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Brad's Blog

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January 1, 2012

    The weather has been mostly above freezing for the last week, making the ice on the lake unsafe for walking, until it refroze last night.  Today the Mill Pond was good again, smooth enough for ice skating.  There's only patches of snow on the ground, so we combined walking around (and on) the Mill Pond with climbing up the ridge.  We saw turkey, coyote, grouse, and deer tracks, but only saw in the flesh a falcon with a caught bird  (second time that's happened this year, never previously).
    I'm definitely enjoying the new Kindle more, particularly at night, when I can hold it and turn pages with one hand.  I still think $0.00 is a good price to pay for books (coming out of the library school of thought), so I've downloaded a bunch of free books, mostly early works by favorite authors that are out of print and apparently up for digital grabs...

January 2
    I enjoyed a couple bowl games today, and a walk on the Mill Pond, which is currently perfect for ice skating.  Most of the rest of the lake is still open--very unusual for January...

January 3

This is a picture of two sets of raccoon prints recorded like fossils in the ice yesterday-- probably obcured today...
The weather wandered up to 40 today, so the lake was totally different from yesterday, mostly covered with a half inch layer of water on the ice...
The forecast is more like March than January--even the Millpond ice may go out over the next week...  
    We've been seeing more muskrats on the Millpond lately--5 one day...  They spend all their time gleaning vegetable matter from the bottom and chewing it on the edge of the ice...
    I launched back into throwing pots again today--with several orders to start off the new year.  I also closed the books on last year, and was surprised to find a new record for sales.  So the recession is officially over.  Everyone can stop worrying.  If you weren't worrying, you can read Dave Barry's summary of the year at this link and learn why you should have been worrying...

Jan. 4

muskrat
The view up the lake from the public access looked like the first photo today--water over the ice.  But in the Mill Pond, where the ridge keeps one corner shaded, the ice was still firm and dry, and that's where 3 muskrats were working a hole in the ice, bringing up lots of green stuff.  In fact, from this photo, it's easy to see that a muskrat hut could grow out of the middens of their gathering work.
    I started to work on a large Poodle Club trophy order today--a lot of regular pots, all with green glaze predominant, for a Poodle show this Spring.  

Jan. 6
    We were offered a free car by our Spokane relatives, a like-new 1993 Buick (like- new in that the engine was replaced 10,000 miles ago).  So of course we picked it up today.
    We celebrated Epiphany (technically 12th Night) yesterday with burning of some greens and fireworks.

Jan. 7

We walked along the shore (and on the ice) to where the protected inlet frozen ice gives way to open lake.  It cooled down enough last night that the thin  ice along the shore was mostly firm enough to walk out where it was 3 inches thick (and mostly clear).  At the convergence of the open water and ice, there was a constant sound of ice knocking together like windchimes.  In the photo above,  the central lump of ice had been floating in like an iceberg, but we pulled it to shore, where it sits between the bits of ice piled like broken glass on the shore.  There wasn't much sunshine, but what little there was produced the rainbow colors visible particularly in the left side pieces of ice.

Jan. 8
    This afternoon we walked out to the point where the photo was taken yesterday, then decided we could walk over to the Maiden Rock public access and home--about 4 miles or so.  The sunset proceeded as we walked along...
sunset on Spirit Lake Idaho
This is the view up the lake, with the ski runs of Mt. Spokane obvious in the central area.  The lake was very calm.   It turned dark as we returned, but the full moon came up and guided us as we bushwacked through some woods to get to a familiar path.

January 10th
The weather has been wobbling a lot lately around the freezing mark.  We had half an inch of rain last night that melted  the half inch of snow on top of the ice at the lake, and refroze during the cold north winds that followed the storm, so the Mill Pond looked like this today:

It's hard to tell it's ice and  not just a really calm day on the water.  The ice was fun to walk on, but the wind was pretty cold...  This odd winter is too dry for the California mountains, and too cold and snowy in Alaska,  but feels about right here...  We've been following the story of the oil tanker with icebreaker trying to push through the ice to reach Nome with more interest due to our relatives there, and our visit last February.
    I've been making pots for a Spokane Poodle Club exhibition prizes in May.  It's nice to have time to get them finished and in boxes with lots of time to spare.

