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Brad's Blog

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November 1, 2011
    I took advantage of "cloud computing" today by editing around 50 of my Youtube videos at the source.  Normally when I make a video, I edit it, save it, compile it to a size that doesn't take forever to send up to Youtube, and then upload it.  The last two items can take 15-30 minutes for each video.  The main problem I've had over the years with my videos is that the environment I make music videos is too dark for my camera, so they all look dark. Youtube has an "edit" feature so you can adjust the brightness and several other common things, and it will replace the video with the improved edit right there.  I still had to do a few clicks for each video, but a lot of them should be looking better now...
    Today after pottery work I did some renovation in our pottery showroom bathroom, and moved firewood under cover for winter.  Then I went to Spokane and got more firewood from a friend (birch), and practiced music for the upcoming performances.

November 2
    More pottery work today (lots of lavender glazed items).  Then this afternoon we were called (through my wife being a pastor) to assist some very broke acquaintances with a legal and vehicular problem.  This took most of the afternoon.  I got back in time to throw 50 pots in an hour, small ones to fill a kiln I want to fire early next week, where I'd already made some large pots, and the small ones make the firing much more cost efficient.

November 3
    I discovered today that when I revised the videos on Youtube, the counter that tells how many views they've had gets reset, so I can only see how many got viewed in the last two days.  Grandfather's Clock is the big winner so far, with 14 views.
    I'm still focusing on getting as many firings in as I can before the next two events, which meant firing two glaze kilns today. The lavender glaze is proving to be fairly sensitive to firing temperature, so I'm adjusting the two kilns towards a happy medium by shifting to the next cone or minibar up or down. (The minibars tend to be a half cone hotter than the comparable small cone, so I use the difference to make small adjustments in the temperature of firing.   I also got a call from Calgary Alberta ordering some pots for next week, so I made some French butter dishes to replace those that should be sold next week.

November 6
    The blur of Mud and Spirits pottery show is over.  The first day went generally well, but we added a second day this year, which apparently wasn't needed by most shoppers. The musicians (which I secured) helped pass a depressing second day...  The first couple years of Mud and Spirits we managed to do most things right, but since then the down economy and changes in dates and venues have made for a spotty performance.  It worked out okay for me from a professional point of view, but as president of the organization, I do feel sorry for those whose sales lagged significantly.   With the slowness of the day, a lot of potters conversed, which could be a good thing if they got beyond complaining about the slow day...  I did have some interesting shop talk with several of them...

November 7
    Back to the wheel, I threw another 100 pots today, and fired two bisque kilns, so it will be a busy day tomorrow...
    We got our first sticking snow today, and I dug the remaining gladiolas and pulled the last standing corn plants.  Otherwise I goofed off, not having any time off over the weekend...


Nov. 9
     I got some of my dad's WWII movies digitized, edited out the really dark stuff (there wasn't a lot of light often in the Aleutians), and put up a 10 minute video.  As kids it was a time honored tradition to watch 8mm movies on holidays, and mostly make fun of my dad's movies (actually, as the youngest, I enjoyed the pictures of airplanes taking off and landing, which was probably the most exciting thing on a really boring base).  Here's the link.  
    We have relatives in Nome, whom we visited last winter, so Nome and our relatives are much in our thoughts with this huge storm hitting them today...
    Aside from potting today, I cut down branches off a Chinese elm that we plan to cut down
(with the help of a friend) due to large parts of it dying, and a branch off the cottonwood tree out front that had died.  It was actually sunny for most of the day, a rarity this time of year.

  Nov. 15

The big blur of the Folk Festival happened last weekend.   Sales were down from last year, but otherwise it was a fun event.  I took over 500 photos and put up the best at  http://spokanefolklore.org/FFF2011/lair.html.  Jonathan and I also performed, with an audience of around  30 people (which was good, for us), and that went well also--the next group was late, so we got a few extra songs in...  I see and briefly visit more musician friends at the folk festival than in the whole rest of the year...  I remembered to ask friend Dave McRae to photograph us as we performed...
    In the pottery today I made around 140 pots, but 120 of them will be combined into 60 goblets tomorrow.  The cold weather is getting serious, with a low of 11 predicted tonight, and snow likely tomorrow.   We had some strong winds over the last few days--it seems likely it was part of the big polar disturbance that affected Alaska last week.   Fortunately they weren't strong enough to blow over any of our pots outside--that takes 50-60 mph winds on the few times it's happened.


