Monthly Archives: December 2017

A Week Gone and Days of Catch-Up, Now It’s -1°F

Monday, December 18th, the roads were clear. There was no snow on the ground, having all long melted away to return us to bare, slightly frozen ground. It was raining as I loaded up the Explorer with Husband’s guitar, computer, “bathroom bag”, washed clothes, food, drink, and miscellany to take him over to his semi-. Snow was coming, though. We’d have it for the Winter Solstice and Christmas, something that seems important to most folks.

Why people love the white stuff — cold, solid water — that, for me, means nothing but expense and hard work, is completely beyond me. But, hey! We live in a nation where the desires of the ‘wanna’s seem to take precedent over the practical and sane. Well, starting Tuesday morning early, probably around 2 A.M., it began coming. And coming. And coming, some more.

We live in a snow belt — a micro-climate — where even a mile south of us, when they get eight inches, we get two and more feet. Our micro-climate is about a mile in diameter, the result of mountains rising west of us within a mile’s walking distance. And, here, in the old growth forest, we have an even more interesting micro-micro-climate. At the end of the drive, there will be a foot on the ground, while at the house, there’s four inches …and that’s in the open spots, where the trees don’t catch the snow on their branches.

It was snow-blower time, and quick, because the stuff was heavy, the temperature hovering right around melting. I’d be lucky if I could get the stuff to blow without constantly having to clear the blades. Neighbor was cussing and fuming — couldn’t blame him — when he called to say, yep, it was deep out there on the county road. He’d meet me out there where we’d tackle it together. And it was still coming down with a vengeance as I headed north in low, low, the only speed that didn’t clog the blades. I felt lucky. At least it would blow.

In North Idaho, when the snow is wet and heavy like this (and, despite what the realtors and the Chamber of Commerce will tell you suckers, dupes, and gulls, it’s like this a lot), all but the highway-sized snow plows get bogged down by it. So do snow blowers, large and small, all the way up to tractor-sized. You want packing snow to build that snow man? Hey, we’ve got it by the ton, easy. You could build a full-sized, working castle with it, it holds together that well …until it rains right after you’ve carved in the last detail, melting it all down to sludge. Then, after the rain, here will come the arctic chill, freezing wheel-rutted slush on driveways and roads into crunchy, unbreakable ridges that slice tire sidewalls. Enjoy that white stuff, city slickers and townies. Meanwhile, we’re out clearing roads and roofs before the next onslaught. And the next onslaught was but an hour away.

Happy to have the driveway, road, and paths cleared, I refilled the fuel tank, cleaned up and checked the machine, then hung soggy, dripping coat, hat, and gloves to dry. I knew there was more coming, but NOAA promised the rest would be but a mere couple of inches.

Wrong.

By the time we were nearing dark — 4PMish — we had another six inches and that was here in the trees. What that boded north at the county road I didn’t want to think about. No sense dealing with it, though, not until daylight. The north wind had picked up, and there wouldn’t be any sense to moving the same snow twice and three times …which is what happens if it’s not an emergency and you’re still set on trying to move snow when it’s blowing sideways.

I laid down with a book for a warm-up snuggle under the afghan, happy that the power hadn’t even flickered — not once.  Fell asleep.

Boom — sound woke me with a start and, except for the snow glow coming in the windows, I’m all in the dark.

Grab flashlight, trundle downstairs. Battery operated clock reads 6:20 P.M.

Now, I trudge out to the road. Yep. Not a light on in sight — nowhere. At least, the power lines aren’t down on my drive or on the county road. That’s a good sign, or so I thought.  But, of course, the gas furnace was out.  (It requires power to run and no amount of argument had ever convinced Dad or Mom to get one that would stay going even when the electricity failed.)  Light the wood stove …before the house temperature drops.

