All posts by erik

The Wasp Homewrecker

So here’s something a little different. On Saturday I decided I really needed to borrow Jack’s framing nailer to do what I had hoped would be the quick roof fixin’ job that I rambled on about last entry. I called and asked if he was using his nail gun as he’s on a home addition project of his own. He said it didn’t look like he was going to be using it, so I ran up to Bountiful and picked it up.

Along the way I made what was probably a somewhat ill-advised stop to take a look at the pile of rubble where my studio was.

It was kind of heart-wrenching, even knowing what was coming, but I don’t really want to think about it tonight.

Anyway, I got back home and made a sandwich just in time for Jack to call and see how long I thought I’d be needing the nailer as his contractor had shown up and was looking on getting to work. Fortunately I had already cut all the pieces I needed for my repair on the roof and just needed to whack them into place. I told him to come on down to get it and I’d be done by the time he got to my house. It worked out pretty good, except for having to have us both make a trip out of our way on what was a heavy traffic morning.

In a way it makes me want to have my own framing nail gun, but Jack and I have kind of a pooled resource of tools. My pool isn’t so big, but I have a metal bandsaw that lives at Jacks, and his MIG welder has been at my house for several years. It works out well, because nobody has room for all the tools they need, and even less time to put most of them to work. It just happened this day the gun was in high demand.

I was taking a break from the heat, I guess I’m supposed to avoid it for the MS thing, but I’m finding it hard to not be outside in the half of the year I find tolerable. Jack and I have serious that-reminds-me issues that can be near interminable. Along with never having enough time for tools, time for conversations is usually at a premium. As the conversation stretched out we sat on my porch and Jack noticed a wasp flying into the small tubes of a wind chime over my head carrying a dried blade of grass. It would go in from the top, and right away the blade would sail out of the bottom and land on me. Earlier I had noticed a pile of grass building up on the porch, but hadn’t thought about where it was coming from.

The little builder came and went for quite awhile. Occasionally I would reach up and ring the chime and cowardly duck down fearing the worst, yet too lazy to actually move. Finally she brought a big curly piece of grass that managed to jam in the tube. I decided this was a bad sign and slothed into action taking hold of the wind chime and attempted to loose it from it’s stay. The ring from which it hung caught repeatedly on the bent eyelet. For several seconds I became increasingly agitated and worried as the ring flopped back and forth and stick on the mouth of the hook and I was really starting to fear a serious amount of stinging was headed my way. Twice I almost just gave up and ran for my life, but in the nick of time the whole thing came free the chimes jangling like an alarm, and I hurled it off the porch to the middle of the lawn. I confess I laughed a bit sheepishly at my own antics, and we continued our one more thing goodbye a bit longer. When Jack left I retrieved the chime and thought I’d put it in the garage for the rest of the season. As I was walking back to the studio I peeked in one of the chime tubes. I couldn’t see through it. I checked the others and three of the tubes had already become nurseries for the little beasties. Half of them were filled with nests and larvae.

I took a stick and cleared them out, but it was no easy task. The grass was all bound up in what looked like a web. I’m going to have to read up on wasps to see how it’s actually done. I’m a little afraid the wasps might be part spider. Part of me is always kind of sad to interrupt most of natures cycles, unless it involves cockroaches or yellowjackets. Those bugs get no quarter.

Fretting the Night Away

Accepting limitations has never been one of my strengths. Here I am stuck wanting and needing to do things and not being able to for multiple reasons. And this isn’t different than any other time in my life, but like ever before, it seems like such a cop out. It’s like I can feel my potential and opportunities slipping away while I kill time waiting for conditions to be better.
 
