. And while I got out the deck furniture, umbrella, and corrected some hose situations, Suzy weeded. I think she gave me the easier tasks to avoid me learning the demoralizing labor that is weeding, and I appreciate it. But you should see the yard, folks … looking great for spring!

After that we had a little dinner: chicken Marsala with mushrooms over rice. Simple and tasty. While I cleaned up and did dishes, Suzy baked for a potluck she’ll have today and then I played some video games. A very fine day.

I’ll post more when life allows me the time to do so … but, we expect temps in the 70°s here this week and I am on vacation. Wishing you the finest of days … like the ones I’ve been enjoying!

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I’ve been away overlong

Posted by joeabbott on April 7, 2018

Well, folks … “life” happened to me.

Busy busy days at work, splitting time on the weekends with Suzy and climbing, and my ever-present interest in video games have eaten all my time. I’m reading a few books (I’ll share reviews shortly) and trying to have a quality of life, but had found myself always on the go.

And when that happens, I kind of “turtle-up” and find solace in stealing time back from obligations.

I will say that one of the great things about a marriage, or any long-term relationship, is your significant other has the time to learn about you, read your moods, and respond. Suzy must have noticed I was feeling a lot of pressure and she took me away last weekend. Yup, a real vacation, just she and me. It was very fine and I’m still smiling in the afterglow.

But, my office is a mess, my garage is a mess, and I can’t even take the next step at a woodworking project I have going , so it’s time to reclaim my life and put some things in order. And it’ll start with a few posts in an effort to clean this area up  …

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Sorry to have been away!

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Valentine’s Day

Posted by joeabbott on February 18, 2018

WP_20180218_09_43_51_ProValentine’s Day with Joe and Suz was a special time … also known of as “Cold and Flu Season”. As a result, we shared a very nice meal prepared by Suzy, exchanged homemade cards, and then sat together holding hands on the couch. A syrupy, maudlin moment only tainted by our mutual blowing of noses, deep-chested coughs, and a bit of mild sneezing. If it gets worse, public authorities will erect barricades outside our home to keep a contagion from spreading.

But, we’re on the mend.

One of the things that made the day even more special was a card and note my mother sent us. She acknowledges Valentine’s Day is for sweethearts, but sent her note just the same and I can’t tell you how much we love that woman. She makes our lives better in so many ways.

First there was the simple card: velvety to the touch and festoon with rhinestones; it acknowledged us both and was simply signed. Big smiles all around at the thoughtfulness. But inside there was more!

With prior letters she’s included little square cards that you open for a motivational or thoughtful message. The front encourages you to embrace the day with mine saying:

Each day comes bearing its own gifts. Untie the ribbons. – Ruth Ann Schabacker

WP_20180218_09_44_50_Proand Suzy’s saying

Plunge boldly into the thick of life, and seize it where you will …  — Johann Wolfgang von Goerthe

For two people who could easily get lost in self-pity, these messages could only help rally the spirits and ask us to keep an eye on the horizon. Good stuff.

And finally she included a couple of crisp two dollar bills, each bearing a Post-It proclaiming: This is for you! (from the Book Fairy!!)

Included was a small note saying this:

Just thought I’d send you one of Uncle Joe’s $2’s. Among his things, Dana and I came across a pack of over 60 two dollar bills. I didn’t have the heart to spend them, and finally decided on how to move them along … So every now and then, when I go to the library, I take along one of them with a little post it on it, like this one … And I roam around in the children’s book section and where there’s an empty spot, between rows of books, I’ll leave it there on the shelf, kind of low down … so a little girl or boy will come across it  Smile I’ve been doing this for a couple years now, and have about 10 or so left. I’m sure there librarians who come across them, are wondering who this “Book Fairly” is. We’ve recently built a new Shoreview library, near the old one which is now offices, so I’ve moved my business over there… it’s a fun diversion for me – I’m sure UJ is chuckling. And I’d love to be a fly on the wall so I could see the little one’s reactions. And their mother’s reactions! Such are the games that we Ancient Ones love to play!

WP_20180218_09_45_27_ProWell, she can consider the Book Fairy to have conscripted a couple of helpers out in Seattle!

One little Valentine and so much heart I can’t stop the smiling for how special and welcome that card was. As for Suzy and me? Well, it’s four days since V-Day and we still have cold symptoms but are planning to take a walk through a park somewhere … either today or tomorrow. We’re “untying the ribbons” but they’re coming off slowly.

Thanks for dropping by … I hope you didn’t catch anything!

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Are you a player or a critic?

