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Brad's Blog

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Dec. 1
    The weather continues foggy and wet...  I went to Spokane to borrow sound equipment for the big pottery sale and music thing this weekend, and saw some clear sky, but when I returned to Spirit Lake the fog was still here.     There was a Little Abner character that had a storm always hanging over his head (and also a similar character in a Dirk Gently novel by Douglas Adams)...  Spirit Lake is like them, except it sometimes turns to snow.
    I started coming down with a head cold this afternoon.  Every time this has happened this Fall, I've taken a Claritin type antihistamine and gotten over it.  A couple hours after I tried it today my nose dried up, so hopefully the talisman has worked again...
    I finally got around to posting Phil Steen's concession speech.  It's already gotten a couple comments---one kind of snarky, but then, that's politics.  

Dec. 3
Emil is pretty good at procrastinating on doing his homework, as are we all.  That prompted me to come up with this modern slogan, "Always put off till tomorrow what you might not have to do at all..."
    The sun shone today for the first time in a week...
    Our hen pecked chicken, who lives adjacent to the other 4, has a cage which is much less secure than the other one, and has gotten out twice in the last week.  I became aware of it when she came up to the sliding door in the evening and tapped on it, as if to say, " I want back in to my warm nest box."  Both times I obliged her, picking her up without having to chase her at all...

Dec. 4
    We're too busy to do chicken security right now, but when I went to put the hen back in her solo cage last night, the other hen that resembles her was perched in her place, having escaped into her pen from the adjacent henpeckers pen...
    We spent most of yesterday packing pots, and half of today setting up for the sale which is Friday and Saturday.  It was featured on the front page of the local section of the Spokane paper which is hopefully still widely read in North Idaho...  Part of my time was spent practicing with a celloist/violinist.  Then the potter in the next stall mentioned her daughter, who was there, sang opera, so we invited her to sit in for Oh Holy Night.  Without a microphone, she practically rocked the building...  We may do some filler music together tomorrow with me on guitar....

Dec. 8
    With all the bleak economic news,  the sale last weekend was pretty stressful.  It was in a new location, with different hours, and the Friday sales were pretty slow.  Saturday picked up a lot, and it was worth it overall to do.   There's little point to compare it to last year, with the plunging economy, but I did it anyway and sales were down about 40 per cent.  Considering that one of our family major expenses is gasoline, which has also plunged, things don't look too bad...  
    My son who lives to ski, and has started as a ski instructor to help defray his expenses, is finding his hours are being cut back since the ski mountains aren't filling as much as previously.  At least the skiing is good...  
    I heard someone on NPR complaining that it wasn't fair that the greed of a relatively few should cause this kind of turmoil around the world.  It reminds me of the beggar's line in Fiddler on the Roof,  "If you had a bad week, why should I suffer?"

Dec.9
    I got an order for 70 mugs, so I started  making them today.  The coffee shop ordering them wants them numbered, thinking they'll be a collectible.  That's the first numbered series I've made in my 30 years of pottery.  The challenge for me will be to remember where I am in my numbering...
    We got a thin layer of snow, and serious winter in in the forecasting horizon.  This is good, since our Danish student wants to experience serious winter and skiing.  We've committed to season passes at Silver Mountain, so now we want snow.  (This helps us psychologically to get through a period
during which most sane people go to Arizona or California ).

Dec.12
    The first storm of the year hit today, starting at 7 in the morning and currently having about 8 inches of snow, with much more predicted, including high temperatures around  5 above zero (F) by Sunday.    At the library there was a line of traffic over a mile long backed up behind an accident on the only north-south road leaving town,  happening right after school when roads are busiest, making it look for a while like I'd have to keep the library open as a shelter for kids headed that way.   I spent the evening shoveling our driveways...  At least this will show Emil what a real winter storm is like...  This morning I was jokingly bidding goodbye to the parts of the yard soon to be covered with snow--- "Good bye grass.  Good bye, manure pile.  Good bye woodpile.   Hello shovel...."

Dec. 14
    With highs just above zero F (15C), life becomes more challenging.  The sliding door and other energy poor windows become covered with frost.  The pottery house only has hot running water, since the cold pipe is frozen...  That works for washing clothes, but not showering...  So we spent most of Sunday moving stuff in and out of the house and rearranging furniture in advance of holiday visitors coming.  It mostly kept us warm...
    When it's this cold I make a good effort to unload kilns while still warm, rather than the alternative, which is like unloading a freezer...   Pouring hot water into the throwing water bucket also makes life more enjoyable.

