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Brad's Blog

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Sept. 1
    It's been a very busy Labor Day weekend.  We picked up Emil at the airport yesterday, and we doubt we could have had a better match--quiet, intelligent, and a good musician as well.  Although he speaks English very well, there are plenty of cultural comparisons we have been making, to understand each other, and make his stay enjoyable, such as finding foods that suit his palate.
    All this was against the backdrop of the Spirit Lake Centennial Celebration.  Thankfully my role was no more than to walk in the parade, and play music in the park.  When I got to the park, the sound system was gone (he said he was told if "they" knew he wanted it, it would have been left), and the leader of the other band scheduled for today had called his son in Spokane to bring a sound system out.  So I played my set with banjo-guitar acoustically to a small audience, then left when they were setting up the sound system, then returned later to replay the set with amplification.
    Later we walked over to see the outside of the high school.  I'm still occasionally plagued with first day of school nightmares, so I'd like to do what I could to help Emil avoid those...

Sept. 2
    Talking about 1st day of school nightmares... This wasn't a nightmare, but...  We got to the school as suggested by a counselor at 8:00.  There were lines of students in the entryway all picking up their schedules.  There was a sign saying that new student registration was in the office.  We went in the office and there were a couple administrative assistants and about 20 kids waiting with issues.  A lot of the issues turned out to be that they should have been out in the other lines getting their schedules.  In spite of the chaos, we were soon ushered in the counselor's office and he patiently explained the system to Emil.
    Once upon a time the US had the best scholastic system in the world.  However now in the real world,  the counselor  told 15 year old Emil that they treat the foreign students as seniors, to let them choose the courses that challenge them.  Emil likes physics, so he signed up for that.  The first class introduced the metric system, which Emil has grown up with...  He's also had 3 years of physics (two more than offered in most high schools).   There's little question the students willing to be exchange students are brighter than average...  It's also interesting that the students coming to the US outnumber the US students studying abroad by 10 to 1...  I'll have to ask Emil why he wanted to come to the US...  He's busy right now improvising on the piano...
    Later some friends that were visiting helped us remove (in one piece) the roof of our patio which was damaged by the snows last winter.  We slid it onto the top of our Ford Taurus (we all agreed it was expendable). We put a foam pad and piece of plywood on top of the car to distribute the weight of the 12 foot square structure.  With six of us, going slowly and talking over the next steps carefully, it went very well.  We moved it across the street by driving the car with people holding the corners of the roof, and set it on some barrels so we can raise it and make a porch with a view of the lake...
    Then I went to work, and was doing library stuff when my "boss" noticed I was supposed to be next door at the elementary school handing out Summer reading certificates.  So I zipped over and helped with the last half of that process...  So that's my personal little first day of school nightmare, but it wasn't a serious problem for anyone... (last year the principal forgot to hand them out at all).

Sept. 3
    Knowing it was likely to be a slow day at the library, I girded my loins and spent several hours putting new stickers on the spines of juvenile paperbacks.  
    So since my life is currently unexciting, I'll continue with the story of Emil.  He got approached by the varsity football coach, because a German student, raised on soccer,  last year contributed greatly to their kicking game, and he hoped Emil could do the same.  So Emil tried today, and they were satisfied.   Our school just started soccer for girls (none for boys), and Emil was disappointed as he hoped to play sports, so he'll have to make do with football.
    For myself, I had asthma in school, and always finished with the calorically challenged when running around the track.  So I think it's pretty neat that Emil got recruited for the team...    He has to attend 10 practices before he can play, so  that will be a couple weeks yet...

Sept. 4
    I went with Emil to watch a junior varsity football game this evening.  He doesn't understand much about the game, but he was saying again how happy they are with the way he can kick.  He said he's just worried another Dane will show up who could outkick him...  I remember Bullwinkle got to play at Wassamatta U from his skill in launching Rocky the Flying Squirrel.
    The kilnload that I badly overfired in the bisque came out of the glaze firing today.  They'll all be fairly poor seconds, due to the thin coating of glaze...  I wish I could be "present" all the time, like when putting in the cone for the firing, but I'm easily distracted...  What was I talking about?
   
