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Dec. 1, 2009
    I had a nice visit back to Minnesota.  I wish I'd brought my camera, if nothing else, for the flight home, since the skies were clear over Glacier Park and westward and I could pick out a number of familiar landmarks in the last couple hundred miles.
    When I got home, the writer of the article on me from the new copy of Idaho Magazine had slipped a copy under the door.  You can see  the cover photo at http://www.idahomagazine.com/
    The snow has nearly vanished since I left, but a fair amount of subfreezing cold is predicted, particularly later this week...

 Dec. 2
    I spent too much of the afternoon going back and forth to the hardware store.  The wheelbarrow tire that I reinflated a month or so with magic flat fixer stuff is... flat.  So I was ready to buy a non air-filled replacement.  The first two that I bought had holes for the axle that were too small, but I forgot to bring the axle to check the size.... So I brought the axle and  ordered a replacement, then left the axle laying on the counter at the store, so I had to go back and get it.
    That experience made the monthly bookkeeping I did later seem pleasant by comparison...

Dec. 3
  We had a meeting with a carpenter to discuss how to deal with our lake view cabin.  He confirmed most of our thinking, so today we started tearing out a couple ceilings, and we'll meet with an electrician this weekend to see what else we may have to tear out to make rewiring easier.  Deconstruction is hard dusty work--3 hours was plenty.
    The weather remains below freezing, with a high of 15 F predicted by Sunday.  Currently we have about 10 boxes of apples in our garage, so I'm planning to move some soon to our root cellar...

 Dec. 5
    We met with the electrician today about our cabin, which was good news, since we'd heard we'd have to bring the total wiring up to code, whereas he assured us he'd just have to do stuff we've exposed.  We were also debating removing all the ceilings, but he said blown in insulation would be more cost effective.  So now some of the things we were thinking of doing won't have to happen, and others will have to await the new electrical box.

Dec. 6
    I played guitar for the small church near Priest Lake we've been helping with.  Most of the singing ones were Advent hymns like "Oh Come, Oh Come Emanuel," but for the prelude and postlude I played Christmas tunes, since we only get to that church once a month...
    Then in the afternoon we went to the Episcopal Cathedral in Spokane for a fine youth concert with orchestra and chorus.  The cold weather (high around 15 F) and brisk winds weren't a problem for the brief times we were out in it, but it wouldn't have been a good day for a long walk.

Dec. 7
    The first cold snap is always the hardest.  With a low around 7 F and a high around 14, all our wood heated places are chilly.  The pottery workshop was 45, and the main pottery area in the high 50's this morning.   We use some electric heat at the pottery, but try to avoid using it at home.
   
We saw our first group of cedar waxwings in to eat the mountain ash berries in our yard.  
(This is an old summer photo) They'd eat some and perch in a nearby tree, presumably waiting for the frozen berries to thaw enough for them to digest.  They're tougher than we are...    Also our rhododendrons are looking totally desiccated, which led me to wonder if the water is pumped back into the stems (not likely), or if when they thaw their evergreen leaves are miraculously pumped back to fullness.  The buds for next spring's blossoms are already on the ends of the branches.

Dec. 8
    With a high in the low teens, but sunny and fairly calm, it was a good day to check out the ice on the lake.  The main part of the lake is still open, but the narrow part by the public access has 3 inches of clear ice on it.  It was great for walking on it, looking through the ice at old sunken mill logs, a few fish, and all the frozen bubbles stuck in the ice.  The view of the lake from our house showed it to be covered with dust, from the cold north wind that blew the cold in.  But when we were on the ice, it was easy to see through the dust to the lake below.  Although stress cracks in the ice were frequent, it never showed any sign of cracking under our weight, nonetheless we were careful not to go out where the water was deep...

Dec. 9
    It's a different lake every day.  I looked down at the Mill pond this morning and decided it had turned white, perhaps from a thin layer of snow only otherwise visible on our car this morning.  So when we went walking on it in the late afternoon, I didn't bring my camera.  But it turned out still to be see-through, with different types of bubble patterns than in the lake in general.  I'll try to get some pictures tomorrow.
    I glazed a couple more kiln loads today.   Lately the crystalline glaze has looked overfired, and the black glaze underfired. So I decided to move the crystalline glazed stuff to the cooler parts of the kiln, whereas I used to keep it in the hottest parts.  Tweaking firing is a never ending business.
    We had some clarity on the lakeview cabin, and are now getting close to tearing out all the old parts we've decided not to keep, and have some glimmering of where the new walls and stuff should go.  We're also close to finishing the felt paneled insulating curtain for our sliding doors at our main house.  Projects in winter help keep one from getting bummed out at the continuing severe cold...

