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Brad's Blog

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June 1
A hot day in the 80's, and the first swim of the year for me.
This evening after supper the power went out throughout town, with no thunderstorms likely anywhere.  We settled in to reading and outside activities, and I finally bicycled around town to see if our town transformer had a problem they were working on.  It didn't, and evening came, so we lit some candles, and just started playing Scrabble in the screen porch when the lights came on. So we continued with the game anyway, and had a lower tech than usual evening which was quite pleasant.

June 2
During the heat of the day I worked on writing out the chord changes for the instrumentals on the new CD.  Hopefully this will allow them to become group songs instead of solos. I also weeded out songs we never perform from our notebook collection, and added the new ones...  
  I didn't go to the beach till after supper, when it was cool enough not to entice me in.  Still it's nice to have a touch of real summer...

June 3
It was above 90 today, which made a few fewer of us at the annual Bluegrass association picnic then might have come otherwise.  On the other hand, it didn't rain.  I picked old and new tunes with old and new acquaintances, and it was better than sitting at home enduring the heat.  
Tonight the swimming was great--across the mill pond and back, about 30 minutes of leisurely paddling.

June 4
From what I can recall of psychology, intermittent reinforcement is the most successful strategy to modify behavior.  For some reason it works better to give Fido a treat once in a while when he does his trick, than never, or every time.  I guess I can see the way that works.  If I knew that every time I cast a fishing line in the water, I would catch an identical fish, it might be a great protein source, but I imagine after a while I'd start wandering along the low tide line looking for something else to eat after a while.
    Intermittent reinforcement is also the driving force behind gambling.  I don't gamble, except that life itself is a gamble, and being a businessperson is a gamble.   This last point is why I brought up the whole topic.  Today was a muggy overcast blah day, and sales were terrific.  These unexpected "big fish" help keep the task of selling craft work  interesting.   It's too easy to start comparing sales from the same month a year earlier,  where the individual sales are just merged into averages, and you have to worry whether less sales is just random fluctuation, or the looming end of your profession.  Currently the answer is: the end is not near...

June 5
    It was a nice summer while it lasted.  About an inch of rain later, with highs in the 50's, and the shorts I've been wearing seem so wrong...  Still, rain is a blessing, unless you live in a rain forest.

 June 6
I'm a big supporter of public radio, from the time I was a folk music producer on an NPR station when I was in college.  But instead of getting a mug or something, I underwrite some folk programming and receive a brief on air acknowledgement which may or may not be good publicity for the pottery.  But a perk of being an underwriter is free tickets to a concert yearly in June, which I took in tonight with my son.  The music was fine acoustic swing jazz with a Seattle area band called Pearl Django.  It was much preferable to a mug or tee shirt.
   
 June 7
mountain lady's slipper
    I just got back from a bike ride.  I wanted to see if the mountain lady's slippers were blooming yet.  It seems like you always miss something...  What I missed, last year, when I discovered them, was that there were a lot more on both sides of the road than I found last year.  Bicycling along, I counted over 50 plants, quite distinctive as they stand over two feet tall with white flower parts helping them to stand out.  There are other white flowers blooming now, nine bark and mariposa lillies,  but  the lady's slippers are distinct.   I imagine I missed them last year because it's hard to keep scanning the side of the road as you bicycle, even on a road as quiet as the one I was on.
    I got a new gadget a week or two ago, which will record live music for hours in stereo in a machine about the size of a matchbook, and you can also use it to listen to music, like an Ipod.  I got it for both reasons, but mostly so I could record music practice sessions so I could get a handle on what works and what doesn't.  So I listened to music on headphones as I bicycled.
    So what I missed, as I heard a bird chittering above the folk fiddling of Jean Carignan, was the sounds of the forest--the bird calls particularly.  Whenever your mind is preoccupied one way, it's inevitable you will miss the other things.  Of course the speed of the bicycle make you miss things as well.  Even walking, you miss the experience of sitting quietly in the woods and seeing what comes near you.
    Meanwhile, while I am sitting typing this at the computer, one of our young cats has crawled into Grandma's lap and she's talking to it.  So I stopped to take a picture.  Taking a picture is another thing that can get in the way of real experience, even as it captures it.  

