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Feb. 1, 2011

Every day the lake is different.  The current cold spell (down to 8 F this a.m.) has refrozen some thawed ice, and the expansion caused it to push up in chunks against the lake shore.  It was solid enough that we trusted walking along the shore, but not out very deep, as there were lots of cracks and ominous booming noises rolling across the lake while we walked.
    Early this morning I did indeed drive in to meet a couple on their way to work, to get some Australian cypress flooring.  The how-to books recommend getting 20 per cent more than you'll need, but with this delightfully milled prefinished wood there's hardly any waste.   The extra 20 per cent is what they were selling...   I hope to start reflooring the bathroom tomorrow.
    The pottery workshop was 45 degrees this morning, but with the electric heat radiating out from under the table where my wheel is situated, it was reasonably comfortable.  I did kick in the second electric heater while I was there, though.

Feb. 2
    I got most of the bathroom floor in today.  Modern milled flooring resembles Legos--easy to fit them together.   When we were first married, we removed some oak flooring from an old farmhouse and put it back into the granary we were living in.  It was kind of warped to begin with, and I learned how easy it was to get gaps in the flooring, and how hard it was to do anything about it.
    Just now I got a call from the Gallup poll, answering lots of questions about how I thought Obama and the government were doing in world affairs.  During election time I've gotten a few purported polls, mostly ending up extolling one candidate over another, but I've heard of the Gallup poll for years, so I enjoyed answering the questions, and putting the knowledge of world affairs I've gotten from listening to NPR all these years to use...

Feb. 3
    I went skating on the lake today for the first time in several years.  My goal was to not hurt myself so it was successful.  I probably skated a half mile or so along the shore, where the ice is smoothest.
    This evening Sondahl and Hawkins played at the Spokane Elks Club.  There was about 15 people there, most of whom were waiting their chance to jam afterwards, but they were appreciative, and two people told Jonathan he was the best bassist they'd ever heard... We've played there 3 times now, usually about the same crowd--we view it as a half way point to meet and practice for our larger INBA  performance now scheduled for March.

Feb. 4

Instead of skating at the lake today, I brought my camera.  With the refreezing of the lake as it has risen after some melting, the expanding  ice is pushing up along the shore.  The relatively new docks at the public access are showing the force of freezing ice--the reinforced concrete tubes that were used to secure the dock have been pushed to a 45 degree angle by the ice--the whole docks were shoved in towards shore.
    I finished the hallway floor today, but I still have a space to finishwhere we're putting the washer-dryer  before I go back to roughing in the utilities.
    The weather hovered around freezing today, with a heavy overcast...

  Feb. 7
    We watched the Superbowl in Spokane with relatives yesterday...  I was in favor of the Packers, so I was satisfied with the outcome.   I don't get overly excited about the commercials, but there seemed to be a recurring theme this year of throwing things at people.  Odd...
    Today I finished the flooring project.  That leaves patches that will be filled with cement and rocks in areas likely to get wet...  Then there's the bathroom redo to continue.
    We're leaving later this week for Nome-- I was pleased to note temperatures similar to ours currently, but then saw the forecast for highs below zero F for the time we'll be there, with a 4-6 inch snowfall kicking it off tomorrow.  I was hoping to avoid bringing along bulky winter clothing, as it will probably require checking a bag, but then I'd hate to be stuck inside the whole time we're there.

Feb. 14
      I had a great trip to Nome, inspite of some minus 20 F temperatures.  It was very interesting from its history (including Wyatt Earp, and Roald Amundsen landing there in a dirigible). It was also quite interesting in its current unique rugged utilitarian existence.
    I got home too late to download the hundreds of photos I took (many from the plane trips), so will post some tomorrow.

Feb. 15  My trip to Nome


Nome is on the Seward peninsula, facing south on the Bering Sea.  This is the sea ice view from Nome.  I think the bumps are ice flows frozen in place as they were pushed together in cooling. Farther out there's open water, and long cracks in the ice called leads.  


This is the backs of the main businesses on Front street--the side facing the sea.  They are all older structures, some large hotels, quite a few bars and restaurants, and government buildings.  Away from the down town area are the schools and medical facilities, and a small port with a few small industries.  The airport is a walkable distance from town if it isn't too cold and windy, as it was (-20) when we were there.   A lot of people do walk, and there are a lot of taxis to help people who don't have cars get groceries or travel to more distant parts of town.

