March 1, 2009
We walked on the lake from one public access to the other today, seeing
many deer, a bald eagle, and more ruby crowned kinglets. A fine
rain started as we walked, which, now hours later, is a heavy steady
drizzle, expected to last through the day tomorrow. From fishing
holes we could see that the lake ice is still about 8 inches thick, but
there were many more cracks running through it than previously, and I
felt safer walking closer to shore. Our young
visitor didn't venture with us, as the cold clammy conditions put her
off. However she enjoys reading, which fits with our own
standards of entertainment.
I thought I'd try "Button, button, who has the button?" with the
preschool library kids today. This is the circle game where a button
passes around the circle while the person in the middle tries to guess
who has it. It turns out the preschoolers lack a few skills, but
they mostly seemed to enjoy it. The younger ones didn't get the
idea of either passing or pretending to pass the button. Then
there were the ones that called out who was holding the button as soon
as the person in the middle opened their eyes from counting.
I've always viewed listening to NPR radio news programs while potting
as a form of escape from my own regular existence. Lately with
the economic news it seems like I could find better cheerier ways to
escape, like listening to polka music, or continuing through the 1500
Grateful Dead concert recordings that I'm slowly working through.
But I guess it's better to have my eyes open to the seriousness
of the world's problems...
March 3 It
rained enough over the last twenty four hours that a few bushes are
emerging from the snow. This year the snow flattened rose bushes,
raspberries, even the elderberry bush out front. It broke a major
branch on one of our apple trees. It's nice to see it recede in a
fairly orderly fashion. Being only March, I'm still hoping for
fresh snow in the mountains to keep the skiing good.
March 4 I'm
going to Boise for a library conference for the next two days.
The airline industry being as it is, first we drive to Spokane,
fly to Seattle, then to Boise, taking about 5 hours for what would be
an hour flight from Spokane. It would take about 8 hours to
drive... I'm looking forward to the small commuter airplanes.
They seem more plausible as flying machines than the huge things
one usually takes.
library conference was held at what I call Urban Desert--a motel
surrounded by malls and freeway. I only took photos on the plane
coming and going. The trip back was beautiful sunny skies all the
way to Seattle. The photo above is of the Snake River wending its
way north through some of our Idaho ruggedness... The recent
snows highlighted the mountaintops nicely.
I remain not a fan of conferences in general. I did take the
podium briefly twice. The first was in response to one of the
presenters who talked about FRED, an acronym for Fathers Read Every
Day. After she was done it inspired me to go up and testify to the
importance of fathers reading (as the only father there), and how I
read daily until the kids were in HS, and that really led me to my
interest as a children's librarian. (The other male in the group is
from a local college there to evaluate some of our reading programs).
Later back at the table one of our consortium was wondering if we used
that slogan and acronym if we'd have to get permission. She was
thinking out loud--maybe instead use "Daddies Read Every Day". I laughed and said that would be DRED, not the message we want to convey.
The other time I spoke to the group related to our puppet program.
Thanks to modern technology I could show them a puppet video on the
projection screen after describing the program. I'd prefer to
have had time to pick out the video, but selected one pretty much at
random (The Lion and the Mouse) and it was well received. I
figured out that even having the kids do the puppets was not something
common, and videoing them to Youtube was a real stretch for their
imaginations. (I later dozed off during a program introducing us
to new concepts on using the Internet in our programming, though I plan
to revisit the presentation online later so I can click on the links
and not just hear a brief description of them--such things as this make
the whole travel hundreds of miles to see a presentation on using the
Internet seem a bit silly).
March 8 Winter's
making a last ditch serious attempt on us here--the ice is still thick
and we got another 3 inches of snow with cold temps overnight and highs
below freezing. At least March weather holds hope (within a month
or two). Yesterday Jonathan and I recorded a few more
songs--they're posted at Youtube and listed at the bottom of the list on the Sondahl and Hawkins page.
March 11 We
hit 0 F this morning, a record low for this date, awfully late to have
such cold. With the clear skies it's warming... I
came down with a cold yesterday, which had me teeth chattering in the
night, so I didn't work at the library today, not wanting to spread the
germs. That didn't stop me from pottery work--unloading two kilns
and loading two kilns in the deep freeze temperatures.
