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Brad's Blog

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 Nov. 2
    I've been doing the Fall Folk Festival in Spokane again Oct. 31-Nov. 1.  Pottery sales were down about 30 % from last year, which was down from the year before... Even though the event is free (donations requested), the turnout seemed a bit lower as well.   I caught samples of nearly every performance, had relatives helping selling the pottery, and got pretty wiped out by the 6 ring circus that it is.  Still there were a lot of good moments, and about 400 photos I need to edit and place some of them online.  It'll take a couple evenings...

Nov. 4.
    I took the time (about 6 hours)  to get the folk festival photos processed (publishing about 150 out of 400). The link is on the left when you click here. 
    I discovered our cat got an abscessed tail from a cat fight, so I took it to the vet today and he's back  $200 plus dollars later.
    With the end of garden produce (last tomatoes went into the Spanish rice tonight), we're starting to make things like apple and lemon meringue pies and lefse.  It's probably about storing fat for the winter...
    It was too nice a day to stay inside mostly and edit photos, but that's the way it went.  In the late afternoon we worked on the floor for the picnic shelter--it's coming along well...

Nov. 6
    Yesterday was 10 hours of driving to Seattle and back to get about a ton of clay.  I noticed the gas consumption with and without the ton of clay was about the same, but gas prices in Seattle were 30 cents higher (almost $3.00 per gallon).  Aside from the drive, and to make the drive personally worth while, I visited the Pike Street Market (bought a salmon) and the Seattle Art Museum.  The last museum I'd visited was the Minneapolis Art Institute, which is about 4 times as large and more enlightened  (allowing non flash photography and always free admission).  Having sat through Art History 3 times in college, I was amazed at all the lesser known artists represented in the Seattle Museum, and minor works by the few better known artists included.  The old saw about art is--I don't know much about art but I know what I like.   What I thought yesterday was that  I do know something about art, but don't know if I like most of it...  It's easy to admire the skill of the pre Impressionist painters, even if their subject matter was fairly boring portraiture or landscapes.  There was both a special retrospective of Alexander Calder and the drawings of Michaelangelo.  Calder not only invented the mobile, but mostly made a career of it.  The few small drawings of Michaelangelo were more to be exalted by their rarity than their intrinsic value.
    I also viewed pottery from across the millennia--always interesting, often humbling.  They and the collections of totemic folk masks and culture were most of interest to me, in that they weren't conscious art...

 Nov. 7
    I did an art fair today at the same community college that the folk festival was at last week.  It was fairly well attended, there were probably a hundred booths.  The good news was that I was the only potter.  The bad news was that I was the only potter.  It wasn't a great show for potters...  But sales trickled in and in the end it was worthwhile.  
    When I signed up, they were asking for music, so I volunteered, but never heard back from them.  It turned out there wasn't a central stage, so if I didn't mind playing louder than the ubiquitous ceiling PA music, I could have played like the harpist in the front room.  I didn't bring any guitar, but still had my CD's packed along (which everyone ignored).   But after hearing the harpist's CD piped around, I offered up my Christmas CD, which they proceeded to play about 4 times in a row, so I offered my Sacred Ground CD because I was tired of hearing the other one, and they played that for a couple hours as well.  So I ended up being the background music for over half of the show, although no one was aware it was me except the person in charge.   It was sort of amusing.  I also read about 300 pages while not selling pottery.  Art fairs, even good ones are pretty wearing...

Nov. 8
There was snow on the surrounding mountain tops as we hiked on the ridge today.  The moist woods are full of tiny mushrooms.  The tamarack trees are losing needles but still nicely golden.  It's nice to have a day to relax.

Nov. 9
    It was as nice a day as one gets in November around here-- mid 40's with blue skies.  So after glazing a couple kiln loads of pots, I spent the afternoon helping get our supply of horse manure in (5 loads delivered to us, me mostly standing around with a rake and encouraging words about what fine manure it was).   Then we nearly finished our picnic kiosk, so with one more post it should be ready for the snows predicted to start later this week.  That's about as Novembery as it gets...

  Nov. 10
   The final post is in on the kiosk, and a couple plastic chairs are in it in case we want to sit and watch the snow fall...  
    Then I undertook to make the portable chicken coop mobile again, a mission like rendezvousing with the International Space Station, only lower tech.  One of the tires was flat on the coop, and all of them were a little low for the bumps in the grass, so I levered each side up and blocked it while moving the wheel modules a little higher.  This worked to make it mobile.  The one tire that was flat I just removed, figuring tires weren't all that necessary.  Unfortunately, the empty rim grabbed the grass a little more then one with a tire, and got bent while making a turn on the way to the greenhouse, which was the winter destination.   With a bit of babying, we jockeyed it into position.    The chickens weren't paying attention to our efforts, sinee an hour later they were wandering around where the coop had been, looking to roost for the night.  I was able to capture two and stick them in the coop--the others are somewhere out in the night.  Tune in tomorrow for the exciting  conclusion.

