My celebration of New Year's Eve was shaped by the guest I went with,
who wanted to see ballet and classical music. The Spokane 1st
Night celebration is all sorts of music and entertainment with a single
button as admission. Left to my own devices, I would have spent
most of my time travelling from one venue to another, getting only a
smattering of each thing. As it was, I sat through an hour each
of the ballet and symphony, and didn't fall asleep once. It
helped that the Symphony played familiar works like "Tales of the
Vienna Woods." Although I'm mostly a musical omnivore, and I
thoroughly appreciate the musicianship that goes into classical
training, I probably enjoyed the Celtic music with step dancing, which
we saw later, more than either the symphony or ballet. The Celtic
musicians can play tunes faster than I can think, let alone play...
I only took a few pictures, but on looking over one I took with
available light, I realized a fragment of the otherwise blurry photo
was beautiful, like a Degas pastel:
If we hadn't had the huge windstorm 3 weeks ago, today's weather would
have been remarkable. It was more noticeable because the wind blew
during the daytime, but I don't think many trees went down. This was
more a classic chinook--going from highs in the mid twenties to mid
forties, gust of 40 mph with rain. Sometimes these things can
result in flooding, and even end ski seasons. But the forecast is
to return to below freezing in a couple days, so we're hoping for
continued winter for my skier son's sake.
Meanwhile my back is acting up, possibly from slipping on the ice the
other day, so I've been limited to doing paperwork--closing out last
year's accounting. It's a slow time anyway. The kittens
continue to be amusing and cute...
My back is getting better, with aid of medication. I did go to
the doctor today to get a new prescription, since it had been
about 3 years since I'd last gotten the medicine. That's always a
bit irritating, paying for an office visit just to get a prescription
renewed. Of course sometimes they will renew them over the phone,
but that's only if they know you, and my old doctor left since the
medicine was prescribed. I felt better about the system, though,
as I overheard the office help explaining to someone on the phone why
they'd have to come in to see the doctor to get Percoset (a narcotic)
prescribed. I felt good enough this afternoon to unload two kilns and put prices on the pots.
Two seems to be the operative word today. I glazed two kilnloads,
and made two videos (accessible from the video button in the page
menu). One of the two videos is a song I wrote about a gambler
years ago. The other one I made up this afternoon. The
later one clearly shows signs of cabin fever.
Nothing cures the winter blahs like a good horizontal snow storm, like
we're getting this evening. We've had about 4 inches of snow so
far, but it's hard to tell because of the wind. Unfortunately,
since most of these storms originate out in the Pacific, the wind
brings warmer temperatures and it turns to mush, but for now, it's a
real snow storm of the kind I remember growing up in the Midwest...
I mean, if you're going to have winter, you might as well have
some serious winter weather... Meanwhile I
started making pots again today, and shovelled some snow, so my back is
apparently making good progress.
Jan. 6 Epiphany
We mark Epiphany with taking down our tree, having fireworks and
burning the greens (which burn as I write). The tree wasn't very
dry, and there's a foot of snow everywhere, so the problem of getting
it to burn is practically Old Testament (as when the prophet poured
water on his offering and it still burned). We used some cedar
shingles to encourage it... There's a Jewish
story called "Could Anything be Worse", about a poor man who feels
crowded, so he asks advice from the rabbi. The rabbi in progression
tells him to bring in the chickens, goats, and relatives, then finally
tells the man to get rid of them all, and he no longer feels crowded.
I mention this because the tree, plus friends and relatives over
the holidays, certainly made our living area crowded, and now it
seems very spacious.
Another storm today with 60 mph winds in the mountains (shutting down
the ski resort to most people, except Birrion). This one
warmed up leaving us with slushy snow. It's amazing the
difference a few degrees makes, when the temperature is around
freezing... I played "Go Tell it on the Mountain" in church this
morning. It's a Christmas hymn, but it seemed to have an Epiphany
flair about it...
