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Feb. 08
    This last week I went to Minnesota to visit my family and experience REAL winter (not where the lows are around zero, like here, but the highs are around zero).

My mother was watching my brother's dog and I took this picture since she mostly unbegrudgingly shared her chair with the dog (a first, in my memory), steadfastly reading the New Yorker.

Since the air was "bracing," I only took one walk to the Carleton Arboretum, where in the few stretches of open water (flowing out of Lyman Lake), the local mallards congregate.  Later on this walk I thought I'd check out the thickness of ice on the river (following record sustained cold, I thought it might be sturdy) but stepped through the snow on the edge of the river into 6 inches of icy water, which ended my walk and also jarred my back into a spasm (still recovering).
    Following that, I enjoyed playing in a local jam at a bar with my sister, who joined me in making a video of this country tune, Heartaches by the Number.
    Since I got back to Idaho, one of our young charges got her tongue stuck onto an icicle (no lasting damage), and her mom is down with earache and strep throat.  Never a dull moment here...

Feb 10
Longtime local lake users will lament or at least have mixed feelings over the loss of the original Panhandle Mill office building, known as the Fireside for many years.  The new park is replacing it with a beach, parking, and play area, and work has begun, removing the porches and stairways:


We watched as a backhoe knocked limbs off some of the trees, then broke one off whacking it from the side.  The trees were definitely a mixed blessing, providing nice shade but large volumes of cotton (like a cottonwood only later in the summer) that coated the area and made a layer on top of the Mill Pond.
The scene disturbed one of our little girls, perhaps particularly since she'd just recently watched Fly Away Home, about a young girl who finds Canada goose eggs where a tree has been knocked down by developers, adopts them, and helps them to migrate using an ultralight aircraft.  (Real story here)

Feb. 11
Today the whole Fireside Lodge was demolished.  It used to dominate the scene when you arrived at the lake.  Now there's a great view across the Mill Pond.  And  a chunk of local history lost...
After injuring my back a week ago, I finally felt well enough to go back to work in the pottery today.  The weather had warmed up with the foot or so of snow we got in the last couple days, breaking the freezing mark in advance of rain showers expected for later in the week.  The warmer weather meant the electric heat in the pottery had the studio nicely warmed for a return to work.  I also cheated a bit on a kiln I needed to unload that was cold, turning on the kiln for a few minutes to change it from 32 to 90 degrees...

Feb. 14 
I've spent more time this week than for years previously helping to make Valentine's cards.  I fell into the task of making linked hearts by folding construction paper accordion pleated, and also paper boys and girls in the same fashion to tape on the front.  I may have made a few of these for my kids, but mostly I relied on 55 year old knowledge of paper folding and cutting.
    My back was really good yesterday, then had a setback last night again, but it's still mostly better than the initial injury.

Feb. 16
I've been spending the last week transferring photos and other files from my old computer to my new laptop. There may be a networking way to do it, but I've been doing it with a USB key, 16 gigabytes at a time.  I'm keeping them on the old computer for a backup, until it finally dies. Just my music photos took up more than one 16 gb load, and that was the problem--I needed to add a bunch more to my music photos folder.  I'd already downloaded the pictures from last night's Showcase.  With the new "intuitive" file manager, I managed to delete the whole folder (after telling me it was too large for the recycle can), so I lost the photos from last night's program.  I'm slightly bugged.  The photos serve as an archive of the showcases, as well as something I can add to the bluegrass association front page.
On the plus side, several of the groups commented on the fine job I did with the sound for them, which is nice.  The setup was complicated by one of the channels (apparently on the mixer itself) not working.
Today the local weather defied an 80 % rain/snow forecast, and we bicycled around our local high school parking lot after a Valentine's party at church, with the high around 40.
    My back was back to behaving well again today.

Feb. 18
    Due to taking care of the kids, new vistas of pseudoparenting are happening to us.  We spent the early afternoon on Presidents Day watching the kids try everything in a local gymnastics gym, then took in the Lego Movie.  I probably would have passed on seeing the movie otherwise, but it was fun for me as fan of Parks and Recreation to hear the ever happy puppy voice of Chris Pratt as the every man Lego lead.  It was a bit bizarre to see a mainstream anti-pop culture movie which is also an hour and a half ad for Legos.
The weather is back to sleet and rain, another reason we did indoor things with the kids yesterday.

Feb. 21
    Another vista of pseudoparenting happened to me last night taking the kids to a roller skating rink.  I've roller skated 3 or 4 times in my life--the last time was probably 15 years ago.  I started wobbly, but was gaining skill by the time (after an hour or so) I went off onto the carpet for a drink of water.  The next thing I remember was hearing voices far away asking if I was alright.  I don't think I totally lost consciousness, but pretty close.  I got a large bump on the back of my head, and still have a slight headache.  I had noticed that there were no other gray haired people on the rink--I suppose this is another thing one shouldn't do in one's sixties...
    This morning while we were eating breakfast our cat jumped on my new laptop and knocked it to the floor, cracking the monitor screen.  It took an online session and 3 phone calls to Dell to verify that it wasn't covered by the warranty (I figured that) and that to replace the monitor would be about the value of the whole computer.  I'd just spent two weeks loading the computer with my photos and music, so I didn't really want to give up on it.  Later this afternoon I remembered it has a DMVI port to send the screen to a monitor or digital tv, and I purchased a $15 Dell monitor off Craigslist, so when I get the right adapter it should function as a desktop model anyway.