Dec. 15
    For the first time I can remember, I turned the kiln on to warm my hands as I loaded two kilns tonight.  It was just on low, so it wasn't like the elements were glowing like in a toaster...  This time of year I'm working hard at getting other people's Christmas lists completed, which is part of why I haven't done much shopping myself...  The other part is Bah, Humbug!  There--I've said it...  Feels good...  I always have a hard time with secular Christmas, featuring Santa selling a wide variety of products.  And also there is the pseudo Christmas music starting around Thanksgiving and ending totally on Dec. 26, replaced with Top 25 of the year countdowns on radio (I think--actually I mostly listen to public radio), and Valentine's Day displays in the stores...

Dec. 16
    The weather continues cold through the week, with snow predicted tomorrow to make things a bit more interesting.
At the library, the computer system is undergoing a major upgrade, so all the checking out and in is shut down for 3 days.  That's a bit like plugging your toilet and hoping you don't have to use it for a few days.  Books and videos flowing are the lifeblood of the library, and all they can do for 3 days is go out, not get checked back in.  I think they picked this time as one historically people are busy with other things.  It was quiet all day in the library, so it didn't present too many difficulties locally, but I could imagine the main branch had to struggle...

Dec. 17
    Speaking of snow, it started snowing 28 hours ago, and hasn't stopped, resulting in 39 inches of snow at this point.  It is fortunate we have my son and Emil to help with the shoveling.  We have our driveway clear, but there's still 18 inches on the street, since the plows haven't come since last night...  I'm pretty confident this is a record even for Spirit Lake, as Spokane had 19 inches which smashed their previous 24 hour record.
    Unfortunately we have a trip planned for tomorrow of several hundred miles, which will be more difficult and dangerous as a result.  Otherwise, it's very pretty.

Dec. 18
cedar waxwings
    The snow finally quit after 32 hours,  and probably 42 inches total.   And I took some photos of the snow, but this was my favorite of the day. It looks black and white, but it was just a very gray day.  It was a birdy day.  Our one sparrow spent a lot of time at his bird feeder.  Then throughout the day a large flock of cedar waxwings gathered to eat all our mountain ash berries, from the crown of the tree downwards.  Between forays, they'd perch on nearby fir trees, as shown above...  At this time of year they're real flock birds, doing everything  in tight formation.
    My son and his wife noticed we had a bird trapped in our greenhouse, so they waded through the snow to release it.  It was pretty weak, and stopped on several nearby shrubs.  Then they reported that our sparrow dived at it, defending his territory.  
    That reminds me of a favorite holiday book for the young at heart, called The Mouse and His Child, the story of a windup mouse from one Christmas to the next.  What reminds me of it is the emphasis on Territory, necessary even for a windup toy.   The author, Russell Hoban, also wrote a shorter children's tale which I've currently gotten the Muppets version of from the library, called Emmett Otter's Jugband Christmas.

Dec. 22
Buckskin Mountain from Holden Village
    We went to Holden Village to partake in our Goddaughter's wedding.  It's a former mining camp in the middle of the North Cascade wilderness, where you first take a two hour boat ride, then a half hour bus ride to get there.  The views are stunning, as evidenced by this photo of Buckskin Mountain.  It's a small winter Christian community (I'd guess less than 100) expanding 500 guests in the summer.  It was cold and snowy, but with adequate clothing it was enjoyable, with sledding, hiking, and playing fooshball and ping pong...

Dec. 23
    Last evening we were opening presents before the departure of my son and his wife when the lights went out, and a bright glare and buzzing outside indicated a major electrical problem.  A half block from our house the electric line was arcing with that bright blue white light.  I called 911 and was informed they had 3 more calls coming in about it.  Our Danish student was 4 blocks away at the pottery, and the lights went out there as well, and he reported seeing a bright light at that end of the street also.  It turned out that a fir tree branch had broken from the snow load and hung right between the two high tension lines, and arced till something burned out.  Fortunately the lines didn't sever.  We went to bed in the dark, and by 2 or so the lights we'd forgotten to turn off were back on.  This morning I could see they'd stuck some kind of fat cyllindrical bandaid over the two places on the wire that got burned.
    Even though there was another 8 inches of snow since we had left for Holden Village, last weekend, the snow we have has settled so it's only about two feet deep in most places.  That's plenty.  We still haven't gotten a tree, and I know I'll get a lot of snow in my boots if I go out and cut a tree in our yard that partially blocks our view of the lake, but that's the best guess I've got of where our tree this year is coming from...