And given my nature to be introspective, I kind of feel the need to write about it, but I also feel that my writing has become self-indulgent and melancholy. So I avoid writing, or at least writing and sharing. And I found out long ago that writing and then archiving/deleting isn’t as helpful as sharing. It’s almost like I need to let my ideas go out into the world instead of into a cage to experience any kind of growth.
I’ve probably mentioned this before, but my friend Anita recommended a book to me called, “Where’d You Go Bernadette?” by Maria Semple (and soon to be a feature film). In the book Bernadette is a creative person who suffers when she stifles her creativity. I enjoyed it very much and I can see parallels in some of my experiences. Right now I really want to make something, and I have several ideas for projects, as well as a need to get some pottery made for the post-Thanksgiving sale I do every November. My studio is in a shambles, though, and 95° in the studio is too oppressive to be doing anything. I have some slabs rolled out for carving, but they’re quickly passing the point where they’re too dry for what I want, and I just haven’t been in the frame of mind to babysit them.
In the meantime I’ve been listening to Adam Savage’s podcast on youtube in the evenings when I’m wasting time. It’s called “Still Untitled”  and is one of the most interesting podcasts I’ve found. He inspires me in a lot of ways, and I just watched one episode where they spent most of the podcast talking about the enjoyment they get from watching other makers videos on youtube. I felt inspired that I ought to be putting more video out for some of the stuff I do, but quickly began to shoot myself down. I don’t have any real special knowledge, or insight, but I have worked pretty hard to develop a certain level of skill that is not inconsequential. The idea of making videos just seems self indulgent, or at least it seems sort of meta self indulgent as I don’t really seek any sort of fame or adulation. I just agree with Adam in that it’s fun to watch.  I’ve played with making pottery videos before putting a couple of live things up on Facebook for fun, and I’ve been told by people that I ought to produce something a little more polished and less ephemeral than a Facebook post.
But it’s not just the pottery, I kinda-sorta document lots of stuff I do, but only halfheartedly, so I end up with lots of pictures in a folder.  And necessarily, some of the stuff I end up documenting, more in writing than anything else, is about the things that I go through in trying to maintain a somewhat corporeal existence. The whole convergence in this particular rambling train of thought brings me to my most recent health development. It looks like the reason, at least in part, that I’ve felt pretty crappy these last few years is that I’ve been ignorantly trying to deal with symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis.
I got the diagnosis when my physical therapist sent me in for a MRI to look at the arterial blood flow to my brain because she thought that my weird dizziness might be restricted blood flow. The results came back negative on any blood flow problems, but positive for signs of a demyelinating disease, most likely MS. Since then I’ve had a lot of tests, including a spinal tap (surprisingly easy, and now I go to 11). I guess it’s going to take some time to figure out how I’m affected by what’s going on, but it’s already starting to answer a lot of questions about things, some of them going back quite awhile. Although there is some confusion for me in that if this has been a long term thing how was I in a state of remission enough when I was having the scans 5-10 years ago when I had cancer that it didn’t show up on my scans then? I guess I’ve always been lucky.
As is my nature, I guess, I’ve been trying to keep track of the day-to-day issues that might be related to MS, just to get a baseline. I’ve tried out a couple of mobile device apps, but haven’t found one I’ve liked yet. I also have given a shot to doing it somewhat tediously though Evernote, but that is seeming less than optimal after two weeks. I almost considered just carrying around a small log book, which has some classical romantic interest for me, but I am a digital child and I can see the handwritten notes falling by the wayside, or at least becoming less useful, as I like to grep for things.
Bringing this around full circle (maybe for the second lap), while I was reflecting on when I can remember issues starting I thought back to last fall when I was doing one of the Facebook live videos and was having some trouble throwing a largish vase. I dug the vid back up and found the part where I had a significant hand tremor that I hadn’t had an issue with when throwing before. I remember it because at the time I couldn’t believe that I was that out of shape that throwing a couple pots had worn me out.
 My physical therapist pointed out that the tremors are, indeed, MS symptoms, and that I need to stop doing what I’m doing when they happen and not push myself. That’s going to be very hard. I have a lot of time sensitive projects on my hands that require quite a bit of physical activity. Already I’ve gotten behind while trying to sort of take it easy as I seem to be in the middle of a fairly lengthy exacerbation. I have a hard time asking for help, and today when trying to tackle a problem that absolutely needed to be completed by sundown it was looking like I was cutting it close. Debbie, without my knowledge, called our friend Jake and asked him to come help, which he did immediately. With his assistance I finished working on the garage roof with daylight to spare. I hate to bother people, and maybe this is a lesson I really (finally) need to learn.

The Summer of Star Wars

I wanted to add my voice commemorating the release of Star Wars, one of the single biggest events to have an impact in my life. I also wanted to delay this posting past the 5-25-77 milestone because in 1977 I was just approaching 10 years old, and there was quite a bit of discussion as to whether I would be allowed to see the movie. You see, this movie was rated ‘PG’ and I hadn’t ever been witness to the horrors of anything outside the ‘G’ rating.

