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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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Archive for the ‘Trivia’ Category

Another Word-a-Day

Posted by joeabbott on March 19, 2017

A while back I wrote a piece on the A.Word.A.Day daily email that I get from the Wordsmith folks … I believe it started as the brainchild of Anu Garg and has since expanded to require a half-dozen folks to operate smoothly. The daily post is sometimes ignored but, more often than not, I always enjoy the pithy notes on a single word used in the English language. At times the weekly offerings will be based on a theme of sorts, and recently the mailing include a number of words with a nautical origin. I was so surprised at some of them I wanted to share that week’s words here.



noun: Near future (used in the phrase “in the offing”).


In nautical use, offing is the part of sea visible from the shore, but beyond anchoring ground. From off (away), from of. Earliest documented use: 1600.

This one surprised me; I’d heard (and maybe even used) this one before but the sense I had was less about “near future” than it was about in some nearby but intangible place. The meaning I “knew” is close, but it had more of a location connotation for me than a temporal one. When I look at the etymology, I feel better about my past usage.



verb tr.: To assemble or fix temporarily using whatever is at hand.


On a sailing ship, a jury-mast is a temporary mast, rigged when the original is damaged or lost. From jury (makeshift or temporary), perhaps from Old French ajurie (help). Earliest documented use: 1840.

While I’d used “jury-rig” any number of times in the past, I had no idea this phrase had a nautical origin. Indeed, I likely suspected that it had more to do with loading a courtroom’s jury with a set of people who had a predisposition either for or against someone on trial, thereby “rigging” the outcome. And now I’m just a bit smarter.

slush fund


noun: A fund established for illegal activities, especially in business and politics.


Originally, a slush fund was money collected to buy small luxuries for a ship’s crew. The fund was raised from the sale of slush (refuse fat) from the ship’s galley. Earliest documented use: 1839.

This was the point I said, “I gotta blog about these words!” I had no clue that “slush fund”, a phrase I often associate with Wall Street and never occurring to me as having salt in its origins, drew from the same stock as some of the other words here. Again, hard to help but feel just a bit more informed.



noun: A miserly person.
adjective: Miserly.


Originally, a pinchgut was someone who didn’t give enough food to a ship’s crew. Earliest documented use: 1615.

This word resonates with a 1600s sort of thing you might expect a salty dog to say, but I’m surprised it had a ship-borne origin and wasn’t something more commonly said in those times. Not sure I’ll have a use for this one in my daily vocabulary, but it’ll be there should I need to call on it.



verb tr.: To cast off something regarded as unwanted or burdensome.
noun: The act of discarding something.


Originally, jettison was the act of throwing goods overboard to lighten a ship in distress. From Latin jactare (to throw), frequentative of jacere (to throw). Ultimately from the Indo-European root ye- (to throw), which also gave us jet, eject, project, reject, object, subject, adjective, joist, jactitation, subjacent, and jaculate. Earliest documented use: 1426.

This is a word I knew, coming into my vocabulary around the time I learned of “jetsam” and “flotsam”. Nice to get a word I knew and actually used correctly in the weekly offerings!


And that’s it. I wrote about A.Word.A.Day previously but, on looking back in my archives, I see that it was in 2011, so perhaps a quick refresher or reminder is in order. I still get the daily post and still enjoy them … and you can, too. Just sign up here (Subscribe) or check out the website here (

And, as always … enjoy.

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Who wants more Mr. P.?

Posted by joeabbott on March 12, 2017

The other day I caught a video of me walking our neighborhood pheasant to the backyard for a little seed treat.


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That’s an odd bird

Posted by joeabbott on March 9, 2017

clip_image001WP_20170305_14_31_47_ProOn Sunday before heading out for errands, I called an odd-looking bird walking about our driveway to Suzy’s attention. “That’s a pheasant!”, she said. And she’s right!

We tried getting close to it before our errands to see if it was “tame”, but it ignored us until we were within about 10’ and then kept its distance. Whenever she neared with intent, it took off running. When we got home from errands, it was in our front yard. So, we herded it to the back.

We’re not sure what will be next. We’ll watch for signs if someone posts about a lost pet; we’ll watch our local site for anyone asking about a bird but, until someone asks or claims it, we’ll let it wander about our backyard.

The chickens have shown only moderate interest and the pheasant is just pecking about at this and that. We very much expect it to just be gone sometime tomorrow … having flown to wherever a bird like this might fly. Again, it can be our guest until it decides to go or causes a problem but we’re enjoying the novelty of this beautiful bird just strutting about. Apologies for the poor photo quality … I shot these from my phone behind a window on the second floor of our home.


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At the risk of oversharing …

Posted by joeabbott on November 12, 2016

I’ve always been interested in my credit rating: the evaluation of my risk profile based on held accounts, payment histories, etc. I don’t really need the information, nor do I plan on leveraging it, so it’s always been a question of interest over anything of substance. But, when I’ve looked in on offers to show me my credit rating score, I’m always stopped by having to register a credit card; ostensibly to verify my identity.

