Sunday, January 14, 2018

Return of the wayward pants - Update

About three and a half years ago we heard that there was a new resident in town ,about our age, who found herself recently petless. We were heavy on our feline quota and decided we could lighten our burden and help her out at the same time. It was a tough decision, but we decided to let two of our kitties try a different living situation.

Orange Mamalaid and Princess Puffy Pants were chosen after a very analytical process. After three days Mamalaid still hadn't come out of hiding in her new home, but Pants was adapting well to being a spoiled cat with no competition from ten others.

A few days ago I got a call from the woman who adopted her. She has a small active dog now and is about to get another puppy. Puffy Pants can tolerate dogs as long as she is left alone, but if provoked she will cut open an offending nose into three or four equal slices without hesitation. Most dogs learn this quickly, but puppies, not so much.

Saturday afternoon the Cooker and I went to bring her home. She is now purring in my lap as I try to write this which is kind of awkward, but after years of practice and constant editing of typos I can do it. Sort of.

Pants is back with only one new face to get used to since she and the other eight all knew each other before. Still a bit of hissing and growling, but no blood has been drawn, mine or anyone else's. So far. Here she is in all her fluffy glory.   

Welcome home Princess Puffy Pants!

Sunday, January 7, 2018


I am not much of a housekeeper. I have always taken the phrase, "An immaculate house is the sign of a misspent life," seriously. Oh sure, I vacuum weekly, do dishes daily, clean the cat boxes daily, clean cat barf as it happens or as it is discovered, laundry on weekends, but deep cleaning is a rarity. Especially the downstairs office and craft area. We all have levels of tolerance for filth and I really don't know how I compare to the rest of the world. Having animals inside and outside makes me think I can tolerate more of a mess than most, but at some point I can't stand it anymore and have to do something about it. In an ideal world that would be to call a cleaning or housekeeping service. When I have felt wealthier I have actually done that, but usually I don't feel like I can really afford it. Besides I would have to clean the place before a crew came in to keep from being embarrassed about living like this. I get builders magazines at work and the pictures from the latest designs in homes never look like anyone actually lives there. Everything is bare bones. I have seen homes like that, but I couldn't live in one and keep it like that for any length of time. Just too sterile.

The Cooker has an audit coming up for a client (she's a bookkeeper for income) and that happens in the downstairs office area. We knew this was coming up so we started last weekend. Heavy duty dusting and mopping happened last week. To prep for that a lot of stuff had to be moved and gone through. As long as that is happening a lot of "archives" turn up. Old photo albums get dusted off and everything gets taken apart, wiped down, admired, wondered about, and sometimes thrown out. Walls cleaned, paintings dusted, and the trophy walleye even got a fairly detailed cleaning without breaking the fins.

I even got to reorganize my photography, music, office stuff, photo albums, and other miscellaneous things that all got individually cleaned and put where I can see and find them again. A few things turned up that I had wondered about for some time. I should try and get rid of more things, but I need to get over my sentimentality a bit more.

The place is nearly presentable now. I also know that the first two thirds of my life I have accumulated things and now that I am well into the last third I need to get rid of things. Maybe I'll get serious about that in the Spring. Gotta go clean cat boxes now.  

Monday, January 1, 2018

Happy New Year

The holidays are about over for now and it has been cold. How cold? It was so cold that Pamela Anderson was downgraded from "hot" to "tepid". Football fans were actually ordering hot chocolate at the games. Scotsman started wearing pants. I used the snowblower on the floors instead of the vacuum this week.

Really, it wasn't all that cold. About -22F (-30C) was it, but the winds would howl for a couple of days at a time which really did hurt any exposed skin. As little was exposed as possible, but we still had to feed the horses, make sure they had water, and put them in the barn at night which entails cleaning it up the next day and getting it ready again. That meant being outside for an hour or two each day.

The birds at the feeders were pretty well fluffed up to stay warm. Here is a chickadee with a fluffed up look in order to better insulate against the elements.
The lake is still open as long as the surface stays above freezing. The cold, dry air forces evaporation into a roiling cloud of steam that looks like this.

When the temperature is about 10F the steam rises much more slowly and nearby ships are still easily visible.
Shipping season won't end for a couple of weeks yet, but the ships going by on the really cold days  take on a ghostly appearance when cruising through the steam.
Hopefully, at some point this month it will get above freezing for a couple of days before taking the plunge back down. The days are getting longer now and tomorrow night is a full moon, known as the wolf moon to the indigenous people here. The meaning can go either way to determine if it is a good thing or not. I'll let you all do that research if you wish to.
I haven't seen or heard much of the local wolves for a bit, but lately I have had little desire to stand outside listening for any length of time or going for a hike to look for tracks. Maybe when it warms up a little.