I wasn’t taken to see the movie until after most of my friends had seen it a few times. In fact, I don’t believe I saw the film until late in July or early August, but my memory on this is hazy. I also don’t remember how I came to be aware of Star Wars, I just know that at some point I became obsessed. I read everything I could get my hands on about it. I distinctly remember picking up the Readers Digest that had Star Wars on the cover and reading everything it had to say about it with great relish. I knew the whole story before I ever saw it. It seemed that hardly a day went by that there wasn’t some sort of avid discussion somewhere in the neighborhood about hyperspace and light sabers. This was in the time before SPOILERS and we didn’t care.  I remember telling my parents that there was only a little blood in one scene where a walrus guy gets his arm cut off, but they don’t show the arm getting cut off, just laying on the floor. I’m not sure how this was supposed to help my argument. I’m sure my parents knew as much about the film as I did*, but they never gave me much reason to believe I was going to get to see the movie.

When the day finally came we went to the only place that it was playing locally, the Center Theater downtown. I couldn’t believe the size of the screen and how many people would fit in the audience. When we first see Princess Leia’s ship pass from overhead followed by Darth Vader’s Star Destroyer that just kept stretching on and on and on I was in total heaven. I had been a space nut ever since the NASA Apollo missions I watched as a wee tyke, and now it felt like I was really out there.

So many of my memories of the movie are still so vivid. I remember being really scared of Darth Vader as he strode about the wreckage of the opening battle and being afraid for Princess Leia as the floating interrogation droid floated into her cell. C3PO and R2-D2 falling away from the rebel ship in the escape pod is etched into my mind and the trading card of their pod falling towards Tatooine was always one of my favorites. The Millennium Falcon was the coolest spaceship I’d ever seen, easily supplanting the Space 1999 Eagle in my mind, but the TIE fighters were the ones that I really wanted to fly myself.

I’m sure it was the impressionable age at which I saw the film that cemented it as the high point of cinema for me as it did for many kids. It doesn’t really hold up to close inspection, as a magnificent film, but it is, still, probably the movie I’ve seen more than any other. The feeling that, just maybe, something could spirit me away from my dreary existence in a moment and catapult me into my destiny like Luke was a staple of my fantasies for so long. I spent hours explaining what was going on to a robotic figment of my imagination when I was trying to figure things out, although it was a cool robot like R2-D2, and most certainly not C3PO.

For some reason the subsequent movies** never really did much for me. I don’t know if it was because they couldn’t live up to the first-time experience of Star Wars, or if by the time the sequels rolled around I was so steeped in science fiction ala Battlestar Galactica, or Buck Rogers that my universe was getting crowded. I only just added Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi to my collection this year.*** They have some nice parts, but they just can’t match what I imagine was that particular Saturday afternoon in mid-to-late summer 1977.
* well, maybe not as much, but a reasonable amount.
** until Rogue One, but that’s another story
*** again, another story

The Songs hit Home

Sheryl Crow’s has been one of my favorite artists quite for some time. Much of her music really moves me and the lyrics are often spot on with feelings I have. She hits that connection I don’t often get  where I feel an artist is accurately expressing things I’ve experienced. The Red Hot Chili Peppers do it with “Soul to Squeeze”. Garbage does it with “Medication” on the 2.0 album. But Sheryl Crow knocks it down more often than any other single artist.

Unsurprisingly, songs that strike me are mostly explorations on feelings and usually have somewhat of a melancholy tone. A couple of Saturdays ago while going to finish firing the last kiln in Bountiful I was set for a moody song and iTunes obliged me as dawn was breaking over the mountains by serving up Sheryl Crow’s “Good is Good”. This is an odd one for me in that so many of the lines really score:

When your friends are gone
You thought were so worth keeping
You feel you don’t belong
And you don’t know why

and

She put your books out on the sidewalk
Now they’re blowing ’round
They won’t help you when you’re down

The one issue I’ve had with this particular song ever since the first time I heard it is with the part of the chorus that goes:

And everytime you hear the rolling thunder
You turn around before the lightening strikes

And the fact that lightning proceeds the thunder kind of grates on me, and I feel that it’s kind of the heart of the song. I’ve spent a long time thinking about it and I believe that I’m just being too literal. Maybe you turn away from the storm as it starts and avoid closer lightning. Maybe it’s just a song and I shouldn’t pick at nits. But that morning driving along the freeway, for the first time, the unordered sequence didn’t seem to matter and I just soaked up the rest of the chorus.

