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  January 1, 2010
    We saw 23 different sets of musicians, artists, jugglers, acrobats, tap dancers at First Night last night, along with a crowd of thousands.  We didn't make it to the symphony--it was sold out.  By taking a circuitous path through the sky walk system, we could see a dozen or more different venues without stepping outside.  But a lot of the fun was on the streets--ice sculptures, rail jam, street dances.  The event seemed smaller than former years, but in a sensible way--previously it was too spread out for some of the venue locations.
    The snow stick is up to 3 inches of sticky wet snow.

January 2
    Our car started making a funny high pitched noise from the back last night. Since we're planning a little trip next week, we thought we'd better check it out.  A relatively new mechanic in town was at home today, pronounced it the fuel pump, and after I went and got the parts, he got the job done in 3 hours.  Hopefully this is a win win situation...  You never know for sure till you've driven it a while....

January 6
Happy Epiphany!  We plan to celebrate with some fireworks with neighbors, but I'm beginning to think I should never mention future plans in the blog, as they aft gang agley, as Burns would have noted.  Consider the car repair.  We were ready to leave at 5 AM on Monday morning for our trip, when a strong smell of gasoline confronted us on opening the door to our garage.  So we scrubbed the trip to the coast, and I took the car back to the mechanic at a more reasonable hour later in the morning.  It turned out to be a misplaced O ring, so the car was fixed by noon, so the trip was on again.
    We drove part way, and stopped in a motel just in time for the Boise State-TCU Fiesta Bowl, which proved to be a great game (in that BSU won, narrowly but decisively...)  The next morning we went to Seattle and loaded up the van with clay, and continued on to visit two sets of friends with young children.
    One story from the visits was amusing enough to relate here:  The parents, feeling the undertow of the down economy, decided to get used Legos for their youngster from an ad off Craigslist.  The parent said she felt a little weird, buying Legos by the pound 
with a scales from the trunk of a car in a church parking lot, reminiscent of a clandestine drug deal...
    On our way to Bellingham, first the skies, then the fields, were full of these:
geese
I'd guess these are Tundra Swans.
In the bay adjacent to Bellingham, is a delightful small state park called Larrabee, and the rock there has been expertly sculpted by the waves, as seen in this photo:

We drove back last night, arriving after midnight, passing through many towns in Washington with memories for us...


Jan. 7
    After looking in my bird book, I took the Orwellian liberty of revising the post yesterday to make the birds Tundra swans.
Here's one more photo from our trip, of Leavenworth, Washington, which puts on a good show as a Bavarian village:
Leavenworth holiday lights
You can't see much of the Bavarian theme, but the lights were quite impressive throughout the down town...
At home the snow stick is at 4 inches again, with highs in the mid 20's and clear skies.  The clear skies help a lot to make the weather tolerable, that and the lack of wind.
    We had an Idaho supper tonight--all the food was local--elk, potatoes, and cooked carrots.   The dessert, poppyseed bundt cake, wasn't local, but was made by a neighbor for our Epiphany party last night.

Jan. 8
    I've been dealing with an upper respiratory thing all week--everything but a fever, but I started making some pots today anyway.  I found I didn't have enough for either a glaze or a bisque, so I threw about 30 mugs to fill in some spaces in the next bisque fire.
    I'm looking forward to the forecast--above freezing temperatures, at the price of a little snow and sleet...

Jan. 11
    I was so ready to be over  my sickness, but last night as I went to bed my left ear started aching.  I managed to sleep, but by morning it was clear I'd have to get medical help.  My ear drum ruptured in the waiting room (which doubled the doctor's fee, incidentally--timing is everything).  So the rest of the day I've been enduring with a tissue in my ear to catch the drainage.
Yesterday when I was feeling better, I recorded a couple videos, with way too little light, but good quality sound, so I've edited them and posted them to Youtube--the first in a long while:  New Camptown Ladies, a minor keyed version of the barroom scene movie staple song, and Brightest and Best of the Stars of the Morning, an Epiphany hymn.

