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Brad's Blog

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Feb.1 2010
    I revisited the doctor today over my ear infection.  He thought I shouldn't fly (had a trip planned to California this weekend), and put me on another round of Amoxicillin.  At least my blood pressure was down in the normal range...
    We got a lot of 16 foot long pine tongue and groove boards today, and started putting them up on the wall in our cabin.  I don't know about "lipstick on a pig," but pine boards can cover up any number of imperfections in a house, as well as lighten the rooms with natural warmth.  I think working on the walls will be almost as good as a trip to California...

Feb. 2
    The only catch, when working on walls, are the switches and plugins.   They must be painstakingly cut out with a jigsaw.  Working with pine instead of sheetrock, the advantage is that if you cut the hole in the wrong place you haven't messed up a 4 X 8 foot piece of material.
    It rained a bit this morning, making our gravel street "mud-luscious," an e.e. cummings phrase found paging down on this link..  In just Spring --A fine poem, even if it needs updating as to the children's activities--video gaming and texting more like...

Feb. 3
    We're putting up a wall a day with the pine tongue and groove.  It looks to be a week or more to install it, then it will need some sort of finish.  It was warm enough (40F) to work without a coat on.  We opened the windows and doors to let the sawdust out.
    We went for a walk on the lake this afternoon--saw turkey tracks on the snow on the lake.  They were puzzling, because some of them seemed to only make a mark with the middle toe, so it looked like a creature with a long narrow foot.  This evening the coyotes have been nearby, howling quite a lot...

Feb. 5
        It snowed all day today, but at ground level the temperature was above freezing, so it didn't really mean it. This really feels like the winter that wasn't.
    This afternoon we were trying to trim out some of the felted fur on our long haired 18 year old cat.  This was to save the trauma for her and us involved with taking her to the vet, where they do a thing called the "lion cut," trimming the areas that are likeliest to clump up (note--don't get a long haired cat).   Anyway, we snipped into her skin, so ended up taking her to the vet where they will stitch her and they tacked on a few more things she probably needs and the result  was a $150 haircut.  Maybe she should run for president.

Feb. 6
    We started working on the ceiling today, which is harder on the back and neck.  
     Last night I was working through the interesting book, Lost Stories by Dashiell Hammett (who became an American household name mostly for The Maltese Falcon and The Thin Man).   I'd read previously that he was stationed in the Aleutians during WWII, as was my father.  It turns out they were both on Adak, at the tip of the chain, a place so depressing that quite a few soldiers committed suicide.  I always wondered if Dad met or at least knew of Hammett, which seemed likely since Hammett edited the base daily newspaper, and my father was always intimately interested in journalism. Although both men were known to have spent some time on other bases in Alaska as well, it is conceivable they were there together.  The book made the conceivability a likelihood, when it mentioned Hammett got to meet Olivia DeHavilland when she did a USO visit.   Through some curious twist of fate, my father got to be the escort for the actress when she came to the island, so, assuming they were both on Adak, and not some other base when she toured, they would have met.  My mother didn't remember him mentioning it in his letters to her, but did remember he assembled a dark room on the base at one of the islands to give the soldiers something to do to stave off the boredom there.  
    When we were  growing up, a favorite holiday activity was watching 8 mm movies,  generally (especially with with teen siblings) deriding the films Dad took on the Aleutians, as they mostly consisted of planes taking off and landing (I being a pre-teen, thought the planes were cool).   Dad did mention that once a security guard thought Dad's films were a security risk.  (The most they might have revealed was the antiquity of some of the planes they were flying there) I asked what he did about it, and he said, "I pulled rank on him. (I think he was a captain, having gone in after college)"  That's about as much as I remember hearing of my Dad's military career, besides the fact he was the camp cryptographer.


  Feb. 8 How many constellations can you identify?. I can only do five, and even though I think astronomy is cool. Those would be Little and Big Dipper, Orion, Cassiopeia, Pleiades.  I like to look at the night sky, but I settle for the few constellations I know.  Most people know their Zodiac sign, but how many could locate the constellation it's named after... (Southern hemisphere readers are excused from this, as I don't think they ever see most of them)...
    We made good progress with the cabin today--a couple more days and the knotty pine will be done, except for all the strips of wood covering the edges.
    I started teapots and some dinner plates in the pottery today, and loaded two bisque kilns.