Sept. 5-6
    The great fall weather continues.  We've started eating the new potatoes, so the only garden produce still awaiting are pears, apples, squash and grapes.  In spite of all the things we grow, we also buy the true summer fruits, like peaches and melons.
    This week in the library I've spent a few hours putting new author labels on juvenile paperbacks.  It's a larger font, making it easier for old eyes to find things, so I'm all for it, in spite of the process being pretty boring...
    We and others are also getting wood, since the cool nights remind us of the long winter to come.  Emil is looking forward to real winter, as Denmark gets little snow, at least recently.

   
Sept. 7
    We took Emil moose hunting today (to see, not to kill).  The portents were good--I forgot my camera, which usually means there will be something worth photographing.  But they were apparently busy doing other moosey things today.  It was a nice day for a canoe ride anyway.
    Emil spent 3 hours practicing kicking today, alternating American footballs and soccer balls.  Our high school had its first soccer game (ever) yesterday, so there were still soccer goals in place at the goalposts.
    I picked a 5 gallon bucket full of shucked sweet corn today, parboiled and cut it off the cobs to freeze.  It made seven sandwich bags full of cut corn.  There's still about 10 times as much corn in the garden, so there's still plenty of work to do.  This would also be a good time to get more work done on our cabin, but my schedule remains pretty tight.

Sept. 8
    Now that school has started, the daycares cater to only the younger set.  I visited two daycares today as part of my library job.  I read them a true story ( The Man Who Walked Between The Towers) of a French daredevil who crossed the twin towers in NYC in the 1970's on a high wire he surreptitiously suspended with aid of some friends.  The story was well illustrated, which helped to hold the young ones' attention.   The book was published after the Trade Center's demise, so it had some compassionate mention of that as well... I also sang "I've been working on the railroad," and I thought I had them pretty much on the same page, when one of the little ones said, "What's a railroad?"

Sept. 9
    Having a real Dane stay with you abolishes any preconceived notions you might have.  Emil had never heard of lefse, which I just thought of as Scandinavian potato flatbread, but I just learned in Wikipedia that it's strictly Norwegian in origin.  Emil said he's used to lots of potatoes, so we've been having them from the garden, and the leftover mashed potatoes are good for making lefse, just by adding flour and frying on a hot dry griddle.
I think he's becoming a convert...  Of course, the foods we Americans associate with Scandinavia are about 100 years in the past--Emil says his family eats a lot of Sushi...
    The weather continues wonderfully, but there is a dry windstorm scheduled for tonight, followed by only slightly cooler weather.
    I made a dozen casseroles and some large bowls in the pottery today.  I also placed a clay order, including a couple other clays which will hopefully work better for making larger forms...  A friend will bring us the clay coming from Seattle later in the week...

Sept. 10
    No windstorm last night.  Sometimes the weather fails to materialize.  
    I glazed a couple kilnloads of pots today, and spent a couple hours assembling the 12 casseroles.  No other pot I make has as many tedious parts to assemble (5), any of which can wreck the pot down the road if not done right.
    We attended the school open house tonight, but got some misinformation resulting in arriving there just as it was ending. So we saw the endless hallways filled with lockers, the closed doors of some of Emil's classes, and did get to speak to his physics teacher.  That was probably good enough for all of us...

Sept. 11
    We're  still in the process of  moving the porch that got detached from the heavy snows last winter...  It had a cedar deck, which had to be cut in pieces for moving, and that was what happened today.  Under the deck we had seen a concrete pad, which would be our new deck, but it's pretty cracked and will need patching.  
    Cool nights and warm days continue with blue skies coming our way...

Sept 12-13

So here's a photo of Emil, pride of Denmark, with the millpond in the background.  He really likes sports and exercise--today he spent several hours kicking a soccer ball, then after lunch I hiked with  him up to the top of the local ridge, and finally we bicycled around the old lumber mill site.  At that point I was pretty tired, so he went back to practicing kicking for another couple hours.
    After I recovered from the exercise, I blanched and froze two 5 gallon buckets of shucked sweet corn, which condensed to about 13 sandwich bags full of cut corn.  I also picked several gallons more of tomatoes.

