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Brad's Blog

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Oct. 2

    Sorry for the long hiatus, and thanks to those who enquired after my whereabouts...  The computer was in for some repairs...  So, in the last week, my son Birrion competed in a ski trick competition in Spokane last weekend.  He was an "also ran."  The competitors slide down a 10 foot ramp covered with shaved ice, and slide along some rails.  Because nationally famous skiers were there promoting their various ski companies and films, there were a lot of people watching, but it was like giving Tour de France bicyclists tricycles and telling them to race, in terms of what anyone could really accomplish on the set up.  Since then he's just moved to Silverthorn Colorado, where he's gotten a job as ski instructor.
    The main thing of interest in the last week was that a local known as Pennsylvania Bob showed up while I was gone one day and told my son he'd cut down the 3 cottonwoods in front of our house for free.  As he explained it to me, he has a sort of ministry about trees.  From talking and working with him, he reminded me of Johnny Appleseed--living simply and dedicated to his craft.  He knew every tree and bush around by name, which is far  better than I can do...  Before he came, we had cut up part of the tree that broke in the windstorm in August, but there was a big part left.  The second tree was the dead bee tree I've written about on my blog, which had a large branch hanging over the pottery display.  The third one in the corner I hadn't really thought about, but was glad to lose, since it was also rotting..
    They always say there's no such thing as a free lunch , but some of them also say don't look a gift horse in the mouth.  I'd heard reference to this guy previously, so I was willing to give him a try, particularly since the price was right.  These same trees had all been damaged years ago when a building next door burned, and  a few years later we hired a professional tree service to trim some of the branches, and it cost hundreds of dollars.  We'd heard that currently it could cost a $1000 per tree, given the proximity to our building.  Of course Penn. Bob could also badly mis-aim the tree, or get injured by it, so it, like most things, was a gamble.
    Here's a link to a video of the first tree falling, which was so rotten there was only a ring of wood on the outside, as you can see from the cross section below.  He used a rope on his truck for this one, but the others he directed with wedges.
bee tree
This also shows the empty hive of bees, with well organized sheets of cells, all apparently empty of honey as well.
    The wood, as rotten as it was, was taken by Bob to local lake community Tsemini, where he says it will be used for bonfires, such as at New Years.  In the end, I gave Bob some pears, grapes, and a packet of money to help him continue his ministry.

Oct. 3

    Emil's (and our) football team played a larger non-league game tonight, and stayed quite even with them through the first half, but lost by a score of something like 33-49.  At least there was a lot of action.  Emil missed some extra point attempts, which seemed important at the time, but were dwarfed by later unanswered scores.  For me, sports are always hard because I empathize with the losers.  In this case, it's us...

Oct. 4
    It rained on and off through the day.  Emil and I took a bike in to Coeur D'Alene to get adjusted, and combined the trip with a lot of errands and a walk around Tubbs Hill, which steadily affords new and interesting views of Lake Coeur D'Alene.    Otherwise it was a low key day...

Oct. 5
    It was a big Youtube day today.  I recorded and videoed some of Emil's piano music, and he now has his own channel started at http://www.youtube.com/user/hajtis.  
    Then Phil Steen checked in to do his election thing at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C1wbhuCHXyQ .
So happy Sunday.  

Oct. 6
    The toughest audiences are two years old, since they express themselves freely and don't understand much.  Some of my daycare audiences are that young, but the more mature 4 year olds make up for it with their attentiveness.  Today I did a program of railroad stories and songs at a senior living place with preschoolers invited.  It went pretty well.  At first I was afraid none of the preschoolers were going to show, but the intrepid daycare lady walked with her brood (about 10 blocks) when she found she had too many kids to come in the van...
    I did "I been working on the Railroad," and "Freight Train,"  and "Streamlined Cannonball."   I sang the Woody Guthrie song about wrapping myself with paper and mailing myself to you.  Then I read a story of a girl that was mailed from Grangeville to Lewiston, Idaho in the early 1900's, before the USPS closed that little loophole...  
    Before the kids arrived I sang some of the familiar old time tunes I like to do for the elderly, and they were tapping feet and hands to it, and singing a long a bit, so I think a good time was had by all.

Oct. 7
    With the economy nosediving into the turf, I've been thinking about the basic premise of the "free market," and wondering how that idea works in other areas.   When I consider the environment,  the  "free market" says that companies should be able to regulate their pollution as a good business practice.  From the previously unregulated superfund sites I've seen around here, there's a place for regulation, somewhere far short of turning the world into a blighted desert.  It's the same with people--without rules things would get pretty bad.  I would predict an upturn starting after the election, just because a lot of this is panic, not based on a fundamental unfixable problem.  

