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Brad's Blog

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Dec. 2, 2011
    My younger son called early this morning to say that the urban ski trick he was trying last night in Denver went badly, and he broke his pelvis.  He's in the hospital, and we're all suffering...  He expects to be in for another day, then it should take around 6 weeks to reknit...  

    We went to the school Christmas program last night (yes, they call it that here in unenlightened and highly unchurched Idaho) for one of the children in the family we're currently assisting.  It was pretty much like all the elementary programs I've ever been to--horrible sounding 5th and 6th grade bands playing the simplest tunes like Jingle Bells (in this case, Good King Wenceslaus--the first line only..)  For all that, like in the end of the Music Man, when it's your little Johnny making that noise, it sounds wonderful.   Our little kindergartener looked good singing in the group, making some hand gestures to the audience that we hoped weren't rude.  The two older kids we brought to watch had never been to a school concert before and had a good time.
    Today Spirit Lake had the ribbon cutting for the new Maine Street, despairing of the final dozen streetlights being installed before Spring.  The high school band and choir came and peformed for the several dozen listeners gathered.  (Poor turnout has never stopped Spirit Lake from thinking big).
    Besides a raffle, the big finale was the lighted riding lawnmower parade.  They were all tethered together in a Santa's Sleigh motif, and apparently pulled by the lead mower, that sported a reindeer theme.  Here's the photo:

     

Dec. 5
    In spite of spending a lot of time dealing with our new unemployed residents, I found time on Sunday to record tracks for another children's CD.  It's not like I've found a large audience for this kind of music--but I have some young neighbors who like my songs and enjoy the religious ones as well.  I'll be uploading some of the guitar tracks from it to Youtube, but most of the music has 2-3 instruments on it.
    Some of the best family times we had when our kids were young (and not so young) was the time I spent reading out loud to them at bedtime.  As they grew older, the stories did also, so that we all grew in our love of reading out loud.  It also got us through many a marathon car trip...  So I was pretty taken aback when I tried to read a picture book to the two littlest lodgers, aged 3 and almost 4, and they ran off saying, "no books, no books!"  That was last week. Today I brought the older brother a used Teletubbies hide and seek pop out book I bought from the library.  I read him the totally inane text (Where is Tinky? Boo, here is Tinky).  I opened up the flaps to show the hidden television stars.  When I was done, he said, "Again."  So I did it again, and later he was spotted looking through the book on his own...
    Our broken pelvis son is getting some good care from friends this week.   He was even going to go out for supper this evening...  I'm hoping his recovery will be like when I broke some ribs a few years back--that was the worst pain I'd been in, but it went away after a few weeks and I've felt fine ever since...

 Dec. 7
    My seven month old kiln started acting up on the 6th, then wouldn't fire at all on the 7th.  I've worked with electric kilns with a kilnsitter shut-off since the 1970's, and know their failures intimately.  This was a new one.  I would push in on the button, the light would go on, then shortly go off.  If I pushed hard on the button, the light would go on, but when I let go, it would go off again.  I called  Seattle Pottery, which supplies my clay and also built the kiln, and after a fairly short conversation with their kiln person, agreed to tear into it and see if I could see what was wrong.  I couldn't tell what caused it, but could tell there was damage inside, so he agreed to send a free replacement.
    That was all pretty straight-forward.  What I'm learning from dealing closely with a financially struggling family is that it's hard work even to get free services.   For most things in this culture, but especially to get a job, you need a car, a phone and an address.  To access the state unemployment info, you also need  Internet access.  If you lack any of those things, life is considerably harder.  Since the family is staying with us in a different county, we suggested they get library cards, needed for accessing the Internet at the library, among other things.  For that you need an address, and a phone number.   So one of them spent two days trying to get a cell phone and charger and some time on the phone, working with social services in Sandpoint, 35 miles from here.  Twice they gave him  Walmart charge cards that proved to be empty when he went to get the phone charger with them.  Nothing has been easy for this family.