Jan. 12
    So now I know how Beethoven felt--at least the deafness part.  My left ear doesn't hear, and rings with tinnitis instead.  This too, hopefully, will pass.   I'm feeling a bit better today, 24 hours into the antibiotics.  So I'm reading a lot of books, playing a little guitar (though I prefer hearing it better as I play).
    It's rained a good portion of the day here.  With the temperatures so warm, keeping warm is easy, anyway.

 Jan. 13
    I have no expectations of immediate cure on the ear problem.  It will be good if it would stop draining, at this point.  The weather, also, is locked in a gray area of overcast and hovering one side or the other of freezing.  I'm not sure if the comparison is apparent, but as relates to my state of mind, the weather and my health are similar.
    I did start working again in the pottery, glazing a couple kiln loads and firing one.  I've got a dinner set order I'd like to finish, and a few small orders are coming in as well.

Jan. 14
    Today's the day my ear was noticeably better, as was my attitude.  I threw some pots this morning, then went to the local Chamber of Commerce meeting (their theme, Positivity in Action, appropriate to the current group) This afternoon I went into town (Coeur D'Alene) for a potter's guild meeting, and it was also quite positive.  We went over the pottery sale from December, to see what would work better next time.
    While in the meeting (at the library) I got a phone call from my mother, and in my haste to return it after the meeting, I walked off and left a book I'd bought and several I'd checked out on the table.  I remembered them 15 minutes and miles later, and started to head back, thinking the meeting room would be empty and locked when I got back.  But at the meeting one of the members sitting next to me had given me her cell phone number, to go and check out a potter's wheel that was malfunctioning, so I stopped and called her.  She had the books, and I can get them when I go to check out the wheel.

Jan. 16
    The snow measurement stick is back to zero, with puddles and ice lumps all around it.  It rained a lot of the day.
    I spent the day doing some cleaning, and helping the potter's guild member (hopefully) with some of her equipment questions.   She and her mother have bought a lot of commercial cone 6 glazes, and have been pretty disappointed at the outcome--lots of craters, glaze running off the pots.  Unfortunately I could show her some similar pots I've been getting lately with my own glazes.  She'd already gotten the advice to fire her bisque hotter, which helps eliminate off gassing from the clay into the glaze.  The main thing I recommended was thinning the glaze, since that helped me with a similar problem.

Jan. 17
 The lake is acting like it's spring--the level is rising and there's about 8 feet of open water around the ice.  With similar highs above freezing predicted for the next week, the spring trend should continue.  I saw a lot of ponds of water forming over frozen ground on my trip yesterday.
Today I enjoyed watching the Vikings advance to the league playoff game.

Jan. 19
    I've made a lot of salt and pepper shakers and some fruit bowls in the last couple days.  
The weather yesterday was sunny and warm--today it was shady but still above freezing.
    I started working in the cabin again--rebuilding a wall into the bathroom that is being relocated.  There a few more framing chores, but mostly we're waiting for the electrician, whom we need to help us in some decisions.  It's always hard to know whether to keep tearing out what's there, or leave it for the imaginable future and work with what we've got, which seems a quite daunting amount, at this point.   In spare moments I look out at the frozen Mill Pond and realize how lovely it will all be when it's done...
    Speaking of the Mill Pond, the last Chamber of Commerce meeting it was mentioned that ground may be broken on a development that will make the following photo a scene from the past, replaced with a small golf course and "equestrian community.":


Jan. 21
    I feel bad not to comment on such major tragedies as the Haitian earthquake, but I do feel that story speaks for itself, where as this blog speaks to the particular, i.e. me.  I do feel intensely sorry for the survivors, and we have, like many others, given aid to relief agencies.  But I didn't know any Haitians, so it feels distant to me.
    I do know the writing of Robert B. Parker, who died yesterday at 77.   I've probably read 30 or more of his novels.  The obituary I read said that he revived the tough detective genre, particularly revering the work of Raymond Chandler.   I would say he worked in a lineage starting with Dashiell Hammett, then to Chandler, carried on through Ross MacDonald, then on to Parker.   His own success spurred many other fine imitators, including women writers Sara Paretsky, Linda Barnes, and Nevada Barr.   Like Parker, they set their tough semi-loner characters in a specific city, and gave them life with supporting characters, and storylines that continue from book to book.   I will miss his stories.
    My own story remains about the same--still can't hear much from my left ear, am dabbling in pottery and carpentry.  The ground is frozen hard in the mornings, and mush in the afternoons.