The cold has stuck with me. I skipped skiing today in favor of
sitting around... This week Emil got his hair styled in a
Mohawk. He's always been into appearing trendy, and this is the
version he currently is trying. He sort of resembles a blonde
zebra (since their manes stick straight up). It takes him about a
half hour in the morning to get it standing up straight, with gelatin
and hairspray. I think that will get old pretty quick.
A couple weeks ago the septic line at the pottery house got plugged,
and the act of cleaning it out (by professionals) caused part of it to
fall apart (due to never being glued together in the first place).
This was a problem, as there is no crawl space to access the
pipe. Finally we hit on a plan to make a larger hole in the
floor to access it, and were able to restore it early this week.
Sometimes life is good if everything you take for granted is
March 15 We
were the first to come upon a car rolled onto its side on the way to
church this morning. The road was slushy. The sole
occupant, a woman, had just climbed out her window and was sitting at
the top of the car, which was a largish truck type. The area is
fairly isolated--no cell phone coverage. So while we ascertained
there was no phone, I asked if anyone was hurt or still in the vehicle.
She said no. (I could probably still remember some first
aid from my years as an EMT, even though mostly it consisted of giving
them oxygen and checking their vital signs). By that time two vehicles
headed towards the nearest town had stopped and offered assistance, and
since we were headed away from there, we left her in their hands. The
weather went from snow overnight, to rain during the day, to strong
winds this evening, with a chance of thunderstorms. This is Idaho
spring... Emil already tired of the zebra mane
look. Instead he's spent 45 minutes per day clumping his top hair
into geometric cones resembling the spikes on the Statue of Liberty's
I made a few globe vases yesterday, so today I made a thrown chuck to
trim them. In this case it was a thick walled bowl shape that I
could set the vase on upside down and it would hold it steady to trim
and add a coil foot. Usually I just use some water on the wheel
bat, or some pats of clay to secure these vases, but this secured them
a lot better. I'm down to a couple hundred
pounds of clay, but fortunately a friend is bringing me a shipment from
Seattle on Friday. When I ordered the clay, the line to the
supplier was busy repeatedly, and the clerk said it had been a busy
day. Given the economic news, it's good to hear that something is
busy, besides bankruptcy attorneys. My son is
here visiting (and skiing daily, which is his preferred way to go
through the day). He's planning to compete (but not win) in the
Stomp Games this weekend at Schweitzer. He prefers to do
technically difficult tricks that aren't quite as showy as, what he
calls, "Spin to Win," where the most spins successfully landed on a
jump will about guarantee being a winner. In the
library preschool this week, I brought a monkey doll and a bongo to
help with "Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb," an old early reader favorite of
mine. Then for a project we copied hands with markers and made
them look either like dogs or bunnies, depending on how the hand was
held. One kid said he wanted his to look like a dinosaur...
I had to tell him hands don't look like dinosaurs...
The conditions at the Stomp Games competition were bad today, as they
frequently are. It snowed and rained, making visibility and
sliding conditions bad. Birrion competed without winning, but had
a good time with the other contestants and visiting old friends.
Now that Spring has sprung, birds have started coming to the feeder I
put up in front, as well as the little pan which had been the sole
feeder for a sparrow. There was a rufous sided towhee there the
other day, and a varied thrush and townsend's solitaire were looking for mountain ash berries in
back. The feeder in front, totally ignored all winter, now has
chickadees and nuthatches. And the bird calls are highly
noticeable as I walk around town. There's still a foot of highly
condensed snow in most places, but it gets soft every day.
I pruned some apple and pear trees from the ground today (actually
standing on pieces of plywood on about a foot of very wet snow).
This led me to check previous March blogs and realize that I'm behind
again this year (it just shows this blog is good for something).
It's time to be planting bedding plants, but until recently there
have been very cold temperatures that would freeze our greenhouse.
Interestingly enough, I planted some spinach last fall in the
greenhouse that has hibernated through zero degree weather and looks
about ready to start eating.
We had to get another cord of wood to last until warm weather.
When you heat with wood, it's easy to visualize your carbon
footprint, compared, for example, to natural gas, that's invisible all
the way. The forecast for the next few days is snow and slush.
I think it helped bring people in the Library today.
Emil tired of taking care of his Mohawk, so he got his
head uniformly trimmed today. I asked if he wanted to be called
"Butch" or "Baldy." He said neither. The weather was a
factor--with a Mohawk he couldn't wear a hat, and the snow would reduce
an hour's work to mush. He has some leftover cans of hair spray...
My skiing son returned to fresh powder in Colorado today.