Dec. 8
    The kiln part came today and I spent over an hour in the freezing temperatures to install it, but it all seemed to be functioning well when I finished.
    Our local police participate in a program where they collect donations from merchants (including me) and then have a drawing to take a few needy kids shopping for Christmas (riding in a police car) and out to lunch.  We entered our visiting family in it, and found out today that the fifth grader will get to participate.  It includes $150 to shop for presents for the whole family, and a policeman assists the child in making choices.  This fifth grader is a really likeable kid--got chosen as student of the month for his class, and got on the honor roll.   Today as we left the school he held the door open for another family as they exited.  He's diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa, which is an incurable trending towards blindness.  As it is, he has tunnel vision--not much on the periphery.   He's started reading a picture Bible we gave him, and from that figured out what the 10 commandments were all about. (His name is Isaiah, quite biblical for an mostly unchurched family).   Tonight, after we'd taken one of his preschool brothers to introduce him to the library,  he whispered to me "Thanks for Sunday."  I told him I didn't know what he was talking about, but later remembered the gift trip will be this Sunday (and I don't feel very responsible for him winning the trip, though it reminds me of Charlie winning the ticket to the Willy Wonka chocolate factory).
    There are quite a few good things happening for this family concurrently, mostly through our family and church friends.  Today the kids got some toys sent from our church members at Priest Lake, which is good, because they came mostly with the clothes they were wearing (and some bags of dirty laundry).  Some of the kids have pretty marked behaviorial problems, but they're rapidly improving in the couple weeks they've been here...

Dec. 9
    This is the cover of the latest kids CD.  I poked through my photos for valley pictures and it was hard to beat this photo of the Clearwater Valley in central Idaho, near where we used to live.  The pictures on the back shown are also from there, including the bright yellow canola field.
    This morning we thought we'd go see the eagles that gather to feed on dying kokanee salmon at Lake Coeur D'Alene, and do a couple other errands as well.  When we got to the main viewing area, there were many dead fish and a few dying ones along the shore, and a lot of satiated eagles, but all of them were perched across the bay, around a mile away...  So here's the photo I took there a few years ago:

In eagles we trust...


Dec. 10
    Among other things today, I sorted through some old writings of mine and decided I'm not likely to have my every scribble pored over, so consigned a bunch of them to the recycling...  But I did find this cartoon I made while being on a a church council trying to put in a handicap access (boy, was I ever prescient--we left for seminary and came back to find the whole project canned-how things change in process...) Here's the cartoon:
What the

Dec. 12
    The book The Best Christmas Pageant Ever is a good prerequisite for dealing with the family we're, uh, dealing with.  Although we first encountered them a couple months ago (a plea at the church for gas money, and other help), at the time they came to stay with us they were trying to live in a very small cabin 4 miles up an icy road off the electric grid with no running water, nine of them.  They had been camping out all summer... At the time that they gave up trying to live that lifestyle and accepted our offer of an interim place to stay, the wife left the husband, leaving him with their 5 children.  Their sole support besides food stamps has been the grandmother's unemployment checks, which run out this month...  Their car, an old Suburban running with very bad ball joints, quit running at the time they finally gave up.  
    So we've been working to get the father and grandmother back applying for work (job situation very bad in this area).   The basics necessary for job applications, such as education, an address, a working cell phone, and a car, are mostly lacking.  Another relative who had been living with them ended up in jail and was released today, so we tried to look into a homeless shelter he could go to.  It turns out (no surprise) the shelters are full with a waiting list...
    This is all a very heavy burden for them, and a slighter burden for us.  Fortunately we have a network of Christian friends and relatives who are doing much to support the family and us, such as buying winter clothing for the school children, and helping us with our expenses (such as driving 80 miles per day to keep the children in their school, and heating our house).
    Aside from that, I did manage to throw over 100 pots this morning, with a few Christmas orders sprinkled in...

