Saturday, September 23, 2017

Making (Security) Movies and Watching Movies

Front porch
What a day! In honor of the legal action against the contractor, I decided that security cameras around the property were a Good Thing. Costco had the top-ranked system (Arlo by NetGear) on sale so I got a set of three. They are completely wireless (including power) and incredibly easy to install. Now we'll see how they do longterm. The images are great--even the night vision IR ones shown here. So far I have three, but as easy as they are, I think I'll add 3-4 more.

Back deck
This morning I exchanged some texts with a friend and when she asked me how I was, I said slower. That's the honest truth, and I just have to learn to accept it. I want to go and go and go (the spirit is willing), but after a few hours, I poop out (the body is not). This morning I managed to install the cameras, do a bit of work on another project, and practice piano. Then, somehow, it was time to go to Lego Ninjago. Eh.

Apartment
Fortunately when we got home, Repo Man was waiting for us. We had been wanting to watch it in honor of the life and work of Harry Dean Stanton who died a week ago. It's a movie that's definitely held up and was perfect for washing the taste of Ninjago out of my mind--that one was strictly for kids. I should've known we were in for it when the first preview shown before the movie was for the upcoming My Little Pony the Movie, which appears to have nary a smidge of irony in it. I was left wondering why it's coming to the big screen at all. The only movie previewed that I had ANY interest in is Jumangi, and it'll be a tough sell for the spouse.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Live Escape Rooms

Went to a live escape room called the Austin Lockout today for Zaga's birthday. It was amazingly fun! I was feeling pretty confident about half way through the time because I thought we were halfway through the puzzles. Turns out we were about 20% through, and with the two of us it would have taken us easily two hours to do it with no hints--and there's no guarantee we would have made it even then. It's a fascinating business model and the room was really intricate in the way it presents information. I feel like I'm being really coy, but I'm not even going to give a hint of what you do in there because anyone who is here in Austin and has the opportunity to do it really should. Now enough babbling. Going to take a picture and get to bed!

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Dragging My Sorry Butt To Bed

Today was one of those days that started out derailed from the start and it (and I) never recovered. Dave and I both woke at 2:30 am and couldn't get back to sleep. Dave also has a cold so he's pretty miserable awake or asleep so he got up and never did go back to sleep. I read until 6:30 when I was finally able to get back to sleep. Of course falling back to sleep at 6:30 when workmen are coming at 8:30 is not very much time to sleep, and I dragged all day.

Dave took the J to school and then came back home to the Nyquil and bed. I stayed up and puttered--feeling the day drag on interminably, but unable to kickstart myself into getting anything done. I did get in a kiln load and almost stopped before doing the last two pieces (which don't need to ship yet as I don't have the stands for them), but I decided to push on through the heat and humidity in the studio. (It was over 90 degrees and steamy in there today.) And I shouldn't have as I blew the layout on both pieces and have to remove the first layer and a half of glass and redo them tomorrow. Or Saturday. Or Monday.

At the end of the day I dozed a little in the recliner (when did I become an old man?!) before Jessie got home. Poor J--she's coming down with the cold too and can't afford to miss any more school so she has to tough through it.

Now Dave's in bed, I'm pretty sure Jessie's in bed even though she has homework, and I'm going to give in and go to bed too. Tomorrow morning I have a surprise activity planned for Zaga's birthday and then I'm taking her to lunch so I had better get some rest.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Stages Of Learning a New Skill

Today was supposed to be a full ceramics day but I came home mid-afternoon to pay home bills and unsnarl my medical bills. *Sigh*. Paperwork just made me tired and aggravated, so back to ceramics!

Whenever you attempt to learn a new skill you pass through a couple of distinct stages in the process. At first--no matter what you're learning--the teacher gives you instructions on how to do something, and you blindly follow them with no understanding of what they mean and no physical feeling of doing them correctly. Then comes the moment where your brain connects to whatever part of your body is trying to pick-up the new skill, e.g. your hands, and the brain remembers the instructions, and the hands know the feel of what they're supposed to do. Oh they probably can't do it yet, but they can feel where they're going. Or it could be your mouth as you pronounce a new language or sing a song. Whatever the body part is, the practice begins. You can feel your mistakes, and you frustratedly fumble around trying to overcome them. You get to the point where you can concentrate and will your body into a posture or series of actions to get the result you want. Eventually--if you practice enough--you get to the point where you don't think with your conscious mind anymore about doing anything, you just do it, and it flows as naturally as breathing.

Today I had the moment while I was throwing the clay where I could feel both where it was and where it should be as I manipulated it. I could feel when I did something that was going to cause the piece to fail before it failed. I am still abysmal at correcting my errors and saving the piece, but I am on the path and can see what it will feel like to succeed.