Then there is the calendar issue. I was finally getting pretty good at knowing and writing 2017 correctly and consistently when all of a sudden they go and change it again. It takes me a little longer each year to get used to it and practice until I get it right and then it changes once again. I wish they could just pick a year and stay with it, but no, they can't put all those calendar makers out of work. That must be the reason, right? What else could it be? Maybe someone smarter than me could figure out a compromise.

Happy New Year everyone!

Sunday, December 24, 2017

My grandfather's car

My Grandpa John was the grandfather I knew best as he was alive and on this side of the ocean when I was a youngster. He was my grandmother's third husband (unheard of except in Hollywood) and they had gotten married in the late 1940s. He was a good man, kind and generous and I don't ever remember an angry word coming from him. He was retired the whole time I knew him so he was always around when I would jump on the train and head for Baltimore. Sometimes I would go with my younger brother and sometimes my parents would drive down for the weekend, but we went there often. It was only a couple of hours drive from Wilmington.

Grandpa John was an avid gardener/landscaper and it showed around the property. The house was modern colonial, but modeled after the actual colonial era homes in the neighborhood. Some of them were nearly 200 years old at that time. I spent time there playing with the neighborhood kids, building model cars, playing chopsticks on the baby grand piano, and playing with my grandfather's old U.S. Navy radio that had been salvaged from a ship after WW2.

One of the most fun things I would do with my grandfather was to go the bakery (Silber's for the world's best cheesecake, but I think it's gone now) or take a drive down to the Baltimore harbor or Washington D.C. for the day and hang out at the Smithsonian. I would look at the dinosaurs, geology displays, aviation displays in the various museums there. It was easy to spend days in awe at all the wonders that were on display there. We went there in style, too.

We would take my Grandpa John's Mercedes down there and put the top down if it was nice. It was just a two seater from the early 50s and way cool even for a 10 year old kid. The interior was leather and the radio had at least twelve bands, I'm pretty sure. I do remember picking up Radio Moscow when I was allowed to play with it. That car had so much class that it even smelled classy. I think it was the leather which was the only leather auto interior I had experienced at that point. The dashboard was walnut. Not a stick on woodgrain decal, but real, polished walnut. It was gorgeous! The door handles were on the front of the doors and they were hinged at the back. The fenders curved like Marilyn Monroe's hips and when we went zooming by we did get some looks. Grandpa John would have it gone through and repainted every couple of years and it was always clean and pristine.

As I turned into a teenager I started to have daydreams about that car. The kind of unrealistic fantasies that a teenage boy might have about automobiles. Surfing music had brought songs about cars to the top of the heap of popular music at the time. They never replaced love songs, but they came close. My fantasy was that my grandfather would give me the car when I turned sixteen. By this time my hormones had kicked in causing all the usual angst and confusion about life and my grandparents were talking about moving to Florida permanently. They had a place down at Pompano beach that I had been to a couple of times and were likely to make the move pretty soon. When I was fifteen Grandpa John sold it. I was crushed, but of course I couldn't show that because if I had told anyone about my fantasy they would have fallen over laughing. I kept it to myself, but it was worse than any girl could have done to me at that stage of my life. I was crushed on the inside, but went on as if my teenage dreams had never happened.

I am not sure anymore, but I believe it was an early 1950s Mercedes 220 cabriolet. It was gorgeous and was one of my first loves. 

Here we are in 1961, surf fishing in Florida. I was ten and my grandfather was a bit over 60.
And once more, just because.
These are very rare, but I found a few out there on the interwebs, just to see if I could. In pristine and restored condition they are valued at between $140,000 and $240,000 if you can find one for sale. At least I got to experience such a classic at one time in my life, both my grandfather and his car.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Winter mornings and pottery