Feb. 9
    The walls of the cabin are nearly done, as is our supply of wood.  When I estimated, I based the area on the size of the boards, forgetting the planing removes an inch from each width.  So we can either get a little more wood, or have the utility room be a little patchy...  Next the finishing work of covering up the exposed edges around doors, corners, etc.
    I finished making the teapots today, which is the trickiest pot I make.  It has the pot itself, an added foot, a carefully fit lid,  a set of loops to attach the cane handle, and a spout, perforated where it enters the pot.  Since I add the foot with a coil of clay, and add the spout after footing the pot, I have to carefully set the pot on the fresh thrown foot to attach the spout.
    Between the cabin and the pottery, I'm working till after dark every day.  But another few weeks and the cabin should be done...

Feb. 10
    The kiln I fired yesterday took too long, so I checked and a couple of the elements got fried, which was sort of what I was waiting for to spur me to replace all the elements and  a few other assorted wires.  I'm always happy when I put the kiln back together and everything hums and nothing arcs.  That was the case today, but I was firing the other kiln today, so won't know how it fires until tomorrow.
    I also worked on replacing a blower on a fireplace heat exchanger, so I didn't get much other progress in on the cabin.
    This evening a young friend invited us to watch her in her pep band at a nearby girl's H.S. basketball tournament.  So we watched the game, which remained close till the last minute, and listened to their band.  Our own team played in the next game, but it didn't seem worth it to wait a half an hour to repeat the experience...

Feb. 12

I've mentioned previously watching a mouse go out to the bird feeder--this week I was lucky to get a photo of a wild mouse, which you don't see every day.  This mouse doesn't seem to be as nocturnal as most.  Since then, with the warm weather, we let our hens out to wander, and they've pecked over the leftover seeds pretty well.   There are only a few chickadees and house finches visiting the feeder lately. But I hear spring calls from several types of birds, and expect feeder business to pick up as transient species come north.
    We're still having rain and slush episodes.  All the world is soggy, like at the Olympics.
    The rewired kiln fired well, another one is firing today as well. I made a lot of pie plates today, and footed some extra large bowls.  I've been using a small bucket on the wheel, centered, to set larger bowls on upside down while footing them. It helps prevent hairline cracks on the rim, which are often not visible till the final firing.

Feb. 13
We got the pine walls done today, just short a small section which will be behind the water heater.  We still have to add strips along the edges of the rooms to finish the basic walls.  So now we're thinking about what finish to put on.  A list of wood finishes at Wikipedia has led us to consider sunflower oil, which apparently dries quickly to a hard surface.  Several "green" finishes have it as an ingredient.  We might go with a premixed product, or experiment with our own mix, including tung oil, beeswax, linseed oil--- hmm sounds complicated...

 Feb. 14
    We got to hear Eine Kleine Nachtmusik by the Spokane Symphony today.  No free tickets from our symphony friend, but while waiting in line someone gave us an extra ticket, so it became half price.   The piece was a favorite of mine from our family's very small classical record collection.
It rained a good part of the day and evening.  We're talking of removing our studded tires a couple months early...

Feb. 15
    The last two winters I've had to prune the fruit trees standing on about 3 feet of snow, on pieces of plywood to keep from sinking.  I just finished pruning this year on the bare ground.
    We were cleaning pieces of oak trim that we inherited with the blue cabin property today to trim out the corners of the pine tongue and groove.  We're still considering sunflower oil as a finish, but there are only fleeting references to it on the Internet.  We've used  boiled linseed oil a lot previously, so it's a known quantity, only it dries slowly and remains a bit tacky.  We really have to decide this week...
    I fired a kiln yesterday where I forgot to pull the prop out before turning the kiln to high.  This prop is about an inch thick, and was hidden by the extra lid I put on top for added insulation.  It's inserted at early stages of firing to let moisture leave the kiln atmosphere.  Anyway, the kiln made it to the bisque temperature even while cracked open.  I discovered the error after returning from the symphony, at which point I closed the lid to prevent too rapid cooling.  I glazed and fired the pots today, and expect no surprises as a result, but one never knows.


Feb. 16
The bassist I associate with came over today, so we recorded a couple videos for Youtube:
The Covered wagon rolled right along   and  Bring it on Down to My House
The weather continues drizzly.

Feb. 17
    We finally decided on linseed oil as the finish, since we have a gallon on hand.  I got over half of it rubbed on today, using less than 1/3 of the gallon.  It's a very economical finish.
    In the pottery it was a bowl throwing day--I made about 30 in various larger sizes.