June 8
queens cup
Today as I biked  the same route as yesterday, to take more photos of the lady's slipper, I noticed the other white flowers, such as this queen's cup.  The late bloomers are easier to overlook than the earlier, when, after winter,  every flower is a revelation.  There are also lots of white tree blossoms now--locusts, which I think are not native, but have spread a lot in the local area.  I didn't wear earphones today, and heard a musical call on the way up the hill (which, being up hill, I'm always happy for any excuse to stop).    It stopped singing at my approach, but perched long enough for a nice photo (very similar to the one below).  
cat bird

June 9
    My son and I watched an offbeat video comedy called Second Hand Lions,  which successfully tugs at the heart strings while promoting adventure without explosions (except frequent shotgun blasts).   The VHS tape, which came from the library, had Spanish subtitles, which I couldn't ignore, and was pleased to be able to understand a lot of them from my one year of Spanish in junior high.
    The planned appearance on the craft program "That's Clever" is still rolling along, only lacking a date for the shooting.   They recommend (even to guys) to get a manicure, since hands will be focused on.  Hopefully my aging hands will be covered with a protective layer of clay...

  June 10
I added a gospel video yesterday
I'm so glad (Jesus lifted me),   which I learned from an Elizabeth Cotten album.  
    In the garden, the first strawberries are ripe.  The peas are nearly tall enough to blossom.  Weeding is continually a good idea.

June 11
    We had our potter's guild meeting today.  We had to decide whether to pay 1/3 higher rent for the space we use for our Christmas sale.  Since we have no good alternative, we went ahead.  I guess, as the saying goes, it takes money to make money.
    Then I had a phone call with a producer for the tv show, and a filming date is set for July 3.  That's better than the 4th, which is always a busy day.  This means I have to work earlier at getting my float ready for the 4th parade.  For a few years, I've thought it would be cool to have an inflated pot (like a small version of the Macy Thanksgiving parade deals).   Today I edged closer to this idea, by gluing
a ceramic housing on to a 12 volt fan , which might provide the wind for such a construction.  The next step will be to make a paper prototype and see if the idea will work.  
    Meanwhile this weekend is the small town madness of the lawn tractor drag races, which I think I'm going to be in.  Work is required to attach my pottery decorations to my lawn tractor.  I've been saving flawed pots for it, like a teapot that I forgot to put a hole through the main part to the spout.  It's a good thing I'm good at fooling around. 

June 12
  On a bike ride this evening I stopped at a bit of bedrock that sticks into the millpond.  I'd seen some partiers there last weekend, building a campfire on the rock.  They were a mini environmental disaster, leaving a big burn scar, and partially burned paper and logs all over, along with the usual cans and stuff.  Assuming someone like me picks up the mess, in a couple years it will return to a relative normal.  But more and more the edge of the lake is becoming lined with plastic trash...
    On a more optimistic note, when I arrived at the rock, I saw a large painted turtle along the edge of the bedrock.  Ooh, I thought, perhaps it's come up to lay its eggs.   However, on closer observation, I could see that it had been trying for some time to move from there, where it was stuck, high centered on the back of its shell.  I picked it up and left it, and it still hadn't moved after several minutes, so I finally helped it into the water, where it swam away rapidly.  I'm fairly confident that I helped it.

June 13
I'm beginning to miss those days of shorts and swimming (last wee), as the weather continues to hit 70 as a high.  Summer is in a state of "becoming" rather than "being."
I found a few more items to keep the pottery hands occupied, like soap dishes and casseroles.  Soap dishes are actually one of the trickiest pots I make, thrown upside down, with a foot added if needed, and throwing and trimming the two parts to fit together snugly. perforating the top.  The trickiest part when throwing is to close the shallow dome form without it having too much or too little air trapped in it.  I've poked through my pottery photos and not found one of a soap dish, so I may take a photo and post it tomorrow...

June 14
soap dish
So this is the soap dish.  You'd be surprised all the design that goes into it. The reason they're made upside down is that the bottom becomes a flatter top than if I tried to make one on my own.  For a while I made them in one piece, but people wanted to be able to clean inside them, so I made the connecting joint in the middle, after finding out that if it were on top it would get too gunky.  To make it so the top doesn't slide off, a small flange on the bottom of the top part  is shaped by trimming and throwing, so soapy gunk drains into the bottom instead of going out of the sides.  
The holes on top are either made in a pattern based on a cross, or a six sided star, neither of which has religious significance.  The hole patterns arise out of what's easy for me to do that looks organized but doesn't involve any measuring...

