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Jan. 2
No whining, but it snowed 6 inches last night again.  We spent a couple hours yesterday up on the roof clearing snow from the electrical service.  The snow felt very secure on the roof, especially given that the roof is a metal one designed to have snow slide off of it.  I think it was sort of meshed with all the packed crystals. It was about 3 feet deep, and took a lot of shoveling.   But, like an avalanche waiting to happen, one area I walked across later showed a crevasse opening in it, and this morning parts of the roof dumped themselves.  Most of the gutters I put up last Fall to divert ice buildup below, filled with ice, merged with the roof snow, and are getting ripped off as the roof clears.  It also pulled loose a section of fascia board.  The rigors of life in snow land...

Jan. 3
whitetailed deer
Here's a whitetail deer, that was lying in our back yard on the snow chewing its cud, then leisurely got up, licked a hind fetlock (if that's what that is),  and headed down toward the lake...
We're having a bit of cold today, as a break between storms.  A lot of snow came off the roof yesterday, blocking most of our view out of the windows.
On Dec. 31, Donald Westlake passed away, one of my favorite writers.  His Dortmunder funny crime caper books were his best in my opinion, a merry crew that occasionally pulled off a big haul, but never as planned.  Good Intentions was one of my favorites, where Dortmunder is recruited by a silent nunnery to steal back one of their number being held against her will by a millionaire father. The method of his recruitment was to fall into their midst (through the skylight) while fleeing a failed burglary...  Westlake wrote over a hundred books, with a half dozen pen names (partly due to content, partly a testimonial to his output, which was more than one publisher would handle).

Jan. 5
We got another 6 inches of snow last night, and the weather is headed towards Chinook weather midweek--a warm wind off the ocean that is sort of a reverse blizzard--potentially resulting in flooding, more collapsed roofs, etc.  The local schools have already called off school for Tuesday anticipating super slick roads...  A friend returning from central Idaho took about twice as long as usual--lots of 35 mph driving, fog, and black ice...
 On a more positive note, I made it over the million views mark in Youtube this weekend...  The most viewed, in order, (according to one part of the Youtube website, but contradicted by another part) are:


None of them are originals, and I would be hard put to understand why Jimmy Crack Corn is so popular (except some rapper performed a version of it).  I didn't expect any originals to make the list, since most people find videos on Youtube by searching, and tend to search for tunes they're familiar with...  I also had to relabel Silent Night as "Christmas Hymn Silent Night" because some obnoxious metal song has the same name...  Also I get tired of frequent comments suggesting I'm Santa on the Christmas tunes.
Anyway I'm glad I've made it to the million mark, even though there is no concrete benefit from it...
      A neighbor verified , seeing what the tracks in our driveway suggested--we had two moose in our yard the night before last...   Deer sightings are frequent...  
      We have a single sparrow we're feeding this winter.  It's the only one still to come to our makeshift feeder on the woodpile...  I built a larger feeder last weekend and hung it on the front porch, just before the roof slid, making the birdfeeder invisible to the outside world, from its porch cocoon of snow.


Jan. 6
There were a few more inches of snow overnight, morphing into rain through the day.  The door from our garage into the house was getting sticky--I looked up at it yesterday and saw a crack forming above it on one side, but it didn't seem related to snow load, since the wall this door is built into is not bearing the roof load.  But at two in the morning I remembered that one of the warning signs for stressed roofs is doors that won't close right, so I resolved to shovel above it in the morning.  Actually my wife ended up doing a lot of the shoveling, but I got in a half hour or so, what with pottery work and library work.  The door works better now...
 On the way to the library, the local elementary school had about 20 people shoveling on the roof (All the area schools were closed today to clear the roofs, before possible 2 inches of rain arrive tomorrow).  When I got to the library, there was a leak in the closet our returned books dump into, and I found out I'd have to help shovel through 4 foot drifts to clear the emergency exit.  Patrons told me that part of the roof on the local Walmart gave in.  They said workmen were hauling the snow off on tarps, when suddenly the tarp disappeared.  Another neighbor said they went to a Walmart in Spokane, which turned out to be the only one open, and they thought it was like Armageddon, all the people shopping in a frenzy to get supplies...
I just read in the Spokesman Review that the Mayor of Spokane had leaks from the snow, and had to get on her own roof and shovel, since there were no available alternatives..
Tonight we marked Epiphany with neighbors, candlelight in the light rain, and fireworks, and singing We Three Kings, and had cake inside afterwards with the two sets of neighbors.  It was very nice.