Oct. 8
    The frost finally came last night, the latest I can remember for living in this place.  It was almost a relief.  Of course the result is cooler daytime temperatures, which is less enjoyable, but it's the expected thing for this time of year.  It's fortunate the frost came so late, since the spring was so late--in fact there are a lot of grapes that need a week or two of ripening still, as well as the apple trees....
    We started a preschool reading program at the library--I've been peripheral to the planning, since the planning was started before I was hired.  I volunteered to do music for it, and then yesterday found I was expected to entertain all the children with play doh while the presider talked to the parents, which turned out to be nearly a half hour, in a small room with about 20 children.  It got a bit wild after they got bored with the play doh, but I'd settled them down with some singing by the time the meeting broke up.  A day in the life of a children's librarian...

Oct. 9
    I did clay with the kids in the afterschool program, including showing a bit of my video so they could see pots getting made on the wheel.  It didn't deter them from their own creations.  
    Then after work my bassist friend Jonathan came and we both practiced and recorded songs for the Folk Festival.  It would probably sound better if we practiced each one for weeks, but we've never had that sort of luxury...
    The frost was hard this morning,  so I started digging carrots in anticipation of the garden receiving manure this weekend...

Oct. 10
    I mixed a batch of white glaze the other day, but had a bad feeling about it because the new bag of zinc oxide that I opened was dense and clumpy and slightly greenish in color instead of white and fluffy (I assumed it had gotten moist before they packed it, since the paper bag it was packed in showed no water damage).  So I just glazed one row of bowls with the new batch, and tried one of them in the firing that was cool enough to check yesterday.  The glaze was very matte in appearance, so I knew something was wrong, and jumped on the assumption it was the zinc.  Later, though, I got to thinking that I didn't put much of the new zinc in the glaze, and that it was unlikely to cause that effect, but I had previously had trouble with the last batch previous of  the white glaze, still with the old zinc.  That reminded me that the bag of whiting, another glaze ingredient, which I had opened fairly recently, was different packaging than I was used to.  I have another bag of whiting with the familiar packaging, so I'm hoping  I just made a mistake with some material they mistakenly sent me, and I can fix it with replacing the proper material.   With pottery, there's always something that's presenting a challenge...
    The rest of the day was very busy, with library work, practicing for our last gospel group appearance on Sunday, and watching the homecoming game with Emil scoring a lot of extra points and doing a lot of kick offs in a high scoring winning game.


Oct. 11
    Since it may get below 20 (-5C) tonight, I spent the day gathering the harvest from the orchard and garden.  So, for this year, there are 4 boxes of red apples, two of golden, and one of misc.   (I made the first apple pie of the year today from windfalls). There are 30 gallons of carrots.  There are a lot of grapes which aren't ripe enough to pick, and may end up victims of tonight's hard freeze.  Emil helped me clear the corn patch, hoping for manure to be delivered soon...  And I brought in the 9 or so pumpkins so they wouldn't freeze solid and later slump before they can find some use at Halloween.
    The batch of bad glaze may still work out.  A couple years ago someone gave me a bag of dry Cone 6 clear glaze, which I have no use for, but it occurred to me that it might be just the thing to restore gloss to the waxy white glaze, so I added a couple cups of it and the glaze looks nearly good enough, so I'll try a couple cups more and test it in the next firing.   It's worth it to redeem $30-40 worth of glaze...

Oct. 12
    This was a slow day, so I only:
    Went early to church to do our last performance of the season as the Good News Singers.
    Unloaded and loaded a kiln.
    Fell asleep watching several old movies.
    Went down to the lake for a ramble.
    Picked 10 gallons of grapes and cooked them down for grape juice.
    Put the dozen cabbages and two large bags of carrots in the root cellar.
    Washed clothes to have some socks to start the week off with...
    Ahh, Sundays.

Oct. 13

     One of our cats is missing, gone 24 hours, so that casts a pall over what was otherwise an average day.  The photo is from a year or so ago--the missing cat is the darkfaced Siamese on the right.  Although I hope he will return home, wagging his tail behind him,  a few cats have disappeared thus before from us.   Sometimes they appear later ensconced in new surroundings, but mostly they are just gone...

Oct. 14
    Still no cat.  I've fired two kilns today, with the hopefully adjusted white glaze.  Otherwise, a regular day.... Sales were pretty good, which tells me that a lot of people are oblivious to the market news of the last couple weeks.  This is good, because people who take it all too seriously will add to the problem.  

