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Brad's Blog
Since blogging is riding a crest of popularity, and I have time to waste, I'm introducing this as a new feature.  I've always viewed my whole webpage as a blog with actual content, but now will try adding comments to this page on a regular basis for the more ephemeral thoughts.

June 1, 2005

    For a brief moment pottery seems more important than gardening.  I had visitors from McCall, Idaho come and stay overnight to learn about my pottery system.  They were very nice.  And now our God daughter is visiting from our alma mater St. Olaf College, and she's a serious contender for becoming a potter as well.  I suppose it's easier making a living as a potter than a gardener, so I haven't been too discouraging to any of them...  But I do tend to mention "boring" and "repetitious" fairly often.  Hopefully not so often as to seem boring, though....

June 2, 2005

    There are days you want to go back to bed.  There are days when you are paddling hard upstream to stay in the same place.  There are days when you move forward, albeit incrementally.  I think most of us live in the middle zone, but there are always aspects of the others.
    Today I did some pottery work, but the shelves are mostly full, and I need to sell some before I figure out what I really need to make next.  Then I worked on the 4 hours of MIDI music I'd written 10 years ago, converting them into files that will go on to CD's, and designing the covers.  This is sort of two steps back, dwelling in the past, but I feel good about the results, making them accessible to 21st century technology (instead of only cassettes).  So this was an incremental step forwards.
    Although it rained a half inch today, the garden was not too wet to weed this evening. This is definitely paddling to stay in the same place, because the weeds are paddling at least as fast.  So, for that matter, is the grass...
    And it wasn't a bad day, but when it's over, I do want to go back to bed, and I feel better for the small progress of the day, and for remaining paddling in the river of life.

June 3, 2005

    In waxing philosophical yesterday, I forgot the best story of the day.  Last winter I got into a dispute with the electric company bureaucracy about our bill.  We mostly used a pellet stove to heat our residence, whereas the previous owner used a lot of electricity. So for two months, when I saw that there was no correlation between the usage numbers on our bill and what our meter said, I called to complain about the reading.   I assume what happened is that the meter reader didn't want to wade through the snow to read the meter, so made up some readings through the winter, resulting in about $500 in overcharging.  When I called, the person answering first cast aspersions on my ability to read meters, and when I told them my snow theory  she self-righteously declared that "it would be against the law" for them to not actually read our meter since we were signed up for the monthly reading.  Both months that I called, they assured me they'd send someone to reread the meter within a week.  After two months I finally gave up, but the day before yesterday we got our latest bill in the mail, detailing a $500 credit.  Then yesterday we got a 1/2 pound box of chocolates in the mail from the electric company, with a little form apology.  My wife was a little miffed, since she's sworn off chocolates.  Maybe they should have sent a dozen roses too.  After all, they can afford them off the interest of the $500 they're hanging onto...

June 5. 2005

    I went to see the art fair in Spokane yesterday associated with the local art museum.  As usual, the potters there charged 2 to 3 times what I charge.   Most of those were more carefully decorated.  Most of the artists came from west of the Cascades, both in Washington and Oregon.  This is true of all the big art fairs here.   It may be true anywhere that the good shows bring in mostly out of town artists.  If you go to the small town celebrations, you are much likelier to find the local artists, but also generally a lower level of craftsmanship.  Spirit Lake is planning a first annual art fair, which like all art fairs, is intended to raise money for something (in this case the chamber of commerce).  Fairs which begin altruistically to encourage local arts grow and outgrow the local artists, resulting in the fairs such as I mentioned at the top.  As they grow, they become a self perpetuating oligarchy, with their purpose being sustaining themselves, at the expense of the exhibitors, who pay hefty fees to the organization to be there, which either goes to the sponsoring organization, or just for advertising and the hefty overhead of security, portapotties, insurance, etc.  If they don't grow and gain success, they falter and are bad for both the sponsoring organization and the artists.  I winced when I saw the local chamber trying to start one--birth pangs of art fairs can be pretty depressing in terms of low attendance and sales.
    You can guess I'm not an avid art fair exhibitor. (did I mention it was raining when I went to the fair?)   I did buy an album of harp music from a Seattle harpist.  Few musicians have what it takes to try to hawk their CD's at art fairs, but Philip Boulding has been doing it for 20 years or so, as I first bought a record from him about then.  Of course with the rain, and being about 30 feet from the stage with the rock band playing, he wasn't playing his harp, only a boom box sampling.
    My heart goes out to art fair exhibitors, but I'm happy not to have to join them this year...