Dec. 27
    Emil and I went skiing on Christmas.  As I've perhaps mentioned, Denmark has no mountains, so skiing was a long trip to Sweden for Emil.  He started a bit cautiously, but ended the day skiing better than I, and doing several more runs after I quit...   Emil also has built a snow cave from the plentiful snows, about 10 feet tall and the same wide, hollowed out so he can sit up inside.  He hopes to sleep in it when it's enlarged enough...
    Today there was 8 inches of fresh snow on the ground, still snowing, and more predicted through noon tomorrow. The only new twist to this storm is it may get above freezing, for better or worse, for the first time in about 3 weeks...

Dec. 28
We noticed several unusual things today.  The sun shone in some blue skies, the temperature got above freezing, and it didn't snow.  Since the sunshine is so rare at this time of the year, we decided to walk to the Millpond, but stopped to wash the dishes first.  Within five minutes a rainstorm was forming over the ridge, but we walked down anyway.  There is only a thin coating of snow on the Millpond, presumably from flooding from underneath melting most of it.  This was surprising, since it's been so cold for so long.  There were lots of deer tracks on the road, as well as the usual track across the edge of the Millpond, which seems to lead into our area of town.  Neighbors saw a large antlered buck deer in our back yard.  Emil and I saw a cow moose on the road on the way to ski the other day.  They're clearly finding the roads better than wading through chest deep snow.

Dec. 29
We got another foot of snow today.  Is that even newsworthy anymore? Here's this year's family Christmas greeting: http://www.sondahl.com/Christmas2008

Dec. 31
    We only got a couple inches of snow today, but the next storm (tomorrow) is supposed to be bigger. A greenhouse and an ice skating facility had their roofs collapse most recently in the area.   Lots of people are shoveling their roofs.  I mostly worry about our electrical service pipe, which got bent by the ice buildup sliding last winter.   I thought I'd climb on the roof to see what I could do about it today, but the big ladder was across the street and I would have had to wade through 4 feet of snow to get it...
    So happy new year!

Science Fair by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson  Few would have guessed Dave Barry would retire from a life of satirical newspaper columns to become a children's literature writer, including updates of Peter Pan.  He retains his humorous outlook, and the book reads a bit like my one of my favorite authors, Daniel Pinkwater, in that it focuses on disaffected fringe kids having to take on the establishment to save the world from something or other (in this case "Mouse that Roared" type terrorism).

Kane and Abel
by Jeffrey Archer.  Rather than a biblical retelling, this story  more resembled Citizen Kane than Cain, and also reminded me of the generational sagas such as Steinbeck's East of Eden, or historical vignettes such as Doctorow's Ragtime.  I wouldn't ordinarily enjoy a book about a business rivalry, but Archer is no ordinary writer.  His painting of the first six decades of the 1900's was so colorfully illustrated that the whole story seemed to breathe with realism.  Although the two men whose feud was recounted came from vastly different social strata, there was no judgementalism as to their relative value.  It was part screwball comedy, and part tragedy.  Even though I anticipated the denouement, I shed a couple tears in the last pages anyway.

A Prisoner of Birth by Jeffrey Archer
This one was recommended to me at the library by a patron.  The author has the rare distinction of being both a member of parliament and having done a couple years in prison (not so rare, now that I think of Illinois governors).  It's a great book, a mashup of The Three Musketeers meet The Count of Monte Cristo set in modern London.  The pace is a bit slow at first, but just when you think it's just a wrongfully accused prisoner seeking justice, it gets more interesting by far. One of the best books I've read this year...

200,000 AD or The Book of Ptath
by A.E. Van Vogt.  SF written in the mid twentieth century generally lacked technological dazzle.  But by setting his novel in the distant future, magic seems likely, and Van Vogt's always inventive mind has created an interesting future, with a god possessed by the mind of a WWII soldier.  That's not a plot you're likely to encounter elsewhere.

Rough Weather
by  Robert B. Parker.   It's always a bit hard to accept the detective as brilliant when it takes 3 or 4 bodies before he figures out who the bad guy is.  A really good one could stop the first murder from happening...  Anyway, Rough Weather starts off with a few murders at a posh wedding, and rather than solve it, the killer comes to explain to detective Spenser at the end.  For action on his own, Spenser just beats up a bodyguard of the woman he was hired by...  None the less, the Spenser novels remain good terse storytelling, in a popcornish sort of way.

Eldest  
by Christopher Paolini.  Although the author takes his fantasy very seriously, you have to admire his deftness at working in an obscure (to the most likely readers) movie pun.  Some villagers are being forced to flee for their lives by sea, and the only thing available are barges.   "Barges--we don't need no stinking barges," Paolini has them say.  If you're not familiar with the original quote, click here.
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