Paper, kindling, and a couple of logs later, and I’ve got the barrel stove going, cats snuggling up, enjoying the toasting.  A check outside shows that, yep, it’s still snowing. No sense fussing. Time to do the power-down routine …which I actually should have done an hour ago, but…

Back upstairs to kill power to everything electric, hitting off switches on the older computers and pulling plugs on newer ones that, even with the back power button off, still stay “lit”. Soundboards …speakers …keyboards …circulation fans — check. Downstairs, and its turn off the furnace, unplug the mega-coffee pot, the cord to the block warmer on the diesel truck …. We do this because we’re near enough a major dam that when the power comes back on, we get a strong enough surge that it can fry everything from the lowly light bulb to stoves, furnaces, refrigerators, freezers, microwaves, engine block heaters, computers…. Kzzt! And that’s WITH surge protection on. (Yes, it blows those big, bulky, super-expensive surge protectors, too, we found out the hard way. Costly lesson, that.)

I finish up night chores, which includes four hours devoted to getting battery-operated aerators going in the fish tanks, then head off to bed after banking the fire so it hopefully lasts until the power comes back on or until morning light, whichever comes first, hopefully the former, thanks. Meanwhile, my cell phone’s message list kept pinging every few minutes — the SO (Sheriff’s Office for those unfamiliar with my shorthand) sending warnings of roads closed due to power lines down.

Morning brought no power, just the daunting task of starting the snow blower by hand. Took me forty-five minutes. Neighbor, who has a smaller one, it only took him twenty, and he’s taller and stronger than me. We met on the road, him telling me that his house was holding at 55°. Mine was holding, with the barrel stove going, at about 68°. We set to blowing the county road and drives, again, both of us worried about what was to come — predicted subarctic temperatures down near the zero mark (…which, by the way, started today). “It’s gonna be a damned cold Christmas if they don’t get those lines fixed. Down all over both counties clear to the Canada border,” he told me.

Great!

The roof man showed up as promised. Before the deep freeze. But, instead of the crew, it was just the boss, surprise, surprise. He did the out-building roofs in under two hours. Happy day. Got that load off before the wet stuff froze down. He always blesses the fact that the main house never has to be cleared. Dad built it that way, foot thick log rafters and a roof so steep you can’t stand up on it without a rope, not an A frame, but a good 12/12 pitch.

It wasn’t until Thursday afternoon that they finally got the power on here. Others weren’t so lucky. They wouldn’t see a return till long past midnight.

Now, most probably think that when the power comes back on, life returns to normal. It doesn’t. There’s the tidying up and cleanup, re-powering-up the house and appliances, making sure that the heat tapes that protect the water lines are still working, and, please don’t forget to plug in the big diesel’s block heater. Right.

I just barely managed to get online Thursday …for about ten minutes. Friday? Sort of. Spent that mostly checking servers and installations. Oh, yeah, and email. OMG. Sifted and sorted that mess, too. So, now it’s Saturday morning, -1°F and, finally, I have a smidge’s worth of time to whine and be grumpy.

Everyone have a great Christmas. While we don’t celebrate it, we do enjoy your ‘joy and merry’ and, especially, the Christmas music!

 

 

 

Morning’s Hot Toasted Buns

I have an author friend who doesn’t wake well.  She doesn’t wake ill, either, but she does wake slightly brain-dead, slightly out-of-sorts, and slightly, only slightly, mind you, miffed by people like me who bound out of bed with a bounce.  She wakes up slow. She wakes up stiff. It’s a back thing. And she deals with it by using a microwavable heating pad applied to her backside, plopping down (gently) to toast herself as she herds her first cup of coffee down her esophagus.

Now, I want you to imagine a woman in her late middle years who’s vivacious, perspicacious, and wry, whose humor is enough to send you into coffee-up-the-nose paroxysms at one of her witticisms once she’s finally gotten herself up to fighting speed. Then, she’ll run rings around those bleary-eyed twenty- and thirty-somethings still suffering the effects of their wild night spent at the rave in the arms of their latest heartthrob, the ones you find desperately hustling their kids off to school and themselves to their day job, their phones in their left hand, their right plying makeup using the rear-view as they careen down the interstate, driving by knee and a curse.

Breakfast for some is a bagel, for others a beer, but for friend Laura Belgrave, morning brings hot, toasted buns.