June 6, 2005

    I was replacing the heating elements in my kiln today, a process that could be done in a half an hour, except for a design flaw that makes the elements too large for the slots when they are removed. (Elements get slightly larger over time, from little bits sticking off the edges of them).  So I ended up spending an hour with a needlenosed pliers, removing an inch at a time, ocasionally damaging the soft brick in the process.  I've done this many times before, and wouldn't have thought too much of it if I hadn't been showing my god daughter (who's studying ceramics in college) the system, and finally had to tell her she might as well check back in an hour.  She said that she hadn't had such troubles when she changed the elements on the Skutt kiln at school.  This thought made me consider switching brands of kiln, but that isn't likely to happen for a few more years (and element changings).  The conversation  did prompt a new thought--instead of tolerating an intolerable situation indefinitely-- I can get my elements custom made to a smaller diameter (at places like Euclid's and Duralite) and hopefully overcome the problem with the existing kiln.
    There are plenty of weak designs possible with electric kilns.  Many of the kilns are designed with  removable rings, with modular plug in sections between each ring.  These plug ins rapidly corrode and can fail or arc in use.  My goddaughter mentioned the school electricians hard wired the sections in their older kilns together, as I have done with most of my connections like that.  Also the use of slots in the soft brick for elements reduces the effective soft brick insulation by an inch or more.

June 7, 2005

  My god daughter and I did a tour of Coeur D' Alene galleries today, culminating in watching a glass blower making some unblown paperweights.  Glass workers and pottery workers are relatives--one works with sand, the other mud, and both work with heat to achieve their ends.  The mudworkers seem the poor relatives of the glass blowers--only a few glazes come close to some of the glories of glass colors and effects, not to mention the transparency which clay only partially achieves in true porcelain. Anyway, in spite of our being the poor relatives (pricewise as well as in glitzyness), the glass worker never touches his work until it's done (without dire consequences), whereas potters touch and retouch every part of their creations.  We also can make up in speed what we lack in individual work's value..   All that said, it was still fun to watch a new process, and just as wehen watching a production potter, the glass blower kept making the same thing over and over again to the point that its fascination diminished.  When people watch me work, they often say at the outset they could watch me work all day, but after 5 or 6 repetitions of making the same item their interest invariably flags.  So does mine, which is why I'm usually listening to something to keep my mind occupied...

June 8, 2005

       Although summer is my busiest time, the busy-ness of it creeps up on me.  I think it just started to hit this evening.  The weather has reverted to early spring, with  highs in the lower 60's, but summer fever overtook our kids and visitors.  First they dressed up for a croquet match (including Forrest in his moose costume).  Then they went for a slightly polar swim in the lake.  So people are starting to act summery, including the customers, who are even showing up in the evening .   I thought I had plenty of everything made, till I got an email wholesale order after supper and found I'd have to make about 2/3's of it.  And the weather is even supposed to top 70 again by the weekend.  Also while touching up the weeding in the garden, I spotted some strawberries turning red.  Sumer is a cumin', as they roughly say in a roughly Scottish dialect. Will ya goo, laddie, goo?

June 9, 2005

        Even though this is a monologue, and most of our lives are monologues,  most learning occurs from dialogues, with ideas if not with people (but of course the ideas come from other people).  I'm not a group joiner by nature, but a couple years ago I was walking by a pottery shop in Coeur D'Alene and someone came out that recognized me as a potter, and said they were having a meeting to form a potter's group.   The fit was too good--and I was hooked.  The organization has grown and matured a bit in the two years of its existence, and shows promise of good things to come.  I mention it because the monthly meeting was today, and it was as enjoyable as meetings can be, considering that they're meetings.  In this case the meeting was to organize the future, and all our futures can use a bit of that.  I now know what I'm doing a week from Saturday (selling pots to raise funds for the group at a farmer's market), and in November (attending a workshop on enameling), as well as tonight (work on making the group a webpage).  It's nice to find an affirming group of fellow aficianados, particularly since I work alone.