    Meanwhile, in the natural world, I've been thinning the fruit trees.  I was reminded of an essay I wrote in college called "The dignity of manual labor."  The main point of the essay was that manual labor is better than white collar work, because it allows you to think anything you want as you do it, whereas white collar work requires your brain.  I got the essay back with a passing grade, but the religion professor that read it also wrote on it "Bullshit" in red, no other comments.  Not seeking an argument, I never discussed it with him, but I always thought that if that he couldn't respond more eloquently than that, I must have hit close to a nerve for him.  I imagined him thinking, "He's wrong, but here I am sitting reading this bullshit, while if I were working hoeing a field, I could be thinking whatever I wanted, which means he was right, but he's wrong..."  In the end I got the job I wanted, complete with manual labor.
    Now suppose Bach  had to make a living teaching music.  By the end of the day, after teaching lessons all day to young twits,  would he have still felt inclined to write out a Pastorale or fugue?
    On the other hand, although I'm free to think whatever I want as I churn out pots, I tend to try to feed my brain with NPR or music, so my thoughts aren't exactly free either...

June 15
While the bisque kiln was firing today,  I heard a loud arcing noise and then it was silent.  I went out immediately, and saw a little puff of smoke near the ceiling, but will have to wait till the kiln cools to troubleshoot it.  The circuit breaker wasn't tripped, which isn't surprising as a kiln draws as much amperage as an arc welder, so what's a little arcing to a kiln circuit breaker.   I'm pretty sure the trouble is a short inside the metal box on the kiln that keeps all the wires from contacting anything but themselves and the kiln shell.  This also helps prevent a fire, in case of arcing.  The exciting results won't be known till Monday, as I have a full day tomorrow selling pots for our local potters' group (a group fundraiser), and playing music at a garden club show in Spokane.

June 16
bug
Since I talked about today yesterday, today I'll talk about yesterday.  But first I'll say that the sale and music went well.  Although there's theoretically a whole gamut of audiences from Altamont type rioting to none at all, the kinds I usually get are either polite and attentive, or just ignoring the music as background.  This was a background type audience, but there was a small payment to ameliorate that, and I knew what I was getting into when I signed up.
    Now, back to yesterday.  I took this photo of a bug on the apple branch.  The bug is in the very middle of the photo, and I don't have any idea what kind it is. But I heard it was there by a clicking noise it was making.  When I moved the leaves to look, there was another one approaching it, so we know what the clicking noise was for...  By the time I got the camera the second one was gone.  The photo also shows how weathered my hands are (funny what 35 years of gardening and pottery can do to one's hands), and it shows how dense the apples are before thinning.  You can see 5 apples in the lower right corner, that, if not thinned to one (or less), will remain small to the end of the year...

June 17
Today had a lot of parts.  I got an email offering $100 for using one of my photos in  a realtor's brochure.  If it happens, whoopee!
I put together a pottery riding lawnmower float for the town's lawn mower festival--the Big Back In.  The link is to the video I made of it.  I sang "This is my Father's World," in church with banjo, which doesn't have much to do with Father's Day, but has the word Father in it.  A god daughter visited us for supper.  All good...

June 18
ducks

I took this busy picture of the mama duck and family in the water lilies this evening.  They were at the edge of a shady part of the Mill Pond, but the bright sandy banks behind them cast tan reflections, combined with evergreen trees and sky.
    It was the kind of day where I got a huge dinnerset order (over $1000), had a person in a pickup coming from the other direction tell me he'd been to my website as I was bicycling to the Post Office, and I fixed the kiln that electrocuted itself a few days ago (without electrocuting MYself).  Plus the weather is turning from cold and miserable back to summer, so it's all good...

June 19
A slow day, so here's another duck picture:
ducks

June 20
    Phil Steen is back on the campaign trail, with two new videos:  Resistance is Futile and No Felony Convictions
    Sales went up with the heat today.  Meanwhile we're getting nearly a gallon of strawberries every two days from the garden.  But the tomato plants and cucumbers in the greenhouse are about 4 times as big as those planted out, probably due to all the cool weather we've been having.  Later when the real heat hits, the greenhouse plants have usually suffered, so it all balances out.