Dec. 13
    Today I was delivering a couple small orders in Spokane, one to the Union Gospel Thrift Shop, where the patron works...   Afterwards in the shop I looked around (and got some books for the visiting kids).  Above the bookshelf was a vase with some plastic flowers for $1.99.  It was one I'd made, pretty long ago--it had crystalline blue glaze that didn't look particularly good on a darker clay body than I've used for some time...  I've heard from a couple other customers that they've encountered my pots in thrift shops, but it was surprising for me.  (if the pot had looked better I could probably have bought it and resold it at a profit...)  After that I did most of our Christmas shopping at Auntie's Books, a classic if possibly doomed by technology bookstore in Spokane.
    Yesterday on the ride home from picking up the kids we saw a flock of 10 turkeys, including one white one (I tried to explain albinism to the kids).  I also saw a coyote race across the road in the distance.  Then in the ditch I noticed what looked like a good Christmas tree, cut and lying there.  I couldn't react in time to stop, but thought I'd mention it to my wife.  We never buy Christmas trees--they generally come to us...  I forgot to mention it to her, but she picked it up this morning after dropping the kids off (great minds think alike).   She noticed more trees cut in the highway right of way across from the first tree, and stopped with the crew after school, and they got 4 trees, mostly small, for their own Christmas celebration...

Dec. 14
    We had two birthdays to celebrate today--my sister-in-law's at lunch (eating out at the pizza place), and little Nicolaus turned 4.  Their mother, whose leaving started the process of them moving in with us,  usually would get all the kids a little something on each child's birthday.  I had the books I'd bought yesterday, so they became gifts for all the kids, when we went and had cake with them.  They are not yet excited about books, but several were willing to let me read their new books to them anyway.
    I glazed and fired two kiln loads today, and it was our busiest day of sales for several months.  By coincidence the last shoppers turned out to be the elementary school principal and her husband,  who my wife has talked to several times about the kids.  We didn't talk much about that, however--it turns out they play old-time music also, so I gave them a CD and we might play together some time...  They live outside Oldtown, which is less than 20 miles from here, close by local musician standards.
    By the way, I don't sell many CDs, but sold my Sacred Ground one to a Christian mother and adult son that stopped in last week...   He called me up yesterday to say that he and his mother really liked the CD.  It's rare to get that kind of affirmation.  Usually I get ringing endorsements on Youtube like "Dave Van Ronk played that a lot better."  (Which was likely true, and coincidentally I read a while ago the Coen brothers are doing a movie on the early days of Van Ronk...)

Dec. 15
    The days are  getting faster-- I spent all morning doing pottery, then got a couple boxes ready to ship, including to relatives, then went to pick up the visiting kids, dropped them off, went to a CAGNI clay meeting mulling over our Mud and Spirits show, proceeded back to sit with my wife and neighbors for our elementary  holiday program, where the 1-2 graders recited "The Night before Christmas" in memorized couplets, mixed in with the usual schlocky holiday songs.

Dec. 16
   
This is the view from our pottery tonight looking up Maine St.  They have finished the street lamps, which appear regularly on both sides of the street, but don't have frosted glass so their light shows up more than the lamps themselves (not to mention getting lost in the white Christmas lights)...  Currently the business community is losing North Idaho Collections, a small art gallery.  Otherwise most of the rest of the businesses are hanging on...  For 8 pm on a Friday night, you can tell that the bars could be doing better by the few cars on Maine St...
    School is out as of today, which means we get a two week break in transporting kids to school.  We'll probably spend some of that free time doing things with small subsets of the children, since they rub each other the wrong way frequently.    The other day we tried clipboards with markers for the kids to amuse themselves on the 30 minute ride.  It worked well the first time, but once the novelty was gone, they were back to bickering.   Today I got them to take turns with my mp3 player (I heard one of them singing "New Morning" with Bob Dylan.  We also went to MacDonald's after school so the oldest child could use hamburger coupons he'd gotten for being student of the month and on the honor roll.   His sister, who wasn't on the honor roll, got a happy meal (on me) with an Alvin the Chipmunk toy inside, so she probably came out on top for that one...