June 10, 2005

    To any of us who live in the 4 seasons part of the world, summer is always too quick.  We still haven't had any really hot days yet, so part of me is urging the garden and flowers to get growing.  Yet the summer progresses at its own pace--our rhododendrons now look depressingly browned-out, but the irises are at their height.  Flowers are like a slow fireworks display throughout the summer.  With luck there's always something going off blooming in your yard, and meanwhile, in whatever natural niches survive in your neighborhood, the wild counterparts are doing the same.
    I'm partial to natural lawns, and living at the edge of a large wild ecosystem that includes moose and mountain lions,  the three foot high grass in my side yard at my pottery residence fits right in.  But when we got our other house last year, besides the large garden and orchard, there existed a large suburban (sort of) lawn.  I say sort of, because it's not the all-uniform bluegrass lawn of the suburbs, but probably a couple dozen species (including some nasty invasives like Knapweed, and some oregano that escaped the garden).  When mowed, it looks like a lawn.  So I've been mowing it. Part of me plans adding native shrubs to reduce the lawn area, but another part of me (and my family) likes to play croquet on the sort of normal lawn.
    It seems to me I may have already delivered my little dictum of  "consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds," but I'm not too young to start repeating myself.  If  I ardently plead for anything, it is for the natural part of our world (which needs all the help it can get--a Massachusetts sized chunk of the Amazon rain forest was logged last year).  Yet the American (and through imitation, the world) lifestyle is "slash and burn" to the all the world's resources.
    Getting back to the dictum, I always liked that quote better before I learned the true beginning is "A foolish consistency..." (and thanks to Bartleby on the web I learn it comes from Emerson,  with Bartleby's tart rejoinder: "Emerson does not explain the difference between foolish and wise consistency."  Therein lies the rub (stealing another line, this time from Hamlet).  Without the "foolish" part, it's a quick defense for living nilly willy.  Unfortunately, that wasn't what Emerson meant.
    Anyway, I'm going to beg off from resolving what sort of lawn is the best.  Lawns seem to be one of those things everyone has an opinion on, and the opinions seldom agree.  If you've got a lawn, use it...  If not, visit a park...

June 12, 2005

    Today was the annual bluegrass association picnic and jam.  Jams are always unique experiences, as the makeup is always a bit different.  I met a person there who had played in a band 30 years ago, and was just taking up guitar again.  It's nearly the same for me, except I kept playing guitar (and other instruments) on my own.  But about 3 years ago I joined the weekly bluegrass jam, and I'm one of the most regular attenders, along with some of the other regulars forming Musicians Anonymous.  Jams are like potlucks, if you take something good at least part of the experience will be good...  In this case it was a potluck both with potluck food and potluck music.  There were probably about 30 musicians there, forming into 3-4 groups in various locations, then dissolving and reconfiguring fairly often.  It can be quite a humbling experience. In these types of jams you don't pull out your lyric sheets with the notes or chord changes.  Although I know hundreds of songs, there's probably only 20-30 that I reliably know the lyrics for (mostly because I learned them 30 years ago when my mind was still capable of the feat), so the lyrics are liable to degenerate to slurrings as the memory flickers in and out.    There are a lot of standards like Will the Circle be Unbroken, Redwing, and I'll Fly Away that crop up universally.  Then there are the songs the singer knows but no one else does, that everyone can follow the changes when its sung, but we all get lost for the breaks.  Also there are the musicians that can pick a whole lot better than you can (to paraphrase the song Nashville Cats).  Of course one also has the satisfaction of being one of those sort of pickers relative to the ones who strum on the sidelines.  So it's a mixed bag of nuts that attend these jams, but they're a lot of what keeps bluegrass popular.  At bluegrass festivals (and at few other types of music), the parking lot picking is a major part of the experience.

June 13th, 2005

    Today I finished about a week's work of getting a dozen original tunes ready for Musicians Anonymous to take a swing at.   I spend a lot of  my free time on music.  Very little of that time is spent performing, mostly because I don't like making the arrangements for playing somewhere, and neither do any others in the groups with whom I play.  We're musicians, not promoters.
    Getting back to the topic, 10 years ago I got a Yamaha synthesizer, and lived in an isolated area which encouraged spending lots of time on music.  So I wrote about 3 hours worth of original music, learning to orchestrate it on the computer.  Now I've gone back and rerecorded the songs in modern digital format, instead of the cassettes that have become outdated.  In the process, I picked out these songs that sound old timey, for our old time band to play.  Besides setting them to easy string band keys (mostly G major, as most string players prefer), I've written out the notes (and sometimes the lyrics), which is a dicey proposition as I don't read music myself, but can hack the basics like trying to have the right number of beats in a measure.  About a third of the songs are waltzes, which haven't been truly popular for over 100 years. So now I lay it all out for my sometimes cantankerous musician friends to decide which ones they're willing to attempt.  If it works out, we can spend a couple hundred dollars and record them, mostly to give to friends and relations.
    It keeps us off the streets, being buskers...