June 21
    Summertime and the living is...
Balasz fountain

This is the fairly new fountain/wading pool designed by Harold Balazs in downtown Spokane, where I went today mostly to get books from the large library there.
But summertime living is less easy, in that 80 degree days mean the pots I threw this morning needed working on this evening.  This is good for production, bad for being lazy...

June 22
    I picked 2.5 gallons of strawberries today, the most I've ever produced.  I think the results came from  using composted horse manure this spring as a mulch to try and bury some of the many runners the strawberries create.  While picking, I also weed, which is needed to keep it a strawberry patch and not a weed patch.
    Another thing I did today was ship pots.  It happens a time or two per week in the summer that people passing through want their pots shipped home.  It can take a half hour or more to pack a box for shipping and take it to the Post Office, so I finally settled on a packing/insurance fee of $5.00 or 10 %, whichever is greater, in addition to actual shipping costs.  I decided to insure them myself, because I don't like having to deal with the Post Office about insurance claims, and if I do a good job of shipping, I reap the rewards.
    The system I use now is to wrap each pot in a few layers of newsprint, then encase it in its own cardboard cushion with packing tape, then float it in styrofoam noodles in a large box.  I still get a few failures, but that seems inevitable, as breakable as pottery is.  I use bubble wrap if someone gives it to me, but it seems too expensive to me otherwise.

June 23
    Linda from Australia writes: "How did the freezer jam you did last year go? I tend to put things from my garden into the freezer then forget about them and go to the shop to buy another tin of tomatoes."  The strawberry freezer jam wasn't as good tasting as cooked, but I'm sure it was higher in vitamins and lower in sugar.  Raspberry freezer jam tasted better.  So I may make some cooked jam from some of these strawberries.  As to her observation about the freezer, I'm afraid it's true that it's easier to stick something in the freezer than get it out again.  Getting something out to use from the freezer requires actual forethought, and how often do any of us think about what we'll want to have in a couple days when it's thawed?  Fortunately frozen berries taste best before total thawing, so we've nearly emptied our supply of raspberries from last year.

June 24
yellow swallowtail butterfly
yellow swallowtail
The yellow swallowtail is the largest butterfly that's common around here, as well as one of the prettiest.  The top photo was taken Friday in our garden, the lower one a year or more ago.   This year in my nature photography I'm trying to work on the backgrounds, as well as the foreground subject.  Both of them are tricky with something as flitty as butterflies, but while feeding they often allow time to take different angles.   Generally I have to use a zoom lense to get a good photo without startling them, which is good for getting a blurry background as in the second photo.  Also for action photos I use the automatic focus, whereas for flowers it's generally better to manually focus to get the part in focus that you want.  In spite of my love of photography, I'm not a technical wizard, and haven't even tried a lot of the settings on the camera.  I was glad when cameras became smart enough to let anyone take great photos...  The other thing that helps is taking lots of photos, as the top one was the best out of 20 or more...
    I suppose I'm thinking photos because I got the $100 check for the Post Falls photo, so I'm feeling semiprofessional...  (I suppose you're professional when your income from your hobby is greater than your equipment costs, so there's still a ways to go...)

June 25
I turned 54 today, which, if not the answer to life, the universe, and everything, is 9 X  6.   It was also more candles than I could blow out on my cheesecake (actually a bunch of them were surrounding it as well, which complicated the blowing a bit).  
    The Dilbert Blog of Scott Adams today spoke of Champagne moments,  or more accurately "Hold the Champagne" moments.  I haven't had the time to read the many comments his blog draws, but I'm sure many people feel like he does, that security is always still around the corner.  That's why it resonated with me.  Self assurance is a house of cards, slowly built up and easily disassembled.  Compliments flow off me like water from a duck's back, while criticisms linger...
    So I spent my birthday afternoon adding another 4 shelves of display space.  I think I must be at a productive peak, to have the shelves so filled.  I'm glad to be working on a dinnerset now, so I can pack it in boxes as it emerges from the kiln...
    My oldest son sent me a video birthday card from his vacation on Lake Michigan...