Oct. 15
    I'd put a sign up for the missing cat at the grocery. Today someone reported our cat was dead along the road below our house.  So we brought it back to our yard and buried it by our other dead pets.  The road, especially at this time of year, is not busy by most standards, but it only takes one car, and cats seem to end up dead along roads all too often...   I felt that Pequod's brother should have a chance to see his brother's body, since they nearly always slept together and were close companions.  At first sight he adopted a wary stance, like seeing a strange cat.  I brought him closer so he could smell him, which he did for quite a while, tail twitching.   I know elephants mourn their dead, but I don't know how much cats can think...
    Then I had the children's program at the library, and I'd already selected a book about a cobbler cheating Death by making Death pairs of shoes every time he came for him.  I told the older children about my cat dying, and a number of them talked about pets or family members that had died.
Then they glazed the pots they'd made last week.   They also had a little hoe-down to Oh Susanna...  Both the 1-3 graders and 4-6 graders are returning on a regular basis, so I guess it's going well.

Oct. 17-18
    We attended a football game in St. Maries on Friday night.  It's an interesting area, that I wish I could have seen by daylight.  The St. Joe River flows into Lake Coeur D'Alene near there, leaving a long bank of trees lining a bank that extends miles out into the lake.   The football field was isolated on one side by a long standing  body of water as well.   Being close to the Coeur D'Alene Indian reservation apparently contributed to their team shooting off a loud explosive firework every time the team scored.  Our team scored more, although Emil wasn't happy with his kicking performance, including one kickoff returned by him for a touch down.  I told him I've seen that happen many times in the pro games as well.
    Saturday night I practiced with my bassist friend and went to the first bluegrass Thang--which was mostly new and temporary groups for some reason.  Several of them were quite young and proficient, especially compared to the average age of the audience.  Attendance is good at these events, --probably 250 there tonight...

Oct. 19
    It was a good warm blue sky day to walk and view the fall colors, so we walked around the Mill Pond.  It's low enough that you can walk on the shoreline, as a moose or two had done before we got there.  
    It being Fall,  there are also a lot of winterizing chores to be done.  Between our pottery house and the tree house is an area that builds up snow and can't be easily shoveled, so I worked on covering part of it with a domed plastic skylight a friend had given us some time ago. It will also protect bicycles parked there from the elements.   It adds to the eclectic overall appearance of our pottery "compound," as will the covering over part of the front walkway I hope to start this week.

Oct. 20
    It rained a bit today, but you can tell from the droopy weeds that the soil is bone dry again here.
    I used recycling as a theme for my preschool program--using scraps of construction paper, dried and pressed leaves, and scraps of the clear contact plastic we put on paperback books in the library.   With them the kids could make a book mark or a fall card.   I did learn to save the leaves for last--when dry they're very brittle.
    In the evening I built some shelves for alongside the kitchen stove, to set things on at the level of the stove, and store cookie sheets and baking pans under.  This is part of a very slow process to eat more of our meals at our actual house as opposed to the pottery house, now that my son has moved to Colorado.  It's hard to change habits of over 20 years, but I think this time we're making the transition.  

Oct. 21
    It was a slow day today, so here's a link to some accordion polka to cheer your day:    
Grossglocknerblick Polka (Pogled Z Jalovca) - V/S. Avsenik

Oct. 23
    The days are getting away from me.  We started a project today of covering a sloped area leading into our pottery display so it won't get icy and slippery.  The project also includes strengthening an existing roof that bowed under the 6 feet of snow this winter, so it's now about 2-3 times stronger.
Finding time to complete it before winter is the challenge...
    In the after school program at the library, the 1-3 grade group got to cut up construction paper and stick it together with scraps of the plastic we cover books with.  It was a total scrap project.  Most of them ended up making pretend cell phones, and saying things they often hear, like, "I'm going to be late..."  The energy level was high for this group.
    The  4-6 grade group I made docile with a pile of comic book collections and how to draw books from the library, and they were quiet enough that I could play banjo in the background to entertain both of us.    I enjoyed this session a lot...

 Oct. 24
    We donned winter clothes for another high school football game.  Emil hit 5 out of 5 on his extra points, and pushed the runner out of bounds who would have returned his kickoff for a touchdown otherwise, so it went well. The other team only had one touchdown, so the winner wasn't in doubt.
The big tension here is around Halloween, which Emil is excited about, to the point of wanting to skip a playoff football game (which may or may not be scheduled for that night...)
    I forgot my camera for the game, or I would have tried to capture the absolute cuteness of a little 2-3 year old girl who stood with our cheerleaders and mimicked them, and even got a set of pompoms which she stood holding just like the big girls...   We were sitting in the opponents bleachers, which were so low you had to stand up to see over our players bench to see the game.  At least we were close to the team...
    I made batter bowls in the pottery today, after someone requested one and I realized I was out of them.  They are taller bowls with a sort of pouring spout and a handle on the side.   As a cook, I wouldn't use one myself, but I make a lot of pots I wouldn't use, so...