Dec. 17
I helped with sound for the Bluegrass Showcase again, and took photos: http://www.sondahl.com/events/INBADec2011.html

Dec. 19
    I was looking over the index for my webpage, and realized I'd left my creative writing blog link pointed to the last entry for the last several years, which is like leaving a videotape open to the last scene.  So I updated the link and tried to explain the cluttered index at the bottom of each page needed to find the next installment.  Then I read the first story again (nice thing about getting older, each time is the first time). Then I saw the Goats of Christmas Past.    Since it's seasonal, I've included the link today.  It was thinly disguised autobiography of when we lived in Minnesota in a poorly insulated cabin with no running water and only wood heat, and the goats did get involved with our Christmas celebration.  (We never lived in a school bus, but considered it when we moved to Idaho).
    We were living like the people we're currently providing shelter for, only we had the advantage of education, friends, and relatives, and a mostly running car...

    We went walking on the frozen lake--mostly near the edge since there are still open spots...  There is an inch of snow on the lake, so the tracks are really good. In the last two days we've seen turkey, coyote, snowshoe hare, raccoon, grouse, and deer tracks.  I don't think I could tell a snoeshoe hare track from a rabbit, but I've seen snowshoe hares around here, and never seen a rabbit (besides feral tame ones).

Dec. 21
      Sales have been very good the last few days, but with the long drawn-out recession I've realized that the pottery inventory is building, and decided to apply to join a co-op gallery in Sandpoint (
Art Works Gallery) to expand our market.  I took sample pots up there yesterday, and was juried into the group today.
    Starting next month I'll have a modest rent and will help sell one or two (that probably means two) days per month.  This all happened because I saw they were looking for more artists in an ad on Craigslist.  Theoretically, one shouldn't want to join an organization that is advertising for members, but they're easier to join than the ones that don't need members.  It's a year commitment, expected to be slow sales for the first 6 months of the year, but busy in the summer...

Dec. 22
    Because I had the idea, and before I would likely forget it, I spent several hours redesigning the buttons at the top of the webpage today.  The result wasn't as nice as I'd imagined, but it was hard to find fonts that looked good for the size of the buttons.  It's possible I'll edit a bunch of the other pages in the long hours of winter.
    This evening I was asked to play for holiday sing-along at the library.  We brought the 5 kids who are staying with us, and that made up most of the crowd.  The kids got cocoa and cookies, so it was all good.
    Afterwards I was afraid I'd missed the local fire department food drive with Santa, and went driving around town trying to find their parade with a bag of food for the food bank.  I had the windows down because they use horn honking and loud music to make locals aware of their passing.  But the sound echoes around, so I had headed in the wrong direction.  Finally I figured out they were down by the lake, and managed to bring my bag out with perfect timing.  I found out Santa gives out candy canes in exchange for the food donations...

 Dec. 23
If you wondered why the index at the top didn't look much changed (until now), I neglected to make the links for the photos absolute rather than relative, so they only worked on certain of my pages.  Fixed that...
    Our son got in, with crutches from his healing broken pelvis...  He had to catch a ride to the airport when he could (along with a friend who was also going to Spokane) and ended up sitting up most of the night waiting to check in his baggage (4 hour limit for allowing baggage checkins) before he could go through security and find another uncomfortable chair to wait for his flight.   So he's slept a lot so far.
    Aside from a nice walk on the Mill Pond today, and making caramels, it was otherwise an unnotable day...

Dec. 27
    Our holiday celebration included going to church Christmas morning, arriving just in time to set up to play guitar, with a second guitarist I'd played with last Christmas.  I only had gotten the list of hymns Christmas morning, and he only got them when I arrived.  He's a great guitarist, and able to play from musical notation,  and we managed to make a joyous sound for our congregation of around 20.
    Yesterday we went to relatives to join our New Orleans nephew watching the Saints win on Monday Night Football. We also played a few enjoyable hands of Uno, including a variation where if you have the identical card to the one showing on the table, you can play it out of turn.  That simple card game requires total concentration, which means everyone is actually focused on a group event instead of checking electronic devices, which is becoming the norm in our culture.
    Speaking of that, we've yet to open our presents due to some scheduling difficulties, but the one gift I got an early glimpse of was a Kindle, so I'll soon have another electronic gadget to stare at.  I've been previewing available free books online at Amazon, Project Gutenberg, the local library system, and other places.  I'm currently reading a thousand page paperback compendium of detective stories from the 1930's from The Black Mask, a seminal pulp magazine.  Since I mostly read at night, and tend to hold the book up as I read, I'm thinking a light Kindle tablet might be a good thing.

