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Dec. 1
Cagni sale 2006
The big sale is finally happening.  Tonight was the Gala opening, with a fair number of well dressed people, including fur coats.  I probably reacted against that by playing more folksy styled music and more banjo.  But with the wine and all, it was so social that mostly my playing couldn't be heard.  One of my musician friends who's coming tomorrow  called me on the cell phone while I was performing and no one noticed...  But I enjoyed playing anyway, 2 and one half hours total.  I switched off between instruments to keep my fingers from getting too sore.  The tin whistle was probably the best at being heard in the crowd, as it was an octave above most of the voices.
I know I also saw a number of my pots headed for the checkout, but the nice thing about this sale is I don't have to make the sales, just the music...

Dec. 2
The big sale is over.  Instead of selling pots, I mostly did music--5 hours of performance over the two days total for me.   According to my notes from the blog last December, I took about twice as much pottery, and returned with half as much, so I'm guessing that sales were better than last year.  I'll try to forget the hours I spent putting special price stickers on all the pots...
In my literary blog, I've been spinning a yarn about attending a folk festival, and today I added a link to a video which I created as part of the story.  The story starts at this link...

Dec. 3
I've always thought that realty developers should be forced to use truthful descriptive names for their developments, such as "Stinking Flat Desert Condos" or "Formerly Prime Agricultural Area Subdivision" or "Ye Olde Landfille and Soon to be Swampe Mobile Home Parke."  Some of them have done so, of course.  There's one in Spokane called Quail Run, which is probably the advice the developers were giving the quail for when the bulldozers arrived.  
I thought of this because I walked down to the lake for the first time in a week or so.  It's nearly all frozen up now, and the ducks and geese have moved on. On the way down you can nearly always encounter a large bevy of quail.  And they, upon realizing you're near, run or fly away.  In spite of this I usually take a few photos of them, and they're generally bad, due to lighting, movement etc.  That's okay, quail are entitled to their privacy...  Until that land gets developed...
I added some pages of pictures from the big sale at http://www.cagni.org/2006/2006MS.html

Dec. 4
Although when it comes down to it, skiing is a waste of time, when you don't get injured or frozen it's a fun way to waste time. So I skied half the day, then alternated reading, eating, and snoozing in the car waiting for my son to come back to the car.  He hiked up and down the hill all day, working on the one jump that's been built in the terrain park.  Although hiking is tiring, it keeps you warmer than just riding the lift and skiing groomed runs.  And, of course, he gets more jumps in that way.


Dec.6

It hasn't been above freezing for a couple weeks.  Part of my pottery display is encased in icicles.  I'll move them if they survive the thaw, which might be a couple weeks yet...  The icicle problem would probably be solved by heat taping the gutter which just filled with ice and started dripping...
Meanwhile I work in a studio that's around 55 degrees (heated by electric baseboard).  I wear a warm vest to keep my core warm.  Sometimes I use a 150 watt yellow heat lamp shining on my hands as I work on the wheel, but I haven't needed that yet.  I do pour hot water from off our wood stove into the throwing water bucket to warm that up.  Even as cool as the room is, the pots I threw this morning were dry enough that I covered the mugs with plastic so they wouldn't turn white overnight...
A couple years ago we got a modern airtight wood stove, which has the advantage of holding a fire for 10 hours or so.  It replaced a hundred year old Monarch cook stove, which had it beat for efficiency (when the fire was directed down and through the cookstove, most of the heat was gone so you could put your hand on the chimney coming out the back), but it had a small firebox which had to be fed hourly or it would die.  That stove was, except for the small firebox, the epitome of design--included a water reservoir on one side, and heat exchanger for plumbing on the other.  Unfortunately we never plumbed it, so eventually the cast iron heat exchanger cracked from the heat, which wouldn't have happened if it were full of water.  We couldn't part with such a great stove, so we moved it to the basement of the new house, where it can heat the wood shop if desired...