I suppose you should never schedule a skiing day, just go when the
conditions are right. That would have been today. But the
only day that worked well this week (particularly considering the
arctic cold starting tomorrow night) is tomorrow. So I checked
the forecast, and sure enough, they're predicting snow and up to 45 mph
winds in the mountains again by the afternoon. Fortunately I
always bring a book and sit out afternoons in the car while my son skis
to the bitter end... Our CAGNI pottery group met
to rehash our Christmas sale. In the end, everything is location,
location, location... The former church our sale was in has a lovely
sanctuary space, and a small crowded basement where some of the potters
were relegated, and which (as all basements inevitably do) had a
somewhat depressing atmosphere. So the choices discussed were to
move to a larger venue, or reduce fees for the basement spaces, or
reduce exhibitors and leave them all on the main floor. I don't
think any decision was made, except not to move, as the location has
been good to us...
Yes, this isn't a blog rerun, we're experiencing strong winds again,
making things rattle and clank (but no broken pots yet). I sang
"Skiing in the Rain," as I skied for about 3 hours today. In the
end I was pretty soggy, but I stopped short of "miserable." Ski
areas have amusing euphemisms to make conditions sound better than they
are. The other day they posted that a lift was down for
"unscheduled mainenance." That almost sounds like the military--
"Today the President announced an unscheduled troop redeployment out of
Iraq." The reason I thought of that is that the only way our
leaders have been visiting Iraq is "unannounced," which is because the
conditions there are so iffy that a planned visit would invite an
attack. It doesn't speak well of our position.
Back to skiing, they also have a lot of terms for snow conditions, none
of which are "ice" or "crust." They call most snow powder,
because that's what skiers like. When they say "packed powder,"
think ice... One of their most conflicting expressions is "wet
powder," meaning it's raining and there's still some snow, which used
to be powder, once upon a time. We still have about 6 inches of snow in Spirit Lake, but other towns around are mostly snow free.
A year ago on this date we got about 3 inches of rain, nearly ending
winter. This year we're getting the start of real winter--subzero
temperatures expected soon. In this world of global warming,
we're an outpost of the old fashioned winter... We could try to
make it a theme park, but few would come to visit... The cold dry
wind that swept in last night dried the streets off before freezing
them, but some of the sidewalks and parking lots are more like skating
rinks. I fell down returning from the Post Office, but
fortunately didn't get hurt. I expect, but try to avoid, falls
when skiing, but usually when you fall the snow has enough "give" to
remove some of the jolt. The one time I "saw stars" was after a
fall when skiing, but those symptoms soon subsided and I was able to go
again. At least it gave me insight into the cartoon characters
who have stars circling around their heads after getting hit by an
It's usually around now when the garden catalogs start showing up.
They know they have a captive audience... Meanwhile we're
finishing the carrots that got dug before winter hit, and still
enjoying apples from last harvest. Since it is likely to go below
zero tonight, I grabbed the hens and put them into their hen house,
which should be a lot warmer than their customary roost outside.
Large hens such as we have can endure quite cold weather,
but I remember winters in Minnesota where the hens' combs got
frostbitten, which left them looking forlorn. I
glazed a couple kilnloads today, nearly all with the blue bunny
pattern, which requires more time to hand draw the decorations than the
other ones that I do... My workspace was around 50 degrees today,
which was okay for glazing. I'll have to turn on the second
heater for throwing work tomorrow. The second heater is an
electric baseboard located under the table where I set pots as I
throw them. It resembles a Japanese heating concept I once heard
about, of heating only where needed, as under a table. Of course
Japan's climate is more mild than Idaho's.
walked down to the lake today, and got first human tracks along the
shore since the last snow. Although it was around zero this
morning, it's around 20 this afternoon, so it was pleasant walking.
These hoar frost patterns tend to form on the snow around open
water. In this case the cold froze the open water, so if the
hoarfrost grows anymore it will be from the air. The frozen water
also has flecks of frost on it, looking a bit like snow falling on a
Jan. 13 It's
one thing to stand in a deep freeze and unload a kiln if the pots are
warm to the touch, and another to unload icicles. I planned my
latest two firings so I could unload them both while warm.
Unfortunately the zero degree cold made the room still a deep
freeze, but the pots were pleasant to handle. We
gave away a van today that we were given last Spring, to some friends
from central Idaho. It seemed the best way to deal with a baulky
transmission, which had acted up in spite being replaced several times.