Feb. 24
    The laptop worked great as soon as I hooked up the new screen.  The old one is bent down at a 45 degree angle, and I can toggle it off so it's not distracting, or leave it on as a light for the keyboard.  It's lost all the portability of a laptop, but it's still useful as a computer/DVD player/backup memory.  
    We got 6 inches of snow yesterday, and a high of 25, so it still is clearly winter.  I glazed birdhouses in the pottery today, anticipating Spring.

Feb. 26
    I woke up this morning and my mind (was set on freedom).  No wait, that's a gospel song that popped into my head when I started with "I woke up this morning."  Actually I woke up thinking I'd like to tell whoever's interested my musical autobiography.   The first records I bought with my own money were two cut-out (discount) records by Lightnin Hopkins--Autobiography in Blues and Coffee House Blues.  It was the title "Autobiography in Blues" that got me thinking about my own musical autobiography (and I encourage my musical friends to post theirs).
    My earliest memories go back to Brookings, South Dakota, and our family's small but diverse record collection.  We had some classical (including the wonderfully strong melodies of Mozart's Eine Kleine Nacht Musik, the Firebird Suite, and The Nutcracker), a Spike Jones 45 (The daring young man on the flying trapeze and Bubblegum), as as the 60's rolled in a couple new ones appeared, like Tom Lehrer (ate that up), musicals like Camelot, The Music Man, and My Fair Lady, and the Dave Clark Five (probably my brother's influence--5 years older than me and into rock and blues). My sister was also a big influence with the few albums she bought and left in our big console stereo--Peter Paul and Mary, The New Christy Minstrels, and the Kingston Trio giving me a second hand introduction to folk music; and Barbara Streisand introducing me to the great American songbook.
    We also listened a lot to the local AM station, KBRK, which had polkas for milking by (6 Fat Dutchmen Too Fat Polka, for instance) and music ranging from big band to country and western.  We went to the local Lutheran Church regularly and I absorbed the great hymns from that tradition by osmosis.  That was as close to an indigenous culture for me to soak up, so if I lack authenticity I came by it naturally. ;-)  

    I started to play piano around age 6--took lessons for 3 years but never could figure out how to read music fast enough to actually play it with both hands.  So after I quit lessons I'd sometimes doink around picking out Tijuana Brass and other melodies with my right hand.  That was my music playing experience until high school, when I took up the harmonica...
    I watched a lot of TV as a child, absorbed music from the variety shows as well as being a fan of the Monkees when they were assembled.  The first album I asked for and got was the Monkees album.  I understand now how they were just put together for the TV show and mostly couldn't play, but some of their songs still sound pretty good to me...  
I managed to miss the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show-- became aware of them when other kids were singing "Yellow Submarine" in junior high, as well as overplayed songs like "Michelle" on the radio.
    I moved to Ames, Iowa after 8th grade, a larger town with a K-Mart, which was new and exciting to me after having two dime stores with no records in them in Brookings.  I worked summers weeding experimental fields for Iowa State U, starting around $2.50 an hour, so I had some funds to start buying records, and the low prices of the cut-outs (discounts) at K-Mart appealed to me, as well as their more unusual fare...  Besides the Lightnin Hopkins, I got Dave Van Ronk, Leadbelly, Pete Seeger, Brownie and Sonny, all discounted because the folk scene was collapsing under the electric rock and roll onslaught.  Meanwhile FM radio was coming into its own, playing top 40 music that included Hendrix, the Doors, Janis Joplin, and the Jefferson Airplane, and the Grateful Dead, and I was not immune to their charms.  After midnight you could hear Bleeker Street on a clear channel AM radio, I think out of Little Rock, with lots of spacy rock music.  But I was also drawn to the Chicago blues--Muddy Waters, Paul Butterfield,  Otis Spann.  For the high school paper I wrote columns about the way rock musicians like Led Zeppelin ripped off bluesmen like Sonny Boy Williamson without attribution.  It was Butterfield and Williamson that inspired me to take up the harmonica.