Dec. 10
ice bubbles
No, this is not mysterious glowing lights over Norway--it's frozen bubbles in the clear mill pond ice, and they tend to stack for some reason.
    I removed the old ceiling in the cabin today, and there were lots of fir cones mixed in from the little squirrels we have around here.  We'd just noticed their entry hole yesterday, so now that I'd made sure the squirrel wasn't in our attic, I boarded over the hole.  
    I'm still having trouble regulating one of my kilns--it overfired enough yesterday that all of the pots are at best second quality, and some are stuck to the shelves.  I've been adjusting the little latch that hangs over the shut off device, and it's mostly a matter of chance, since a small change makes a big difference, and there's no way to tell exactly where it's set, even with my 35 years of experience.  But from this  I know I have to try again...
    The weather moderated today, getting up into the 20's, which made the world a much more pleasant place.  

Dec. 11
     I got two windows installed in the blue cabin today.  These are part of the van full of windows we bought without a plan, which also provided for the two "bay" windows for our bedroom.  I hope to install two more before the predicted snows start tomorrow.

Dec. 12
    I started working on installing the two windows at about 2 pm, with sunset around 4:30.  They are each 6 feet wide by 4 feet high, so I had to cut holes in the wall large enough for them.  I also had to move one electric outlet, and add a 2X4 at the bottom and fill out the side holes.  I got done with the aid of a light on the porch just as the snow started, around 5 pm.   All four of the windows (including the two added yesterday) match, and they even ended up being the same height, due to my using a beam that ran along the top more than any planning on my part...

Dec. 13
    We decided to try the Salvation Army church service today.   The first thing that's different are the uniforms, with triangular red epaulets on a navy blue suit.  As we entered, a brass band (with one uniformed member), which the Salvation Army is renowned for many years for, played Christmas songs in the hallway.  The service itself was contemporary praise, with lyrics put up on two side video screens, and a 4 piece electric/ acoustic praise band.  Although in the handshake part of the service, we were encouraged to wish others "Merry Christmans," they did acknowledge it as Advent with the 3rd candle being lit.  The message was given by a  Lt. Colonel (that's another thing different about S. A.--the rankings) in charge of the whole western U.S.  He tended to ramble, but had a few inspiring stories.
    Then we got to walk through the new center and see all the facilities.  There are lots of machines people jog, row, etc. in, which have always seemed pretty dumb to me, compared to a walk in the woods.  The swimming areas looked the most fun, including indoor and out door hot tubs.
    We may return another Sunday for service and swim...
    I made pfferneusse cookies and caramels this evening, doing my part to aid Christmas spirit and epidemic obesity...

Dec. 14
We're back in the snow zone again, with about 2 inches on the ground, and up to a foot expected in the next several days.  
    Yesterday we bought some shoes and lego like toys for an anonymous 4 year old.  When we got back from Spokane, we figured out the box, which loudly proclaimed the shoe size, and the shoes, were different sizes.  So I volunteered to return to Spokane, with added incentive to replace a malfunctioning audio amplifier.  I located the item on Craigslist, and got it and some speakers for $70.    The speakers are huge--about 3 feet by 2 feet.  I wanted them so I could better hear the bass when arranging the music which I've been too busy to record.
    Also today we got the bid for electrical work on our cabin.  He hopes to start this Saturday, so I hope to have the framing done on our remodeling so as to be used for the wiring.  But I'm still keeping busy with pottery in the mornings--making chip and dips and large mugs today, and firing a bisque kiln.

Dec. 15
    I added a snowstick this month, which was at 4 inches this morning, with the snow overnight.  During the day it iced for a while, then switched back to snow.
    So I was getting down some unneeded rafters in the cabin today.  They were too tight to remove without cutting somewhere, so I cut one near the end, but the skill saw wouldn't go all the way through.  I decided to hang on it to break it.  It worked, only I didn't expect it to clonk down on my head.  It didn't do any harm, but it was one of those "duh" moments...
   

Dec. 17
    The snowstick started at 7 inches of snow yesterday, but a high of 37 had it melted down to 4 inches by this morning.  I made the snowstick in part to make the inevitable deep snows of Spirit Lake a quantifiable and thus more handleable event.  At the top of the stick, above the 80 inch mark, I wrote DESPAIR.   This too, is a psychological ploy to make it clear that anything less than 80 inches is not deserving of despair...
    We went to a high school band concert an hour away last night, so we combined it with a few errands.  It actually added up to ten different stops.  The concert itself was great--Kellogg HS band, which is clearly exceptionally run by the director,  where the students even all raise their instruments at the rise of his baton.  