    
Dec. 6
It got sunny and warm enough to remove some of the pitchers in yesterday's picture,  so they're rescued anyway.   I'm getting a few holiday related orders, along with some reports of breakage in shipping.  I just expect it to happen, in spite of my best efforts, and then I'm not disappointed when breakage occurs.  They're pots, they break, if they didn't I wouldn't have a career, since all the pots previously made would take care of the world's pottery needs.

   
Dec. 7
Work continued on the great potsicle display today.  I used a shower curtain to redirect the drips behind the display.  I also shopped for heat tape, but the local hardware was out.  The postmaster was complaining of ice dam troubles also today.
A few days ago I got an old time banjo CD in the mail.  This wouldn't be too interesting, except that I hadn't ordered it.  So I listened to it a couple times, and decided to write a review of it for an old-time music group I belong to.  One of the people there wrote back how Curt Bouterse had done some of the music for a movie on the James gang.  It took me a while, but finally I made the connection--Northfield, Minnesota. This was where the James Boys had their last bank hold up, and where my sister and mother are active in the Historical Society, which runs a shrine to the Defeat of Jesse James.  So what I think is one of them (my relatives, not the James Gang) sent me the CD for Christmas.  Since they are regular readers of the blog, I expect to hear back from them sometime on this subject.  The unidentified nature of the gift made it more fun than just opening it with all the other presents on Christmas (what other presents?--my pessimistic family replied when I said this...)

    
Dec. 8
I've worked hard to not make this a political blog, but a personal one, but today I've read some news that's pushed me over the edge.
It seems Chelsea Clinton is engaged to the son of an Iowa former representative, which in itself isn't newsworthy, but the father disgraced himself by suckering head over heals for Nigerian Email scams.  This still wouldn't be blogworthy, except for the personal connection.  I don't know Ed Mezvinsky, but the last name caught my attention, so I googled Ames and Mezvinsky, and indeed found he was born in Ames, Iowa, where I graduated from high school.
    Mezvinsky was a name my mother occasionally mentioned to me, in the guise of Abe Mezvinsky, who ran the Fruit and Vegetable section of Ames Fruit and Grocery, a grocery store of the old style.  My mother would tell how when she got fruit there, Abe would be on hand to put it in a bag and weigh it.  This, again, isn't blog worthy, except that he would say, in a Russian accent, "You nice lady, I make these bananas 10 cents cheaper."  He may well have done that for all the ladies, but it worked well enough that my mother shopped there for years, choosing it over the new Safeway store.
    I couldn't find out if Ed was in the grocery business, but if he was from that family, I sympathize with his credulous nature.  The fact is that I've been emulating Abe Mezvinsky for years, when I sell pottery.  I don't like it when people try to haggle me down on prices (since my prices are already so low, although I usually give in anyway), but I can't resist giving my own reductions, when people buy a fair quantity, or I enjoy giving a minipot to their child, even though I keep telling myself the prices are low enough already.  This attitude came about because I heard about Abe Mezvinsky when I grew up, and it sounded like a better world to live in than Safeway's Shopper's Club...
    I think it may explain why Ed Mezvinsky suckered for someone offering to send him a lot of money from Nigeria.  Though I'm not sure exactly how...

    Meanwhile, I got the new van today, and it's as clean as it ever will be again. We may just park it in front for a while with a sign that says, "See, all our cars aren't trashed out junkers..."  I'd take a picture, but I took my camera in for an estimate for cleaning.  $160 was the estimate.  I'll continue with it dirty, and then buy the new model that's cheaper and twice as good as my current one for less money when things get bad.  It must be hard on those repair people, but I'm not currently in sympathy with them...