It was a nice visit, if a bit complicated by his two days of
Some friends asked us to sponsor their baby for baptism, which
included my wife doing the service. Due to scheduling
difficulties, it happened this morning in Spokane. It was a small
group of family and friends. I played guitar for it. The
father is a church organist and plays oboe in the Spokane Symphony, so
I'm always a bit humbled to play in his presence. But it worked
out well. Then my schedule got me back to the library with two
minutes to spare. In the last week with the preschool groups I've
worked up a puppet version of Hansel and Gretel, where the father
leaves them in the woods because the bank he runs fails, and after
they dispose of the witch they are received happily back home because
the father got a federal bailout... We must keep up with the
It's been a short pottery week with the baptism and all, but I managed
to glaze a couple kilnloads this morning and throw about 25 pots.
In the library I hid mystery clues under stuffed animals around the
room and had the kids find them and read them. The puzzle was
about where the stuffed White Mouse was (he was under the sink eating a
pretzel). The weather was sunny for
a change. I managed to get the garden seeds started in a
half hour between lunch and library... But the tomato starts will
have to stay in the house for weeks.
I've been saving up kiln shelves with glaze drips on them, since the
hand held grinder was at the other house. But I finally got
around to grinding and adding kiln wash to 4 round shelves today.
I don't know if it's the grinder abrasive or the glaze, but there
is a surprisingly strong smell given off from the grinding, which
lingers for hours. Its reminiscent of the smell when a dentist
drills on tooth enamel. Anyway, the only glaze I have that drips
is the crystalline glaze. I've taken to firing many of those pots
on short stilts so they won't stick to the shelf and crack. The
drips still form, and mostly just hang down over the bottom as a frozen
tear drop shape. Usually I grind them off with a bench grinder,
but today there were about 6 on each of two mugs, so I left them on as
an insulating feature, so you can set your hot mug down on a surface
without worries. I'll probably just grind them off in the end,
but it's worth a try. Meanwhile another slushy
storm is coming in tonight, starting with current drizzle... Ahh,
North Idaho Spring...
I saw a mountain bluebird the other day, another harbinger of spring.
But the day started out a lot like Christmas, with over an inch of
fresh snow covering everything. I considered going skiing, but
the weather report called for high winds (which never materialized
here), so I doinked all day. I arranged to give one of our 3
cars to National Public Radio). I fixed a wheel barrow. And
I watched some videos and relaxed.
Books read and other media of note:
The Wizard of Linn by A.E. Van Vogt.
My son and I have a large collection of Van Vogt paperbacks--this
the latest addition, from around 1975, depicts a world devastated by
alien bombardment, sent partly back to feudalism and the stone age, but
still retaining a few space ships and odd bits of high tech. The
aliens have returned after many years, so a mutant leader goes in
search of aid for earth. As usual, the plot twists keep the story
engaging, and it doesn't seem dated much, as it didn't try to portray a
civilization with wonders such as cell phones (nor did most of the SF
of that era)... Seven Up by Janet Evanovitch
Few remember The Perils of Pauline, but this humorous detective
saga resembles it. You can count on her finding a body or two,
having her life threatened, and having her car get totaled
in every book--the fun is how it happens this time. In this way
she resembles P G Wodehouse, who reworked the same basic plot countless
times to ever novel effect. Film: Slumdog Millionaire Although it sometimes felt too much like the TV gameshow, it was a clever and touching movie. Hot Six by Janet Evanovitch In
the preface to a recently rereleased early romance novel by Janet, she
commented that it was a screwball comedy. In fact, all her Plum
mystery novels are screwball comedies as well, populated with the sort
of families that would be familar to the world of "You Can't Take it
With You," "Arsenic and Old Lace," and other screwball comedies of the
The Scarecrow and His Servant by Phillip Pullman.
A period romp of a children's fantasy, along the lines of the
Wizard of Oz. Even the illustrations seem to be about 150 years
old, although it's fairly recent.
Eureka by Jim Lehrer.
This "coming of old-age" novel by the PBS anchor looked more
cheery in premise than in actuality. A 59 year old insurance
executive is led down nostalgia lane to purchase a cast iron firetruck,
a Red Ryder BB gun, and a Cushman motor scooter, then drops out to make
use of them. Although the story takes a few grimmer turns, it
remains a fable for those who never lived their dreams. I've
found myself collecting a few bits of childhood desire as well, such as
Little Lulu comics (now available in book form)... Sondahl blog index