Dec. 28
    Yesterday the son of one of our stalwart  church members, visiting from the Seattle area, came over, and we recorded about a dozen Christmas carols for twin guitars.  I've been editing them today, will add links when they're ready.
    It rained probably an inch yesterday, and I put out a rain gauge today to catch the current inundation.  The rain from yesterday melted all the snow except the largest piles, and left an inch of water on top of the ice on the lake.  It was breezy, but the extremely shallow water could only get tiny waves going on it--a very unusual sight...
    The presents finally got opened yesterday, and I downloaded some free books to the Kindle, including P.G. Wodehouse and Philip K. Dick.  I admired the simplicity of the setup--there is no instructional booklet, just a diagram urging you to hook it up to a USB port on a computer.  The typing system on the basic model I have is very slow, so I won't be appending notes to things I read (not that I would even if it were fast).  With this model you also get ads as screensavers, which are usually related to the literate, such as an ad for the first movie based on Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum novels.  Although the Kindle is the size of a paperback, it's heavier, and thinner, so it's harder to hold. (One of the ads is for accessories to improve on its holdability and a cover for the vulnerable screen.   All the buttons are small and hard to decipher, but especially the page turning buttons on the sife take fingernails (almost) to access.  That said, I did read a whole novel last night with it, and am very happy with it overall...
Silent Night played by Brad Sondahl and Kenyon Curtiss
Oh Come All ye Faithful
Joy to the World
Hark the Herald
Good Christian Friends Rejoice
God Rest Ye Merry
Angels we have heard on high
We Three Kings
Away in a Manger 

Dec. 29
    I edited the audio files that went with the videos, and when Ken is balanced better with my guitar his great abilities are much clearer than the muddy sound of the Youtube videos.  
    Some days you don't plan on.  The toilet wouldn't flush, which led to the semiannual septic tank pumping today, and replacing a gasket on the toilet as well...
    A few days ago the rooster of our new flock (which we got accidentally--chicks are hard to accurately determine gender) attacked me as I came in with their food--I got a 3/4 inch scratch on my arm.  There have been other incidences as well, not to mention his tendency to crow at any hour of the day and night...  So I passed him on to a neighbor who will make better use of him (as a meal)...  It reminds me of the story Doc Watson told of the Quaker's cow, which was very mean.  "Nay, bossy, I can't strike thee, but on the morrow I'll sell thee to a Baptist, and he'll beat the hell out of thee..."

Books read and other media of note
The Variable Man by Philip K. Dick  This is apparently an early work (not mentioned on his Wikipedia page) available free for Kindle.  It reminded me of the hot and heavy style of A. E. Van Vogt.  It was kind of a situational thought piece on a possible future 200 years down the line...

Our Friends from Frolix 8 by Philip K. Dick  
Many of his works are dystopias--this one involving a world run by super brains and mutants.  The protagonist is a regular guy (tire regroover even) who is radicalized when his son is passed over in a rigged test to join the "haves" group.   In this dystopia, drugs are free and commonplace, but subversive writings are the great illegal thing people risk imprisonment to read, from a messianic figure writing from prison...  Then add to that another messianic figure returning with a deus ex machina helper from Frolix 8, and it's situational tragicomedy...

When the Thrill is Gone by Walter Mosley
   In this novel, Mosley carries Noire to baroque, with a fairly confusing panoply of relations and subplots.  While his writing style is always clear,  the complexity left me scratching my head at the denouement.  



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