Jan. 7
  The snow compacted again from the above freezing temperatures with winds and rain.  The pottery display, all of which I built without any engineering or architectural guidance, has held up while local Walmarts caved from the roof strain ;-)  Now the issue is more flooding than roof damage...  We fixed a leak apparently caused by an ice dam on the roof at the library by cutting up some of the heavy plastic bags we give out to patrons and re-routing the leak in the ceiling to the outside of the wall, instead of the inside.  

One casualty of the storms this winter was my credit card machine, that got damaged by a power surge when the electricity went out (should have had a surge protector).  So I got a new one off Ebay and have been installing it today (with surge protector).  Sometimes its good enough to just get back to normal...

Jan. 8
  The afterschool program resumed today, which is the most demanding day of my library work week.  I made a treasure hunt for the  primary kids which led them to the various parts of the children's library area, including a new listening center.  Then, with too little time left, I started on the gimmicky craft of sprinkling crayon bits on waxed paper and melting it with an iron, which ended up running a bit into the second hour.  With the older kids, we started on some puppet videos, but about a third of the group was missing, so there was less energy than usual, meaning less exuberant projects...

Jan. 9
If it's not snow, it's ice.  Then snow (predicted today).  But I mention ice because I slipped again walking in the dark, landing on my right elbow.  I ended up hurting my hip, elbow, and getting a bump the diameter of a baseball on my forearm, but overnight most of the injury has gone away, so I feel relatively lucky.  I'm hoping to be well enough to go skiing with Emil tomorrow.
   In the pottery  this time of year, there's a lot of bookwork to finish up last year, and a few small orders to attend to, and I'm short on most items, with 5 months to restock before a hopefully healthy summer of sales.  With the recession,  I'll have to make some decisions as to whether to sign up for more or fewer art fairs.  In my case, I only participated in Art on the Green last summer, which cost $400 to enter (as I recall).  Last year for the first time the fair went to using a flat rate for booths--previously they'd taken a percentage of sales.  The percentage thing works better if you don't do well with your sales--you're less likely to go in the hole from it.  I think I only was selected for a booth because the new system reduced the potter applicants willing to take the risk.  

Jan. 10-11
I spent the 10th catching up on 3 months of paperwork. The good news was that pottery sales last year went up $100 from the year before.  Unfortunately that's not a predictor of how sales will be this year.  From the 2007 total of 150 glaze firings, I was down by 21 firings, which I attribute to the library job.  The fact that sales were almost the same would seem odd, given that there were that many fewer firings, except that the stock of pottery is more depleted now than would have been had I been working solely as a potter.  So I have to keep producing pottery through the winter if I hope to have a chance at similar sales this year.
   On the 11th we all went skiing, and inspite of pretty thick fog, it all went well.   There was a little fresh snow
to soften the hardpacked groomed trails, which is my favorite combination.

Jan. 12
   One of the first firings of the new year failed to make temperature yesterday, so I had to track down the problem.   It's my older kiln, and is missing substantial pieces of the insulating firebrick that separate the courses of  the heating elements.  I've put in a lot of ceramic pins to hold them in place, but if I don't monitor it carefully, they can bend out of their courses and touch the next element, causing a short and burning both out.  That's what happened, so I've repaired it and had to refire the kiln.
    In the evening I returned a sound system to friends Frank and Maddy in Spokane.  They're avid musicians, so I was hardly in the door before I was singing and playing along with them on a gospel set they'd worked out to play at the local Union Gospel Mission.  By the time we were done, I offered to sit in with them on it, whenever it gets scheduled.