But, I’ve never been happy giving out credit card information if I’m not buying something; just seems unnecessary. And, a good thing I’ve walked away from those offers, as a quick web-search tells me that, as often as not, those cards are being used to charge people after small print “trial periods” have expired. Typically within the month.

But, I stumbled upon Credit Karma while perusing my favorite time-wasting site (Reddit). Credit Karma is a “free” service that never asks for money; the “free” being in quotes because you do have to create an account with the company to get your score. While that was almost a deal breaker for me, the more I read about Credit Karma from the company itself and from other people posting online, the more I felt comfortable that this was an ethical company with nothing to hide. And. to that point, they very clearly state (and I’m summarizing here) that “we have to make money somehow and getting your contact information when you create an account that we share with select partners provides that income”. So, essentially, they’re doing what Amazon or anyone else does with your personal information: they leverage it among other companies who want to buy that info. And, hopefully, with discretion.

Anyhow, as I looked more into credit rating information, I found a lot of information. The below is from the Credit Karma founder as posted on Reddit:

    • There is no such thing as an actual credit score. There are dozens per individual. As one person pointed out, even FICO has dozens of variants source. Now consider Vantage. Many banks use multiple scores. None of them disclose because it would be like Coke telling you a secret ingredient.
    • Comparing different scores and different bureaus is comparing apples and oranges. Most times, the scores will be pulled on different dates which is another reason for change. When my balances are high (mid payment cycle), my score is lower since I am using more of my credit. Scores are real time and point in time. They constantly change. A variance of 10-40 points is normal.
    • Fun fact. A difference of 50 points at 600 is very different than a difference of 50 points at 800. I point this out because people banks care about your probablity of default. Not some 3 digit number. FICO Odds Ratio Page 11 shows that a score of 600 has a default rate of 27%, 650 has a default rate of 10%. Whereas a score of 700 has a default rate of 3.6% and 750 has a default rate of 1%.

So, a lot more complex than I thought it would be. But, I’m happy to say that, other than my mortgage, I paid off my last loan in 1993 (“debt free in ‘93!”) and don’t really need to worry about this all that much. But, as anyone else who has spent too much time in a classroom or being rated in some way or another, I was happy to see my credit scores being in the “excellent” category:


I have other questions that are mildly curious to me … can I intentionally move the score by non-loan activity? what’s the average fluctuation? why is it on an 850 point scale? … but I’m not so inclined to go out and research them. I’m just happy to know that, if I need a loan, I can likely get it.

Thanks for dropping by and I hope your credit scores are excellent, too!

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It’s a good thing I like the sound of rain

Posted by joeabbott on November 12, 2016

I’m not sure this image will come through, but it’s the monthly weather summary from October here in Seattle. The source is the Seattle Times and I’m sure it’s copyrighted but for a non-revenue generating, one-time use, I’m sure it’s fine to share.

Let’s take a look:


In terms of temps our highs and lows were a touch above “average”. And, in weather terms, the highs and lows are never average … the average being some mythical point between otherwise higher and lower temps. And so, the fact that we’re close to “average” suggested that the month was neither particularly hot nor particularly cool. Although we’re being told to brace for a wilder, colder winter here in the Pacific Northwest. We shall see.

But, the detail I wanted to draw your attention to is the rainfall. Yup, it was a “precipationy” month with four days posting accumulations of over an inch of rain and all within a 2-week period. We had a couple stretches of a few days without rain but getting damp or dragging an umbrella around was otherwise the norm. And speaking of norms … in the average October we get just about 3.5” of total rainfall but this year we had almost thrice that amount!

As I said … it’s a good thing I like the sound of rain, and especially good we’ve taken care of all our (known) water issues!

Thanks for dropping in and I hope you’re all staying dry!

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Light pollution

Posted by joeabbott on September 20, 2015

This is a quick one … mostly so I can save this link!

I like to get out and hike in the summer … and, am pretty comfortable heading out when there’s only snow to be found, too. But, I always like to find place that give me a good look at the nighttime sky. For planning my outings, here’s a good light pollution map from an astronomy site:

It appears to be based on a 2006 assessment (based on the URL) but, in general terms, it’ll hold true for a good many years.

Seeing the Milky Way from the quiet of a remote ridge on an inky black night is magical. Something everyone should experience!

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Good-bye summer

Posted by joeabbott on October 10, 2014

A clear sign that summer if over here in Seattle …


Forecast from Seattle Time, Thursday, 10/9/2014

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Day 6 of 11: North to the Iron Range

Posted by joeabbott on July 4, 2014

imageMy uncle was born in Virginia, MN and ended up teaching in Grand Rapids, MN for 35 years: he was a fixture in the community and was generous with his consideration and donations. His passing was felt by all who knew him, but I have covered this before. We headed up today to be in town tomorrow for his burial … he had passed away in April but the ground was still frozen and they weren’t able to bury him at that time.