Nov. 18
We've got about 8 inches of new snow this morning, after 2 inches of crusty snow yesterday.  Time to concede that winter is here.  A couple of the local ski areas are opening this weekend.
It reminds me of the time we were going to go into Spokane for Thanksgiving, and it was so snowy and cold that our brakes were all frozen on our car and we had to get a neighbor with 4 wheel drive pull us along the street till they broke free.
    We still have some Fall leftovers--a few tomatoes, a few pears, and lots of apples and carrots and potatoes.  One would think by now we know how best to store our produce, but we have a Charlie Brown pear tree that threw us for a loop.  We planted it about 30 years ago, a slip of a tree given us by a friend who was developing some lesser known varieties.   We weren't even sure if it was a pear or a weird mutation for many years--it had poky spikes coming out of its trunk like a  locust tree, and the branches all droop.  Then a couple years ago  it started having a few pears, but they were covered with a rough brown skin.  This year we finally had about 30 small pears, and they seem to be later than our Barletts, so we saved them in  out in the cold, but they all started turning more brown and mushy than ripe.  A little research yielded (from Joy of Cooking) that pears need to ripen at room temperature, or they will turn brown from the inside out...  Better luck next year.

Nov. 19
    I've added a new volunteer venture--helping with sound at the monthly Bluegrass Showcase in Spokane.  It reminds me of high school, when I helped with sound for plays.  This was, like high school, very amateurish--the other guy Joe and I had only a brief outline of how to set up the system a month ago, and only got sound to come out at all with the help of a couple more experienced types in the audience.  It wasn't too stressful for me because I wasn't "in charge..."
    I ended up getting involved in a silly situation when one of the groups called up one of their grandsons (aged 3 or so) to play harmonica on a song.  He was way too short for the microphones on stands, so I decided to grab a mike and hold it in front of him.  Every time I held it toward him he stopped playing and tried to grab the mic (thinking I was offering it to him).  I tried telling him I would hold it for him, but every time I brought it near he reached for it.... The crowd loved it...  (I was fairly chagrined, but able to roll with it)  Here's a quick webpage I threw together with photos from tonight's show.
   
Nov. 20
    I got two calls this morning alerting me to the fact that a video on making berry bowls I'd made 4 years ago for HGTV's "That's Clever" finally aired today.  It was only a couple weeks ago I despaired of it ever airing and took the link off my browser favorites list to the show's upcoming episodes, which I was told (4 years ago) was the only way I could know when it aired.  So this guaranteed that no one I knew saw it (I don't even have cable, so it was never in the running for me).   It's possible the two calls were all the reaction I'll get to the video--fortunately one of them was an order for 10 berry bowls...
    It's been snowing most days lately, but today it got above freezing, so the snow was sticky.  This has been a fairly stiff beginning to  winter weather.  I even managed to back into the side snow coming out of my driveway today, and getting stuck till I finally threw some handfuls of sand under the tires.

Nov. 22
    It rained most of the day today, making the streets fill with water and slush.  So I worked on pottery all day--trimming pots in the morning, and glazing two bisque loads this afternoon.  Then I packed the 10 berry bowls (from yesterday's post) and shipped them.

Nov. 23
    The rain has washed away much of the snow that isn't piled--a four inch deep pan we'd left outside was overflowing from the snow melt and rain, which is about 1/5 of our average yearly precipitation.  The rain continued lightly today with gusty winds, and with temperatures in the mid 40's.  
    I worked on catching up with a few orders, and adding some weatherstripping and other minor projects around the house.

Nov. 25
    Thanksgiving was the typical American turkey with lots of other stuff and watching football with relatives--comfortable predictability.
    Today for "Black Friday" we had a couple of lookers and no buyers at our pottery showroom--maybe we should have opened at midnight.  No wait, we're always open at midnight--it's just the lights aren't on...
    In the afternoon we went up to Autumn's Loft gallery at Priest Lake, reopening in a fine new cathedral roofed cabin along the highway.  I was invited to play  music, so I brought my usual 4 instruments and played for a couple hours.  Then I got invited into a back room and was given a very nice back and neck message by a neighbor setting up a therapeutic massage office next door.   She also plays guitar and it's possible I'll get a massage and we can see if we're musically compatible some time in the future.  I'm not a fan of massages usually, but I've had a tight shoulder for several weeks, and was actually considering some therapy when this freeby popped up today...
    On the way to the gallery we saw a spruce grouse, and on the way home in the dim dusk I thought there was a person walking along the road, so we slowed down, and it was actually a large cow moose.  I'm glad it stayed off the road...