Now if I could just throw pieces with thick enough bottoms that they could be something other than flower pots.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Growing Old and Medicating

Another day has blown past me. I keep reciting my three-things-a-day mantra, but some days it's less effective than others. I don't even know what I got done today, but I know I decided against hormone replacement therapy (HRT). I am post-menopausal (TMI!!), and my new doctor was all rosy about HRT when she first mentioned it to me over a month ago. She touted it as the end all be all for obliterating hotflashes, preventing osteoporosis, decreasing the risk of some cancers, and keeping your skin and boobs taut. Who doesn't want taut skin and boobs I ask you? HRT is also linked to improving mood through increased serotonin and neurotransmittergamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) production. An end to depression and anxiety? Sign me up!

When I went in after my lab tests to see what my hormone levels were (and progesterone and estrogen were non-existent--I suppose that's normal for my age), I had an appointment with the PA as the doctor was on vacation for three weeks. The PA gave me a sheet of paper with the potential side effects of the medications and had me sign it. She didn't have any further information to offer me about HRT, and didn't say anything specific about my medical history that would argue for or against the treatment.

But then I talked to Bill, who is also a doctor and who is someone I trust implicitly, and he wasn't wild about HRT and urged me to do more research and make my own decisions. My own research led me to the Mayo Clinic site and an article on HRT and heart disease. The clincher for me was at the end: "If you already have heart disease or you have a history of blood clots, the risks of hormone therapy have been clearly shown to outweigh any potential benefits." Considering I went to see my current doctor right after an episode of extreme blood clots in my kidney, I was more than a little surprised that she thought HRT was a good idea for me. I can put up with hot flashes, saggier skin and boobs due to loss of collagen, and look for another solution to any possible osteoporosis issues. It will also be nice to not have the additional cancer risks associated with HRT. It's also time to find a new doctor. Again.

I am not ready to go the route of the new trend in medical care--a boutique doctor who takes a limited number of patients, accepts only cash (no insurance), and has a membership fee that guarantees weekend and off-hour immediate access--but I am ready to make a change. Fortunately I met a very nice family physician at a clinic very near to us who is accepting new patients when I took Jessie in for dermatitis and allergies a couple of weeks ago. Now if I can just find her card...

Monday, September 18, 2017

More Work With Steel

Home from my metal and wood class, and tonight I learned to use the oxy-acetylene torch. I didn't weld with it--or heat form--I used it to cut through steel plate. Tonight was just playing around and learning the tool. Next week I think I'll make a cut and welded candle box for the deck. Now I need to go commune with my spouse. Tomorrow: decisions on hormone replacement therapy.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

And On the Seventh Day I...

My only accomplishments so far today have been getting up, listing off everything I plan to get done, and pumicing the bottoms of my feet. Oh yes, and supervising Dave in his task of putting the wood caddy back up on the side porch with all the fireplace logs moved aside by the painters. Nevertheless, I am taking a break to post. Oh dear, it's going to be THAT kind of day!

Thanks to Morganica I rediscovered another artist/writer, Luann Udell, whose work I used to follow and I am adding her to my favs list on the right. Write of the devil and the phone will ring! Not that I am calling Morganica the devil--far from it--but I did just have a lovely chat with her. We had been planning to take Ricky Frank's enameling class at Arrowmont together next month, but she has more important things to do--like save Elmo. I am going to miss seeing her, and I am even more resolved to get out west to see her either this fall or winter.

Clearly I am not going to get through my list for the day, but I bet I can put in a kiln load and get my glass orders done, re-pot the orchids, buy my secret-pal back-to-school gifts, and take Zaga to the airport. Oh, and take a nap. Weekends are for napping. Now off to read the repotting section of my book on orchids again.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

What I Learn From My Child

Many (many) years ago I bought a greeting card that had a picture of a grinning (evil-looking, or was it just mischievous?) child on the face. The text read: "Children keep you young", with "But first they make you very old." on the inside. Never were truer words written.

My child is keeping me young right now with the music she introduces me too. Her latest offerings are from the album An Awesome Wave by a British group called alt-J. My J has an assignment to make an experimental film for her AV Production class (due in two weeks), and she would like to use one of the songs from the album in it. Part of the process of making the film is to obtain the rights to use any music you need for it. The film is to be shorter than the song she wants to use, nevertheless copyright will be strictly followed and permissions obtained, or the music won't be used. I really like her teacher. Now if I can just get her to get off her butt to see what she needs to do to obtain the rights.



The music she has picked is very eclectic--it is not at all like anything you'd hear by Taylor Swift, Miley Cyrus or Katy Perry. In fact Jessie doesn't, in general, like female vocalists. I guess I shouldn't be too surprised at her current musical taste as she introduced her father and me to the spoken word poet and author Shane Koyczan when she was about 12. We were blown away by her mature taste back then. As with Koyczan's work, alt-J's music can be very disturbing--the videos for it even more so. (J hadn't seen any of the videos when I asked her.) At her age I liked the Beach Boys and read novels with women in ripped bodices draped over Fabio on the covers (remember the movie Romancing the Stone?). Jessie reads manga and listens to alt-J. I know who's cooler. I can't wait to see what she's like when she's my age.