Feb. 18
     I finished coating the new wood with oil today.  There's still some cedar which needs sanding, and which I avoid since I'm allergic to the dust...
    The same mouse featured earlier this month made a reappearance today, dashing out from the bushes by our house to the bird feeder area, where it jogged right up a grapevine and could immediately be seen chowing down inside the bird feeder.  It had clearly done this trick before, which was actually pretty clever, since you don't think of mice as climbers.  After a few minutes I went out to feed the chickens, and lifted the lid on the bird feeder, thinking the mouse was gone.  It was still in there, halfway out the seed delivery hole, with its hind end towards me, looking like Pooh after cleaning out Rabbit's hunny supply.  It wasn't really stuck, but I think it hoped I didn't see it.  Anyway after a few seconds, it bolted away.  
    Since there's no such thing as one mouse, and mice in general aren't to be encouraged, I decided to move the feeder to where it would be suspended by wires away from shrubbery.  This exposes it to deer predation, so if the deer hit it, it may be time to give bird feeding a time out.  With no snow cover, the birds and deer should be doing alright with their native forage...  We've been getting all 3 kinds of chickadees lately, and house finches.

 Feb. 19
    There were a few fixtures needed to finish the electrical work, so we went to a Habitat for Humanity store and got 4 of them for $7.00. We also needed a toilet, since I'd forgotten to drain the tank the winter before last, and it had frozen and cracked.  So we got our choice of fairly nice toilets for $20.  These prices make me happy...  The same winter I also forgot to drain the hot water tank, and found it mostly frozen this winter, so I'll find out if it's functional when we pressurize the water system.  That should be within the next month...  The electrician comes tomorrow, to finish, for the most part, his work...
    The weather has reverted to blue skies, which means warm feeling days above freezing, and cooler nights, in the mid 20's.  Noboby minds this.  We can go weeks in the winter with cloudy skies.

Feb. 20
    The electrical work is done, leaving some trim work, the floors, the kitchen cabinets (reinstalling) a couple walls to finish, some plumbing, insulating the floor, sealing the base perimeter, fixing some outside boards--hm, pretty long list.  
    We walked down to view the increasingly large thawed area on the Mill Pond.  In spite of hearing geese frequently from our house, there wasn't so much as a duck visible on the pond today.  On the other hand, we hear coyotes frequently and never see them...

Feb. 21
     A regular church Sunday today, with me playing guitar for the service.  I went through the hymnal in the last couple weeks, and found I could play 157 hymns, all from memory.  Then at church I remembered the blue supplemental hymnal, so I need to go through that sometime, so I can easily say what hymns I could play (if I don't know them, I can't play them--the drawback of playing by ear.).

Feb. 22

We were walking along the beach of the still frozen lake today.  There's about a four foot section along the shore that is clear puddle-thin ice, that freezes at night and might thaw in the daytime.  We were surprised to see the first turtle of spring work its way under the ice toward the shore, where it popped its head through the thin ice and breathed for a while.  Then I made a slight motion with my camera and spooked it back under the ice.  Turtles in February...
    I made one more black glaze test today, which is simpler to evaluate than a dozen tests--yes or no.  I'll have the results tomorrow...  The black glaze bucket is getting low, so I need to decide on an improved formula.

Feb. 23
    I'm getting a cold again, which makes me nervous due to my ear drum issues...  Then I opened the kiln I fired yesterday and it overfired badly enough to wreck most of the pots and warp 3 of the kiln shelves.   Not my day...

Feb. 24
    I'm feeling better from the cold, and I replaced the tube with the sensing rod for the kiln, which is about the only thing I can do about phantom kiln overfires.  After that I reloaded the kiln for a firing tomorrow.  It snowed for a while this morning, but had vanished by this afternoon.
    My skier son twisted his knee last weekend landing one of the difficult and dangerous stunts which are his raison d'etre or something like that.  A trip to the doctor was encouraging, in that it wasn't serious enough to operate on, nor, unless it gets worse, require an MRI.
    I got subscribed to by Redd Stewart on Youtube, whom, I learned from the site, cowrote "The Tennessee Waltz."  So I replied what an honor it was ...back to him, and got the reply that Redd had died a few years back, and his son and daughter in law were running this tribute site to Redd.   So I guess it was an honor, once removed....
   
Feb. 26
    My bassist friend and I played to a mostly empty house last night in Spokane.  The serious bluegrass musicians had migrated to Seattle for the big Wintergrass festival, and a lot of locals were watching Gonzaga clinch their division basketball championship.  Also I must admit we don't have a large following of local afficionados--I'm sure that might have helped, had that been the case.
    The new test of black glaze came out midnight blue, which the old black was sometimes seen as.  I'm not sure whether to try another mixture, or proceed with a large batch of this glaze.  The batch may well look different from the test...