June 14, 2005

    By the way, a busker is a musician playing for tips...  This week in Spokane a newspaper columnist organized groups to play on the streets during the noon hours busking for the local food bank.  I wouldn't mind doing it except for the hour drive each way.  Well, actually I would mind, since I don't like soliciting funds from anyone (part of why my pottery display is set up for self service).  But I'd probably do better playing for a cause than for my own benefit.

    Also, I haven't heard any reports from my bandmates on my original music. They're probably all agog and atwitter.

    As I look out my window at the 3 foot tall grass in my side yard, I'm reminded of how I was given a weed wacker by some relatives, which I could get to work for minutes at a time without having to doink with it, until it died.  It worked well enough that I thought it would be a good tool for some our our weedy places (but not the 3 foot grass--that's decor), so I bought a used one on Ebay.  A week later, two showed up here.   I noticed the seller had a lot of them listed, and considering one of them was in a lot of pieces, and the other lacked the basic safety cowling, I figure he probably decided that if he sent me two, I could get one of them to work. (That might have been true if they were the same model)  I'll have to give him positive feedback for his effort, in spite the fact that both of them have difficulties to overcome that probably explain why he had a lot of them in the first place (he runs a weed wacker graveyard?).

June 15, 2005

    I spent a couple hours today manufacturing some of my music CD's.  This is actually a result of digitally recording my MIDI files, which I made 10 years ago.  MIDI is a system of using a piano keyboard to imitate over 100 instruments, most of them poor imitations.  When MIDI came in, lots of people started making music with it, since it could be edited and arranged on the computer, but most of it came out sounding mechanical in its playing.  I purposefully avoided that when I worked with it, adding in most tracks from live recording, only taking out the glaring mistakes, not correcting minor timing issues.  All this music is from 10 years ago, but upon recent resusitation, still sounds good to me.
    I'm an obsessive do-it-yourselfer, so besides writing the music, I also design the CD covers and make the CD's on my computer, stuffing each one in a plastic bag, sealed with tape.  Then I mostly don't sell them (although with summer coming, and my plan to buy a small boombox for demo purposes, I hope to sell a few to wary tourists).  All these new CD's now mean I have to edit some of my related webpages, which just affirms Murphy's corollary that work expands to fill the time allotted for it.

June 16, 2005

    I suppose if you live long enough, you can live to regret most of the things you say.  This week I've been bragging about the 3 foot tall grass in my yard.  Today I decided to water the fruit trees that are mostly hiding in the taller-than-yours grass.  I'd already noticed that when you bump the grass, the pollen rained down.  I should be aware that I have allergies, but advances in antihistimines have made it so I'm not as cautious as I might be.  So I waded through the pollen shower to water the fruit trees, and clogged sinuses, frequent sneezes, and itchy eyes resulted (in spite of using two types of antihistamine concurrently).  It's a good thing that the grass season only lasts a couple weeks around here.
    In spite of the allergies, I enjoy the various types of seed heads that grasses produce.  I just have to do it from a distance.

June 17, 2005

    Besides all my other nature inclinations, I'm a bit of a birdwatcher, so I read an AP article today with interest about finding a Bell's Vireo in California.  But I cracked up when the story got to this part, due to possible confusion as to whom the pronoun "he" refers, particularly since the name Lina appears frequently in Ole and Sven jokes:

"Dropping her equipment, Lina focused her binoculars on the bird — a male perched on a branch about 30 feet away, singing and shaking his tail feathers.  As she called her supervisor about the discovery, a female joined him and did a copulation dance."

    Lucky supervisor, one might think...