Friday, September 15, 2017

Houston, We Have a Wood Shop!

Wood stash, horizontal wood and metal bandsaw, compound miter saw, shop vac, table saw.

I'm not going to call it a studio--we have enough of those as it is and this new work area is something special. It's my manly cave. I can't have a man cave as I am missing some necessary parts requisite for membership in that club (borrowing Dave's doesn't count), but I can have a manly cave, and I do! I am not exaggerating about the caveness of the space: the room has no windows and no glass in the doors either. It's also under the house accessed from under the deck. The floor is concrete, the walls are stark white, and there is a window A/C unit sticking through a non-window in the wall to the outside. I replaced the A/C unit today for $139 and am using it to further dry the lumber. (Home Depot is having a thing where if you open a Home Depot card you can have $100 off your purchase. I already had a card, but the clerk told me you can have up to five so... Score)!

Table saw (again), 14" bandsaw, 6" joiner, 10" planer, wood stash (again)
My carpenter, Craig, and his assistant Darren unloaded and set up all the equipment for me (I couldn't even lift half of it), and they also moved all the wood out of the trailer and stacked it to dry in the wood shop. As I looked at all the pieces as they came out of the trailer today I realized I have an extra slab and its accompanying cut-off. Each slab is eight feet long and has a four-foot cutoff. So I not only have the three slabs for the bed, one slab for the desk, and one cut-off for desk and bed shelving, but I also have an enormous slab for a new glass and wood dining room table with a cut-off for a leaf for it and three more cut-offs for tables! The one thing I don't have and expected is a 2 X 8 for the bed. I have the 2 X 10's, and the 4 x 4's, but not the one 2 X 8 I needed for the shelf behind the headboard. But never fear--I'll figure something out. Monday we learn to oxyacetylene weld and do our class designs, and I'm going to propose the desk even though it's so large I won't be able to take all the materials to class to work on it! I'll do the welding there and the shelves, but I'll do the top surface prep and the assembly back in the cave.

In the above pictures I'm standing in the middle of the floor where the eventual workbench will go. Some of the equipment is on wheels or otherwise easy to move, some (like the bandsaw), not so much. I think I had a genius moment and put the bandsaw in front of one of the doors (the one I never open) so that if I have a long piece I can open the door and run it through unimpeded.

Hobbies--and cool workspaces--are good.




Thursday, September 14, 2017

Got Wood?

Bubinga tabletop from
Owl Hardwood Lumber
Deep breath in, deep breath out. No anxiety tonight, and that is good. It was also good to hear some innocuous news about butterflies and pottery from Ellen (comments on previous posts). Every time I think of her, I think of the slogging clean-up she's having to do after Hurricane Harvey and all I see is endless, smelly, gooey muck. Butterflies are better.

Today Zaga and I did the inspections on the last two hives (all suited up of course) and it was a breeze. It was even a bit breezy and we HAD FUN! What a concept: Bees can be fun. This afternoon we searched for local hardwood emporiums where we could shop for materials for our steel and metal class (materials for her--I have a ton of blue pine to use for my desk and even a table or two). We went to two of the four I found--and one of those was a hardwood flooring supplier, not fine hardwood for furniture building so the trip was a bit of a bust. So far Woodcraft is the best we have seen, and Zaga was a bit disappointed with it. Apparently there is a place in Chicago called Owl Hardwood Lumber that has an enormous selection of all kinds and sizes of wood and it puts Woodcraft to shame. It's true there is only one small area for wood at Woodcraft as they also stock all the major tools and those take up most of their floor space.

Westbrook Metals
After Woodcraft we went to Westbrook Metals and I looked at i-beam, angle iron and tubing as candidates for the legs for my desk. I brought home small samples of each for $.50 a lb ($11 total--I love a hobby with relatively cheap materials!) and tomorrow when we unload the pine from the trailer and move it to the wood workshop I'll be able to look at the wood and the steel together. The slabs are really big and I need to balance the size and weight of the metal with the wood. It would look silly to have little, spindly one-inch steel tubing for the legs under a massive, three-inch-thick-slab desktop.  Right now I like the idea of i-beam standing on end and coming up all the way through the top of the desk so its end is flush with the surface. Somewhat like the leg on the bench below, but without the wood missing from one side of the i-beam, and the i-beam would not be all the way to the edge of the top either.