Oct. 25

yellow leaves
    Being a visually oriented person, I'm always (in a Pollyannaish way) looking for the good parts of each season.  Fall is pretty easy with the reds and yellows of the trees.  It's harder to deal with the slow descent of the thermometer into winter, but at least the morning frost looks pretty on everything...

Oct. 27
    In our area it's a popular practice to replace the asphalt shingles with little rocks on them with steel roofing that is fireproof and lets the snow slide off.  Unfortunately  this makes it so it will dump a whole roofload right in front of the garage on a lot of houses.  In the process of sliding, it also rips off anything poking through the roof, especially toilet vent pipes.  The roofers should be aware of this, but a lot of them don't do anything about it.  So after last winter I am determined to add something so you can hopefully get a car out of the garage after a snowfall (if you can get past the berm the snowplows leave across your driveway at the street).  I asked about snow retention cleats at Home Depot but was told they'd be a special order item.  I had the idea of tying two by fours like a big rope ladder, hanging it across the peak so it would be self supporting, but finally I've opted to using some metal roof cap and adding a bar of it across  near the bottom of the roof.   So that's what I worked on today, plus pruning some cherry branches that want to take over the apple trees next to them.

Oct. 28
    The kiln made a little arcing noise and stopped when I went to turn it up, so I'll have to tear it apart tomorrow to see what got burned up this time...
I started on the boards for the snow awning, but it got complicated when one of the poles I was planning to use was a foot away from the outer edge board I was also planning to use.  Perhaps tomorrow it will all become clear.  At least I don't need a board stretcher--it was inside the expected area....
    The local schools encourage volunteering in the youth.  By "encourage," I mean they require it in one of their classes.  Since it's now the end of the quarter, students have been flocking to the library to fulfill their 5 hours of community service.   So the shelves are dusted, the windows washed, and a lot of books have new labels stuck on them.  It makes me wonder what I'm going to do in the slow times...

Oct. 29-30
    The kiln problem was resolved by replacing a switch.  This is the first time I've encountered that there was apparently a full short circuit inside the switch, so that it blew the 60 amp breaker every time I turned the knob up to medium.  The kiln fired well after replacement, and I was able to replace a pilot light and kiln sitter part as well.
    On the 30th we put up the rafters for a new "awning" in front, in an area that gets slippery and is sloped, making it pretty hazardous.  Another day or so should see it complete.  It will also reduce leaves in the show room area, and may provide some additional display space, if needed.  It was nice weather for working, and rain is predicted by the weekend, so it will be good to get it done.

    
Books read and media of note
Appaloosa by Robert Parker.  I listened to the book on tape to get through NPR's pledge week.  It's also a current movie.  A classic western tale in the vein of 3:10 to Yuma, it had the shortest OK Corral type fight scene ever, and an abrupt denouement as well.  I may see the movie on video to see how they handled it.  At the library, Louis L'Amour remains the most popular western writer, although there are a few other contenders.  The readers are nearly all males over 50.

Winter Study
by Nevada Barr.  A mystery set on Isle Royale, written by a former park ranger familar with both the place and park law enforcement and medical procedures.  She's written a lot of enjoyable mysteries, in that they all are set in scenic national parks.  This one used the isolation of a remote island in frigid winter as the setting.

The Battle of Forever
by A.E. Van Vogt.  Although in the Sci Fi Hall of Fame, Van Vogt hasn't garnered the attention of frequently cinemized Philip K. Dick, but my son and I have loved the rugged and uneven idea driven novels of Van Vogt, so we now have a large collection of his paperbacks.  Because he wrote them without an outline, they progress rather dreamily, and this one didn't seem to tie up all the loose ends too well (one wonders if he ran into a deadline problem), but it's always an interesting intellectual ride.  My favorite of his is the Weapon Shops of Isher...
    The early SF writers didn't have the whole set of conventions such as those that people the Star Wars universe--they invented them piecemeal, and enabled the next generation of story tellers to have a rich fabric to dream on.

Ptolomy's Gate
by Jonathan Stroud.  Conclusion of the Bartimaeus Trilogy...  Those magicians get what's coming to them...   If fantasy has a connection to reality, it's as a veiled critique.  In this case, the two tiers of magicians and commoners probably speaks to Britain's (and the world's) two class society.  If you substitute "money" for  "magic,"  you get the current economic system....

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