The car was working fine now, but I couldn't sell it to someone
knowing it might be more trouble than it's worth. Also it wasn't
all wheel drive, which, given the local road conditions and our
predilection for skiing, is nice to have. There's an old Lakota saying,
"The gift must always move," which sort of entered into our thinking.
We've still got one more car than person here, but given the age
of our cars, that could change at any time...
The weather's ranging from 0 to 20 F daily. My son continues to
ski daily, even taking second place at a "rail jam" yesterday.
For me a walk to the lake daily seems sufficient, though I may
ski Tuesday. I walked across the millpond today, first human
tracks except one snowmobiler. The only birds I notice are crows,
quail, and chickadees. I'm continuing to stuff the hens into
their nesting box for the night. They're easy pickin's when
they're roosting, or possibly they're just not afraid of me. The
author of "Babe the Pig", also wrote a fine parable called "Pigs might
Fly," in which, from the pig's point of view, the farmer (portrayed
quite dimly) was just the Pigman, whose purpose in life was to slop the
pigs. That story could also make a great children's movie (as
Babe was...) Anyway, to the chickens I'm just the chicken man.
Today was pretty much a carbon copy (antiquated term) of
yesterday. But by reading yesterday's entry it reminded me to
tuck in the chickens again...
visited the vet today, and our diabetic cat is apparently okay on its
blood sugar without insulin, not necessarily cured, but it's something
cats can do that no other animals can--go in and out of insulin
production. It seemed about time for a cat picture, so
here are all three--Rascal in back, and the kittens (still unnamed) in
front. You can see that the white one has a variegated tail.
I glazed and trimmed pots this morning, and ran errands in Spokane in
the afternoon, and finished up playing music at a jam this evening for
a couple hours. On return home the kittens are slowly working
their way up into 3 dimensions from being rug rats to table pests.
The top of the bookshelves and loft are not far off in the future
for them. By the way, these kittens are the feline
equivalent of mutts, but both must have had a Siamese father, as the
mother didn't look Siamese, and the vet said the left one (above) is a
seal point, and the other a red flame point Siamese...
Income tax was no doubt invented with our best interests at heart,
in getting through the long boring days of the first quarter of
the year. For those of you living where it's not cold and cabin
feverish, income tax was invented to keep you from gloating at us.
Meanwhile, income tax software was invented just when the income
tax became so arcane that no one really could understand it. Then
the software companies figured out how to squeeze the maximum money out
of us by offering many different products suited to our needs. I
used to get by with the Basic edition, which still allowed you to enter
Schedule C info. This year Turbotax seems to only offer schedule
C with a version that costs twice what the Basic edition does, but
won't even do your state tax. I hope it saves enough money to
cover the cost... Anyway, I haven't started
working on income tax--still clearing paperwork from the end of last
year, which is how I spent my winter afternoon.
Last week I learned that I, like many other people, have high
cholesterol. Since I didn't acquire it socially I have few
qualms about discussing it in the blog :-). I'll meet with the
doctor next week to discuss options, but in the meanwhile I've been
reading about the issue and examining my diet, which heretofore I
thought was fairly healthy. I'm already trying to increase
exercise, reduce weight, and cut out high fat and high cholesterol
foods, which led me to try adjusting my Swedish pancake recipe--leaving
out the egg yolks. I already was cooking totally with canola
oil, which is supposed to be one of the better oils... I mention
the oil because when I tried the batter, it stuck to the pan, in spite
of recent oiling. So in frustration I added one more egg, with
yolk, and it worked fine. Still, in reducing yolks from about 6
to one, there's progress...
I've gotten a gig--playing for the Spokane Songwriters Circle on Feb.
20. It's a performance at a cafe by Gonzaga University.
I'm more of a tunesmith than a songwriter (I've probably written
over a hundred tunes, but songs with lyrics number fewer than 30).
From their website,
I can tell that a lot of good local musicians have performed for this
biweekly event. It came at a good time, when the winter blues
are pushing down with every cold and snowy day.
Speaking of which, we had an inch or two of snow yesterday, and more is
expected tonight. The counterweight to bad driving conditions and
shovelling snow is the happiness our skiing son gets from new
snowfall, so it all works out, mostly.