 Dec. 18


    Here's the current view of the cabin.  The windows are somewhat fogged, but you can see bits of the icy Mill pond below out the new windows.  We stripped out the old walls to facilitate new wiring and removal of a lot of squirrel hoardings.  This area is also getting a new and higher ceiling.  The lumber lying on the floor was a wall which we took out to enhance the bedroom area.  
    The work is slowing the last couple days, as I strained my back yesterday, and lingering effects took me to the chiropractor today, which previous visits have speeded my recovery significantly.  After getting back from the 30 mile drive to the chiropractor, I threw all the parts of an 8 piece dinner set which was ordered yesterday, ensuring me with some pottery work on Saturday.
    Snowstick 3 inches and declining...

Dec. 19
    I hate it when lightning strikes twice in the same place.  In this case, the same kiln overfired, this time with a bisque firing.  As I said, it's a tough adjustment to make.  Next time I'll fire with little cones inside the kiln and babysit it to completion.  It won't matter too much, since the overfired bisque pots that will be in it won't take the glaze as well, and will mostly be seconds anyway...
    Tonight we plan to see the Nutcracker in Spokane, with the symphony orchestra and Memphis Ballet.  Last night we went and heard an Eastern Orthodox Choir sing their version of Christmas music--all unfamiliar--some ancient...

Dec.20
The thing about the Nutcracker--I'd gladly go to either hear the music or watch the ballet, so both together are an amazing feast for the senses.  I did wonder why the characters have names, since there's no dialog--I thought it might be helped if there were text placards like in the old silent movies. Then I thought, wouldn't it be cool if they brought to life on stage some of the classic silent movies like they have done for The Lion King and other pop movies.  The actors could even dress all in black and white, and the dialog could be shown up behind them.  
Snowstick today at 2 inches, and raining...

Dec. 21
If it were snowing as much as it's been raining, we'd have at least as much snow as last year.  But El Nino apparently tips us towards rain, so we were nearly flooding with runoff, and the remaining snow is just an inch of slush...
    I glazed the overfired bisque pots today, and plan to fire them tomorrow.  They had to sit quite a while till they were dry enough to handle.  Then I worked on framing the bedroom/hallway wall at the cabin, which went up at the close of the day...  This evening I started on our Christmas card for this year...


Dec. 22

Twas 3 nights before Christmas, when all through the town, the fire truck went tooting the whole town around.
 I tried to ignore it, but the music was cheery, a fireman and Santa walked by quite clearly.
The firetruck was festooned with colorful lights--I can't recall such a ridiculous sight.
In a time when the world is beset with such troubles--global warming and real estate bubbles--
it's nice to know small towns can put on a sight, so merry Christmas to all, and to all, a good night....

Dec. 23
Re: yesterday's entry: It turns out the firemen were actually doing a food bank collection...  Although a laudable goal, I think just parading around for no reason is much more holiday cheerier...
I was working on framing second walls (to double the insulation) in our lakeview cabin today, when 5 wild turkeys wandered into the yard.  Of course I didn't have my camera, but I'm bringing it there so it will be available, since I've seen these turkeys there before.  I've yet to get a classic wild turkey photo.
In the pottery, yesterday I fired the malfunctioning kiln with a little cone inside that I could theoretically watch to make sure it overfired.  Unfortunately, I couldn't see the cone, but the kiln shut itself off, and today it looked, if anything, underfired, which is a correctable fault....


Dec. 26
On Christmas Eve we attended both an ultra modern Salvation Army service at the Kroc Center, and one that could have happened in the 1700's at the Episcopal Cathedral in Spokane.  The first featured an electric praise band and video scenes from a recounted history of salvation displayed on the two video screens in front of the church (plus the readers mostly reading off a large teleprompter located behind us).  The second included a carillon concert and oboe/harpsichord concert before the traditional high church celebration with incense censors, parades, etc.   They were both enjoyable in their own ways.
    But the highlight for me was having a neighbor family come over last night, with their 3, 5, and 6 year old kids, and they sang Away in the Manger, all verses from memory, including the 3 year old.  The 3 year old  also recited John 3:16.  It was much cuter than Linus in the first Peanuts Christmas special reading the Christmas story...
    Having got over the Christmas hump, I'm looking to buy lumber today at the post Christmas sales (just kidding--lumberyards are now a charitable organization,  the way the building industry has slumped) and keep working on the cabin, in spite of highs in the mid 20's, which leaves the cabin pretty cold.