    
Dec. 9
So my sister did some more digging, and Ed Mezvinsky is Abe's son.  He wasn't happy in the grocery business, so he went into politics.  I'm sure Abe had his doubts...  Anyway, Abe wasn't just the guy weighing the cabbage, he was the store owner, and went from being a poor immigrant to owning several grocery stores.  The article in the Des Moines Register said that, although Jewish, he was held up as a Christian role model by the local Catholic priest, for his taking in hobos.  
    In other national news, with New York City banning transfats, I've been taking more of a look at my own use of them.  Well, I had, for a year or so anyway, been feeling that "live by hydrogenated oils, die by hydrogenated oils" is not a fitting epitaph.  So if you don't use Crisco to fry (I use Canola oil), and don't buy a lot of manufactured cookies, etc, I think it boils down to margarine as a major source of them in one's diet.  So I've gone to soft tub "spread" and the only drawback with it, besides the plastic tubs, is that it's easy to apply more since it's so easy to dig it out of the tub.
    As a potter, I have 3 butter dish designs, none of which is particularly good for soft margarine.  I once had a customer ask to make a bowl the right shape for a tub of margarine, but I had to point out to her that manufacturers make many shapes of tubs, to differentiate their product, so a pottery tub holder is not on the "wedging board..."
    Meanwhile I got an order today from a guy that wanted a canister that would hold 10 lbs. of flour.  Although making it will be a pain, it hearkens back to the day when potters just wrote numbers on their crocks for the number of gallons they would hold.  And they got filled with pickles to sell at Abe Mezvinsky styled stores...

   
 Dec. 10
    I performed a banjo song for a local community Christmas concert tonight.  The only comment about the concert I'll make is I think Karaoke should stay in bars--there's too much schmaltzy CD backup for these things nowadays.  Speaking of Karaoke, I'm surprised there isn't a second screen facing the crowd to make singalongs easier.  Mitch Miller for bar crowds...
    Everything is slushy here, with snow predicted again on and off through this week.  I walked to the lake--where there are tunnels or bridges through the road which divides the lake from the mill pond, there are unmelted patches in both directions, which is a bit puzzling. There have been days where I've seen the water flowing towards the lake from the mill pond, but most of the time water flows out of the lake into the pond.  When it comes out, it has enough current to keep ice at bay a little longer, but that doesn't usually apply  much on the uplake side, where the water source is more diffuse.   This is a fine point of lake watching, only of interest to those of us who know Spirit Lake well...

    Dec. 11
    It was a ski day again today. The thing about down hill skiing is that it's as close to flying as one can get without leaving the ground. While zipping downhill, you're lighter, and it's like you have a couple of rockets powering your feet...  Add to that the great views, and it's all a fun experience (assuming you don't fall down, which I didn't today).  On the other hand, in order for ski areas to be any good, they have to get lots of snow, and be up where the clouds scrape.  So, about half of the hill was shrouded in fog.  I took several runs on foggy smooth familiar terrain, but the skiing fog is like driving in fog--it's never really safe, and you have to go slow.  So I went to a lower elevation backside of the resort and whizzed all morning, stopping as the snow started...
    Then, having to wait 4 hours for my son to finish,  I read a unique German fantasy author named Walter Moers, who churns out creativity at an astonishing pace, in his two books, The 13 and 1/2 lives of Captain Blue Bear, and Rumo and his Miraculous Adventures.  It's Rumo I'm reading currently, which could probably be rendered into clever children's entertainment with editing, but reads like the original Brothers Grimm without it...

Dec. 12
    Ends.  Last night the fiddler that started associating with Sondahl and Hawkins a couple months ago withdrew, saying he wanted to focus on playing Celtic flute.  So that was a brief collaboration.   I remain optimistic that another good musician or two may join us, although we have fun as a duo.
 
   
Dec. 13
I deleted a bunch of yesterday's post, since the Big Fish still seems to be open.  Never trust a hairdresser as a source of gossip.  However it's quite likely, if the restaurant were to close, it would wait till the end of December, being a profitable month...
    I'm still working on last orders to make before Christmas, Christmas shopping, and stuff like that.  Plus tonight my oldest son arrives home for the holidays from Chicago.
 Some of us are cleaning and moving around old computers, which my other son saves for parts, to make room for number 1 son...
    The weather is coming in wild and woolly from the coast--30-50 mph winds, after rain and snow.   They closed the ski mountain due to the winds, so my son hiked it instead.  Have I mentioned he skis almost daily?