Posted by joeabbott on February 11, 2018

A while ago my company changed CEOs and it wasn’t long before the “new guy” started showing his differences. While the prior CEO was a rah-rah sort of cheerleader, full of bravado and inspiring the teams with a booming voice and a spirit full of war cry, the new fella was much more understated and cerebral: a thinking man’s boss. One of the habits he’s formed is to have a monthly talk with the employees.

imageHe’ll arrange a time (we’re too big of a company to all meet in one place) and folks will dial in … a few people can find seats in whatever building he’s speaking from (he moves it around to be fair and give everyone a chance to attend in person). At the session he’ll talk about whatever’s on his mind or relevant to the business, share his thoughts, and take questions. During the last “all hands” meeting he asked if people were critics or players?

The distinction, he went on to explain, was more apt for team sport descriptions but one that touched him deeply. I will be doing his telling an injustice by missing details or just plain being wrong, but I recall him saying that one of his friends called to his attention the behavior of players on a team who were on the sideline: they watched the play on the field intently, both their team and the opposition. They read the play, they note how an athlete (in any position) approached a situation … they learned from what was going on in an attempt to improve their play!

ImageCompare that with pundits, experts, or critics … folks who are already confident in their competence and have no vested reason to improve. Those people sit back, watch only the most active play, and opine on what went wrong and why. There’s superficial, if any, learning and they serve themselves and their audience by treating them to an explanation based on a preconceived summary.

He asked if we were players or critics.

This likely touched me deeply as I’ve found myself taking the role of the critic lately. Complaining to my wife about how things are messed up at work, bitching to coworkers about a situation we have, and generally kvetching about any minor irritant or problem at work … without contributing anything toward remedying the situation. In short, I’ve been a pretty crappy employee. Sure I work hard, put in hours, come up with creative solutions based on my experience, but I’m not pushing myself to learn, I’m not solving any problems unless they’re assigned to me to solve … I’ve stopped growing.

Now, I’m being super-harsh on myself, but I know I have a good job and have always convinced myself my employer gets the better deal. But I can do more than I find myself doing now. I can reinvigorate my passion for learning and being that guy who hears people carping and says, “let’s fix it!” Yeah, I’ve slowly drifted into the critic persona but it’s time I get back in the game.

While it has all sorts of wrong connotations, I’ll say it anyhow: I am a player. How about you? Think how awesome it’d be if everyone just did a great job: made your customers feel special if you wait tables at a restaurant; made a suggestion to someone based on their purchases in a shop if you’re a bookseller; or found creative solutions that allowed a team to feel great about what they’re delivering if you lead teams. The ways you can be a player and contribute to a culture of growing and success are too many to mention here … and I’d miss many if I tried.

Stop listening to me. Go out and find ways to be awesome that feed you and improve the world for others, too. And, if you want to know more about my CEO (he’s recently written a book), this will tell you a bit more about him and his ideals.

As always, thanks for dropping by.

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Yeah, blog that

Posted by joeabbott on February 3, 2018

DSCF1675I have a small pile of items sitting beside my computer in what I’ll consider the “blog that later” pile. The unfortunate reality is that most of it won’t be mentioned here … or anywhere else … again. I get distracted, I look at it later and wonder “now what was I going to say here?”, or it just fails a relevancy test that’s, admittedly, pretty loose. And then there’s the fact that I mostly just blog Saturday and Sunday mornings, and those are becoming fewer and fewer for sitting in front of the computer.

You see, my arm is on the mend!

So with feeling better and all, I’m starting to be a bit more ambitious with my time and that means getting out with Suzy or getting back into climbing. On the one hand, our house plans are starting to settle in and we have stuff to do there; on the other, I got a bit depressed and overate during the holidays and need to work off a bunch of misery-fat. And yet, I don’t like ignoring this channel, so I plan on doing a bit more blogging and maybe using some weekday time to catch up.

For today, I want to talk about a topic Suzy covered in her blog … the death of one of our chickens. Suzy did a better job than I could of talking about the hen; I’ll try not to repeat too much. In short, one of our longest-owned hens died.

P1000421We got her a while back, her hatch-mates being two other hens we have that made up (until recently) our “top three” hens … all others have come from more recent hatchings. I guess she was over five years old. As one of our most curious birds, she ranged far and wide in our hard, well beyond Chickenville boundaries.

That was in her earlier years; of late … meaning the past several years … she was just a member of the flock: secure in her #2 pecking position and never more than a wingspan from either #1 or #3. As I read Suzy’s post on her, I silently kick myself for not remembering more about her without a prod; she’d just become “one of the chickens”. Like a friend you have who reminds you of a great summer you shared and yet it wasn’t at the forefront of your mind when you talked to them.