January 11
With the ice as smooth as yesterday, but minimal wind, the lake was a fun place to walk again today.  We saw a snowshoe hare on the way back, standing out vividly white against the brown branch background.   I expect that makes them more susceptible to predation.  I read a couple articles yesterday on elk that reflect on this unusual winter. The first story was that with warmer winters, elk are grazing more deciduous trees, which has an effect on songbird populations (proved by a study of areas open to elk and fenced off areas protected by them).  Also in Oregon this year the elk are not eating the hay left out for them, since there is no snow and they're able to get food up higher.  Compared to the last few winters with heavy snow, the hooved ungulates will probably be on the upswing of their population cycle.  Songbirds beware...

Jan. 13
Thursday was meeting day again, planning this year's activities for our clay group, and listening to a presentation on using social media at the Chamber of Commerce.  That evening Jonathan Hawkins and I played at the Valley Elks. It was the first time we'd played together in over a month, and that was obvious from our presentation...  We hope to get together more before the Showcase next weekend.
    On Friday I made 3 more recordings for Youtube:

 Turtle dove done drooped its wings    inspired by Jody Stecher's version of this odd Georgia Sea Island gospel song.
Lolly Toodum   inspired by Barbara Dane's gutsy version of this folk song.back in the 1960's.  Even though, in the tradition of the old ditty, "As I was walking to Old St. Ives, I met a man with 7 wives", this song tells of meeting a mother and daughter arguing,  I'm not sure if it works for a guy singing it as it would for a female singer...
A minor Improv  
 inspired by wishing I could do something original but having nothing in mind.  From A minor you can hop to a half dozen chords that all sound pretty good.

I also bicycled down to the lake, then bicycled all around the frozen part of the lake, which went very well.  The ice, although very smooth, has a stickiness on it that kept me from sliding off to the side, as long as I didn't push too hard on the pedals or try to turn or stop suddenly...  I saw more muskrat middens by holes they'd kept open in the Mill Pond--seems like we're on the verge of a muskrat explosion...

Jan. 14
    I started watching the shop at ArtWorks Gallery today, not too difficult, not too busy, but ending up selling some of my mugs and taking an order for a butterdish.  For whatever reason, mostly likely being new, I'm selling a lot the first month, particularly since that month is January.  The weather started trending towards stormy on the way home, with cold winds and grappel snow (when I was young we called the pellet snow "corn snow," but Googling that term  results in descriptions of snow that has become granular through freeze and thaw cycles, not the white haily stuff...)  The next week looks snowy, which at this point cheers a lot of people.
    I had to take apart and repair my older kiln twice yesterday.  It's easy on reassembling to have wires come in contact with the metal shell of the wiring assembly, which is why I had to take it apart twice.  It fired okay the second time...
    The oil tanker reached Nome--amazing what those icebreakers can do, compared to luxury cruise ships in the Mediteranean.  It's also staggering that a town of 3500 needs a million gallons of oil and gas, but I've been there when the furnace ran continually.  Of course it would help if everyone there was living in super insulated domiciles, but it's also a poor community...
    I've been talking to friends that got a Kindle or even two for Christmas, and say they're happy with them both (in both cases where they got two, one was a b/w version and one was the new color Fire).  Given the size of the gadget, even if you did get an illustrated book to look at, the photos are either going to be small, or you'll need to scroll over them (if it has that capability)...  At our pottery club meeting the other day, on the new book shelf in the library where we meet was The Ceramics Bible, which in the dumbing down of modern culture is about 3/4 photos, which are easier to produce than quality textual instruction.  A friend at the meeting decided to check it out,  and I've put in for a hold on it through our library system for future perusal.  It's a lot easier to page through a book than a Kindle. Also, even if the Kindle remembers where you were in the book, there are no page numbers so you can refer to a passage, like for a school report, or review...  It makes sense that there are no page numbers, because you choose the size of text to view, so it would fluctuate, but it's still a drawback...