  Dec. 14
    I'm not a good conversationalist.  I usually think of witty rejoinders a couple weeks late.  So at the big show a couple weeks ago, this relatively new potter comes up to me to discuss clay suppliers.  She'd had some trouble with the one I've used for 20 years, and wanted to discuss it with me.  One batch of clay had large particles (rocks) in it. Another one had white splotches that looked like fine material that hadn't gotten mixed thoroughly.  They both caused trouble for her in the firing. So she switched to another supplier.  I'm not sure my response to her made sense, but after a while we were interrupted and the conversation never really concluded.   My first response was that clay suppliers have limited control over the raw materials, since they're dug out of the ground mostly for uses other than pottery clay and so it's hard to blame the clay supplier for those things, although how they respond (replacement of  bad clay) may decide whether you'll stick with them.  Then I went on to explain that the hardest thing in pottery is to control the variables (yes, I think I've pontificated on this before).  If you switch clay suppliers, the clay you use will have different properties, the glaze materials from there may have a different source, so it may be more trouble than it's worth.   (I still get several glaze materials from Minnesota, since I had bad luck with a more local source of the same material once...)
    Anyway I still don't have any witty rejoinders...

Dec. 15
    We had 18 hours without electricity, starting last night as a result of the biggest windstorm since 1993.  Fortunately that just meant going without lights and a few other amenities, since we have wood heat.  The garden shed I built last summer was shifted off its foundation.  Across the street a neighbor's fence was blown down, and a tree crunched a probably derelict van.  We started moving our refrigerator goods outside this morning, and our freezer items this evening, but fortunately the main transmission line that had broken was repaired.
    Then my skier son returned from being the only one on the ski slopes, with reports that 5 of their undetachable chairs had detached from one of their lifts, and other cables had been pulled out of their pulleys.  He hiked all day with continuing 25-35 mph winds.   The highest sustained winds observed in the area were about 50 mph.
    The other effect of the storm for me was to throw off my work schedule by a day, which mostly affects a few pottery orders.  The winds were also high enough to knock off about $50 worth of pots from the outside display--if I'd known which ones they'd be, I'd have moved them.  Most of them were actually damaged by the sheet of plastic I added to deflect water dripping off the roof, as it flapped in the gale.

Dec. 16
    I guess I won't make it as a news photographer, as it only occurred to me this evening I should have taken some photos of the wind storm, or at least the fallen trees, etc.  On the other hand, I looked at some of the photos shown on the internet, and if you've seen one fallen tree, you've seen most of them, except for the things they fall on vary...
    Back growing up in Iowa there was at least one morning I woke up and wandered around the nearby park to see all the trees blown down, and the river overflowing the banks with floodwaters.  Then there was the time later when we were walking with our kids and some nieces and nephews in the same park, and a large wind came up and one of the old dead trees started to tip over, and took out two more in a domino effect.  That was special in that how often does a tree fall in the woods with someone there to watch it (a zen koan, no doubt).  I didn't feel we were in imminent danger, but our nephew (about 10 years old then) took off running back to the grandparents in a bee line...

Dec. 17
    On the way to church today I noticed a tree down in the park.  I'd heard of this tree--it took out a late model SUV across the street from where its top lay.  Then at church they mentioned a tree fell down between the church and the church house next door.  I got interested, since we don't have a Christmas tree yet this year.   The church tree wasn't too interesting, but I later went and got the top off the car killer tree.  We don't usually name our trees, but this one would be called Car Killer, or Car Kong, or Carzilla.  It's a sort of poky blue spruce.  The radio says the spruces tended to be the trees to blow down, as they don't have deep root systems.   Its worth it for the "bragging rights."  It needs a bumper sticker--our Christmas tree can beat your SUV.

Dec. 18
    That tree is too tough for me.  You can't touch it without getting poked.  So it's lurking out the back door and we're back in the market for windfall trees.  Meanwhile the shipping crunch hit today--packing pots and presents to send off everywhere.  It was very stressful, but we made it with minutes to spare at the post office.  
    For the last kiln firing before Christmas I put in a cone 10 minibar instead of a minicone.  The difference in shape means about a half a cone in temperature for the kiln--in this case, just a bit too much for the best crystalline glazes.  One of my kilns prefers the minibar to fire correctly, and the other one the minicones, so it was easy to make the mistake.  Nothing was totally wrecked by it--just less than optimal.
    I did have some space in the day this morning to add 4 videos, available by pushing on the video button at the top or bottom of this page... 3 are seasonal...
    