Nov. 26.
    Since the fierce winter has been on reprieve, today was the day to investigate a few leaks, clean the gutters, and do a few more outdoor tasks before the snow presumably resumes...  Also I was in tune with the rest of Maine Street, as we all were putting out the Christmas lights today.

Nov. 28
    Every once in a while we do something totally off the wall, coming from our religious beliefs and sense of human charity.  A while ago a family of 8 came to our little church desperate for help, trying to live off the electric grid (hauling water too) up a road that requires quality 4 wheel drive in winter, having been homeless all summer previously, living off food stamps and one adult's unemployment.  Since then their car has broken down several times, several family members have been arrested, the marriage is experiencing extreme difficulties, and it snowed several feet.  So yesterday we took in 7 of the 8 (one spouse left and is currently missing).  So we're trying to help them regroup, starting with a workable car, a job or two, and a more stable life for the kids, aged from 3 to around 9.  We can't provide any of that, but we can try to keep them focused on those goals...  I've been baking a lot of cookies.
    I tried posting a link to a photo on Reddit today, of a funny outcome to a practice pseudo-Scrabble game I play on Facebook called Lexulous.  Here's the link to the photo via Reddit: http://redd.it/msuij

Nov. 29
    I added sound effects to the digitized version of an 8mm movie I made in high school, with the technical assistance of my (now ex) brother in law, who was a chemist and helped supplying something that made the vapors pour out of the death ray, and benzene I think for the fires (I supplied the firecrackers for the explosions).  It was intended as a terrible low budget funny movie, and I think it succeeded.  Here's the link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=llj5-Timqx8

Nov. 30
    I mostly worked in the pottery today, plus an hour of driving to pick up the currently residing kids from their school in Priest River...  Then I found a video I'd made this Fall of an interesting spider, and uploaded it to Youtube.  I immediately posted it to an entomology group, then poked around and decided it's probably a trapdoor spider
Bothriocyrtum californicum.
    Getting back to the pottery, the series of tests I made earlier this month on crystalline glazes appears to have much improved my faulty glaze batch (by doubling the amount of kaolin in it).  I tend to think of pottery firing compared to cookie baking--you get undercooked, overcooked, and just--right cookies by just varying the baking time (temperature) a little bit...  You can also change the baking time by adjusting the fat, sugar, and flour content of the dough... (If the cookies are coming out too runny, add flour...)  In this case, the glaze was getting overcooked, so I added flour (kaolin) to make it cook at a higher temperature.  

Books read and other media of note
Swindle by Gordon Korman   I've enjoyed many of Gordon Korman's juvenile fiction works--funny but engaging.  This one was less funny, about  a 6th grader cheated out of the real value of an early Babe Ruth collector's card, seeking revenge by stealing it back.  From the title I was expecting a bit more finesse, as in The Sting.  This was more Mission: Impossible, Junior Edition.

The Human Blend by Alan Dean Foster  This latest Foster book is kind of a one trick pony--a McGuffin (Hitchcock term for highly desirable object, like The Maltese Falcon) falls into the hands of a small time thief, who is hounded for the rest of the book.  What sets the book apart is the imaginative use of extreme body modifications,  set in a time when plastic surgery has no limits.  Foster is a very talented writer, and it's good to see him set off on a new trilogy in this dystopian universe.

Snuff by Terry Pratchett  
This new Discworld novel starts a little slowly, and I worried if his incipient Alzheimer's had affected him seriously, but the plot starting purring and his pure style rang true.  Like several others in the series, the overarching story is about racial prejudice, which in Discworld concerns goblins, considered vermin.   Curiously, what he uses to show their "humanity" is their ability with pots and music, subjects near and dear to me.  So I feel extra human now...

A Scanner Darkly by Philip K Dick.  
From the timeline of his life included at the end of the omnibus collection I've been reading, it's clear that Dick was fairly messed up psychologically as well as pharmacologically.   He was able to put his experiences to good use in this speculative fiction on the drug subculture.

Flow my Tears, the Policeman Said by Philip K Dick
 It's hard to believe a crazy title like that is meaningful, but it does indeed make sense at points in the book, about a man who goes from celebrity to nonentity in what seems to be a parallel universe novel.   Philip K Dick although pessimistic about societal values, was overly optimistic about our technological future when writing in the 1960's, but ignoring his flying cars in the 1980's (and the dates in general), he got a lot of things presciently right.



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