And does it ever make you stop and wonder
If all your good times pass you by

The video for Good is Good

The Tale of the Ugly Pot

ugly_sm

Once upon a time somebody didn’t listen to the instructions on how to make a pinch pot. They further didn’t listen to the suggestions on what needed to be done to make it eligible to be worthy of being graded, much less fired. This pot ended up on the reject shelf and abandoned by it’s student creator. It failed on so many levels it was kept around for a couple semesters as an anonymous example of what not to do. One day I thought it would be funny to scratch my name into the bottom of this weighty clay monstrosity. Eventually one semester I was helping with a new class of students learning beginning hand-built pottery. As it happened this more-than-humble-pot was being used as an example and Diane, the instructor, said, “I don’t even know who made this pot,” and glanced at the bottom. She immediately looked at me with a stern look, and exclaimed, “You did not make this pot!”

This got a good laugh from the class.

After a few more semesters went by John, Diane’s husband and the wheel throwing instructor at the time, became concerned that people might see this pot on the shelves and not realize that it was a warning and not an ideal, so the pot was decorated with a marker to warn people that this was not to be emulated.

Now this was in the long, long ago, and more than a decade has gone by. The pot is no longer used as an example of what not to do, but simply stayed on a little corner of a shelf with the visible warning. Today, as the last of the remaining ware was being disposed of, Diane brought this pot to me and said that she thought I should have it.

I wonder how long it will clutter my studio before it meets an apt ending.

Smooth Sailing Just Over the Horizon

Today was my last firing of the last kiln load at the Stoker School, the ceramics studio at the Bountiful extension of the University of Utah. It was mostly my work with some of Chuck’s large pieces. His last work, too. I’ve been there more than 20 years, learning and helping teach beginning students along the way. I’ve written about it before, and I’ll probably mention it a few more times. It had a real, and significant, effect on my life.

Before sunrise, with pink clouds and a stiff East wind, I drove the automatic path I’ve worn into I-15. I was mentally cataloging all the ‘havetas’ that are coming sown the pipeline. Summer has, for a couple decades, given me an extra evening as I don’t often help with classes in the summer. I started thinking about the things I might be able to get done with an extra night a week with no responsibilities at the studio. No more, ever. I started to think of adult life as being a juggler. You start off by keeping two objects in the air at once. Then three, and maybe a fourth. Then someone tosses you an egg, or maybe a live mouse. You begin to sweat it a bit. The stress goes up, but just when you are getting the hang of it, or maybe successfully tossing the egg of to an audience member someone throws you a running chainsaw.

I’m always looking at the horizon. The place where I can see the opportunity to hand off the mouse and maybe catch a ball on one foot things will get easy. After Christmas, once we get the party behind us, when class finishes, then! But the holidays go by and when you’re finishing washing the dishes after the reunion and are ready to breathe that sigh of relief, something else appears at the skyline approaching with purpose.

Adult life is just taking these new things and thinking, well, it’s a plate spinning on a stick, but if I put it on my chin I can probably still keep these balls floating on, and it will be a good show. There really isn’t any end to it, or even much respite. But seriously, if we think about it, there are probably a few spinning plates that if you go goggle-eyed, shake your head, and mug for the audience, nobody would think ill of you. You might even get a laugh.

Of course, you don’t get to defer choosing everything that comes your way. Sometimes you have to take the chainsaw, sometimes you even have to drop the egg to do it. But I believe you should always try to do it in a way that gets a laugh from the audience .

Vacation Arrival

Greetings from Arizona. I’m trying something new, so this should be a short one. Debbie, Kayla, and I thought we would take a week and come down to Phoenix to attend her brothers wedding, and make a vacation of it sitting by the pool relaxing and not doing much for the rest of the week in one of our resort vacation places.  We’ve talked about taking relaxing vacations before, but we always end up cramming so much in that there isn’t usually much relaxing going on.