I think I'll use four-inch i-beam and put a leg in each corner... but who knows! I need to touch and move the wood around to see what I want to do. Big problem with that idea is that the long slabs of pine weigh about 176 lbs each, and the cut-offs weigh about 88 lbs each. I need a hobby that isn't so physically demanding. I guess I'd better figure out how I'm going to manipulate my materials. If I do use the i-beam for the legs the weight of the desk will jump to over 250 lbs (each leg will weigh about 20 lbs). And that's before I've added on any shelves or shelf hardware. Maybe I should cut the slab down to two inches thick--or I could make the desk six feet long instead of eight. That would be a better proportion of length to width anyway.

What an exciting project! After I do the desk for my class project I'll be in better shape to do the bed. And speaking of bed, I think I'll make my way to mine. Allergies are kicking my butt this week and I am TIRED!!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Anxious Pottery

My marvelous 12 ft slabs of blue pine--8 ft of
one of which will be the top for the desk.
No, the pieces I threw (on the wheel) today in the first ceramics class of fall were not anxious. Nor was I anxious as I was throwing them. It was a relaxed and fruitful class. In fact the title of the post should probably be Pottery Anxious as the pottery state came temporally before the anxious state. The anxious state is now. I look on my to-do list and it looks like I am on top of everything and everything is moving forward as it should. But I don't feel that way. Instead I feel like you do when you are in a plane having just taken off for a foreign destination not serviced by Amazon.com. You have the nagging sense you have forgotten something you really need. The sensation builds until the realization of the identity of the forgotten item drenches you from the inside out like cold, broken up gelatin. Only I don't think I have forgotten anything. Nevertheless I keep feeling that icy, jittery, cold-gelatin-under-your-skin-rushing-down-the-body tingle. Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!

My anxiety is enough that I am going to give up any pretext of writing a coherent, thoughtful post tonight. I'm not even going to try to knit. I'm going to go to bed to dream of wood and steel desks. And snuggle with my spouse (also in the reverse temporal order).

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The Birds and the Bees, Uh, Butterflies and Bees!

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
There are some days when it's hard to come up with one photo that captures the day to post on Tookapic for the 365 Project. Today was full of photos! There were the cool honeycombs formed by the one of my hives, the beautiful butterflies in the garden--the queen of whom was the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail feeding from the salvia, and the stick bug and its reflection. It was a great life-affirming day outside--and I didn't melt!

I did my first bee inspection since the great debacle of a week ago, and it went just fine. I was in full suit and knee-high boots, but I think it would have been fine even had I not been as bees were just fine except for one hive at one moment--and the smoker took care of them. Looking back on the incident last week, I think the biggest mistake was not having the smoker lit.

Stickbug
Today was also the first day Gallifrey had his invisible fence collar back on, and when he went out this morning his first actions were to go outside of the yard, pee on the neighbor's 911 Porsche (caught on their security camera) and then come back in the yard. Clearly he got a good zap going in and out as he wouldn't cross the line later. Whew!

The demand letter from the lawyer went off to the contractor today, now we wait and see. In the meantime I am working with the new carpenter/handyman to get through the open items, and I am okay.

I also had my last lab work done for my doctor today. She thinks she might be able to fix my hot flashes in a plant-based, non-hormone-supplement way. It's weird that I have gotten to a place in life where it not only doesn't hurt when they take blood from my arm, but I actually can't feel it.

Today's hive inspection
Gallifrey had his own little medical procedure today. I took him in to a visiting doggie dentist at Tomlinson's (pet supplies) and he had his teeth cleaned while he was awake (without anesthesia). I had to hold him along with the dentist, and it was an awful sounding procedure (scraping the tartar off the teeth), but Gallifrey's teeth are pearly white again. I asked the dentist what to do to keep them that way as this has been an issue for me (Gallifrey already had his teeth cleaned under anesthetic a year and a half ago and they were dark brown with tartar then and almost that dark again now). Clearly I'm not doing what I should. The dentist said to give him raw bones. I thought bones were bad for the teeth and would crack them (according to my last vet) but I was told today that they needed the raw bones to keep their teeth clean. After the dental appointment I went to HEB to get bones and they don't didn't have any! The butcher said they have them occasionally, but they don't stock them. Not even soup bones. Tomorrow I search out a butcher shop to treat my sweet boy after today's ordeal.

Now we've had a great dinner (Dave rotisseried a chicken on the grill he got last year for Father's Day), watched the first few episodes of The Tick on Amazon (we love our superheroes), and are relaxing after a long day. Tomorrow pottery starts up again (for me), and I am meeting with the carpenter about replacing the bedroom and bathroom carpet with hardwood and tile. I just can't stand it any more.

For our friends in Atlanta and Florida--stay safe! I guess California, Oregon, and Montana too. A lot of the country is subject to natural disasters right now. Time for everyone to dig deep and help out wherever you can.