A Followup on ‘Dawn’s Hands’

The responses have been interesting and mostly positive and supportive. It’s heart-warming when you find out that putting yourself on-the-line, front and center, for public response, nets you a crop of PMs via your website contact forms from people, young and adult, to whom your message holds significance to their own situations.

I think I really had no idea just how much ‘what you look like doing it’ would garner retaliatory remarks from the self-defined ‘beautiful people’ out there, not until we began posting our music videos. I really had no idea how many others had been negatively affected by people responding to their videos.  (People say I don’t get out much, in the real world and on the Net, and, yes, I guess they’re right. 😀 )   Since I posted the “Dawn’s Hands” video and “My Hands” blog post, though, I’ve got a better grasp, I think. These are just a sampling of the positive ones I’ve received via various contact vehicles.

“You answering that flute [expletive removed] has given my daughter new determination to start sharing her flute videos, again. Thank you.”

“I quit posting to [removed] and [removed] because people made fun of me. I still don’t think I will share anymore, but I like that you spoke up for us.”

“I uploaded a video of me playing and it was like I painted hit me on my face. It made me cry. Even my friends sided with them. You made it okay. Thanks for doing that.”

There are a bunch more, but the best, so far, I think, is this one:

“You made me brave again. Maybe it’s okay to be me.”

This comes all because I responded publicly to one of the critical private communications I’ve received about our music videos. I responded because I wanted to address the sheer mean-heartedness. I never wanted to do videos of us playing. That was my husband’s desire. I just enjoyed playing, again. But it all happened. And the Net being what it is, the negativity was bound to come, bringing the desire to retreat back to my safe, text-and-image-only world.

But, why should I be ashamed of me and the parts of me that has brought me success and joy in life? Why should anyone? So I responded, publicly. I wanted it known that, no matter the criticism, nobody, not me, nor anyone else, has to quit just because somebody’s mean. And, on the Net, you can very effectively respond in a way that calls the criticism out without getting into a private flame war and without publicly embarrassing the mean-spirited in front of others. Their anonymity is preserved, but their actions are front and center with public opinion, come what may, to the negative or positive, rendering judgement upon the situation.

I put myself on the line with my My Hands post and its corresponding video, and I’m happy to say that, yes, I think my goal is achieved. That these youngsters as well as the adults who have PM’d to say that my post and video has given them the reinforcement they need to be unashamed of themselves, despite negative feedback, makes it worthwhile.

And, to the person who said, “You’ve got a lot of chutzpah,” yes, I guess I do, and that’s a good thing, I think. 😀

Monday Postponed Till Tuesday in N. Idaho.

Went to bed Sunday night with the Internet sort of on. Internet connectivity has been ‘sort of’ for several weeks, an off and on again experience, sometimes normal, sometimes sludge slow, sometimes not at all, but there. Hey! This is N. Idaho, just a few miles shy of the Canadian border. We’re still on braided copper wire up here. Some folks are lucky if they get 56k (kilobits-per-second) dial-up modem speeds. Remember those?

Monday morning, couldn’t get to anything but Facebook and reddit. (Yes, both of those work at dial-up modem speeds.) A call to Frontier netted me knowledge that the whole area from south of Sandpoint all the way to the Canadian border was out. No estimated time for a fix. (So that’s where all those Frontier trucks were racing off to when I dropped husband at his truck.)

Did I get out my Verizon hotspot? …No. I had things to do in the real world and wanted to wipe my slate clean.

Since Monday was already compromised, the best part of the day spent getting husband off to Canada in his big rig, it was a good day to get real world projects completed. When you can’t work on the Net, it’s a great, even awesome day to spend doing everything you’ve put off for just such an opportune moment.

My old friend Lloyd always warned, “Get your work done before noon, or it don’t get done,” and I’ve always found that to be pretty darned true. I had two hours to get done what needed doing before that noon deadline.