I had the brilliant idea that I should take along my wireless keyboard and try to do some writing on the iPad (that I’m using now) as I’m without an actual laptop at this time. It was a good idea for a test, but it never made it into my bag. So far writing isn’t too bad hunt-and-peck style, but it is slow. I’ve got a new idea burning through my mind and I’d like to have some time to start in on it when I don’t have the usual distractions and duties that seem to so easily pull me away from accomplishing anything.  I may have to bust out Monday and see what I can find locally, but I’m afraid I’ll end up with a chromebook.*

The trip down was nice, we took the scenic route down through Kanab, and stopped in at the Glen Canyon Dam visitors center.** We had some good Mexican food for lunch in Paige and pushed on through to Phoenix. In all it was about an 11 hour trip. It’s the first road test of the new vehicle, and I was pretty pleased, but I’m obsessing a bit much over the predicted milage and mpg calculations on the dash. *** Upon arrival, and after checking in at the hotel we had to meet up with my brother-in-law and make some wedding assistance arrangements. We finally got back to the condo around 10:00 tired and hungry having had no time for dinner. It was way too late for me to eat and still be able to sleep, and deciding I wanted sleep more than anything I finally got to bed.

There is a bird in Phoenix that sounds like a cross between a rooster and a howler monkey . Actually, there seems to be a lot of them. Either that or they vacation in the same place I do. In any case they woke me up early. I stubbornly kept going back to sleep until rather late in the morning, but was still pretty punked when it came time to leave for the wedding and I’d not managed to get anything to eat, either.

The wedding was nice, as far as this introvert could see, and people seemed to be having a good time. I survived  enough for the time of sustenance to arrive and had a good dinner. Shortly after eating I got up to go outside to get away from the noise and see what my wife was up to. On the way, a man I hadn’t met who was either with the bride’s party, or with the reception hall, stopped me to ask if I was ok. He said he’d noticed me kind of withdrawn earlier with my head hanging down. In truth, I was probably just surreptitiously checking my phone, but I was kind of out of it, and I think I give off that vibe when I’m in a crowd.

I was really struck by his  kindness and concern. When I notice similar circumstances I find it very hard to make that kind of inquiry, mostly, I think, it’s more of a fear of prying in on someone’s personal space than anything else, but I don’t think I really should be afraid of that. I didn’t particularly want to be bothered, but I stopped and tried to let him know it had just been a long couple of days. Given my insular nature, I’m not sure if I can really change, but I’d like to give it a try.

*which wouldn’t be bad, I want one, I just don’t need one, really.

** Sparking the inevitable “Those Dam <something related to the reservoir>” jokes

*** 24 mpg-ish at 65mph. 21 at 83mph

Movie Mosts

In an effort to put off any real writing creativity, I give you a social media movie survey. In some cases 2nd favorites got listed to avoid duplicates that fit better in other categories.

Most Hated Movie: Barton Fink
Movie I Think Is Overrated: Avatar
Movie I Think Is Underrated: 3:10 to Yuma (2007)
Movie I Love: Mad Max: Fury Road
Movie I Secretly Love: None, I’ll openly profess my love
Favorite Action Movie: Aliens
Favorite Christmas Movie: Die Hard
Favorite Drama Movie: Stranger Than Fiction
Favorite Western Movie: El Dorado
Favorite Horror Movie: The Changeling
Favorite Comedy Movie: Monty Pythons Life of Brian
Favorite Disney Movie: Rogue One (it counts as Disney, right?)
Favorite Science Fiction Movie: Blade Runner
Favorite Animated Movie: Lilo and Stitch
Favorite Superhero Movie: Captain America: Winter Soldier
Favorite Musical: Paint Your Wagon
Favorite Bad Movie: Mad Dog Time
Childhood Favorite: Star Wars
Favorite Franchise: The Marvel Universe movies
Best Trilogy: The Matrix (yes, I’m one of them…)
Guilty Pleasure: Streets of Fire
Favorite Movie This Year So Far:  Moana
Movie I Have Recently Seen: Lady in Gold
What I Thought of It: Very nice, but disheartening in its current cultural relevance.
Favorite Movie of All Time: Casablanca, I know it seems cliché to say, but it is my favorite movie.