Jan. 16
     I went bicycling on the lake again yesterday.  I made a video showing the ice just in front of my bike, while scooting along,  so here it is: 
Ice music by Brad Sondahl  That's all over now, since it started snowing this evening, and is likely to snow much of the rest of the week.   I think most people are looking forward to it, since the lack of snow has been a bit depressing (particularly for the local industries like ski mountains and snowmobile lodges that cater to the snow crowd).  The snow may make the lake treacherous for the unwary, since a thin layer of ice formed on the main part of the lake this week, which, when covered with snow, will not be obvious to anyone, particularly those on snowmobiles...
    I worked on glazing two kiln loads this morning, then fired one kiln while going into Spokane for errands and music practice.  All went well...

Jan. 17
    We got about 4 inches of snow in the first of several storms predicted for the Northwest.  We're still driving 40 miles twice a day to get the kids to school and back, and the roads were mostly snow covered already today.  As opposed to our local school district, the ones to the north have a dedicated phone line for people to call to see if classes are canceled.  That's very sensible, especially for highly rural areas where the Internet is not ubiquitous.
    I was thinking more about the Kindle today.  Windows computers have for a long time offered the option to log in as separate users to keep your desktop as you like it.  Of course I don't know anyone that maintains more than one Windows identity--too much trouble for little gain for most married couples.  But I thought of that related to Kindle--it can hold hundreds of books, but is only designed for one user, even though it could easily be shared by a couple.  I guess you can arrange your books into virtual book shelves, making it easier to keep two people's collections separate.  But if you're both reading the same book, there's no way to keep two bookmarks in the book to mark your progress...  I guess like most gadgets they're designed to be personal, to optimize sales.


Jan. 18
    As of this evening we've got 7 inches of snow.  Snow is in the forecast every day for the next seven, the only question being wet or dry?  Winter--it's what makes January special...
    I made teapots in the pottery today.  Each teapot has 7 parts (8 counting the holes drilled for the spout) , more than any other pot I make, and any one of them can develop a fault making the whole thing useless.  The parts are the teapot body, the foot, the lid, the spout, and two lugs to attach the handle, and the handle.  But I'm down to 3 teapots after making them  around a year ago, so here we go.  After teapots, it's casseroles that have lots of parts and potential to go badly.  Because of that, both items I prefer to make when I'm not busy, as they have a high failure (thus low profit) rate...

Jan. 19
    We got another 6 inches of snow today, but with settling we're only up to 10 inches deep.  The snow it keepeth on snowing.
    I spent a long time putting together teapots this morning, then I glazed a whole kilnload in less time than the teapots took...  (in a snit about teapots).

Jan. 20
    We only got about an inch of snow today--warming wind and rain due tonight...  
    Someone asked for soup mugs a while ago.  I've never thought they were an ideal item--neither a good mug nor good soup bowl, but there are a number of things I make I'm not crazy about, so I looked at Google images to see what people expect when they ask for them, and made a couple dozen to try out...  Later in the day I got an inquiry for sponge holders, which I do make (no comment on whether I'm crazy about them), and decided to seach Google images to see what people expect when it comes to them.  I found out why I got the inquiry--my photo was first on Google... (It is possible that there are some regional variations on results--feel free to try searching for "sponge holder" images in Google yourself).
    This afternoon I took a nap, and woke up with a full blown cold...  I'm hoping it dries up by tomorrow, since I've got a gig at the Spokane Bluegrass Showcase.

Jan. 21
Being sick reminded me of this song I've mostly forgotten since I wrote it in the 70's : I wonder when I shall be merry
So of course I had to record it for Youtube.
    I considered using the song to explain why I sounded sick at the bluegrass performance, but I managed to get through the whole 20 minutes without a sniffle or overly stuffed up voice, so it didn't happen...  The rest of the music was enjoyable as well...

Jan. 22
    I played music for church again (third week in a row-the other pastor  was gone so we filled in for 3 straight weeks).  Last Sunday I didn't shake hands because I was coming down with a cold.  Same with this week.  After church I got a massage (to help with some left shoulder muscle issues...)  The masseuse said she and her boyfriend were in the third week of a similar crud---left with a stuffy head for the third week.  I have that, plus a sore throat...
    Later this afternoon we got to visit an old log cabin on the Pend O'Reille river that belongs to relatives of some of our neighbors... It was very interesting in that the logs were mounted vertically instead of stacked horizontally as the typical log cabin is...  It had a couple paintings made by one of the original owners over 100 years ago--the whole thing seemed like a museum...