Sept 14-15
    On Sunday we went to our local ski mountain and hiked up one part of it to show Emil the mountains.  Apparently Denmark is pretty flat...  Then we stopped at a Walmart, and he was impressed it had everything including car tires...  I don't shop there unless there is little alternative, although I like some of the other "big box" stores...
    On Monday it was back to glazing pots, but the fine fall weather makes me realize some winterization projects should be getting started, so I may slow up on the pottery for the next week or two...

Sept. 16
    The weather continues unabashedly nice.
    Friends brought the latest shipment of clay a few days ago, so today I started trying the Seamix with grog (small bits of fired clay), to hopefully cut the losses of cracking during drying and firing.  I also got Kodiak and Columbia White clays.  Columbia White was the one I used for 20 years, till the quality seemed to go downhill too much.  It still seems better for large bowls and platters than the Seamix without grog.

Sept. 17
    I'm looking forward to a Children's Librarian conference in Salt Lake City starting tomorrow for several days.  But today I want to mention a favorite writer of mine that died last weekend.  Gregory McDonald, writer of the Fletch and Flynn detective series,  always put a little wobble in his pitches, keeping the reader off balance.   Since both he and Fletch were also investigative reporters, Fletch probably represented his super alter ego, going from rags to riches in the Fletch series, always ferreting out the story, perhaps as McDonald himself did, since he had several hit books and movie versions by Chevy Chase.  The Flynn series was more along the lines of a secret agent/Sherlock Holmes type--a Boston Police Inspector called in on tough cases and sometimes flying off on mysterious spy business, when not playing chess with his disabled office help.
    As a result of the trip,  I'll miss Emil's first football game, and if he does well, his second as well, since he stands to be promoted to the varsity game on Friday if he does well Thursday in the freshman game.

Sept. 18-21

    I've mostly been attending a Children's Librarian Institute in Salt Lake City for the last 3 days.  I took several nice photos of the city skyline, but this photo shows the Wasatch mountains in the background, as we were on the roof of the new 5 floor, $65 million dollar new library at sunset, eating while meeting local writers.  The author (seated, hand on chin) between the two librarians was one I was excited to meet--Michael Tunnell, who wrote a picture book called Mailing May that I was planning to use for a transgenerational program next month.  The author found a true story of a little girl mailed from Grangeville to Lewiston, Idaho in the early 20th Century, and made a very nice picture book of it, with illustrator Ted Rand.   I got a copy autographed.
    From the start I knew I was in a different sort of experience--of the 260 in attendance, about 5 were men.  But it was exciting from the opening words--the speaker mentioning being on the Newbery-Caldecott Awards committee, which for many years  for me has been a valuable guide to finding new good children's literature.
    Another featured author in attendance wrote a Newberry winner also set in Idaho--Walk Two Moons, by Sharon Creech.  She was part of a panel with an illustrator and their respective editors discussing how they work together.
    We stayed in a Hilton satellite hotel, two room suites for each of us.  The food was such that I gained two pounds in the three days of the conference.  Although our hotel was only 4 blocks from the main conference, it turns out Salt Lake City blocks are twice as long as average, so there was lots of walking.  I also rode on the free street cars quite a few times.
    Upon return to Spirit Lake, it rained all day and was cool enough for a fire.  In my absence it was decided our hen pecked chicken should be liberated, so it's been roaming the garden by day and sleeping in the packing room by itself at night.  Although basically flock animals, this chicken seems happier.

Sept. 22
    Fall is here on schedule, with the first frost predicted for tonight...
This week begins my full program of pre and after school programs at the library.  I only had two preschoolers signed up for this morning, so I was thinking a low key get acquainted and read a few stories and sing a few songs.  What actually showed up were 6, plus two younger siblings, and the mothers.  So I had to jolt into a higher gear.   Hopefully next week I'll know better what to expect...