June 26
clouds
The clouds were high and wispy today, producing this dab of rainbow (middle of picture) directly below the sun
It also shows the first poppy starting to bloom in our flower garden
I think I may have mentioned an old lady's advice about hiring kids to work:  One boy is one boy, two boys are half a boy, and 3 boys are no boy at all.  So these two girls showed up today, looking for work.  With the upcoming video shoot, I've figured I had to clean the pottery, which is pretty well coated with clay and glaze.  So I decided to let them clean off the outside of my glaze buckets.   On the way back to the pottery, I asked how old they were, having already guessed they were junior high age.  My guessing wasn't too good--they're going into the 6th grade.  I warned them they would probably get wet and dirty, and set them up with a hose, rubber gloves, and sponges, and helped them carry out the glaze buckets, while I scraped and sponged the shelves where they normally sit.
    It looked like it was costing about a dollar a bucket, by the length of time they took on each one, and the buckets still needed some work when I got them back, but the process was working about as expected, when one of the girls came in to say that the other had tripped over one of the buckets and knocked two of them over.  Long ago I learned not to cry over spilled milk, so I said I'd just have to mix up more, and turned the hose up so they could spread the white mass of glaze more over the path area where they were working (with luck the vegetation will like the trace minerals).  But in my mind the cost of this enterprise just tripled, as a bucket of glaze is easily worth $20-30 each...  Fortunately the one most spilled was the scrap glaze, which is the accumulation of glaze from all the others as it is sponged off the pot bottoms, and tends to build up over time anyway.
    They went away at the end, wet and dirty, but pleased with the results of their efforts.

June 27
  It was the warmest day in weeks (85), so I was almost tempted to swim,  but I suspect the water of retaining some of those cool evening temperatures.  The weather changed so quickly from cool to hot that I had a fire in the woodstove yesterday morning, and by afternoon kept the windows closed to keep in the cool.  
I added a video today, a version of an old Leadbelly song with some new lyrics.
   
June 28
cedar waxwing
It was perfect June weather today, slightly over 80 degrees, so I bicycled down by the mill pond, and got this nice photo of a cedar waxwing.  Hard to imagine a sleeker bird.
On the way back I stopped at a kids lemonade stand.  I remember  a time or two trying to sell kool aid with young friends.  I'm pretty sure in this distrustful world the trend is pretty well dead, but I guess on this cul de sac the parents felt it was okay.  But some things  have changed...  The stand looked to be prefabricated with a screen printed sign.  Both the kids were preschool, but the little boy was totally dressed as a pirate, down to the eyepatch, probably to help him become a captain of commerce.  The price hadn't changed from when I was young--5 cents, though I gave them a quarter.  I mentioned that the sugar bowl they had was one I made, but the comment didn't apparently make sense to them.  Anyway I drank my lemonade, startled to find it was all lemon flavor, no sugar.   "My," I said, it's not too sweet."  The little girl nodded and said they put a lot less sugar in that one then some other ones...  So there's the same great quality control I had as a kid...

June 29
     The TV director and producer stopped by to check the site.  Beforehand I obsessed about things like whether I ought to shave my neck (which I haven't done for over 30 years).  Fortunately they were so taken by the whole setup here ("kind of a throwback" I think the director said--perhaps I should practice saying Yabba Dabba Doo...) that they didn't quibble about details.  They were supposed to look over my "wardrobe choices" but the director felt the teeshirt I was wearing was fine.  So that hurdle is over, painlessly.
    Later in the day we had a brief windstorm, which started with a power outage (it lasted 2 hours).  Other places got golf ball sized hail, but we only got a sprinkle and enough wind to break a few tree limbs.  I cooked supper (fried chicken) over our campstove since the power was out...
    It's been a very dry June, and usually fire danger from fireworks is mostly alleviated by a good rain and cooling front right around the 4th.  People around here go pretty crazy about fireworks (some are being lit off on Maine St. as I write).  The Indian reservations are close by for getting the large mortar type rounds which are close to commercial quality.  Since our local Lion's Club disbanded, we don't even have a Safe and Sane fireworks booth in town.  That's too bad, because I've enjoyed buying fireworks since I was a  kid.  At some point the kids took over lighting them off, and now the kids are getting almost too old to get the fervor themselves, so I guess we're awaiting the next generation...

June 30
    Some enterprising farmer's market participants (who make great tortilla chips and salsa) have taken up the paucity of fireworks stands in Spirit Lake cause by opening a fireworks stand in Spirit Lake.  
    Besides that fact, my skier son started building a device whereby he can practice some of his skiing tricks in the back yard.  If successful, no doubt I will document it with a video...
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