Nov. 11
    The other chickens were waiting around this morning, and willing to be led into their winter quarters with some leftovers.
    The two storm windows for our single pane windows in the pottery blew over and broke in a wind storm earlier this year.  We talked of replacing them with modern ones, but didn't get around to it, so I screwed some lath over plastic and put them on to do my little bit for winter preparedness.
Otherwise it was a quiet day in the pottery, assembling disk vases and finishing berry bowls and unloading kilns.

Nov. 12
chestnut backed chickadee

We've been seeing a lot of these chestnut backed chickadees at our feeder lately.  We also have black capped and mountain chickadees, and all come to the feeder, usually at separate times.

Nov. 13
    We're getting our first serious snow, just as predicted.  It's a pleasant novelty watching the snow swirl down, though I know it will get old within a month or so.  Fortunately there's nowhere we need to go, as the first snow always brings out the worst in drivers.  It also makes everyone hustle to get their snow tires on.  I was lucky to get our local mechanic switch them today for $10.  I used to do it myself, but ended up breaking off lug bolts which cost more than having a shop do it...
    I've gotten the latest CD ready on the music end--still need to do the graphic design.  My goal is to have it ready by the time I go to the dentist, whose office appreciates my Christian music.

Nov. 15

    The snow has stayed, around 2 inches, with weather hovering around freezing.  I've ignored it and watched a lot of football this weekend...

Nov. 16
    I got my new Christian CD finished--the link is here.   The cover is a kaleidoscopic cross from a photo of a flower.  The music is as folksy as the instruments.
    Otherwise I glazed a couple kilnloads and threw some napkin holders (request) and squared off soup mugs (request) and large pitchers.  The weather warmed and removed a lot of the snow, but not all...

Nov. 17
    We had a reprieve from the white look today--when we woke up it was nearly 50 out.  The wind blew through the day, drizzling and colder in the afternoon.  We worked on yard projects, like spreading manure, spreading leaf mulch, and taking off the fake plastic shutters that came with our house.  
    In the pottery I made cereal and dessert bowls, and fired another glaze kiln.

Nov. 18
    We went shopping in Spokane for things as mundane as vacuum cleaner bags.  It was a sad discovery that the world is headed towards very short socks.  A lot of ankles will be cold.  Perhaps that will make a market for ankle warmers.  I don't understand style.
    We also shopped for a turkey.  The store had a promotion where the more stuff you bought, the higher the percentage off on the turkey.  An alternative was to buy a ham for $20 and get a 10-12 pound turkey free. Unfortunately it was one of those processed ham rolls that  I prefer not to eat.  Buying decisions are complicated.  At least at Sears the vacuum bags we needed were the first set we laid eyes on.  Win one for the consumer...  We also got a used piano bench for our piano that lacked one.

Nov. 19
    There were a lot of things to pack for the local clay artists sale this weekend, since I'm doing music, pottery demos, and sales.  Then I volunteered music at the library  in the evening for a program riffing off of "Where the Wild things Are."
    We got more snow that stuck yesterday, and the weather service seems to change its mind frequently as to our weather in the next couple days.  I'd prefer no snow with our sale on, but...

Nov. 21
After a long two day fair, it all seemed to work out okay.  I played over 5 hours of music in the two days, since there were fewer groups that volunteered this year.  Sales were down about 35 per cent from last year, which was down 40 % from the previous year, so one can easily long for the good old days, but they're not coming back any time soon...     
    The fair was held in an oddly luxuriant new structure which was built mostly on funds from the McDonald's chain Kroc Foundation, a many million dollar community center loaded with water features, exercise opportunities, even a recording studio, all run by the Salvation Army.  We were off in the conference room area, away from all the fun stuff.  It's been open less than a year, and the attendance at the facility is double expectations.  We did get some spillover in customers from the facility, and some of the 180 employees as well.   We look forward to going and playing there sometime.