June 18th, 2005
        This evening I thinned two rows of carrots.  This would not be remarkable in itself, but I planted 3 rows, 25 feet long, of carrots.  Each row is more like a bed, about 6 inches wide.  And this year the carrots came up profusively.  I got a juicing machine at a rummage sale today, anticipating making carrot juice...
    If you know any thing about growing carrots, you know they have small seeds, and must be planted with only a thin covering of dirt.  If the weather is hot and dry, the ground will dry out and kill the seedlings.  So the fact that the carrots came up profusively really follows from the cruddy weather we've had all month.  Great carrot weather, but frequent showers with highs in the 60's.  You can count the shorts weather days on one hand...
    So there were a lot of tiny carrots to remove, and the evening was perfect for it.  Just for the record, in case you, for instance, live in Minnesota, there were no mosquitoes.  We have mosquitoes in Idaho, but they are polite and  mostly only come out after we've gone to bed. And while I lay down on my side in the row and picked miniscule carrots, I thought how this year the garden hadn't been ravaged by deer.  Last year I had to plant green beans three times before there was enough other stuff that the deer ignored them.  This year there was a rumor that there was a cougar in the area, and I thought it reasonable that the cougar might make the deer a bit scarce.  It's an ill wind that blows no good, for whatever use that old saying is.  So after about an hour, I'd thinned two of the rows, but the light started to fail, so I headed back to our original homestead.
    When I got there, my wife pointed out the deer damage in our garden there--green beans, peas, and cabbage munched on.  Probably the cougar left the area for lack of deer, so the deer are back, like the Yogi Berra saying about  how nobody goes there anymore, it's too crowded...
    So there we have, in a nutshell, the great circle of life.  Man plants, and the deer eats it.  Man eats deer.  Man dies from eating too much red meat, and pushes up daisies.  Where have all the flowers, gone, anyway?
    Well, at least the cougar's probably gone...   Unless it's attracted by all the fat deer...

PS.  The main weed in the carrot rows was purslane, one of the most common garden weeds everywhere I've lived.  The rubbery leaves don't die with pulling, but try to regrow from any contact with the earth.  If you do a web search on purslane, you'll find it's packed with vitamins and tasty, in case you're into eating your enemies (as Idi Amin was rumored to be).  I've tried purslane, and it's bland and still a weird rubbery sort of thing to eat.
    Anyway, the funny thing about purslane is you never see it growing other places besides gardens and tilled fields.
    Another curious weed is camomile, that grows in a lot of grassy parking areas, as it seems to thrive on compacted ground, but you never see it growing in gardens.  To each his own, I guess.

PPS
It's one of those days. The juicer I bought was a "Juice Tiger."  So I thought I'd try to find a manual for it on the internet. The only thing that came up was a recall notice for dangerous flying parts of it, and that the company, which telemarketed it in the 90's, is gone so the only thing to do is toss it.  Maybe if I throw hard enough it will hit a deer.

PPS.
Also, it's not deer that are a problem with the carrots. It's the neighbor's scotty dog, Chester.  Turns out he likes to eat carrots.  I haven't seen it myself, but he's known to eat them one after another when given them from the table.  And rumor has it he's been seen stalking carrots in our garden.  I guess it makes sense.  Chester is too short to catch a deer.  But this spring Chester WAS attacked twice at night, which added credence to the cougar scenario.

I guess I should have bought a "Juice Cougar," instead of a Juice Tiger...

June 19th, 2005

    Quite a long time ago I had the idea for a stupid festival to make fun of all the stupid festivals towns put on to try to attract people in the summer.  I called it the Stupid Festival, and thought it should include a backwards parade (everyone walking or driving backward), stupid art contests (hard to beat the professionals at that...),  stupid sports competitions (ditto...), dandelion celebration, and so on.
    Some local guys must have read my mind, because they started the Big Back In.  This is a modified lawn mower exhibition.

This was my favorite, utilizing a nautical theme.  This was part of the parade, which seems to go down the street somewhere then back to the bars, where this sport originated and is right at home.  The event is growing, though, so there were even some races of sorts.
Although this is a local bit of summer craziness, there was a newspaper story that people are racing modified lawnmowers at speeds up to 80 mph in other places, which is a whole lot crazier.
    Anyway, this is Spirit Lake, Idaho on Big Back In day.
 