The Plan

We’d endured many days of sadness and were of a mind to celebrate UJ’s life. Family members and close family friends were to gather for the burial on Monday; Suzy and I were going up a day early to visit some of those places we’d share with him or were part of his life. Others would follow and we’d meet up when time and chance allowed.

The sights

My comments below (in my words) cover the details of our travels nicely. In the way of explanation, Uncle Joe taught chemistry at Grand Rapids High School for many years; he also assisted in coaching for football and (I think) hockey. He may have also done some photography, but I think I’m getting my grandfather and UJ mixed up on that account. We wanted to see the school he taught at as well as where he’d lived.

As for the Festival of the Loon … it was just a community gathering we thought we’d enjoy while in Virginia, very likely for the last time.

While touring the Iron Range with my uncle years before, we’d tried to get into the Greyhound Bus Museum but it was closed; hence our return visit. Same for the Rust-Hull Mine.



Summer 2014 111 StitchSummer 2014 120P1060397

In my words

It’s always harder to recollect the day at the end, as opposed to “during”, but this is the situation I find myself in now.

… we packed efficiently and left by around 7AM, making our way up Hwy 169 to Grand Rapids.

On route we stopped in Mille Lacs Lake to photograph the BIG FISH, then pulled off to a restaurant in Aitkins for breakfast. It was good to stop for a nice meal and enjoy a break from driving.

… we stopped at a Target to get straps to secure the chest and some ointments to soothe the many bites Suzy suffered at the mosquitoes from the prior evening.

From there we went to Grand Rapids High School, snapped some pics, went to find UJ’s house … and continued to Virginia.

Once in Virginia, we attended the Land of the Loon Festival , enjoyed some snacks, walked the booths, and then returned to Hibbing to see the Greyhound Bus Museum and Rust-Hull Open Pit Mine. …

So we returned to Virginia and our hotel but no quiet – for the next 5 hours, it was family and more family.

We ate, talked, and generally socialized the night away. Around 10:30 PM, Suzy and I called it a day and headed to bed.

It was a very long day.

Looking forward to sleep.

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Blog This – British Library Virtual Books

Posted by joeabbott on March 2, 2014

Welcome to another Blog This entry. It’s been a long time since I’d done one of these … so long that I wrote a small piece about what these are so I could link to it in future posts.

imageToday’s item comes from January 2007, when a bit of mail was sent around Microsoft and found its way to a “cool stuff related to MSFT” email social group I had joined. This item was sent across as Bill Gates had worked with the British Library to bring about the digitization of some of their collections, in addition to a Leonardo Da Vinci codex he owned. While many of the links in that mail no longer work, I was able to visit the British Library site and find these resources nonetheless … and, just like back in 2007, I thought That’s cool … gotta remember this!

Head to the British Library web site … a nearly impossibly simple URL: As I noted, links change but I was able to find the resource I was looking for under the “Discover” section from the Turning the pages of our beautiful books link.

From the selections offered, I chose to view some of the Leonardo da Vinci items … the site will ask you how your browser is configured, making this slightly less user friendly for those who aren’t glib in the matters of browser configuration. Honestly, I chose the first option, it didn’t work, and so I went back and chose the second option and, delightfully, it did! In my case I had SilverLight installed.

imageimageAt this point you get to dive into some of the rare wonders of publishing history … pages from (in this case) Leonardo’s notebooks!

Some pages yield drawings that are familiar to any who have looked at Leonardo’s works previously, some are basic studies into entry level physics, and all rush you across time to a world that was quite different than the one we live in. Conveniences like notebooks, ink pens, and publishing all existed then, but in vastly different forms.

It’s a wonder that we can visit these beauties and a real credit to the British Library for investing in making some of these manuscripts and books accessible this way.

Do yourself a favor and head out to the British Library site and doodle around a bit in some of these great books. They have a lot of other resources (as you might glean from the menu image above) and it’s easy to spend some quality time here.

Enjoy and thanks for dropping by.

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About Blog This

Posted by joeabbott on March 2, 2014

What’s a “blog this” entry? Well, it’s a small post of what I think is a reasonably interesting item of news I fell upon while digging around the Internet.

I run a regular meeting at work and I’d start each meeting with a little cartoon of funny image that I found on some general entertainment site. I found these kept people a bit quieter as we waited for a quorum and gave folks something to chat socially about… it was a nice item. As I ran through the Web looking for clever entries, I would save more interesting tidbits to read later… less along the lines of funny images, more along the lines of useful or diverting information. And I’d save them by sending them to my home email address under the subject “blog this”.

So was born Blog This™.

And while sharing with all of you is nice, I actually started the process so I’d have a place to go to remember some of the cool stuff I’d found! By having a blog post on a searchable site, things I remembered seeing without perfect recollection were a simple few clicks away.

To find any past Blog This entry, just search my posts for those words and look at items containing that title. I’ve used the keyword “trivia” on each of them to help a bit further.

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