For me, she was one of the hens who mostly stayed out of arms reach when we sat on the bench and tossed them simple scratch and peck treats. I’d give her a grab when I could (I’d give all of them a grab when I can), pop her on my lap, and if she’d stay, I’d let her eat from my hand. Not the Black Star: she’d always jump down immediately. But, she wouldn’t run; rather, she’d turn and look to see if I still had those treats in my hand and, if possible, would I put them down for her.

She appeared to pass away without injury or trauma; we found her lying in the duff in the coop shelter. I felt badly we didn’t find her earlier (we were away for the day) because it meant the other hens had to step either over or pass her on the way out of the coop. And yet, chickens can be jerks and the flock seems unaffected. While it makes sense … none of the younger batch is likely to ascend to #2 position over long-timer #3 and this doesn’t change the relative positioning of numbers 1 and 3 (now 2) … it’s hard to lose a hen and feel bad for it, when the rest of the flock seems unaware. Such is the life in a prey\flock animal’s existence.

I’ll end here, without a real end. Hope you and your pets (or those in your care) are well and remain so. Thanks for dropping by.

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Getting over the New Year hump

Posted by joeabbott on January 14, 2018

When it was time to get back from the holidays, back from the near-free feeding I’d been doing, and back from sitting around moaning about my elbow, I had high hopes. And then, about a work-week into the New Year, I picked up a bug.

On Tuesday the onset was so aggressive I actually got a ride home from work rather than wait on the evening bus. That night I became so congested I awoke making horrible noises and with more than a touch of anxiety as I was having trouble breathing at all. Back to sitting around. That day nothing changed except the cold went from a sore throat and some sneezing to a massive sinus headache with the attendant body aches.

So Wednesday was shot, no chance of focusing long enough to work from home, and that night I opted to sleep sitting up in a chair, rather than wake up again panicking over not being able to breathe. Thursday morning came and I felt world’s better for having slept upright and I had hopes of being useful to my employer … but, any  amount of activity would set me to feverish panting and breaking out into a sweat. Seems I wasn’t over it yet. So, I spent another day in limbo as I tried to eat some solid food and work on truly resting.

clip_image001That night I started sleeping on the chair again but felt good enough to try the couch. Right up until my cat decided he wanted to pull each and every tissue from the box sitting on the floor and so I moved up to the guest room. I slept, slept well, and really gotta say if you in need of a guestroom, ours is pretty darned comfy.

Friday arrived and I was able to work from home, but found myself mortified when I realized I’d left my microphone on during a meeting I was attending remotely … as it surely picked up my hacking and coughing. It was good to feel like I was productive but as soon as my last meeting was over, I once again headed to take a midday nap. It’s also a testament to my recuperation that I actually dressed in something other than gym shorts, sweatpants, and my bathrobe. Recovery was in sight!

Saturday was the first day I awoke proclaiming to feel fine, and yet I’d often find myself coughing with that deep, upper chest hack that indicates some bronchial thing or another is still manifest. But, I was able to do a few cleanup chores, spent a half hour in the shop\garage, and even went outside to the chicken coop. I wasn’t 100% but enjoyed dinner and didn’t feel I needed a long midday nap. I even put together a fun jigsaw puzzle I’d been sent for Christmas! And, yes … back to the bathrobe for me!

And here it is, Sunday. I still have the residual chesty-cough, but not as often. No headaches but I’m keeping tissues handy and they’re needed. But, I do wonder what the day will hold … likely just a few more chores about the house but it’s nice to feel alert and able-bodied.

Hope your New Year has gotten off to a better start than mine, but I look forward to catching up to you shortly!

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Planning a new home

Posted by joeabbott on December 29, 2017

Well, when Suzy and I had a chance to build a new home from the ground up, we started with just a few ideas: we need separate work areas (“home offices”), we need a big outdoor living area (deck, patio, porch, etc.), and we were looking for a rambler. The house size should be no bigger than what we have now (just don’t need it), we wanted a “great room” concept entertaining area, and would like a guest room with their own private bath.

Reasonably simple with enough luxury to feel like we were building a modest dream home. And then came some of the other necessities.

I had planned for a stand-alone wood shop of about 20’x30’, Suzy wanted a big kitchen with a nice pantry, we needed a largish mud\laundry room, and we wanted a fireplace indoors and one outdoors on our patio. As for our master bedroom, bath and closet … that could all be identical to our current home, and we’d even be willing to have a smaller bedroom. No his and hers suites, no vaulted ceilings … just simple. We also wanted some storage and agreed to a second level over the garage provided it was accessible via a stairway (no ladders); my recent fall cemented that idea.