Today Birrion won the rail jam (in his division) at a local ski resort.
"Rails" were originally handrails at ski resorts, but have been
replaced by specially designed railings. Here he's sliding down a
rail, after which more than likely he'll spin off and land backwards.
The judges are in back. It's good that he won, of course,
but there were only 7 skiers, several of which were preteen.
There were about 40 snow boarders, as snow boarding is more
popular with the younger generation. All the local ski resorts have
these sorts of competitions, so he'll be going about every weekend now.
He reminds me of myself, in that I got interested in old-time
music which was not by any stretch popular, and worked on it for years
without any sort of positive reinforcement, just because it's what I
(and in the case of skiing, he) like(s). The
reason you can see the photo is that my wife and I decided to drive up
to watch the event. There were a handful of other spectators,
mostly kids and a couple parents. The drive was lovely with the
4-5 inches of new snow, but the roads were slick and snowy.
Jan. 21 I went in for my own kind of jam
(as opposed to the "rail jam" of yesterday) at Auntie's Bookstore
in Spokane today. It's always interesting encountering new
musicians. About half of them today are learning strummers, only
about a quarter ever sing, but when you get 15 or so playing at once it
still ends up sounding pretty good. Spokane is coming alive
(Brigadoon like) for the US Skating Championships this week. To
continue the Brigadoon analogy, the last time something this big
happened in Spokane was probably the World's Fair in the 70's.
New motels scrambled to get finished in time. We briefly
considered attending one in person, but gave it up as too out of
character for us. But we may watch the ladies finals on ABC next
Saturday (the only tv channel we get). I
used to figure skate. It's one of the ways to get through
winters... Growing up in Iowa, the nearby river would freeze over
hard and clear sometimes, and if it didn't snow, you could walk or
skate along it for miles, watching the fish below you (and watching out
for occasional open stretches). That was a great experience.
I tried skating again a couple years ago, and I think downhill
skiing sort of wrecked it for me. Skating is all about staying in
balance, whereas in skiing you're often leaning down hill and the skis
keep you from falling over. So when I tried skating after skiing
for a number of years, I tended to fall over forwards from approaching
it like skiing.
This was another ski day. With the snow and cold, one could just
as well close the pottery sales shop for January, but since we're there
anyway we mostly keep it open. Because I ski groomed
slopes, I tend to do the same runs from week to week. If I end up
sharing a lift with someone, I may chat with them. I rode
up one lift with a guy, having the usual "where are you from"
conversation, when we both realized we'd done it before a month ago.
It sort of emphasizes the repetitive nature of the sport.
There's one lift at Schweitzer that takes 6 minutes to go up, and 4
minutes to go down, so you can predict exactly what the clock will say
at the top. Because it's a fast lift, I did 6 runs off of it
My day was fairly boring, but I got a more exciting note from Linda
Lander in Australia, so she gets today's entry (note: Linda has
previously written of removing lizards from the road, so
she's generally a softy for wildlife): "It's hot here of course but not too bad, in the early to mid 30's today.
Its been humid though as we have had a bit of rain , nothing to break
the drought, but eil nino is weakening so the southern oceans are cooling
and we are looking good for some more. There is this amazing green stuff
starting to poke through the ground which hasn't been around here for a
This week we have had McNaught's comet overhead in our sky which is very
bright and easy to see, it is a one off event, as the moon gets bigger
we wont be able to see it so well, but it looks pretty good now.
Over the last two weeks I have been scared to use my laundry room as
there is a small eastern brown snake that has taken up residence behind
the fibreglass shower recess. We had the wildlife rescue people try to
catch it without sucess. They can eat then sleep for several weeks
afterwards I've heard. The snake I mean, not the wildlife people. Ha.
Anyway it is about 4 to 4 1/2 ft long and very deadly. They can get to
about 8ft long, and are very vicious in the hot weather, as I would be
if my tummy was getting burnt on the hot ground. There is no anti venom
in Junee so a bite would mean a scary trip to Wagga by ambulance. There
was a death near Sydney 2 weeks ago of a developmentally disabled boy
who was bitten when he tried to pick one of them up to play with it. I
put talc powder over the doorway and it hasn't been disturbed so I guess he
is still there. We also tried the coke can trap but that didn't work.