    Dec. 19
    As I write this the last batch of the 500 pffefferneusse is in the oven.  This is our only Christmas cookie (the recipe is on the cooking page)  My older son brought a mostly empty suitcase along when coming home for the holidays, claiming he hoped I'd make another batch before he leaves and give him a bunch...
    He and the skier son and I all went skiing today.  The runs are very hardpacked, as there's been no new snow for over a week.  There were lots of trees down in the woods there from the windstorm, which made me reflect on the hidden costs of the storm in lost and wind-shattered trees for lumber.  I suppose the upside is there will be a short glut of firewood on the market...

   
Dec. 20

I had some fun today.  I'd decided to try to see the eagles on Lake Coeur D'Alene today, before clouds were predicted to enter the area again.  The area where they roost was mostly in shade from the approaching solstice (even at noon), so I parked at Beauty Bay and walked back that way, keeping the sun on my back.  The eagles weren't hunting, but I got a few pictures of them perching.
    When I arrived there, I also got to see a kingfisher and a dipper on a dock.  Kingfishers are common, if shy, across the U.S.  The Dipper is more western, and known for plunging into mountain streams after prey.  So it surprised me to see it fishing in the calm lake...

They are smaller than robins...
After the eagle stop, I went into Spokane.  One of the stops there was to get honey. The honey people weren't home, but the neighbor's house, south of Valley Hospital on Vecler

    Behind the metal and brick facade is a modest, albeit covered with aluminum, house.  This place hasn't the height of Watts Towers, but it's getting there on vision.  For some reason my wife thought I'd like it a lot (our own shop has its manic side when it comes to design).  She was right...
    Then on the way home I saw a brightly lit patch of cloud in the sky away from the sun, which I otherwise would have mistaken for a sun dog.  It turns out it was a shaft of light, caused by ice crystals aligning as they fall in the high atmosphere, and reflecting light brightly.  I'd never seen that before...  It may have been caused by a jet contrail, which are often brighter than the lower clouds, but nothing like this.
    I also stopped along the highway and got a very nice windblown fir tree top for our Christmas tree, which we'll put up on Friday.
   
    Dec. 21

    It was a pretty boring day until Althea came home with two Christmas kittens.  Our old cat is meeting them  in this picture.   One is for Birrion, and one for me.. They're part Siamese, and so far have eaten their fill and waddled around and gone to sleep.  Sounds like some of the rest of us...  We did get a couple inches of snow this morning.
   
    
Dec.22
    We have this tradition of not putting the Christmas tree up until around Christmas Eve.  Meanwhile, the commercial Christmas is winding down, and will disappear totally on Dec. 26.   I've even heard several references on the radio to the 12 days of Christmas like they're already happening.   A few years ago we started tweaking our tradition, which was always a bit much for a pastor's family anyway, so today might have been the day we decorated our tree, a day called little little Christmas Eve.  Running against this tradition today was a thing called a "rail jam" at the local ski mountain, which drew our sons to watch a "grinch winch" pull snowboarders and skiers onto a metal rail which they'd try to stay on and do tricks exiting.   The tree's still waiting in the porch.
    I think the kittens are about 20% bigger today, although that's impossible since they haven't eaten all that much. They're already climbing up onto chairs that I thought would take them weeks to master.

 Dec. 23
    Our old cat was the focus of attention today, as it began meowing loudly and finally going into convulsions.  A trip to the vet made it clear she had gone into insulin shock, since for some reason she quit eating yesterday, but I still kept giving her the shots.  But she's back home and doing well.  Mostly she hasn't been much trouble with her diabetes, but the routine must be tempered with "reading the patient," as we used to say about EMT work.
    We also got about 3 inches of snow today, making a white Christmas quite likely.  The tree is up, we're mostly ready for the Christmas season to begin...