Jan. 15
   The days are busy but average.   The kiln is fixed, but I'm still having clay problems.  Like the economy, I long for the times of a couple years ago, when the clay I'd used for 25 years was still working well.  I've made 24 plates to try to get a set of 8, and I'm having to refire some to get that set complete.  A lot of them are cracking in a serious manner during firing, with sufficient force to relocate the pieces several inches away.  Although most potters are willing to call them cracks, many serious potters prefer the term "dunts", which means the same thing, but sounds less serious.  Anyway, there are many pages in my ceramic encyclopedia on sources of cracks, and my inclination is to buy the next batch of clay with grog (which is not an alcoholic drink, but pulverized fired clay, which helps keep a clay body together more).  It is possible that there was a problem with the last batch of clay I got, but that's hard to prove.  It's mostly flat things that are having trouble with the cracking...
   In the library, thanks to a grant, we got new puppets and a puppet theater in the last couple weeks.  Coincidentally, the older group of kids that were making puppet videos have lost their creative focus, so we decided today to put away the puppets for a while.  I like to think that the large cardboard box we'd used previously was more stimulating in being a creative product itself.

Jan. 17
The local bluegrass showcase concert has moved from an old elementary auditorium to an newer high school auditorium (it's called University High School, which is pretty confusing as there's a street by that name also in Spokane, and they're both no where near any of the colleges).  When I go to these events, I'm always listening with one ear to decide if the music of Sondahl and Hawkins fits the format well enough to perform there.  It's a great venue--there were 300  in attendance, always a warm and carefully listening audience (which is hard to find).  But I don't play bluegrass, so the challenge is to sound bluegrassy enough for the venue.  Anyway the music was all good.  The most interesting band for me was Custer's Grass Band, formed in 1972, and reforming after a break.  It featured smooth bluegrass harmonies and playing, and time capsule songs done bluegrass like Steve Goodman's City of New Orleans...

Jan. 18
My lucky day.
I was driiving through a small town on our way to church today, and wasn't paying  much attention to my speed as I accelerated out of the town.  Then I saw the lights in the rearview, and noticed, as the officer said, I was going 54 in a 35 zone.   He said that would be a 140 dollar fine, but he'd cut it to 10 over, which is a $75 fine.   Then, listening to his earphone, he said "verify" a couple times, then handed my my license and said he had to go,  and it was my lucky day.
   Later, coming through town, we stopped at the grocery store,. and at the checkout he saw us again, and said, "There's the lucky couple."  I asked what his emergency was, and he said it was a building alarm.  Lot's of businesses use these alarms that call the police automatically, and have to be checked, They've become a big problem in big cities (due to resource issues), but they contributed to my lucky day.
   
Jan. 19
   We went skiing today, a beautiful clear sky.  We've been having a temperature inversion for the last week or so--lots of fog.   A temperature inversion is where a lid of hot air traps cold in the valleys.  It was vividly illustrated by how warm and sunny it was on the mountain (58 according to a lift operator), while it never got above freezing down  below.  It made for nice skiing, but ski areas need fresh snow like reefs need the tide, so it was pretty dense snow (ice)...

Jan. 21
   The modulation between 15 and 32 degrees F continues.  I realized yesterday that I've stopped noticing the snow (maybe because I'm busy watching for the icy patches on the street).   At the library we received materials for a "Snowmen at Night" party which we dutifully scheduled, and no-one attended.  I think in late November there would have been a bit of enthusiasm.  I'm not the only one who's oblivious to the snow--a friend came to visit from California, parked next to the 8 foot piles of snow, and was surprised to hear when I told her that several weeks ago building roofs were collapsing regularly...  January is a long month, even when we did have a thaw during it...

Jan. 22
   At the Library we often get packaged programs for the youngsters, and we'd gotten one with a snow theme, and materials and directions to make a snowman somemore cookie.   It consisted of chocolate and vanilla frosting, graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate chips.  Both the 1-3 graders and 4-6 graders were happy to do and eat the project, but the older kids got hyper from the sugar.  Some of them pretended to get jittery, go into convulsions, smeared chocolate frosting around their mouths.   It was all on an amusing level, but it made me realize the sort of placebo-effect, power of suggestion that goes on.   I'm sure if I'd served them ginger ale and told them it was beer, they'd all act drunk.  At the end of the hour I told them we'd limit snacks to unsweetened bran muffins from now on...