Sept. 23
    No frost yet.  Not that most people who read my blog care, but I often check back other years to see when frost happened previously, or when I picked the pears, which I did today (last year I was in Europe at this time).  The pear trees seemed very sparse in the Spring, but there were four fruit boxes full after picking.  The pears have to ripen off the tree, but we're eating lots of grapes now.
    For some reason the school treats all the exchange students as seniors, which includes graduation, and Emil expressed his wish to do graduation, so I went to a parents meeting tonight.  Apparently the whole role of senior parents is to raise money for the graduation party, so they don't go out and drink on the night of graduation (but wait for the following night...).  Last year, for 100 students, they raised $23,000. I will participate as necessary, given the shortage of free time at my command.
    Emil was quite impressed with the Pep Rally, which they don't have in Denmark.  Apparently it mostly consisted of ritually killing the mascot from the opposing school.  Welcome to America.

   
Sept. 24
One problem with preschoolers liking me is that they all want to talk while I'm reading a story.  Perhaps if they didn't like me they'd all talk also, but they like me, and it makes it hard to do a story.  Kids are certainly visual learners, but I also have trouble with showing them the photos in the book I'm reading, since it's hard to find a book large enough for any size group to look at.  It would be nice if they could just listen to a story, no pictures, but I don't think that's going to happen.  
       When my kids were little I'd read to them for about a half hour every evening, then it would be lights out and I'd make up a story.  Those stories wouldn't have any pictures, but they enjoyed them all the same.  As the kids grew up, we started reading chapter books with fewer or no pictures.  Like everything else in modern culture, the computer has changed the way kids experience stories as well.  Most favor a game story with them as the actor, and full animation and special effects to help bring the story to life.  I imagine I would have too, if it were an option when I was young.
    Libraries, also like everything else in modern culture, are trying to adapt from a paper/book world to an electronic one.  You can download book texts to your computer from the library, or borrow audio books on small digital players.  A few popular authors still help to bring kids into the library--I guess our job is to expand their knowledge experience after they come...

Sept 25
    The after school program began at the library today.  I'd planned to have croquet as an activity, but there were showers on and off through the day, so we stayed inside and did the egg toss thing--trying to wrap an egg so it would withstand dropping on the floor, after decorating it with markers.  While not a really challenging thing, the time went well, so it wasn't too stressful.
    In the pottery I made mortar and pestles from smooth clay, and goblets from clay with sand in it.  Now that I have three clays in stock, I have to remember the next day which clay I used, since I add handles and feet on the next day, and the wrong clay might shrink at a different rate.
    I also tried to fix some of the gutters that were ripped off by the snow last winter.  I'll only know after another winter how that went...


The Zero by Jess Walter.  The title refers to Ground Zero at the WTC on 9-11, and the aftermath for one policeman on scene.  Told from his point of view, which is wildly colored by memory losses, so the reader is forced to assemble the plot from short disjointed vignettes.  In spite of his glaring memory losses, the protagonist manages to function rather like Chance in "Being There."

Film:  Burn after Opening.  I've liked a number of Coen Brother films, and this one, as with all, was well done, but it was hyped as a comedy, and if so it was black comedy, with a high body count, and few sympathetic characters.  It was about as funny as Fargo (which was admittedly funny in parts, though also bleak overall).  Of their films I've seen, I prefer Oh Brother, Where Art Thou, and the Hudsucker Proxy.

Film:  Bangkok Dangerous.   I saw this to kill some time on the day we left Salt Lake City.  I didn't have high expectations for it, but it worked pretty well on the suspense/action level, if you don't mind following the everyday life of a contract killer.  Most movies today try to end with a twist, but this one made little sense in that  (spoiler alert), if you're going to have the lead character narrate the movie, you shouldn't have him die at the end (unless you see him dead at the beginning, and can accept the whole thing as a  St. Peteresque life-passing-before-you premise).

The Golem's Eye
by Jonathan Stroud.  Whereas in Harry Potter it's apparent who is the hero, in this second part of the Bartimaeus trilogy the demon (djinni) comes off more nobly than the Harry Potter equivalent...  Stroud uses a good smattering of traditional folklore (genies and golems) to good effect.

Film: Invincible.    A Disney movie of the new style, more gritty realism, but still family friendly.  A football movie loosely based on a real life walk on football player for the Philly Eagles.  Nicely done, and "foreign student approved."

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