June 20, 2005

    I just checked to verify that June 8th was when I thought summer had finally come.  Since then there's been a lot of cold and drizzly days, but I'm probably safer saying it's here now, with high's in the 80's predicted tomorrow.  The weather changes so quickly here that you can go from keeping the house closed up to keep the heat in, to keeping the house closed up to keep the heat out, in one day.
This is the first evening we've been letting heat out the screens, so the scale has tipped again toward summer.
    Selling pots from your own store is a lot like fishing--fairly random but hotter sometimes than others.  It leads one to speculate on mass psychology.  Last weekend it was cool, and sales were slow, and if I had a lake cabin here I wouldn't be here, either.  Today the weather soared, and although Mondays are usually slow, sales were brisk.  From this I deduce everyone was depressed last weekend (except maybe the Big Back In people)

June 21, 2005

    The Pacific Ocean, as its name suggests, is not tempestuous by nature, nor are the states along the western shore, at least weatherwise, and usually.  But once every couple years we get a big storm through, and that was today.  The heat which kept houses closed and reached nearly 90 was pushing the weather's "yin" compacity, and became balanced by a short and powerful "yang" storm (no, I'm not into eastern religions, and I don't know how the yin-yang symbol became part of the Great Northern railway's logo, though it would probably be interesting to know).
    As I drove into Spokane late in the afternoon, the skies were clear, though I could see a towering mass building up off to the west.  As I finished my shopping I could see the rain was starting, still to the west.  When I reached my friends' house (to try playing some of my original tunes with them), they had gotten a call from a friend who lived west of Spokane, telling of downed trees and powerlines.  But we were practicing in the one room in their house without windows, and might have missed the storm but for a door blowing shut, prompting us to check what was going on.  My friend has an empty lot next to his, which is rocky enough to defy mowing, so his grass was about a foot long there (no where near as tall as my 3 foot grass ;-)   ).   So when we went to see the storm, it was most visible in pulses through the long grass.  The sky was brown from dust, and it rained briefly, only enough to make the dust stick to the windows.  Later I learned the winds were up to 75 mph, and several large buildings lost their roofs.  There was a bit of lightning, mostly sound and fury signifying nothing (as only a thorough rain would be a suitable purgative for the experience).
    The power went out, and stayed off, so we played music just by ear, into the dusk of this midsummer's eve.  As I drove home, I realized that although most of Spokane had power, everywhere east (including my friends, remained dark, except for the occasional candlelight in windows.)   An ominous glow over a mountain to the south turned out to be a ruddy full moon, red from the dust in the sky.
    As I approached home, I became more concerned for my business and family.  I keep several thousand dollars worth of pots in an outside display in all weather, and this weather was extreme.  I'd just finished a wooden "tree" to set planters of geraniums on for a display...  As I reached the last dozen miles, a roadblock directed us all off onto a back road (likely a tree had blocked the highway).  I was glad I know the back roads, as there was no one later to direct the traffic back again...  The power was out everywhere, until the borders of Spirit Lake.  So when I got home, the family said it wasn't much of anything (although there were several wheelbarrow loads of branches broken out of our trees), which, although anticlimactic, is the nicest outcome.  Even the planters all withstood the wind on their precarious perches...

    June 22, 2005

    My family has mostly gone to Oregon to help relatives move to Spokane this weekend.  There should be about 4 vehicles worth of travelers arriving on Saturday, which also happens to be Hoopfest in Spokane with the downtown crawling with hoops and hoopsters, the largest 3 on 3 basketball tournament around.  Because I have a personal track record of back spasms, I seem to be relagated to watching Grandma and the pottery shop, which is satisfactory with me...

    June 23, 2005

    Today I helped out with Vacation Bible School.  I entered into this with some trepidation.  For several years I was partially in charge of VBS in Nezperce, Idaho.  One of the lowlights was pushing an upright piano to a new location, only to have it fall over onto its back while being moved.  Fortunately the piano was a trooper and  survived unscathed. But does anyone survive VBS unscathed?
    When I got there the pastor who invited me was in his role, dressed as a rabbi, including a painted-on Groucho type beard.  The windstorm had taken out most of the tents and tarps they'd set up for their Middle Eastern village, so I set up my potter's wheel in the sun.  Noticing that most of the adults were in pseudo Middle Eastern garb, I combined a fear of sunburned neck with haute couture and put the hand towel I had brought on my head, tied on as a headdress.  I'll bet those Middle Easterners in their robes and stuff don't  sunburn, anyway.
    The reason I was asked to do this (at a town 20 miles away), was that they were supposed to have this Middle Eastern village, including a potter (so I was a shoo in).  When I found I was to enthrall them for 20 minutes (watching pottery on the wheel is good for 5 minutes max for most people, whether aged 5 or 50), I immediately expanded my act to include significant references to pottery in the old testament (Genesis-formation of Adam and Jeremiah's trip to the potter), and ended with singing my Jeremiah song.  It worked pretty well--I did my shtick 4 times, and it was over.
    It was actually pretty fun.  I was glad I wasn't in charge of the whole week...