Jan. 23
  The electrician came today, which kept me busy with last minute walls and things needed for the wiring to get done.  He expects to be done in a few days, so hopefully we can move ahead with insulating and closing up the walls soon.  There are lots of choices to make in remodeling, as well as lots of building requirements to be aware of.
    I got an email from someone interested in interviewing me for an article on Spirit Lake she was planning to submit to Idaho Magazine.  She asked if I had heard of the magazine.  I had to reply that I was the cover story last month, so she might do better interviewing someone else...   I found the coincidence to be pretty humorous.

Jan. 25
    I'm generally at a point in pottery where I prefer consistent results over spectacular.   Consistency is hard to achieve, as well as "spectacular."  Two of my glazes have been acting up, probably from changes in the raw materials they're made from.  So I made some tests today of my black glaze, to see if I could get it to melt at a slightly lower temperature.  I looked around at glazes posted on the web, took a midrange (cone 6) one, modified a similar glaze to be theoretically a higher temperature glaze, and took my reliable white glaze as a base, removing the opacifier and adding the same mix of colorants that produced black with the problem glaze.   Besides the three tests, I tried all the combinations, making 7 tests in all.  All this took up most of my pottery work time, so I'll have to glaze a kiln load tomorrow so as to fire the tests.
    We've had snow showers the last couple days, but they tend to melt off in the afternoon.  This would be typical March weather for us.

Jan. 26.
    We're holding off on work on the cabin till the inspection is done and the power is hooked up again.  So after glazing a couple kiln loads of pots, I watched the Marx Brothers' Room Service this afternoon.  Although it has more plot than the average Marx Brothers film, I was amazed at the poor acting surrounding the brothers (well, I guess that was pretty standard also, come to think of it), and I even missed the inserted Vaudeville routines and harp and piano solos.  Usually I complain about Zeppo being in the movie--this time he would have been a step up...  The Socialist Realism of the play within the movie, "Hail and Farewell," was a fun part of the conclusion.  Oh, and, I missed Margaret Dumont as a foil for Groucho.  Golly (to choose a period appropriate exclamation), this might be the first review of this movie in 50 years....

Jan. 27
    I did unload a kiln today, but I forgot to put the test tiles in it, so the results should be out tomorrow.  I also started filling in a few blanks in the pottery display shelves--with the 80 or so different pots I make, in about 8 different decorations, I always have pots I could make, even if I'd hardly have room for them all if I stocked them all.
    We're still waiting for the wiring inspection, so we went for a walk in the bright sunshine today on the lake.  In one place the ice had been depressed by being see-sawed up on a rock, and a tiny hole became a burbling fountain about the size of a drinking fountain, allowing the water below to fill the depression.  By the time we were done with the walk, it had reached equillibrium again.  Still, it was fun to see a mini fountain.

Jan. 29
    Most of the black glaze tests turned out well.  I may use the test based on my white glaze base, (without the opacifier), as it's cheap and dependable.  I'm thinking of adding some bone ash, since it helps make the glaze cloudy instead of clear, which improves a black glaze.
    The electrical inspector was through yesterday, so we're going ahead with insulating  at the cabin.  The weather is above freezing in the days, making for reasonable working conditions.  The electricity should be hooked up today, but I'm having trouble figuring out how to get in the new electrical box, which I'll have to do to turn on the breakers...

Jan. 30
    I'm tired and sore after we put up most of the insulation on our project cabin today.  It was about 1000 sq. feet--which I know from ordering it, and from ordering the knotty pine tongue and groove which should arrive Monday.  I also know I stuck in 1125 staples, because I bought and emptied a box of them in the last couple days.   It's great to see the pace pick up on the project.
    I'm finally noticing some improvement in my hearing in my left ear.  My tool to assess it has been to rub my fingertips together near my ears to make a little rustling noise.  I can hear it now, and the ringing (tinnitis), although continuous, is also getting a bit quieter as well.