Nov. 23
    Thanks to a few orders, I was back in the studio today.  In the afternoon I put some pegs made from old broom handles onto two boards and attached them to a wall near our wood stove, so that coats and things can dry there in the winter.  We currently have about two inches of wet snow.
I've resolved to make a snow measure stick this year so as to be scientific in my approach to the inevitable.
    We got our property tax bills this weekend.  We're paying over $300/month just for the taxes.   I used to think that was too high for rent...  Then last weekend our "good" car's check engine light came on.  The car still drove the same, but I paid $190 today to replace the EGR module, which I had to look up on Wikipedia to find out what it's for.   I expect in the future the cars will run perfectly but every once in a while flash a message on the display telling you to run your credit card so the car will continue to run perfectly without interruption, kind of a high tech protection racket.
    When we lived in an old farm when we were starting out in Minnesota (rent $75/month for a chicken coop), there were some old letters in the basement from the Great Depression (1 or 2 cent stamps).  They were requests for payments for small sums (by today's standards) which likely never got paid.  Today the small sums are mostly converted to large debts at exhorbitant interest via credit cards.  This is  a boon for small business people, who don't have to deal with customer credit.  And of course we see how it's destabilized the banking industry, along with family finances.  We've always made a point of paying off all credit card purchases every month, which is the only reasonable way to live long term.   Banks would prefer us to use some 18 % credit, for some reason.

Nov. 24
    Adjusting kiln sitters, the device I use to shut off my electric kiln, is tricky business.  There is a little stick of clay that rests across two posts, with a third rod sitting on top of them.  When the stick of clay melts enough to bend down, the rod goes down with it, and the other end of the rod lifts up, allowing a switch to fall down and trip the kiln off.  To adjust the settings, there's a little screw that loosens a bar that slides up and down to adjust how much play is in the trip switch.   Currently both of my kilns are off, just a bit, so that the cones I usually use result in overfiring.  So I adjust the bar, and it's hard to tell how much it's moved, except by trial and error.  This was one of those error days.   The last firing in one kiln was too cool-- so I refired some crystalline and black disc vases in the other kiln.  It was too hot, and some of the glaze slumped off and stuck the pots to the kiln shelf.  I guess I need Little Red Riding Hood to find the one that's just right.
    This afternoon I mixed up some masonry cement and fixed some bricks that were loose around our fireplace.  There were only 3 when I started, but by the time I knocked off the old mortar, there were 10 that needed replacing.  I found that a spoon worked well to make nice concave joints between the bricks.  Being used to working more with my hands than a trowel, I did a lot of it with rubber gloves on...

Nov. 25.
    I'm off tomorrow on a holiday for about a week.  We decided to have turkey early.  Yesterday while working on the fireplace I thought the turkey was cooking, but I must have bumped the temperature knob from 350 to 200, and when I finally remembered to check it a couple hours later, it was essentially warm to the touch.  So the turkey got done around bedtime last evening, and sat out in the van overnight to cool.
    Today we had turkey for breakfast and lunch, and possibly dinner.  It's just that time of year...  
    I was thinking that our culture needs to evolve a new mythology of why millions of turkeys must die, and the overfed must watch football.  


Books read and other media of note
The Hand of Oberon by Roger Zelazny.  More Amber--very Platonian--Amber isn't the true world after all--there is an underlying pattern...

The Sign of the Unicorn by Roger Zelazny.  
Zelazny had a Master's in Jacobean and Elizabethan drama, and it shows in his complex rendering of a regal successional struggle fantasy.  Unfortunately for a bear of little brain, the dozen or so siblings, their rivalries and alliances, make for a fairly confusing plotline.   Still I mostly enjoy the ride.


The Professional by Robert B. Parker  
I love the writing of the Spenser series, particularly the dialog, even if I long for a detective that can stop the 4 or 5 murders 
by brilliant investigation before they happen, or at least by number 2.

To Die in Italbar by Roger Zelazny.  
I wonder if a phrase pops in Zelazny's head, which he then makes into a novel...  This one is the story of a demon possessed plague carrier and the various people seeking him.  Most of Zelazny's books seem to teeter on the brink of major bad news.  Lots of people die in Italbar.

The Nine Princes of Amber and the Guns of Avalon by Rogert Zelazny.
 A compelling medieval alternate world fantasy.  He sometimes gets carried away with descriptive prose, but his inventiveness is unflagging.

Doorways in the Sand by Roger Zelazny
 1976.   A rather hip story of a perpetual student who gets pegged with knowing where a missing extraterrestrial artifact is.  

Borderline by Nevada Barr  
The borderline refers to the state of several of the characters, as well as the Mexican border, in this series always set in our national parks.  Although more murders occur in one of her parks than probably in all the national parks in a year, it's a good blend of suspense and nature.



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