Monday, September 11, 2017

Tears and Welding

The tears dry slowly on my cheeks as I type. I have cried a lot in the past few days. There have been tears of overwhelming love, tears of loss, tears of leaving, and tears pulled from beautiful writing about the best of the human spirit in Aaron Sorkin's Newsroom. Right now the tears are drying to the song "If It's the Beaches" by the Avett Brothers--the latest sensory input that pulls emotion from me like water from a tap.

We are home from Montana, and I cried as I drove to the airport because I didn't want to go. But unlike previous times when I left Montana (for Atlanta), when I got home this time (to Austin) I was glad to be here. It's good to have two places you really love to be. I also cried at the wedding of my Uncle Ed and new Aunt Susan. I cried during Ed's speech when he mentioned all the people who knew him and Susan and who died before being able to celebrate their day with them. One of the people who missed the day was my mother. and how I wish she could have been there! I was living in Arizona for my uncle's first marriage, and my Mom came to stay with me for the wedding. I don't remember why, but I was late getting us on the road for the wedding and we missed the first of the ceremony. My mother was so mad that I made her mother miss (at least the beginning of) her brother's wedding!

But I didn't only cry for loss at the wedding, I cried for love. My heart was full to bursting, as we say, as I listened to their vows. They have been together longer than Dave and I have been married, and to see them formalize their commitment was so life and love affirming. Watching my adorable little cousin Charlotte the flower girl (the daughter of Ed's son Andrew and his wife Rachel) scamper around during the service provided a pivot point for my feelings of continuity in life and family and love.

But enough of tears. Tonight I started another class at the Contemporary--this time in wood and steel with Zaga my friend next door. Tonight's demo/hands on tool introduction included mig welding. Next week we learn welding, cutting, and hot-forming metal with an oxy-acetylene torch. I think I'm in love. My project for this class is a desk from one of the big blue pine slabs with tubular steel legs and maybe some other steel and glass details (floating shelving, back stop, etc.). The instructor is up for us learning and using a variety of big tools including a planer, jointer, and table saw for wood; a bender, miter chop saw, and the two varieties of welders for metal; and an angle grinder for both. It's going to be an interesting few weeks.

My music has morphed into Darius Rucker's (the original--he wrote it) version of Wagon Wheel. I love that song too so I'm going to add it to the post--two songs for the post of one! Take a listen--they're worth it.




Sunday, September 10, 2017

Goodbye Montana

Our time in Montana has come to an end, again. Last night at the wedding the wind picked up, and the smoke started to clear. It was an outdoor wedding and reception so when the sun finally came out after who knows how many grey/green smokey days, we all cheered the glorious sunset. The clear air held today and we got to see the lake and the mountains as they ready for fall. I wish we were staying longer, but school and data.world call so we must go. Home very late tonight, and tomorrow the regularly scheduled programming comes rushing back. Till next year...

Saturday, September 09, 2017

The Wedding!

Charlotte the Flower Girl
We are now home from the family wedding and I am lost in a blissful haze of love and family and the continuation of life. It was a beautiful ceremony that made me want to renew  my vows with Dave. The wedding was held on a lovely lawn cupped by spruce pine and weeping willow on the property of the Barn at Finley Point. Our part of the family (Dave, Jessie, and I) were late because we were doing last minute family stuff for the wedding party, but it worked out because the wedding wasn't ready to start on-time anyway.

It was a lovely ceremony with interjections of humor by both the bride and the groom--and lots of special moments provided  by the granddaughter Charlotte who stole the show. She was the flower girl, and took it as her solemn duty to place every petal in her bucket on the ground at the beginning of the path before proceeding up the aisle. She was adorably, studiously meticulous as she spread the rose petals on the grass in that one, perfect spot in spite of the exhortations of her mother and other members of the wedding party who kept trying to get her to come on down the aisle and drop some petals towards the end.

For much of the rest of the ceremony she sat next to me in the front row of the audience. People around us were taking pictures of the proceedings and she stated her intention to take pictures too. She asked for my phone, and I gave to her (how could I do anything else?), and she started snapping pictures. Then she'd pause, switch to the photo app, and go flipping through the pictures she had taken. Next she'd hold up the phone, go back to the camera app, and start taking more pictures. She never once asked me how to do anything on the phone, she just crushed it on her own. I have to mention here that she is three years old. I am officially disconnected from the world when a three year-old is more natively savvy with a smart phone than I will ever be. I am having difficulty right now even charging my phone enough to get all the pictures off of it...

I could recount more now about the chaos that was the day with sprained ankles (the groom's daughter--in the wedding party), adjusting the length of two bridesmaid dresses (a combination of scissors and a cigarette lighter), ironing, prescriptions, hand foot and mouth disease, and a host of other wedding-day things, but the only thing any of us needs to remember about the day is that we were lucky enough to be there and to share in the culmination of 25 years of love that went into the wedding of Ed and Susan. The rest of the happenings make for nice stories later, but for tonight, all I want to remember is the look on my uncle's face as he said his vows and pledged himself to the love of his life.