Now, I do as much work as possible via the Net, via the telephone, or, less favored, by old-fashioned USPS mail. Physically having to go to the bank, the lawyer’s, the insurance agent’s, the treasurer’s office… is always a pain-in-the-keister. (For those unfamiliar, ‘keister’ is an old word for ‘buttocks’.) First up, at the top of the list, was the bank, since everything else hinged on that. I needed some more checks — yes, checks — those rectangles of paper upon which you fill in the date, to whom, the amount, both numerically and written out in words, add the account and bill number for which the amount is to be credited on the memo line, then sign. Land taxes are due, and electronic payments are not to be trusted for things so crucial. When it comes to land taxes, I walk my payments in, getting a nice stamp of PAID from the county treasurer’s office.

I parked and hit — quite literally — the door to the bank — locked.

…Frowned.

Went to the other door — the one most people use. (Hey, I never walk the popular trail.) Locked, too, but this one had a notice on it. “Closed. Intenet down. Use ATM for cash.”

WTF?!

A peer into the windows showed bodies, the bank manager standing there wringing her hands — not normal.

…Grumbled. Frowned more, steam building up in my brain as I got back in the car.

Noticed the drive-up window was open and got in line behind a battered old red pick-up.

I recognized the ‘codger’ in the pick-up. Silver-haired and in his eighties, he’s notoriously cantankerous and a self-made multi-millionaire, North Idaho style. He’s a great guy …when you’re not on the wrong side of his temper (kinda like me, only the male variety). As I sat there, he’s pulling out pieces of paper, waving them at the unlucky woman at the drive-up.

I roll down my window. Yep. He’s giving her a piece of his mind, wanting the bank manager (the one standing on the other side of the building, wringing her hands). I keep hearing, “I’m sorry. The Internet is down.”

Other cars — Caddy SUVs, a BMW, a Porsche, another battered Ford PU, a Mercedes… pull in, go through the ATM, then circle the building to pull in line behind me, so many that, as I wait, the string of them curves out of sight around the building. Every one of them, like me, patiently waits for their turn. What’s our beef? BANKS SHOULD NOT CLOSE SIMPLY BECAUSE THE INTERNET GOES DOWN, NOT IN NORTH IDAHO, NOT ANYWHERE!!! Heck, Walmart was open, doing business. So was Home Depot. So, in fact were the Mom and Pop shops. Despite no Internet. (Maybe, like me, they have a back-up system that uses satellite, not wire, no guarantee, but at least it’s something. When that goes down, it’s pen and paper. Got it?)

Want to piss off a bunch of us mostly pretty highly educated, but, likewise, extremely, even cussedly, independent North Idaho ‘yokels’? Deny us access to what is ours, especially our money, for no good reason, and the Internet being out is NOT a good reason, sorry. Your bad.

After finally getting up to ask some very pointed questions of the window woman — no, they don’t keep a local back-up; they can’t even access the banking interface, which is run from the cloud — I drove over and marched into another bank. Their doors were open. They were doing business. I quizzed the friendly girl who offered herself up to my stormy countenance. Yes. They have a locally resident program and a resident backup database, so they can keep going when the Internet goes belly up, a regular happening here.

“Good. I’ll be back.”

It’s going to be a huge hassle, changing banks. We do a lot of direct deposit, but change banks I will. So will a lot of other folks. You want to stay in business? You don’t do it by locking your doors on a business day, and denying people access to their money and your services. For something as critical as banking, you have to have a back-up plan for eventualities or suffer the consequences of our bad attitudes. That’s why you get to use our money. Fail that, and you lose that privilege.

Those Darned Holes!

Dawn's Azumi flute

Hover over the links to learn about them before clicking. The links are all set to open in a new tab or window if on a tablet or PC.

Both the flutes I play, my beloved new Haynes and my Azumi, are what we flutists call ‘open hole’.  Since suffering a broken elbow, one of my ring fingers doesn’t work quite how it used to.  So, for that particular key, I’ve had to resort to using a little silicon plug to fill the hole.  Plugging it brought about a discovery.  First some back history, though.