Feb. 27
    I was firing a bisque today which I had to shut down, when I turned up the top switch to medium, some wires started arcing down in the middle control section.  This was the other shoe waiting to drop--the kiln that needed rebuilding, but I was waiting for it to do something wicked. Anyway, it's good it started arcing while I was around.  It also had a heating element hanging out from the top row, which had nearly stretched to the bottom of the kiln.  After it had started wandering from its appointed channel, I decided it was too brittle to try to force back in the channel, so I've had to avoid packing pots too near it on that side of the kiln.
    It was such a fine day today (mid 50's and sunshine) that we spent some time getting some firewood, then were able to get back to doing finishing work on the blue cabin.  When we bought the property, there was a lot of lumber on the premises, since the former owner was a cabinet maker.  So we've been reusing whatever we could to help keep costs down on this remodel.  I started putting trim around windows and doors.  The thin strips of wood used for this are fairly expensive, so we were happy to find a lot of strips of shaped oak which will work for most of the trimming.  It adds a touch of class to our pine walls.  It's also looking like we'll have used up enough of the materials to make the garage back into a garage again, instead of a lumber yard.

Feb. 28
    I finally went to see Avatar before it would  leave the big 3D screen.  Although the plot held no real surprises for a longtime SF reader like me (
It's really Dances with Wolves meets Luke Skywalker), the realization of it, particularly in 3D, made it a must see movie.  I was surprised that, after so long a run, the theater was mostly full, especially since it was a nice sunny day).
    Earlier we'd gone for a walk, and there are now plenty of geese around, and Common Goldeneye ducks on the lake.  The grass widow flowers are coming up, appearing like clumps of grass, so the first buttercups can't be far off.
    I spent part of the evening inventorying garden seed and perusing the seed catalog.   Checking last year's March listing, I saw references to 0 degrees and no references to planting tomatoes, but this year is totally different from any of the last few, so planting in March seems feasible.

Books read and other media of note
The Domino Pattern by Timothy Zahn  It's hard to believe an adult SF writer would come up with an interstellar train, but Zahn makes a good train mystery out of it, with mind control puppets and other scary alien types.

Three Hands for Scorpio by Andre Norton.
After reading, I learned it was her last novel.  Compared with Daybreak (below), it's a far more complex fantasy, tending towards the extreme once parodied of Tolkien in "Bored of the rings" where a footnote proclaimed "Either ArgleBargle the I or someone else."  I prefer to fill in the details in fantasy, so found this far from my favorite of her works.  Nonetheless, she remains a favorite author, of which I've 35 novels or more.  And she pretty much invented the fantasy quest genre embodied in Dungeons and Dragons.

Stalking the Unicorn by Mike Resnick
 The first novel I've read of this prodigious SF and Fantasy author.  This dreamy concoction of noire PI and a fantasy alternate NYC was enough to lure me on to the next in the series...  Usually fantasy and detective stuff don't mix well, since in fantasy anything can happen.  When comedy is added, all bets are off..

Death Masks by Jim Butcher  
While doing the usual saving the world, Dresden also has to fight off several nemeses at once.  Butcher is hitting his stride in this one--action throughout.

Daybreak, 2250 A.D. by Andre Norton
From 1951, this post apocalyptic vision clearly had cold war roots.   I usually avoid these as too depressing.  Norton nearly created the fantasy adventure world singlehandedly  and in this one keeps the story moving along with suspenseful rat creatures and internecine struggles among the survivors...

Final Notice by Joe Gores  This was the second in a series on some car repossessors, of which the author wrote from his experience as one.  The plot was way too complicated, too many characters, but I'll stick with the author as I'd guess he improves later on...

Lost Stories by Dashiell Hammett introduced by Joe Gores.  
More a biographical journey through Hammett's life than any lost gems.   The pieces selected do show his evolution as a writer, and the notes provide a vivid representation of the successes and foibles of the great detective writer. 

Grave Peril by Jim Butcher.  
Wizard  Harry Dresden takes on a bunch of classic mean vampires and demented ghosts, while trying to avoid his wicked fairy Godmother.  It's kind of in a league of its own...

Woman in the Dark by Dashiell Hammett.  A minor novella, first serialized in 1933.  It's almost a western--kept woman comes to ex-con for help to leave her rich and powerful lover.  It seems pretty standard now, but at the time Hammett was helping to create the noir genre.

Ill Wind by Nevada Barr
.  The Hound of the Baskervilles was one of the first stories to make a supernatural scary story easily explained by the scientific method (a bit funny there, as I once saw a book with a preface by A.C. Doyle testifying to the validity of some purported fairy photos, which later were proven to be paper cutouts.)  In latter days, Tony Hillerman made  a career of Southwest Indian scary traditions.  This book, by Nevada Barr, falls into the Hillerman mode, set, as all her Anna Pigeon novels, in a national park, this time, Mesa Verde. She always adds realistic Park ranger details from her own experience, and a human touch to the story line to add interest.  This was, I believe, her second in the series, a long time ago now.




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