Feb. 27
    While in high school, I made two critical visits to my brother in college.   The first was to Chicago when he was doing a summer internship, and he took me to see Johnny and Edgar Winter and Paul Butterfield, cementing my love of the blues.   The second was to the St. Olaf Folk Festival, with Mike Seeger as the headliner.  I'd heard of Pete, not Mike, but he managed to capture my full attention with autoharp, fiddle, and guitar, and opened my eyes to the world of American old-time music.
    Meanwhile, in Ames, there was a burgeoning acoustic music scene at the campus YMCA, with local performers including a well qualified jug band, called, if I remember rightly, The Jug Band.
    After a Christian youth band played at our church and encouraged us to start a coffeehouse, Keith Wessel and I headed up a coffeehouse at our church that became a hangout for disaffected youth and garage bands.  This also encouraged me to work on harmonica, though I never played in a group in high school.
    By college, I had gained sufficient self confidence to play in jams and associated with a very talented guitarist for a year or two.  After freshman year I used my field work money to get a beat up used Martin 00-18, still my main guitar.  I'd heard Mississippi John Hurt and Elizabeth Cotten and Blind Blake before getting the guitar, so I knew how I wanted to play.  My guitarist friend, when I couldn't get the hang of alternately picking melody, recommended picking mostly with my index finger and using the middle finger just on the 6th string (and I've always let my thumb do whatever it felt like).
    By the next summer, I took a beater guitar along backpacking through Europe, which in retrospect seems highly impractical...  (One time I left it standing on the platform and went off on a train, remembering it and returning by the next train, where it still waited on the platform).  
    My junior year of college I roomed with another guitarist, which furthered my playing experience.  He also worked for the campus NPR station, and told me when the current folk radio producer was leaving, enabling me to get the job.  I programmed 4 hours of music per week for 5 years, and had several hundred mostly older folk records to draw from, in addition to probably 50 I had acquired.  Needing to fill these hours broadened my musical outlook considerably--at that time the Folk Show encompassed blues, ballads, folk, Irish, and world music, whereas now they would tend to be separate programs.  The Chieftains albums came as promos to the station, but I was blown away by the melodies and arrangements, and was fortunate to see them in concert in St. Paul.

    At that time Garrison Keillor was just starting the Prairie Home Companion, and we were the little NPR station serving the same metro area as the fledgling MPR.  I'd heard and liked a couple other live radio concerts, so I added live concerts to the folk program, without any of the shtick of PHC.  I'd formed a trio with Gordy Abel and Kari Veblen called Northfield and Southern, that did two radio performances.  There was also a couple bluegrass groups, and Uncle Willy and the Brandysnifters, who were instrumental in documenting early string band 78's in discographies and fun to have in concert as well, doing totally obscure old time music.  I  took a tape recorder to the Whole Coffeehouse to record several concerts and do interviews, including a personal hero, John Fahey.
    Along in there somewhere I got married, moved west, and living on a potter's salary (there is none), I didn't collect any more music, or play any more outside of the home, for around 10 years.  I kept playing guitar, and worked out arrangements of a lot of church hymns, and worked a number of my original songs into a musical play.  When working on that, I took up MIDI keyboarding to write the music down, and started composing tunes on the keyboard in the late 90's.  I started attending jams again, especially after moving back to Spirit Lake in the early 00's.  I was early to put music up on Youtube, which led to high ratings for my music, and the 2.1 million views I've amassed over the years.  I played in the group Musicians Anonymous until health issues forced an end to it, and continue to associate with bassist Jonathan Hawkins playing small gigs around the area.

Books read and other media of note:
Critical Mass by Sara Paretsky  You can tell she's back at the top of her form for another go at the VI Warshawski detective novels.  This one spans the whole development from the bomb to the present.  It's longer than most detective novels, because the author was clearly on a roll with it...

Treasure Mountain by Louis L'Amour.  
I've read quite a few westerns, mostly Zane Grey and Robert Parker, but I've never gotten around to L'Amour before listening to this novel on CD while working in the pottery.  The narrator/protagonist seemed to spend more time philosophizing about the dew on the grass in a mountain sunset than doing stuff, and then it was painstakingly slow, reading dabs of his father's journal when the logical thing would be to cut to the end and find out what happened to his father. Other than that it's a fun and fairly cohesive treasure/murder mystery plot.  I do understand that the Sacketts were a major property of L'Amour.

The Highway by CJ Box While other detective novels of CJ Box, set in Montana and Wyoming, strive for restoring harmony at the end, this one starts and ends with discord, and seems to rif off No Country for Old Men.  More a suspense story than a whodunit, since you generally know who the bad guys are, just not how bad they're going to be.

The Return of Sherlock Holmes by A. Conan Doyle. 
These are still readable after 100 years, although I don't know what a hansome cab is.  The last story in the collection sets the stage for the frequently used stratagem of the PI trying someone ad hoc and ruling them absolved due to extenuating circumstances.  This is part of the moral low ground that is sometimes bothersome when reading mysteries--vigilante justice.

Lew Archer, Private Investigator by Ross MacDonald  This short story collection is an historical cross section of  Archer stories.  They have an advantage over some of the novels in not introducing too many characters.  I'd also checked out a 1953 MacDonald book called Meet Me at the Morgue, but decided to pass on it when it started with a two page list of characters...  

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