The town, established in 1901, is a mishmash of functional cheap and mostly old housing, quanset huts from WWII, and old machines from the mining era, which established the community.   Our local paper just mentioned Wyatt Earp coming through Rathdrum on his way to the gold rush in Murray, Idaho.  He liked to be where money was happening, having been involved in most of the mythic Old West happenings including Deadwood and Tombstone, and the Nome gold rush, where he set up a saloon and came away with $80,000 in miner's gold.
Roald Amundsen was also commemorated there, not for his arctic experience, but for landing in Nome when trying to circumnavigate the globe in a dirigible from Rome Italy.  There was a fine small museum in the building that also housed the town library.  We also enjoyed a long visit with an interpreter for the Bering Land Bridge Natural Area, which is close (as planes fly) from Nome.

One of the highlights of our trip was getting to go on a sled ride, courtesy of Kirsten, who previously has done some competitive racing, such as the Iditarod which starts in Wasilla and ends in Nome, commemorating a dog sled trip that brought emergency vaccine for Nome.  Currently she keeps around 20 dogs as an avocation, and I got to ride for about 5 miles on a trail.



In one area the rivers took on an intestinal look from the many oxbows.  I thought it looked like God's fingerpaints...  This picture was unusual in that I saw few human signs at all between Nome and Anchorage, but the one straight line at the bottom of the photo is a small airfield with a few buildings on the side...


The flight back to Anchorage was wonderful and clear, so I kept my camera on and clicking nearly the whole way.
In the above photo, a glacier empties out into a basin, turning that lovely bluish shade...

At the time I shot this, I thought the hazy areas were full of powder snow, but now I wonder if it wasn't fog, in spite of the clear skies.


I think this distinctive volcano formed island may have been south of Anchorage, on the route to Seattle which hugged the coastline of SE Alaska and British Columbia.  It was a wonderful trip.

Feb. 16
    Besides settling into work in the pottery again, I made a video version of my trip for Youtube today.  
Nome Alaska, Feb. 2011
I also have scheduled a concert at our local library for next month on American history through folksongs.  February and March are the mushiest months to get through, so having things to look forward to is helpful.     I walked down to the lake today, and the warm temperatures while I was gone make it clear that the lake is unlikely to be walkable or skate-able again this winter, in spite of the forecast for snow...
   There is a nice sign of Spring--the hens came through with their first egg yesterday...

Feb. 19
    The return to the mundane has been uneventful enough that I haven't been inclined to blog about it.  Today I'm going into Spokane for some errands and the KPBX record sale, and to catch possibly the last local concert of Prairie Flyer, a fine bluegrass group.
   

Feb. 21

I went to the bluegrass concert for the featured last performance of Prairie Flyer (to learn that their real last performance will be at Blue Wqters this August), but was captivated by the showmanship of the Osborne Family Band from Couer D'Alene.  It featured  7 or 8 of the children fiddlers (I think the smallest one just shook a rattle--she was about 2.    I was prepared to be underwhelmed by the group, especially when they started with Bile Them Cabbage Down, which is in every beginning fiddler's repertoire.  I was captivated by the beguiling smile of the oldest daughter, but noticed she was doing some pretty simple backup for that first number (later she proved to be very adept).  Their next pieces showed the careful stagecraft and practice, with various youngsters donning their father's hat to introduce the next song, and creative playing of fiddles including upside down, backward, and the whole row reaching back to bow for the sibling next to them, as well as smaller groups playing more challenging pieces.  As Prairie Flyer approaches their swan song, it's great to see up and coming bands entering the fray...
    On Sunday we went for another walk along the shore of Priest Lake in Luby Bay, past Hill's Resort, which is a lot larger than I'd imagined, and out onto the Woodrat road area (where we saw some small tracks in the snow with a tail clearly dragging--possibly Woodrats?).  Every weekend we're discovering new places to explore along the lake...