After settling on a builder, we started the design discussions with a professional and things changed, but just a bit. My stand-alone shop became attached to the house in part because it solved a number of issues (heating, access to a bathroom, having a small office nearby, etc.) and because Suzy mentioned that she lives with the sound of power tools now and it’s never that bad. While we agreed to make our master suite smaller, the designer pushed back against that saying most people wouldn’t make that call and it could make resale an issue. Fine.

The biggest change, however, was that the overall size of the house increased over our current home … and what we had designed. That wasn’t our first choice but the builder agreed that a rectangular design plan would ultimately cost less than a design that flowed, largely because the rectangular plan would simplify the roof and trusses. By squaring up the house, the rooms grew and shifted a bit, causing an overall increase in size. Again, not exactly what we were after but (for now) we’re going with it.

Here’s the plan on paper:

image

And because I like to have things built in 3D, I started to build this in SketchUp. I’ll leave the details of which room is which to the reader to make out, but it highlighted a few things for me. First, for an “open plan”, the 3D model really gives the impression it’s a warren of rooms. Next, even though the rooms appear small, once you start to drop in other items (like commodes and sinks), it’s apparent that it’s a bigger place than where we live now.

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But, I should note that we’re only just starting with the design discussions and things could change drastically as we go back and forth on the plan. For instance, we only have a ballpark number of what this might cost and we ultimately may choose a different design based on how things fall out as we tune that number. But, for now, it’s fun to dream and play with a little model and see where that takes us.

My brother gave me a book on shop design that will help me lay out my tools for the woodshop portion of the house. That will be a lot of fun to consider! In the kitchen area, we haven’t even started to plan on where things might go and are only roughly penciling-in various placements. That’s Suzy’s domain and she’ll get final say.

And that’s it. It’s probably far too early to share details like this, knowing it could all change, but we have a rough design and we’re going from there … welcome aboard as we consider one of our preliminary steps on the path to our new home. And, as always, thanks for dropping by.

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Yay

Posted by joeabbott on December 27, 2017

Props to Ray from Puget Sound Energy … totally bringing (literal) warmth to our holidays!

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We had a little snow …

Posted by joeabbott on December 27, 2017

DSCF1657Seattle doesn’t do well in snow, or at least its citizens don’t. I grew up in MN and have seen my share of snow, but learned respect for Seattle Snow in my first days here back in 1989: they had a couple inches of the white stuff and the streets were fairly empty around the Boeing plant where I was reporting for work. As I confidently drove to the gate, not letting a little snow slow this Minnesota boy down, I gaped as my furious pumping of the brake did nothing to slow my vehicle down, and I slid well into the intersection from the turn lane I was in. No injuries and I don’t even recall any other observers, but it changed my thinking quickly. The underlying black ice, the curious snowpack containing wet and dry snow and the many hills all spelled potential disaster for the overconfident.

But, it’s lovely.

Here’s a snap of our backyard, a day or two after the snow came in. The chickens hate it, the cats are extremely cautious, and we just think it makes the yard a wonderland. Add some of the Christmas lights we have going dawn to dusk and it’s a nice vista to look out on anytime of the day.

But, I’m able to report my spirits are on the rise. The furnace technician was able to get by around 2PM yesterday, diagnosed our problem as a motor issue to be remedied by the replacement of a couple hundred dollar part (to be installed today), and Suzy and I were able to have a late lunch\early dinner from Pizza Addict … a place so under-appreciated that I’m stunned. It’s tasty good.

So, sometime this morning the technician should be back with the part of our furnace and we should be able to enjoy central heating once again. It’s been bearable as we seldom have the heat on over 68°; at night our house gets a chilly 60°-ish, but we’re always cozy and in bed. During the day we don’t often turn up the heat as we have plenty of down throws about (courtesy of Suzy’s time with Pacific Coast Feather) and neither of us mind putting on an extra layer. But, with my broken elbow, I find long sleeve shirts a touch less comfortable and for some odd reason I’m cold a lot. So, in our current situation I have a second shirt on, a second pair of socks, a hat, and sitting under my own down throw. Last night the house got to about 57° … chilly. With our gas fireplace going all the time, we can get our backroom to about 66°, but that doesn’t take the chill off the second level, the front room, or even the kitchen. It’s pretty inefficient for anything but heating the area by the fireplace.

I look forward to the repair being completed.

I’m also working on a three dimensional model of our new home and I’ve hit a gaming goal of 150,000 GS! I’ll post more on both of these later. For those with some post-season blues, I hope your days are improving and if all is well … well, hope it keeps going! For me things are looking up and I hope to ride this through the remainder of 2017! Thanks for dropping by.

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