Dec. 27
    We haven't seen a thaw for quite a while--clear days and clear cold nights. Still, if it's going to be cold, the blue skies are cheerier than if it's all gray.
    I was thinking the other day how, especially in the genres I like to encounter, in spite of cosmic blasters and super technology, it all comes down to Good and Evil duking it out on the edge of the abyss.   How many times did that happen in the Star Wars series? (rhetorical question, unless you're a geek)  It also happened with Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty at the edge of some falls in his attempted demise by Doyle.   The Princess Bride movie milks it for all it's worth along the insane cliffs...  Okay, maybe I'm overstating the obvious--why else do they call them cliff hangers?  But I just liked the phrase: Good and Evil duking it out on the edge of the abyss.

Dec. 28
cedar waxwings




    My mother hates having squirrels stealing her bird feed.  We've got a similar problem, but it's deer...  A couple of mornings I've found the feeder tipped to the side, and deer prints beside it...
    Meanwhile, the cedar waxwings arrived in a flock of 100 or so, and cleaned out our mountain ash of all its red berries.  Makes me glad we've got a  mountain ash...  Being a large flock, they have a group mind--easily spooked, and requiring repeat trips to the tree at the end to make sure everyone was agreed all the berries were gone...

December 31
    The snow stick is back to 2 inches again, and snow is in the forecast today, but also approaching the thaw point, which it hasn't done for quite a while.
    The deer continues to regard our feeder as its nose bag, so I may frame it in with boards and fencing today.  There was also a mouse we saw hop out to the feeder yesterday, but I don't mind the depredations of mice, as long as they're outside.  
    I continue to spend my free time wrestling with insulation and framing on our cabin.  I imagine moving into it, but it's pretty small compared to what we've gotten used to.  
    Happy New Year--we plan to go to the Symphony (Beethoven's 9th), then a few of First Night's venues and musicians.  We probably won't make it to midnight.

Books and other media of note
Summer Knight by Jim Butcher   A cynical modern wizard in Chicago makes for a fun fantasy series.  Here winter and summer fairies duke it out for global domination, with a bit of an arcane murder mystery thrown in for good measure.  There were a few too many characters for my wee brain to keep track of.

The Financial Lives of the Poets by Jess Walter
  This book is getting major buzz, named by Time Magazine as one of the top 10 books of the year.  It is the epitome of now in America--home foreclosure, broken relationships, drugs, etc.  I was surprised to hear the phrase "Wodehousian humor" associated with it on NPR, since that's the pinnacle in my book.  Wodehouse was ne'er so bleak, nor savage in his satire.  Nonetheless, it does grip one in a nervous laughter sort of way, and the countless allusions to boomer pop culture kept the comfort level adequate.  Having read most of Walter's novels, I think Citizen Vince is more clever, but it was set in the past, which destined it to only garner an Edgar award, whereas this one may yield fame and fortune for him...  Walter's being from Spokane, and the book unidentified but loosely set there, he's the local boy made good, which makes him all the more interesting to us hicks in the Inland Northwest.

Borrowers Aloft by Mary Norton
I started rereading these children's classics after buying a couple at a library sale.  Good bedtime reading, even for adults.  Of course I also like the much larger body of literature (SF) provided by Mary Norton in her nom de plume of Andre Norton...

Wildside by Seven Gould.
Suppose you discovered a tunnel to an alternate earth, totally unpeopled.  Would you haul in pieces of an airplane and head for Colorado to mine for gold?   A bit implausible, even for fantasy fans.  This novel was way too detailed in everything, especially the flying stuff.  Clearly the author did his homework, but he pasted it in unedited...

Phylogenesis by Alan Dean Foster.
First contact between two antisocial members of their species.  Foster writes well.  Pip and Flinx have more action, but this one had heart.

The Beast
and  The Changeling by A.E. Van Vogt  At some point Van Vogt strung together 3 stories written in the 1940's to make a space adventure yarn about a forever engine and its radiation creating super men.  Apparently later he decided to ditch some of the sillier parts and rereleased it as The Changeling.   I recently bought copies of both, not realizing they were nearly the same.  It was fun to see what changes he'd made, reading them one after the other.  

The Courts of Chaos by Roger Zelazny.
  By the Amber series standards, this "final" volume was fairly easy to follow, and a satisfying ending tying up a lot of questions.

Forever After
created by Roger Zelazny.  Often a writer's last work is finished by a spouse or other writer.  In this case the book was outlined by the author, and parceled out to other friends (and a lover).  This makes it by nature an uneven work, and I had a hard time keeping track of all the characters, but the reverse quest which was the basis of it was a good story idea.

The Eleventh Commandment by Jeffery Archer.  Good storytelling, in the mold of the Jason Bourne novels.




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