Feb. 22
    We awoke to 3 inches of fresh snow, with the week's forecast making it clear that Spring has to wait a while longer.   If it really hits minus 15 by the end of the week, as predicted,  I guess we'll be out hiking on the lake ice again in spite of feeling like that season was over...
    I got a call today from a freelance writer who said she was working on an article on Spirit Lake for Sunset, which is a major magazine in the Western U.S.   It turned out the article has to be 100 words or less, but she thought she might put two or three words in about our pottery, so she asked a couple questions, mostly about the honor system and how long we'd been here.   I told her the assignment reminded me of Douglas Adam's Hitchhiker's guide to the Universe, where Earth's entry was just two words,  "Mostly Harmless."  It also reminded me of the paragraph review of a Daniel Pinkwater book I wrote which got published on the back cover of the paperback edition, which was condensed to: "Hooray for Daniel Pinkwater."  I thought I had several more profound thoughts in the review, but that's editors for you.

 Feb.23
We've gotten about 4 inches of snow today so far, and more snow plus up to 40 mph winds and colder expected tomorrow.  This is as close to a midwestern blizzard as we've been in a long time--mostly our snow falls straight down...
    With being gone to Alaska, plus trying to stock food at the pottery and at our house, I found some well matured milk and cream today, that I was going to throw out.  Then I remembered how, when we were first married, our landlord would bring around expired dairy products which he got from a dairy delivery guy he knew, and how he encouraged us to make butter from the whipping cream.  His method was to shake it in the unopened carton while doing something mindless like watching tv.  Our method settled on using a blender.   Currently we have a nice mixer, which makes great whipped cream, so I tried using that to make butter, but it just got denser without separating into buttermilk and butter, so I finished it in the blender, then drained off the buttermilk, rinsed it a couple times, and added oil and salt to make "better butter" a spreadable lower cholesterol spread.  Being that it was already going sour, it won't keep too long as butter, but can be used to make cookies when it becomes questionable again...

Feb. 24
We're having the cold (high of 12 F today), but the winds were less strong than predicted, so it wasn't bad to go for a walk or be outside shoveling..  I wore ski goggles when riding my bike--especially effective when it's snowing, which it mostly didn't today.  The snow total was about 6 inches, less than the foot of snow they got in Spokane (usually it's the reverse).   Currently it's colder here than in Nome and Minnesota (usually it's the reverse)...
We are keeping the woodstoves going, using some supplemental electric heat, and leaving a dribble of water going at the pottery, which has been known to have pipes freeze at these temperatures.  At least winter weather is easier to deal with than world oil prices or Arabic revolutions.

Feb. 25
We went walking onto the ridge again today, not too surprised to be the first people up there after the last snow.  The sky was clear blue. We followed deer tracks that led us to bushwack down a new way to the road below.  We saw an eagle, a squirrel, and a few nuthatches, chickadees, and juncos.  When we walked where there were no tracks at all, the snow patterns were lovely--unusual for around here in being wind formed like sand dunes.

Feb. 28
 March is just rarin' to come in like a lion, so we had the big winds and wet snow starting yesterday, and at least the snows expected to continue into March.  Although the temperature went just above freezing, it was enough to keep the snow mostly in place--if it had been below freezing there would have been a lot of drifts.  I expect that all of us northerners are looking forward to the softening of winter represented in March...


Books read and other media of note
Practice to Deceive by David Housewright.  This was a cleverly plotted mystery set in Minnesota.  Although written in the 90's, some of the investment shenanigans could have been written last year...

Unbroken by Laura Hillebrand.  
This was a tough read, of the suffering of a downed bombardier and former Olympic athelete in WWII, but by the end it was well worth the effort.  It reminded me of the book of Job, in terms of what else bad could happen to the guy...

The Ring of Solomon by Jonathan Stroud  
A genie tale that makes the genie out to be the sympathetic character, and the humans filled with foibles.  Stroud is good at tweaking our sensibilities.

Get Real by Donald Westlake
It's been a long run for the Dortmunder gang.  This one brings it up to date with cell phones and reality TV, but it's the same reliable comedy theft routine...

And Thereby Hangs a Tale by Jeffrey Archer  
15 short stories by a master story teller, many of them true.   The true ones would benefit from a short introduction on how he learned of the stories, although in one it was implied that people seek him out with interesting stories...  There did seem to be a preponderance of clever amoral people winning out, and the obligatory O. Henry type twist endings.

Money Secrets by Dave Barry  
More of his delightfully adolescent humor on that ever touchy subject...

The Highly Effective Detective goes to the Dogs by Richard Yancey   I think this is my favorite of the 3 Teddy Ruzak mysteries.  It has a lot of aspects of a screwball comedy, even though there's the usual "murder and detective getting beat up going up against everyone to solve it"  plot.



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