Snakes love milk and if you put some in a coke can they get their head
stuck trying to drink it and you can catch them. Peter went to check the
other day and it was out and striking at him so my humanitarian patience
has run out with it. Yesterday I very gingerly got some plaster and
sealed the sides of the shower recess up so if he is still there we will
smell him in a few weeks.I know that's cruel but I need to use my
laundry in safety. I reckoned that I could get the plaster off later if
I wanted to. "
I went back to the doctor today. Even though the cholesterol
numbers don't look good, the doctor is willing to let me try diet
adjustments and dieting for 6 months to improve them. I did lose
five pounds in a week, just from quitting between meal eating (except
for fruit), and dropping most high caloric desserts (well, there was my
wife's birthday in there, including cheese cake), and trying to walk
down to the lake daily for exercise. I look at this diet approach
as more of a challenge than just taking pills, which makes it more
interesting-- A GOAL FOR MY LIFE;-)! For 4 years I've been
charting my weight weekly, in hopes it would help battle the bulge, but
instead it provided evidence that I was following the national average
of gaining a pound or two per year. Most of us know the
temptation--would you rather work on a longterm objective (losing
weight), or have another piece of pie? Of course the other
problem with long term objectives is they get boring and fuzzy with
time. My wife once made up a diet that
worked called the 3 no S's--No sugar, no Snitching, no Seconds.
When confronted with a diet like this, I'm like the rich young
man that came to Jesus and was told to give up all he had and follow
Jesus. Way too hard...
I glazed a couple kiln loads today, including 6 large bowls that put me
in mind of a pottery tip I'm now going to convey. Larger pots
like platters and large bowls are heavy, and thus when you invert them
you risk stressing the lip, which may crack it, especially if it's not
perfectly flat to begin with. The drier the lip is when you are
footing the pots, the likelier this is to occur. So, when I
footed the large bowls, I started by centering a 5 quart plastic ice
cream bucket, turned upside down, on the wheel head, and secured it
with wads of clay. Then I added 3 wads of clay near the edge at
the top of the bucket, and and patted them down so they were
roughly the same thickness. The bowl can then be inverted and
placed on the bucket, such that it is suspended roughly over the center
of the wheel. The wheel is spun, and the bowl is adjusted till
it's centered. After that it's trimmed normally, although perhaps
with less pressure and speed than if it were secured to the bat...
This is also useful for intentionally altered bowls that are
paddled, deformed, have cutout areas, etc. It also makes it so
you can foot a bowl or platter larger than your largest bat.
That brings me to tip number two. My wheel has a plastic scrap
catcher which is higher than than the wheelhead, and thus it limits the
size of bats to those that will fit in that space. To
circumvent that, I added a wood layer onto a regular bat to raise it
about an inch, and added screws onto it in the place where the bat pins
would be, right above the bat holes on the bat, so that another bat
could be added on top. A sort of bat sandwich, one might say..
The reason you put the screws right above the bat holes, is to
make it easy to slip on and off the wheelhead. If you can
visualize where the holes are, it's much easier to attach.
One way of experiencing nostalgia is to figuratively walk through a
place you used to live. The earliest house I can remember, on 7th
Street, in Brookings, S.D. I can still walk through every room in my
head. You entered a small porch with a liftup bench seat which
would stow boots and gloves, then passed into the living room, with a
piano at the nearest end. You would continue straight to the dining
area, then swing left into the kitchen. A door from the kitchen
led to the side door and stairs to the bedrooms, as well as connecting
again to the living room.. Etc. With Google earth, you can
also take a bird's eye view of the place you lived, and recall the
common journeys you took from your door. I'm
thinking about this because daily journaling has its dull points, so
I'm considering telling stories of my life when nothing more
interesting occurs. This is one of those days, more of the same...