Spring, when a man’s heart turns to his shop…

shop

It’s warming up outside and I’ve ventured into my studio for a couple times recently. This weekend I may even turn the water back on. I doubt it will freeze hard enough to have to worry about the pipes. At least not enough to worry hard. I’ve had ideas festering all winter long about what I need to do. I’ve been cursing myself since I ‘moved in’ that I didn’t epoxy the floor before I got started. I think I can move everything out of the back third and at least do the floor on the ceramics end before production starts this spring. That’s the goal at least. But there’s other things, too. My sink is too big and wastes a lot of space. I’m going to sell it on KSL and downgrade to something more reasonable. I’m probably going to get rid of the table my drill press is on and put three or four tools in that place that mostly live on shelves. There’s too many ideas.

Part of the excessive ideas problem is I’ve been spending a lot of time binge watching Adam Savage videos on YouTube. This particular one was motivating/damaging me towards a bigger restructuring of the studio space.

I like the idea of not sorting through drawers for tools, and building something like this would probably let me get rid of a couple of tool boxes, including a big standing one so there would be a net gain in space. Except, maybe, for the fact that it would inspire me to collect more tools to fill it up.

I’m also downgrading my sink from the huge stainless monstrosity that seems to have the primary function of collecting dead wasps and spiders to a ringer washer that came with the house. I admit that part of the force behind the change is to see if I can make the ringer work.

The real crux of this movement came when I realized I probably had one work table too many. I have the big welded steel wedging table I made with a top of 300 pounds of canvas covered plaster that would probably do me as a main table, but that leaves me with the task of getting rid of the lighter work table. And that work table was given to me by one of my mentors, John Shaw. And so I’m emotionally attached to the table. I know I’m attached. I know he was throwing it out when he gave it to me as a struggling student living in a crappy little apartment. I know I had to cut down two of the legs an inch to get it into the room in my apartment, and that it still sits on the cut off stumps to keep it nearly level. It was hard enough to get rid of the old, tattered canvas that used to top it. The one where John wrote, “Erik owns me now” in black sharpie marker and told me to take it home.

I’m really not very sentimental, so I don’t know why I’m that attached. Maybe it’s because our old studio in Bountiful is months away from getting torn down. Maybe it’s because I know that I’m not very good at keeping up relationships and without the studio as an excuse I might very well be able to count the times I see John again on my fingers. That really bothers me, and so far I really don’t have any answers.

A Windmill in Every Pot at which to Tilt

I have to confess, I do occasionally laugh at some of the ‘tiny hands’ Trump jokes, but it is simply the same body shaming method that so often is derided here on social media and in other circles. If you’re against ridiculing people for such things you ought to be against making/sharing those jokes despite the fact that you dislike the policies or practices of the Donald. The real reason this joke persists, though, is that he finds them offensive enough to have tried to counter perceived insults in the past, empowering his ridiculer’s with ammunition to continue.
Now, I also have small hands, but I see it as a benefit for a lot of the things I do. I can more easily create smaller pieces of pottery and manipulate more delicate tools. I always find gloves in my size. Because I am aware of this (actual) fact I can laugh at things that I find difficult because of their size. I’ll never play the guitar or piano easily, I just can’t reach because of my insignificant digits. My feelings about my tiny hands empowers nobody but me.
The insecurities of our newly minted president will be a valid issue throughout his term. I believe he doesn’t have what it takes in several areas to be an effective or even adequate leader. I also believe that the issues he has with his insecurity are already proving to be a rather large handicap. I am a firm believer in equality for all people. That includes pompous celebrities as well as the every man. I believe that we should “do unto others” and I believe that acting civil can give you the higher ground, or at least not drop you down to a baser level. The people that used epithets like “Obummer” instead of our previous president’s name immediately dropped any argument they made from getting my serious consideration. I think a similar level of discourse towards Trump has the same effect on me.
I do not believe that the manner in which Donald Trump presents himself and his public behaviour has earned him any respect from me. His name is one of many on my list of people who show themselves as undeserving of admiration. Until he does something worthy of my respect I will not be supporting those actions which I see as being detrimental to us as citizens, or to the well being of our country, and to the security of mankind in the world. I do have respect for the office of The President of the United States, but that doesn’t automatically flow to the person holding the office, and until such time as the occupant of that office makes positive change I will stand with those who demand change.