Books read and other media of note
False Impression by Jeffrey Archer.  It takes a certain amount of guts to use 9/11 as a backdrop for a suspense novel.  With a few minor caveats, Archer delivers the goods again with this novel, about a Van Gogh painting craved by several.   I did wonder--and this is a spoiler alert--why was Van Gogh's image reversed in the copy?  Also as a former artist I don't think there's any way to get an oil painting dry in a couple days.  But still Archer is a great story teller.

Spade and Archer by Joe Gores
 The back story to the Maltese Falcon, written much in Hammett's terse clear style. Having both read and viewed the Maltese Falcon, I visualized Bogart mouthing every line...  This is an exciting new find for me in the writer, as I like the earthy noir style.   And, like Hammett, Gores is a former PI as well.  The title also is iconic, playing a strong visual role with the names on the office window in the movie.

Fool Moon by Jim Butcher
When I was young werewolves and vampires were part of the horror genre.  Now they've become mainline fantasy.  In this book wizard Harry Dresden takes on a variety of werewolves, with a murder mystery to keep it interesting.

Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett.
  This book tries for too much.  At its simplest, it's a soccer match between Unseen University and a local put together street group.   There are a lot of underlying issues of discrimination, and even a faint echo of Romeo and Juliet mixed in, as well as a nodding touch to many of the standard Discworld types.  But it can't shake a pervasive heaviness that's usually overcome by the inherent whimsy of Discworld.  This is understandable, given Pratchett's condition resulting from early onset Alzheimer's.  But lamentable, as well...

Artemis Fowl and the Opal Deception by
Eoin Colfer  By now he's got a standard set of characters, and one dies, also pretty standard way of upping the emotional ante for the readers.  Beyond that, it's still pretty good juvenile fiction.

The Shadow of Reichenbach Falls by John R. King
 Popular figures of literature develop spin offs--this one around the events of Sherlock Holmes "death" by Prof. Moriarity, expanding on the theme and giving Moriarity a human background.  Although quite riveting in plot, the inherent demon possession violated the natural logic of the A. C. Doyle works.  This might not have bothered Doyle much, as he himself was hoodwinked to believe in fairies based on some amateur trick photography, and a spiritualist as well, if I recall correctly.

The Star Fox by Poul Anderson 1964.
Given the year of publication, this may have been about the war in S.E. Asia as much as on distant stars, with pacifists shown as extremist kidnappers (hey that didn't happen till 68 or so and Patti Hearst).  The title might be a play on The Swamp Fox, an inventor of guerrila warfare in the American Revolution.  Anderson likes to theorize about how various SF things like FTL drives work, and it was fairly low on action, but he's still a classic writer of the genre.

Artemis Fowl
and The Arctic Incident by Eoin Colfer  Having gotten started on this author by the book listed below, I find his juvenile series good adventure fantasy in the old Matinee serial sort of way.

Storm Front by Jim Butcher  There's a really different tone to this series than the Codex Alera Series.  It's a modern day fantasy set in Chicago.  Instead of the fate of the world, the goal is more modest--a murder mystery with wizardly complications.  Very good for fans of sci fi and mystery, which is probably a limited subset, and of which I am one.

And Another Thing by Eoin Colfer
If you ever read the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and wished Douglas Adams hadn't gotten writer's block about it and killed off all the possible earths at the end of the last volume, this work is for you.  Colfer nails the basic Hitchiker Series style, perhaps even going over the top a bit, as if that were possible.
All the hilarity and whininess of the apocalptic crew is back, including the Vogons Destructor Fleet.

First Lord's Fury by Jim Butcher   Book 6 of the Codex Alera.  Butcher's writing gets better with each book in the series.  This one seems a good conclusion to the series, but there's always more mind control parasites and vampires to fight somewhere...




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