 Jan. 23
    We got 4 inches of snow overnight again, but it cleared off and went above freezing, which always helps.  With this much snow we've been avoiding walking off the road (or on the lake), since it's around a foot deep now...  
    Besides shoveling, I started throwing pots again, and loaded a bisque kiln.   I used over 100 pounds of clay today, and I am watching the supply dwindle.   The hope is that the current supply will last until around March when the road to Seattle is less slippery...  I could get clay shipped here as well, but have enjoyed the trips made in recent years, and sometimes combine them with other visits at the coast...

Jan. 24
    You can tell it's cabin fever time--I'm making a lot of videos.  These are short versions of classic hymn tunes:

HermasEventide Ebenezer Cwm Rhondda Beach Spring Ar Hyd Y Nos Sicilian Mariners 

The names may not be familiar, but if you grew up in the the Christian church, the tunes are likely to be...
We had some clear skies last night, and checked for auroras (due to solar storm), but didn't see any...  The clear skies made for a cold night, but a warmer wet front is moving in, with slush and rain forecasted...

Jan. 26
A couple Grateful Dead covers I posted recently, in response to a general invitation from the Grateful Dead Facebook page:
Cumberland Blues
Jack Straw


Jan. 27
    A covey of quail came through today.  I'd sprinkled out some sunflower seeds for a sparrow that's living in our yard, and  I think the quail got them...  They came right into our pottery display, and were startled when the door opened, and one flew up and broke a couple small vases (no big deal).   We've got a cat that is frequently chased up into the pottery display by another of our cats, so animals breaking pots is par...  I tend to break about a pot a day in handling them also...  Since I make about 50/day, that's not an issue...
    Having got down below 20 last night, the lake had frozen up well enough to walk on (without stepping through to a slushy layer).  It's frozen all the way to the island now, but we know that newer ice is much thinner than the 5 inches of ice we were walking on today...
    I've been going over some old writing, contemplating throwing it away, but some of it was fun enough to type in, a page a day.  You can see the start at this link...

Jan. 28

It was our local winter Fun Fest today on Maine Street. You can see a young group of four trying to walk on two by four skis and getting their feet too far apart.  The splits occured shortly thereafter...  This would have been terminal if they were my age, but they bounced right up again...  The helpful official in bright green is showing them where they want to go.  The hill of snow was built for the event by two front end loaders.  You can also see our signature teapot water tower in the background.   We sampled all 11 styles of chili in the chili cook-off, and I got to try a laser guided air bazooka to  knock over some plastic cups and win a paddle with rubber ball set...  A splendid time was guaranteed for all...
    Looking back at last January's blog, there were also photos from this event, and an update on Maine Street.  So here's the current state of Maine Street.  The road work is done, and generally a great improvement.  Cam's gallery went on-line and off Maine St, and 3 Funky Monkeys moved into her space, so the old Post Office is again empty.  Otherwise the businesses are pretty much steady.  At the cook off we learned today that Dave Esterly's father passed away today, who used to help in the hardware store for a number of years...

Jan. 30
You don't expect an inch of rain to finish out January, but we got at least that much yesterday.   I didn't have out my dollar store rain gage out until coming home from the Symphony last night, at which point I put it out and there was over half an inch in it this morning.   What I missed in the gage yesterday was rain for most of the day, including enough to make a 6 inch deep pool at the bottom of Seasons Hill that we had to gingerly drive through to get home.  The irony of this rain is that the weather service predicted up to a foot of heavy snow for upper elevations, but only 1/10 inch of rain at lower elevations.  I sometimes think they lack common sense...
    The symphony was very good.  I was mostly lured there by the William Tell Overture, but also expected I'd like the Mozart and Beethoven.  I'm definitely a dilitante classical fan--prefer strong familiar melodies over lush symphonic layerings (which the Beethoven Eroica seemed to have a lot of). We got there early, so we attended the pre-concert lecture, which immediately put me to sleep for a half hour, which was good because then I stayed awake through the rest.  At the intermission I introduced myself to, and talked with, Spokane Public Radio's music director Verne Windham...