    Of course taking the morning off meant in the afternoon having to deal with the 60 pots I'd thrown yesterday, and fix a kiln that quit totally during firing, with nary a light nor element buzz to show signs of life.  At this point of my relationship with electric kilns, there are few new tricks they can play on me, although at this time of my life I can think they're new until my fuzzy memory reminds me that I had just forgotten  (how often the line from the musical Zorba pops into my head--"Each time, is the first time!")  In this case, one of  the heavy wires coming into the kiln had fried itself where it attaches into the kiln wiring.  I was lucky and it had not arced enough to destroy the connecting device--only the wire itself, so I was able to replace the wire with a range plug-in from the hardware.

June 24, 2005

    Today was notable in that the family returned from Oregon, where they're involved in moving relatives to Spokane.  Tomorrow we're all swept up in the truck unloading experience.  Tomorrow has a number of interesting portents, whereas today was just another day...

June 25, 2005

    There was a nice article published on me in the Idaho Spokesman-Review today, courtesy of Laura Umthun who is in a potter's group with me and was impressed by my instructional videos.  There were some kind of artsy photos with it, too, but I just stuck up the text at this link.
    Knowing that the article was scheduled to be published today created a conflict in myself, as I wanted to go help my relatives move, but considered it possible that a fair number of people might be moved by the article to visit our pottery shop (which I finally decided to abandon for the morning, as blood is thicker than ink).  When we're gone, people are invited to help themselves and slip checks under the door.  When I got back this afternoon, my choice seemed vindicated in that there were no fresh checks so deposited, indicating that most likely if I'd been here I would have been depressed at the lack of response.  Selling pots is a lot like fishing--even the best bait and fishing hole doesn't mean you're going to catch anything...  I was also vindicated in my decision to come home for the afternoon--business picked up considerably, mostly repeat customers that would have come anyway.
    Another part of me knows, as it says in Ecclesiastes, that this is all chasing of the wind.  No particular day of sales matters--only that enough money flows to meet our needs on average, which it has always done.  Another guy in the Bible calls it daily bread.

June 26, 2005

    Today I played guitar and sang for our local church.  The words were by Isaac Watts, whose big hit was "Joy to the World" (not the 3 Dog Night version).  I learned the song from an oldtime stringband--it's not common in churches any more.  The lyrics were full of lines like "Must I be carried to the skies on flowery beds of ease, While others fought to win the prize and sailed through bloody seas"   You can always tell the good old time hymns--they've always got "blood" in them somewhere.
 

 June 27, 2005

    It rained a lot today, which makes the day dreary, but improves chances for a disaster free 4th of July.  Local appetites for fireworks tend towards those shot out of mortars--the Coeur D' Alene Indian reservation has long met these appetites.  This year the county has been exerting a "presence" in the area where the big fireworks stands are on the reservation, to discourage the many who can legally buy them on the reservation, but after that the fireworks become illegal to own or use.  I identify both with fire suppression efforts and the natives' rights to arm bozos.  The happy medium is a good dousing shortly before the holiday, and let the fireworks begin!