The long light lingers in the early morning and in the evening, too. Sometimes it is colorful and sometimes not, but it is always interesting to me. It often lasts only a few minutes and it is difficult to capture unless you are ready for it. Sometimes it is red. The bumps on the horizon are the Porcupine Mountains of Michigan's Upper Peninsula. They are about 70 miles away. Fortunately, we are high enough and they are high enough to get over the curvature issue of living on a sphere. I'm not sure how the flat-earthers interpret that. Click to embiggen.
When the morning temperatures are around zero (-17C) the mist rises from the warmer-than-air water. When the air gets much colder and the water hasn't frozen the steam can look like small tornadoes rising from the sea. So far we haven't had any extremely cold temperatures. This was from a day or two after the first picture.
Evening light can also be dramatic, but usually it is something like this:
Pottery is over for the season (my season, anyway) and I thought I did more pieces. Then I remember tossing quite a few in the clay recycling bin so I guess it's all okay. It is always fun and I learned a few new techniques and refinements and how to salvage mistakes. I'll do some more next year.
I didn't realize I had used so much blue glaze. It is a shade of red when applied.
My fellow "student", Ann, had some commissioned work, the saucers, for an upcoming wedding somewhere around the Twin Cities. Underneath they have the names of all the people who will receive them. Ann has done things professionally and can turn out amazing quality at volumes I can't imagine. I ask her how she does it. She said after a thousand or so it gets pretty automatic. Like riding a bicycle. I still have my training wheels on. I learned a few things from her and some of the other potters that just rent space in the studio. Here is some of Ann's work. Damn, she's good!

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Today's news

I don't want to gloat because it is generally bad karma, yet I was and still am delighted that the people of Alabama did not choose a smarmy, constitution-denying, sexual predator/pedophile to send to the U.S. Senate.

While I try to stay away from politics and religion here for purposes of civility, I do have strong convictions. At my workplace I have to deal with people from all parts of the political and religious spectrum and getting a regular paycheck is still critical. So I keep my mouth shut. Mostly.

Lest I be accused of being a wide-eyed optimist I really do think we are making a some progress. It is always slower than we would like and it often stalls or is put on the back burner, but I think we are finally taking a few steps forward. Let's keep the momentum going and maybe we can regain some lost ground.

To quote one of the great modern philosophers, Red Green, I leave you with this:
"Remember, I'm pulling for you. We're all in this together."

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Trapped and Trippers

The Cooker signed up for Netflix and since we got broadband hooked up it seems time to move into the 21st century, albeit kicking and screaming. I just went along for the ride until I was alone and took a look for the things that might interest me. While I read mostly for entertainment I latched on to a genre a number of years ago that came from my first trip to Iceland. After reading most of the translated works of Halldór Kiljan Laxness, with guidance from Professor Batty and a few others, I needed more Iceland in my life. I started reading Arnaldur Indriðason's Detective Erlendur series and Yrsa Sigurðardóttir's crime novels. I was hooked. I had appreciated an occasional mystery, but now I was onto something more exotic and continued my quest into Nordic Noir which has included the Scandinavian countries, the Baltic Sea area and islands of the North Atlantic.

In real life Iceland's murder rate is practically zero, but these books have killed off a few more than that. Maybe it's the settings or the darkness that comes this time of year that adds to the mystery, I just don't know. It seems that most of the mysteries are in the harshest times, the worst winter storms, or the darkness that pervades in the winter. I digress.

I decided to watch a show that I found called Trapped. It looked interesting and was only about an hour long. I had heard of Baltasar Kormakur, the director, and recognized some of the actors from watching some things on Icelandic Cinema Online. What I didn't realize until the end of the first episode was that there were nine more 50 minute episodes to follow. Too late! I was hooked!

Set in a coastal town in East Iceland in February, The story takes place over about 5 days. A fishing boat coming into the harbor nets a plastic bag with a male torso in it, just after the ferry from Denmark passes by. This is a larger town so it has three police officers who all seem quite competent. However, they will need forensic help from Reykjavik and the police in Reykjavik want to run the investigation. Of course there is a huge blizzard that isolates the town for a few days. This isolation by weather is not unusual for towns in Iceland. This had everything in it, from human trafficking, to revenge, hate, love, mafia, arson, and more murder. It was a nightmare for this sleepy little village and it plays out beautifully. There are subtitles when the characters speak Icelandic or Danish, but there is some English spoken, as well.

The protagonist, Andri, is living with his ex in-laws and his daughters and awaits the arrival of his ex who is coming to visit with her new boyfriend. Andri hasn't let go of her yet, but he must, although his work is very intense and demanding at this time. The majestic mountains that surround the port have their own part to play in this series that had it's debut in Toronto two years ago. It looks like there will be a second season in 2018. Woohoo! I can't wait!

Here's the trailer (I hope).
If you like this kind of thing or if you're willing to give it a try, please do. You won't be disappointed. I watched it all in less than 48 hours. Guess I binged.

And now for something completely different.

If you need a little energy and can get it from a toe tapper. Here is a jig called Tripper's or Tripper's Jig. It is short and intense. Piano on the first part before the fiddle and the rest of the band kick in. It is difficult to sit still for this.