Time for me to go join the love of my life in exhausted slumber. Back to Austin tomorrow--sadness.


Friday, September 08, 2017

How Many Times Can I Cheat?!?

The bride, the groom, the granddaughter,
the eve of the wedding.
I should feel bad about cheating for the second day in a row and posting the day after the real day, but I don't. Family first, documenting second. Yesterday (today for the purposes of this post) was the rehearsal dinner for the wedding of my most beloved uncle to his fiancée and longtime partner Susan. We ate lovely BBQ in a barn that was never used as a barn, and we re-learned to square dance. I haven't square danced since 7th grade, and I'll tell you I allemanded left and dosie-doed with the best of them--as did my exceedingly adventurous and supportive spouse. It was smokey, it was grey, but we celebrated life and love nonetheless. Tomorrow , the wedding!

Thursday, September 07, 2017

I Cheat

The Barn at Finley Point
In the interests of family and exhaustion, I didn't post last night after getting home from the first gathering of the wedding guests for my uncle's wedding in Montana. I acknowledge and allow myself this cheat and post as if it were still Thursday. Sue me.

As our little plane was leaving Salt Lake City bound for Missoula, the pilot warbled over the PA system that there was good news; we would be able to land in Missoula and not have to divert to Helena because of the smoke. The whole possibility-of-diversion thing was news to us as it had never occurred to anyone that there was a possibility of not being able to land because of smoke from forest fires. But when we arrived, we could see what the big deal was. I grew up in Missoula and have never seen such dense smoke. You could smell it strongly in the jetway getting off the plane--and even right before landing we could barely see the ground under the plane. It was good to get our rental car and get out of town heading up to Polson.

Unfortunately there is nowhere you can go in Western Montana right now that isn't smokey. It isn't as bad in Polson as it is in Missoula, but you can't see the lake from our back deck, and at night all the street lights have a diffuse glow under them that looks like fog or fine snow. I can't imagine what it's like to live here day after day right now. The sun is a faint orange glow in the sky--a daily partial eclipse. It's kind of like a grey day in Seattle, but the light's a bit more sickly yellow/green. I think it would be very depressing for more than a week, and folks here have been dealing with it for much longer than that.

Getting to sleep is rough as Jessie is having difficulty breathing, and and I am worried about the air quality because I have done my normal night time routine of opening all the windows in the house. We don't have central A/C or any kind of whole-house fan system here in Montana so open windows are the only way to get any air circulation. The master bedroom (where my cousins are staying for the wedding) has a ceiling fan as does the livingroom, but otherwise we're pretty air-movement primitive up here.

Tomorrow is a day of fun at the lake (not in the water--it's way too cold for that!) and an evening of square dancing in the Barn at Finley Point.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Back to Textiles

It was a short work-week. First there was Labor Day, now tomorrow we're heading off to Montana for a long-anticipated family wedding. It's 10:30 now, and all I have left to do is pack. Considering I have more stuff in Montana that I want to bring back to Austin from the summer than I want to take for the next four days I'm guessing packing will be pretty easy. I made Dave a new shirt to wear to the wedding today, and I was finished by 6:30 pm. I can't remember a trip when I was done with everything but packing by 6:30 the evening before departure. It's weird--I hardly know what to so with myself! Guess I'll enjoy the peach hookah and post!

The shirt. Let's talk about spending the day in the fiber studio again. It was wonderful! I even sold my LeClerc 60" loom yesterday. The woman who bought it can't take delivery until October so it's going to stay crowded in the studio till then, but I can squint and see a time when I will have room to weave and sew in there without having to wend my way through narrow passage ways around the various equipment. Fall is my favorite fiber time too. There is something about the weather taking a turn for the cooler (a relative term here in Texas) that makes me want to bury my hands in textiles. Spinzilla is coming up in October, then NaKniSweMo in November (national knit a sweater month)--both of which will be dedicated to the twist coat I am making myself this year. Last year's project was Dave's sweater (an enormous garment now known as the Bolt--a reference from Neal Stephenson's book Anathem). But today I made a shirt. My goal is to replace all of his current shirts (mostly made over 14 years ago) and to take the old shirts and make them into a quilt and rag rugs for the bedroom and kitchen. A little sewing, a little weaving, a lot of spinning and knitting... Oh the fall is going to be glorious!!

Now off to pack.