Jan. 31
    Yesterday I spent my first solo day at the ArtWorks gallery.  It was mostly solo in more ways than one--I think 5 people came in the store during the day besides a few other artist members that stopped in.  I must remember to bring my guitar next time to help amuse myself.  I did bring my Kindle, but reading isn't the best way to spend 7 hours.  
    Today I was back to glazing pots and firing two kilns and mixing two buckets of glaze.  Having added one more line of glazes (the purple) seems to stretch the time needed to mix a batch of glaze by a bit, since there are 8 standard glaze buckets to use instead of 7.
     A month ago we determined that we needed to set an end time for the "homeless" people we invited in to our house.  Due to the mild winter, they decided they could move back up onto their property in the woods.  But with the warmer weather the back roads have all become sheets of ice, and the neighbor that would have given them a ride to their property said even chains on 4 wheel drive vehicles weren't viable.  So we ended up paying for 3 nights in a motel for them near enough to the kids' school that they could walk there (after which time they will have to figure out their own strategy).  They left our house in a very clean and orderly condition, with a lot of thank you notes left around..   It was an interesting, if challenging, experience.

Books read and other media of note
Star Hunter by Andre Norton Preceding Philip K. Dick is this story of a mindwiped person given a false set of memories to help fraudulently acquire a rich person's estate in the distant future. But the person is also left on a world with a mysterious trap for off world life...

Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie  
This first of a series of Tommy and Tuppence could be rereleased as a young adult historical adventure novel akin to Philip Pullman's Sally Lockhart series.  There's considerably more action than in a Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot novel...

Letters of a Woman Homesteader by Elinore Pruitt Something that I can't see all of on my Kindle :-) Okay I looked it up and it's Stewart
This book is at the top of the free list of Kindle books at Amazon, with good reason--she's an engaging writer telling of interesting settler stories of Wyoming 100 years ago.

Men of Iron by Howard Pyle  
Story of a young scion of a disgraced courtier seeking to restore his father's status by becoming a knight.  

Hellhounds of the Cosmos by Clifford Simak  
An early novella by one of my favorite authors, combining down home types and totally alien situations.  This one involved interdimensional travel and conquest...

Empire by Clifford Simak  Another early work, seemingly modern in its attack on monopolizing of the energy market by innovative technology...

Plague Ship by Andre Norton. A Solar Queen space yarn.  Early in her career, she managed to create a good mix of Free Traders, Corporate hacks, space patrol, jackal like Jacks, and the Forerunner proto race.  This plot featured most of these elements. She also liked to add symbiotic pet characters, and the Hoobat qualified.

Film: The Tree of Wooden Clogs
I'd seen this in a theater near its inception in 1978.  Although 3 hours long, there are enough enigmas in the lives of these Italian peasants to keep you interested.  According to Wikipedia, when Al Pacino was asked what movies he liked, this was the one he mentioned...

The People of the Crater by Andre Norton
 Some of the earliest Norton books are available free--this being one...  She was busy in the 50's inventing the dungeons and dragons quests that became the games and movies of latter decades.   This one had a whiff of Lost Horizons about it, set in a warm crater in Antarctica.  But it was also pretty much Zork from the getgo...

The Strange Case of Finley Jayne (The Steampunk Chronicles) by Kady Cross.  
One of the interesting features of ebooks is their egalitarian status at Amazon--you can't judge a book by its cover.  This free book was written in a clear concise manner that made it flow nicely--the Steampunk alt universe is an acquired taste--this one included mechanical horses to pull carts and a steam powered sewing machine (isn't a treadle good enough?)  The plot was basically 1950's Hammer Films, but it was entertaining.  Only at the end did I learn it was a Harlequin teen imprint--if I'd seen that on the cover I would probably never have considered it (literary snobbery).

The Man with Two Left Feet by P. G. Wodehouse
  Although old enough to be public domain, these stories read well, with only a few outdated technological references to intrude on these clever short stories, most written before he hit on Jeeves and Wooster and the Blandings castle gang.

The Skull by Philip K Dick  A clever time paradox short story.  Even if you see the end coming, it's still mobius strip- like thought provoking...

Beyond lies the Wub by Philip K Dick Another clever twisted tale about not judging a Wub by its cover..



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