June 28, 2005

    I bought a weed wacker on Ebay a couple weeks ago.  It all started with the relatives moving, and giving us a weed wacker, which previously had been for me the totally manual sort, where you sort of practice your golf swing (but I don't golf).  So I finally tried out this weed wacker this spring, and it worked only long enough to get me hooked on it.  The weed wacker is a death ray to the child in me, mostly for good, occasionally taking out a harmless flower or two, but still a wonderful death ray, and what guy wouldn't want to have a death ray, even if it only works on dandelions?  So then I decided to replace it with a good used one on Ebay.   I found the deluxe dual line trimmer with heavy duty attachment, listed along with a bunch of humdrum normal ones, all by the same seller.  When it arrived, I was surprised to find two weed wackers in the box, the one I'd won, plus one of the normal ones.  I decided the seller was sick of weed wackers.  But the dual line one was in pieces, which when assembled left the line flailing aimlessly, mostly disengaged from the mighty spinning motor.  Ahah, I thought, this is why he sent the second wacker--he knew the deluxe model was defective.
    So I set about trying the "normal" one, and after about 5 minutes of operation, the motor started smoking and lost power.   Ahah, I thought, the seller had an abundance of defective weed wackers to dump.
    A week later, I decided to squirt some heavy duty adhesive into the works of the last remaining hope, the dual line deluxe model.  Today, I tried it, and it worked for 5 minutes, as long as any weed wacker has ever worked for me!  Success!
    Along the way, I stripped off the end trigger assemblies of the dead weed wackers, which resemble ray guns (those weed wacker designers knew what they were doing).   I now have two ray guns, which can attach onto a single pipe, and when so connected, resemble very high tech steer's horns.  I think there's a sculpture there brooding.  Or at least a couple death rays...
    For a while I've wondered what sort of feedback I should post for the seller on Ebay.  The choices are positive, neutral, or negative.  I've decided not to post any--a first for me--how can I pass judgement on someone who sends two defective weedwackers for the price of one?

June 29, 2005
    The windstorm of June 21 bore a late casualty--a large branch in one of our cottonwoods began hanging perilously low over the space where people enter our potter display, and where we often park our car.  The problem for removal was that we don't have a ladder over 8 feet long, and the branch began about 15 feet up in the tree.  So I was kind of hoping that a particular friend would stop by who has a long ladder, but I  also started problem solving without it.  Several in the family felt it would be nice to have one of those tree saws that comes on a 10 foot pole.  I tried to improvise one with a couple poles and a bow saw, but it wasn't the same.  Besides, the branch where it was cracked was about 9 inches in diameter, so it would take a long time to saw it that way.
    Then I remembered the tree in my backyard in South Dakota.  It was a good climbing tree, but needed a few two by fours nailed on to get up to the good parts.   So I used the 8 foot ladder, and (being the 21st century) I used my cordless drill to secure some 2 X 4's with screws, and climbed up to the main crotch of the tree, where I could stand securely and saw it with a bow saw.  When it came down, it glanced off the edge of the pottery display, but ended up not causing any major damage.
    Then I suggested my wife could cut it up with her chain saw.  I'm not a big fan of chain saws--they seem to require more doinking with than weedwackers.  I had one years ago and swore off them.  But Althea has a mountain woman friend who gave her the saw for her birthday, so it's her saw.  Althea had her own project going--making a brick wall to define a new sales area for pottery, so she suggested I use the saw.  It's no weedwacker (for me in terms of immature masculine fun ratings), but it certainly did speed up the process.

June 30, 2004
        I recently had a birthday, and my present was a family concession to let me get a new camera. It came today, and it's great!  I won't bore you with names--the goal of a better camera is to take better pictures.  My photography consists of mostly remembering to take a camera on walks and adventures, and relying on my own sense of beauty (and luck) to guide my shots.  Unfortunately the camera I had would only see the birds as specks, and would generally focus on the ground behind the flower instead of the flower.  Now with the new camera, it has the power of a good set of binoculars, but can also take closeups of flowers, and can be manually focused to get the part you want in focus.  The price of these new features (beyond the price sticker)  is learning new techniques.  The camera manual urged being read before using the camera.  So I did, while charging the battery, but the camera itself made more sense than the manual.  When I tried it I was only a bit disappointed that the only birds that seemed to be around were robins.  Now, when the pictures are out of focus, I can blame myself instead of the camera.  I'm not sure if that's progress, yet.

    Today seemed to be the day people were emailing for help.  In the last day I've gotten a request for 1950-52 Twirlers archives (didn't say what city these twirlers were from, though it didn't matter--I'm fresh out);  also a request for glaze recipes 1000 degrees cooler than what I  work with; burgundy canisters (not one of my colors); and a request for musicians for the garden club tour in Spokane.  This last was sort of welcome, as my musical groups are languishing for lack of performing so far this summer, and I like nice gardens as much as the next person does.  I also got co-opted today into a local gospel group to play banjo and sing tenor for the town 4th of July celebration.
Also one person appeared (wearing unusual statue of liberty sunglasses) wanting lessons (don't give them), and another new amateur potter showed up and asked where I got my clay, and when I said where, told me I shouldn't get it there, because the owner is impossible.   So I guess summer is heating up. 

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