Tuesday, September 05, 2017

I Can't Make This Stuff Up

Image from the Yucatan Times (linked)
This morning Jessie pointed a beetle out to me that was hanging around by our front door. He was a cool white and black color, and I had never seen an insect like him before so I looked him up on the web. I found out he's called an Ironclad beetle and is in the Zopherus family (Zopherus nodulosus). In the Yucatan, Zopherus beetles are adorned with little rhinestones and a chain and worn as living brooches. Apparently there is a Mayan legend about a princess and a beetle that is the basis for the custom, but wearing the beetles as ma'kech (the Mayan name for the beetle brooch) might not date back in practice further than the 1980's. I think I remember my mother telling me about girls in the 50's wearing what they called chameleons but were probably green anoles as brooches. The Internet is further littered with stories of women wearing real chameleons throughout the ages. I even found citations for women wearing live, giant hissing cockroaches from Madagascar as jewelry. That one freaked me out so badly I stopped looking for more instances.

That little excursion into the weird corners of the web epitomizes my day perfectly. It was a lovely little blend of the surreal and banal, and I made it through it without accomplishing much of anything. *Sigh*. I did start making a shirt for Dave for him to wear to the big family wedding this weekend, but I barely got it more than cut out before I ran out of time. Tomorrow my day is packed solid so I don't have time to do it then, and then we leave Thursday. Guess he'll just have to wear an old one.

Monday, September 04, 2017

Finally Something Good!

A few days ago I quietly surpassed the number of posts written in a year. The previous maximum post year was 2008, and admittedly I was only posting weekdays then so my theoretical maximum for it was something like 261. I wrote 243. This is post 247 for this year.

Today's happy story started not so happily over a year ago. When we first moved in we had a really sleazy contractor (who knew there were sleazy contractors?). Not the sleazy contractor who recently absconded with all of our money and left us high and dry with several projects underway. No, this was the sleazy kitchen remodeling contractor. I didn't know any carpenters here, Dan had gone back to Atlanta, and I desperately needed someone to build frit storage in my studio so I could begin unpacking. Sleazy Contractor #1 (SC1 from now on) told me he had a carpenter who had just started working for him who wouldn't mind some extra hours, and I could hire him for some weekend work if I wanted to. The deal was, I would pay SC1 and he would pay the carpenter. He charged me $75 an hour, and I know damn good and well (because the carpenter told me so) that he paid the carpenter less than half that. Now you might say that the additional charge was for employment taxes, workman's comp, etc., but in hindsight I'm betting SC1 paid him cash under the table and pocketed the rest. It wasn't my business so I didn't ask, but...

The carpenter did really good work. He is more of a high-quality jack-of-all trades and master-of-some than he is a straight carpenter. I would have loved to hire him weekends to do more work, but SC1 said I had to continue to go through him so he could "manage the carpenter's weekend schedule", and I just wasn't willing to do that. I gave the carpenter my number and said if he was ever not working for SC1 and wanted work, he should give me a call.

Last Wednesday, as I sat in a slough of despair over the state of capital improvement and repairs here, the phone rang and it was the carpenter! He had finally had enough of SC1's uber-sleazy ways and quit. Today he came out and fixed the roof ridgecap  from SC2's work (I'm sure I don't need to explain the acronym), and he also worked on our front door--the one SC2 was supposed to replace and never did. SC2 just took the door off and left a construction door in its place. He put the old door on the ground out by the wellhouse where it sat in the rain and weather until today. The carpenter cleaned up the door and filled the place where the lock mechanism went with Bondo so we could redrill it for the new lock. Then he sanded the paint off the front and removed the broken leaded glass insert--managing to preserve all the molding strips that held it in place in the process. I cut a piece of clear textured glass from my studio stash and he put it in the door as an interim measure until I can do the new stained glass door insert, transom and sidelights. Then he tried to rehang the door. Unfortunately it suffered from its time outside in the rain and constant humidity, and it swelled so much it won't fit into the doorjamb. So now it's standing up inside the front hall drying out (and shrinking) so he can rehang it. It might still have to be sanded down a little on the sides, but it's definitely going to shrink so we didn't want to grind it down now and have it be too small in a couple of weeks. I can live a little longer with the construction door. Last thing he did before taking off was to repair the well-house door that blew off and rehang it.

Turns out the carpenter is also a fourth generation painter, and he asked if I would like him to finish painting the house (left undone by SC2's crew--probably because he stopped paying them). He's going to give me an estimate on it tomorrow. He's also going to fix the cabinet doors which are hanging off their hinges from SC1's kitchen install. I am so happy to have found someone to pick up where SC2 left off and to also fix SC1's crap. It is so good to be back working with one individual who actually does the work instead of general contractors who come in, promise the moon, and then disappear--leaving their laborers to do the work (maybe competently, maybe not). Now for a glass of wine and a shower

Sunday, September 03, 2017

Glass Incarnate Today is About... Glass!