Jan. 23
   The other day the top of the kiln I was having trouble with last week acted up again.  This time a plastic wirenut I'd used inside the metal housing to connect two wires apparently caught fire and burned  a few other wires, resulting in an hour or so to replace the bad wiring.  The ideal connectors would be porcelain ones, which were made years ago for connecting wires, but have been replaced by metal covered with plastic.  Those mostly work except when too hot...  I expect I'll have to replace this kiln within a year or so...  It's the missing chunks of brick on the inside that really makes a kiln not worth putting much more into it--the element wires are going to go all squirelly no matter what you do...

Jan. 25
   The kilns are running well again...  It's nice to have them firing, since the weather's veering toward cold again.  
We're beginning to miss the snow--at least it was something to contend against.  If you heat with wood, cold is also something to contend with, but not so interesting visually...  The only visual part is watching the woodpile shrink, and wondering how long before we'll have to order another cord of wood...

Jan. 26
   My library work is mostly checking out and filing, plus being something like a cub scout leader for several days per week.  A lot of our patrons want help finding a book or other resource.  Some days we check out more videos than books.  But the serious readers read more books than the serious video viewers.  
   Today for the preschool sessions I used a book about a young girl who could imitate birds as the main story, then sang a version of Old MacDonald's farm with only birds in it, then showed and played a number of bird calls from a book I got for Christmas that has the calls in a gadget on the side, which showed them that ducks don't just say "Quack, quack." (Well, mallards do, but most of the rest don't.)
   Meanwhile in the pottery I made large pitchers, but I'm starting to think of making smaller items that take more time to conserve clay until March when a trip to Seattle is likely to occur.  Large pitchers can consume clay much faster than small candle holders...  I could order the clay delivered, but it's always good to keep costs low, if possible...

Jan. 28
  The weather continues between 15 and 32 degrees, a kind of cold blahness.  
Today in the library program, I hosted a program for teens on using Youtube.  Thanks to cooperative librarians at the middle and high schools, it was well advertised, but there were only two attending.  After I gave my outlined lecture, they were both willing to come again next week, so I've got a short term teen program underway.   I'm also reaching out to a different teen audience with a scheduled vampire night in two weeks, related to the phenomenal success of the Twilight series, which I'm only now reading the first installment of, making me way behind millions of American girls..

Jan. 31
I'm generally busy, but today was busy with fun stuff.  After assembling casseroles and canisters in the morning, I recorded a junior high youth on piano, then recorded Emil (videos to follow later), then Jonathan Hawkins and I had a nice time recording for another couple hours (more videos, when complete, will appear).  As usually happens with technology, some of it was working weirdly, so that I had to route it into the computer differently, but still got it to work.
As soon as Jonathan left, I went to watch a double high school game with local rival Priest River, featuring a School Spirit competition, which will make any viewing I get of the Superbowl tomorrow seem tame.  There were cheerleader routines, group lip sincs, and standing room only in the gym (actually I had to sit on the floor a couple feet from the ball court).
Books read and other media of note:
Brisingr by Christopher Paolini.  For fans of medieval fantasy, this has got to be one of the better series since the Lord of the Rings.  This book tosses off adventure after adventure for over 750 pages.  And the evil bad guy magician king has yet, after 3 books, to make a personal appearance.  

Endymion Spring
by Matthew Skelton.  This is a fairly clever juvenile fantasy tying together a book made of dragon hide with the beginning of the printing press and an adventure at Oxford.  The protagonists are preteen, so it's clearly aimed at younger readers, although the level of discourse might go above their heads.


As the Crow Flies by Jeffrey Archer.   Another beautifually told story, neither romance nor mystery, but more a  Horatio Alger type story with a bit of Dickens thrown in.  As in the other Archer stories I've read, the author's sympathies lie with the working class over the Aristocracy, and the antagonist is a titled mother who first denies that her son could have fathered a child with a commoner, then schemes to make sure that none of his lower class descendants can inherit her husband's fortune, in favor of her other son.  But this is only happening on the side of a story of a fruit man who envisions owning a department store.  Both plots both sound a bit banal in summary, but in the telling they come to life.

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