Dec.25

   We got a couple more inches of snow, turned to slush...  Here's the best new kitten picture yet...  Merry Christmas to you!

    Dec. 26
    Just before Christmas I got an inquiry to make 1000 small tumblers with a stamped logo for a camp.  I had made these for 4-5 years until last year, when a potter on their staff decided to produce them.  When they told me they were going to do it, I was delighted--they are a huge clump of boring repetitiveness.  They originally wanted them for less than a dollar, so I priced them at 90 cents each.   Of that, about 20 cents is material/firing costs.  So if I were to make them for the same price, I would be working at it full time for over a month, and clear $700 or less.  Actually the most tumblers I've made for them was 800, and it took days just wrapping them to ship.
    What I'm leading up to, is I'm thinking of saying no.  I could just charge them 4 times as much, which is what a tumbler like that retails for here.  But even at 4 times the price, making a 1000 of anything is too tedious for me at this stage of life.  If I wanted to learn to make tumblers, it would be an excellent way to do it.  But I already know how to make them as well as I ever will.
    This is part of the ongoing realization that a craft potter  isn't a machine, and can't compete with machines producing large orders. (I'd prefer not to die with a hammer in my hand, John Henry style).  It also coincides with being able to sell most of what I produce without wholesaling, which reduces any financial incentive.  
    But I haven't made a final decision yet...

   
Dec. 27
    The white kitten got a sore eye last night, so we took it to the vet. It got scratched on its lower eyelid from play fighting with his brother.  At least the trip was worth it--they got started with their shots.
    Christmas eating continues.  Homemade turkey noodle soup and lefse for lunch, a gift ham with fresh banana bread for supper.  
    We've been getting a lot of snow lately but it all becomes slush.
    Meanwhile in Spirit Lake news,  I read in the local paper that the Big Fish restaurant is indeed gone, but there's a chance another restaurant will move in...  Meanwhile, the new deli that opened up this fall has been closed for several weeks.  And two realty offices are opening on Maine St.  And the local leather and biker store are extending into body piercing and tattoos.  It kind of goes with the bar motif...

    Dec. 28
    I decided, as previously discussed, not to make the 1000 tumblers.  It was partly sane business sense, and partly because my relationship with the camp is waning...  One might give anything "the old college try," assuming you like the "old college..."
    Meanwhile it was another day of holiday baking-- pecan rolls and bread, granola, and pffefferneusse (to send back with my son, who may or may not leave tomorrow, as his flight is scheduled through blizzardy Denver).   It's leftovers from here on out...

   
Dec. 29
    I treated myself to getting the DVD of the 1st season of Rocky and Bullwinkle for Christmas (I put it in my stocking).  It was my favorite show when I was 6, and clearly had a role in my life.  I'd even venture to say that the current episodic nature of my fiction blog is based on them (as well as some of the humor).  Unfortunately the DVD doesn't make it easy to skip the repetitive intros for the show segments, so the DVD has its weak points.  A lot of the humor went over my head at the time, and was rather wild, such as the leader of the moon men having a sign saying Moon uber alles, while the leader smoked a cigar and resembled Winston Churchill.  Since it was being done in the heart of the cold war, I'm sure adding in moon men to the mix of east and west was a good defuser for the US collective unconscious.

    Then a customer wanted to see the kittens, and seeing the white one, enquired if it were deaf.  It turns out (after some web research), that white cats with blue eyes have a fair chance of being deaf.  I don't think ours is--it wakes up when I hiss at it...  Still it's a curious quirk of nature.  The white one purrs readily--the Siamese marked one only purrs when the white one is around.  (They still don't have names).  They managed to disarm one strand of the Christmas tree lights today by pulling a bulb...

    Dec. 30
    I use some computer made graph paper to keep track of my firings for the year. For the first time, I ran out of space at the end of the page, meaning more firings than ever before.  I think the main cause of that was expanding the outside show area, so I now have to keep more pots on hand than ever before, so that the shelves don't look empty.   The result was 237 total firings, or about 2 days out of 3 on average.   The final firing is going as I write.  Electric kilns are a great convenience, when they shut themselves off...

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