I have clearly been out of touch with the glass fusing community for awhile. I heard today from another artist that there is some furor over fused glass boxes and who came up with what, and that someone is teaching a glass box technique remarkably similar to the one in my book. Of course there is always the possibility that this artist and I both engineered our own solutions independently and came up with the same thing--it happens all the time. Whatever the circumstance, it was gratifying to find out that things I did for the book are still out there and being tried by new people. In a fit of nostalgia I went back through my photos and found my original glass box work from 11 years ago. My how time flies! I submitted the combed box below for a Niche Award in 2007 and made it to finalist. Two years ago I submitted a 3D printed piece (done by hand with screens, not machines), and that piece won. Have I done anything really creative since? Not in glass!

Since I was thinking of glass, I went surfing through the Fused Glass Fanatics Facebook page and was excited to see pictures (admittedly from a few years ago) of the mokume gane technique from my book that other people tried. Made me want to get back into mad scientist mode in the studio too. I love the mokume gane box (above) and it was both the last box and the last mokume gane project I did. I miss that feeling of having an idea and engineering a way to make it happen in glass. Some of it is bringing forth the artistic vision, and some of it is the sheer joy of problem solving to allow the vision to come out that make my heart sing.

Years ago at a BECon lehr-bq I remember telling Lani McGregor that I was going to take the 3D-printing technique I had learned from Steve Royston Brown at a pre-conference workshop, and really go somewhere with it. I saw intricate sculptures in my head all laid down 2mm at a time in Bullseye glass powder. Unfortunately due to a firing schedule snafu in the workshop, my final piece didn't fully fuse and I unmolded it to find only glass powder sifting through my fingers. I'll admit my enthusiasm was a bit dampened by the failure. It took a few years (until I started writing the advanced book) before I sat down with it again and calculated a firing schedule that would work. As I still have my designs and the screens from the class, maybe it's time to try that complicated, multi-screen project again.

After finishing the book, the stream of life carried me down a different current and all the techniques I had worked on were left to lie fallow. Now, however, I have more time to create in the studio again. Having creative time and energy was one of the main reasons I decided not to have a teaching and retail studio anymore. I was spending all of my time trying to do my regular line of gallery work and managing the retail and teaching--there was no time for creativity.

Now I'm in Texas (for the past 15 months) and my studio still isn't unpacked and set up. But I was out there yesterday and today and I set up an auxiliary work table (for fun projects, not production), and I think it's time to get back in there to see what all the fun is about. It's almost cool enough out now to spend long days in there without dying of heat stroke. Eventually I might even get a pair of glass patio doors installed to separate the kiln room from the rest of the studio. First project is going to be a 3-D printed one. Or mokume gane tiles for our kitchen...

Saturday, September 02, 2017

Today Was a Better Day

We kicked it today. It took two, but Dave and I pulled down all the plastic and tape that the painters put up on our back deck back in May (April?) when they started painting, before they absconded. Then we blew the leaves off (me), washed the decking down (Dave), and put all the furniture back (us). I also cut all the glass and inset it into the kitchen cabinet doors with silicone and glazier's points. Tomorrow we'll put all the doors back on and that project will be done.

I was all excited last weekend when I did a design for all the doors and it was supposed to be in leaded glass, but it turned out wanting to be in fused glass. And the week went on. And I couldn't execute. Turns out I just couldn't get behind the design for the doors or in fusing them. Instead I cut plain panels of reed glass (think 1930's private investigator or lawyer doors) and put them in. Simple, elegant, contemporary, classic, perfect.

Tonight we sat out on the newly reassembled deck and provided an all-you-can-eat for the mosquitos as we communed with the night. It was both more and less enjoyable than it sounds. Now I'm off to bed to snuggle with my spouse, the love of my life and partner in my frumiousness.

Friday, September 01, 2017

I Cannot TGIF Enough

The week ends as it began: with difficulty and tears. Back at the beginning of May, I went to Barton Springs Nursery and picked up some plants. When I went to leave, there was a line of cars waiting to get out of the parking lot. I joined the queue about three or four cars back. The woman in front of me rolled forward, I rolled forward, and I tapped her car. She jumped out of the car practically hysterical that I had "hit" her. She demanded my insurance info and I gladly gave it to her as there was no damage to either vehicle, and I figured she'd see there was nothing to fuss about when she calmed down. Just to be sure, I took pictures of her bumper. The only "damage" to her plastic bumper was a scratch from the hexagonal screw on my license plate holder.

Today I looked on my State Farm account online and saw that there is a claim against me for that accident. Without even calling me to let me know she had put in a claim and to see if I had information, State Farm paid her $304.58 for medical expenses, $231.88 for a rental car, and $706.68 for repairs. I was behind her so I was at fault, the fact that she completely overreacted at best, or submitted a fraudulent claim at worst doesn't even matter. I have been with State Farm for over 20 years and not been at fault for an accident in all that time. I've been hit a few times, but I have never been at fault. Now because of this my rates are going up $15 a month. Oh State Farm doesn't call it a rate increase, instead they call it losing my accident-free discount. A pile of poop by any other name smells the same.

Please let the weekend usher in a better week!