Some of the early pictures of me show me making things in my
dad's wood shop. I suppose some folks might be aghast that I was
allowed to use power tools by the age of 6 or 7, but I still have all
my digits. There were only two power tools that really
appealed to me--the drill press, and the wood lathe. I would also
use an egg-beater style hand drill, but I was impressed with the power
of the drill press to work quickly. There was even a special bit
to make square holes (for mortise and tenon joints, which I never
learned to make). But it was the lathe that got me started in
pottery. Certainly, I was also concurrently playing with Playdoh
and plastic modeling clay, but the wood lathe employed the shaping
process which I later rediscovered on the potter's wheel. Dad
did show me how to set up the lathe initially, but later I'd work on my
own. I didn't make a lot of things, mostly because I couldn't
think of what to make. I think my dad had the same problem.
He never used it much either. I did make a miniature
baseball bat. My progress from doing it was curbed when I
developed hives after making something on it, and the doctor figured it
was some sawdust I breathed from the sanding process that finishes the
piece. Back then, dust masks were pretty uncommon.
After my father died, I did bring home both the drill press and the
lathe. And I'm still allergic to some sawdusts (cedar for one),
and short on projects. And my kids got into computers instead of power
tools. It's a different world.
I was working in the pottery studio today when I
heard a loud cracking sound. I went out to see if a tree limb
fell on the roof, but didn't notice anything, so I went back to work.
Later as I was entering the kiln room I stumbled over the slight
rise between the two rooms. Later still I noticed that the slight
rise had actually become 2 inches. Like an inverse Henny Penny,
the floor was falling. I'd realized this
was a possibility when I moved the pottery into that room. I
hadn't built the room intending it to bear 3000 pounds of clay along
one wall. Fortunately the floor is just screwed down plywood, so
I can remove the plywood, peel back the insulation, and lift the floor
into position, and secure it in a way that it WILL handle 3000 pounds
of clay. It's the time of year when a
project like that is almost appealing, for something besides weather to
contend with. It would be nicer if it weren't "two steps
backward, two steps forward," but I guess I don't have a choice in the
Jan. 28 Inventions. I thought I might be an inventor as a child. I read a
biography of Edison when I was young, and inventing certainly sounded
fun. I had a chemistry set, and did some of the experiments in
the booklet provided, but later started trying my own mixtures.
I discovered that Sodium Silicate Solution, if you added rubbing
alcohol to it, would make a waxy precipitate, which, when heated on a
spoon, would make a white frothy glass that would not come off the
spoon no matter what... I couldn't think of a
practical application, besides wrecking spoons, but it was way cool.
I also had an erector set, as I mentioned
a while ago. My best invention with it was the automatic dog
feeder. Our terrier, Ajax, would push down on a lever, and it
would open a gate to let some dry dogfood trickle out. The dog
was too smart for me, though, he found he could just keep a foot on the
lever and get out as much as he wanted. That
dog was the best companion of my elementary years. He and I would
sit by a heat register waiting for breakfast and play Crazy 8's.
I knew he couldn't really play, so I would keep his cards turned
down, and turn them up one at a time till the right suit to play came
up. He would sometimes win, which helped teach me the difference
between games of chance and games of skill.
My father was also instrumental in the invention phase of my life. He
made a dog bed at the top of the stairs leading to the basement, which
would open with a lever and flop down for him to sleep in at night, but
could be folded up out of the way during the day. It was one of
the main tourist attractions of our house there...
Jan. 29 The blog will be on vacation for a week or so, so this is the last entry for a while.
I'm thinking about hobbies and games that seem doomed. A friend
of ours went to a lecture on ladies' handkerchiefs. It turns out
she had a bit of a collection herself. I guess anything old
deserves to be honored, but the concept seems a bit outmoded. As
a child I collected coins, and my brother collected stamps.
Either of these activities would have a hard time competing for
attention with video games and the Internet in today's world. The
same is true with playing marbles, which I wrote about in a recent fiction blog.
When my parents were in China for a year, they mentioned how the
children there had basically no toys, except one time a pair of Groucho
Marx glasses was observed being used by several children. I
expect with the growing prosperity, that's changed there now, in fact
I've read of how pampered their children are becoming...
In the winter, when I was a child in South Dakota, we'd play Fox and
Goose in the snow--stamping out a cross pattern, then making a circle
around it, with the fox able to move on the spokes of the cross and the
outer ring, and the geese only able to move around the ring, getting
chased by the fox. I wonder if that game has survived...