When I play, due to bad training at the onset of my learning way back when, I have ‘high fingers’.  A lot of flutists do, and it’s all from being started wrong.  I’ve got another problem that is compounded by my high fingers.  I’m indelicate, especially when playing intensely and with enthusiasm for a piece.  Happily immersed, I’m completely unconscious that I’m pounding down the keys with my fingers, fingers which are quite strong and ‘athletic’ from riding horses since before I could ride a tricycle, from mucking stalls, hefting heavy hay bales, and all the other associated physical labor that goes along with girls and horses, fences and barns.  That pounding of the keys wasn’t noticeable when I was playing classically, either solo or in an orchestra.  We never used microphones or amplification, so the sound didn’t carry out to the audience.

Enter husband Forrest who brings things like condenser microphones into my life.  Touchy, sensitive, can-hear-an-ant-walk-across-the-floor torture devices, condenser mics pick up everything(Please don’t sneeze, cough, or laugh, or you’ll blow the mic’s diaphragm, rendering this very expensive and intimidating piece of equipment to the trash bin.)  It didn’t matter if it was the huge monster mic that hangs suspended in its grotesque-looking mount or the tiny one on my headset hovering by my cheek.  Both picked up every touch of hand, breath, and finger on the flute, every shift of a sheet of music.  If I shifted my hand, it came through like a desperate grab for survival.  When I inhaled through my nose and my mouth, something we do to get as much air into our lungs as fast as possible, it sounded like a dragon sniffing out dinner, while inhaling just through my mouth produced a slightly better result — a gryphon readying to roar.  (We went with inhaling by mouth as preferable, though that significantly reduces the amount of air I can pull in the nanosecond usually allotted me by rock music.)  The fingers?  There seemed no hope for those, unless I really, really concentrated on finger technique instead of playing music, and, as any musician knows, no performance goes well if you’re not letting go every inhibition to ‘let it happen’.

But, listening, I noticed that one key wasn’t popping …or, should I say, wasn’t popping as much — the plugged hole.

Hmmm.  Time to experiment.

Plug the rest of the open holes.  …And, what do you know!  The popping was cut in half, a great improvement.

‘French’, or open holed, flutes have their advantages, especially up in the flute’s fourth register (piccolo territory).  It’s a register only used in obscure pieces that nobody much ever listens to or plays, unless in a flute competition or for a special performance featuring a composer’s works.  Of course, open holes do have other uses, as well.  They allow one to play a flutist’s version of chords, bend notes, and play quarter tones …among other abstract uses.  For standard playing, however, plateau flutes, that is, flutes which don’t have open hole keys, work just fine, and, despite opinion to the contrary, don’t negatively affect tone quality and resonance, at least not to any but the most infinitesimal degree, if that.  Plugging up the holes wouldn’t matter for most of what I’m asked to play now.

My experiment and opinion aside, the real test came when we had our next recording session.  And, sure enough, though my right hand’s index and, especially, my middle finger still smacked the keys with such vigor that, thanks to the condenser mic, you’d think somebody was popping bubble-wrap during the session, the sound was much, much quieter.  Darn.  If only I’d known before we started laying down tracks long months ago.

My Hands

I received a really hurtful email this morning. It was from a fellow flutist who said, and I quote:

“You have really ugly hands. Maybe you shouldn’t video yourself playing flute. Or doing anything. Its [sic] no fun to watch. Ever think about getting your nails done? Try some lotion, too.”

Well, to that, here’s my response …though I neglected to mention in the video, an expert equestrian’s hands:

For those who can’t hear, here’s a transcript of what I say:

“People comment about my hands. The brave ask about them, the concerned and well-intentioned offering me bottles of flowery-smelling lotion, presenting me gift certificates for a manicure and nail job, bringing me ointments and salves. It’s true, I don’t have elegant hands. I’ve got working hands. These hands play flute and piano, type 120 words per minute, move heavy objects, in short, do a lot of hard, physical labor. They’ve moved tons of hay and grain, dug post holes, strung barbed wire, carried wood and water. These are a martial artist’s hands, a musician’s hands, a swordwoman’s hands. They ain’t pretty, but I love them.”