Friday, January 27, 2012

Pollo con Espinacas y Queso

Chicken with spinach and cheese is a quick delicious dinner. I cut up some onion and a piece of rotisserie  chicken then put them in a skillet with a little butter or oil. Cover and cook for five minutes or so. When the onion is tender and starting to brown stuff as much baby spinach into the skillet as you can and put the lid back on.After a minute or two toss the spinach with some tongs and put the cover on until the spinach is all wilted. Remove from heat and sprinkle a little cheese on top.Cover while you find a plate and the cheese will melt before you get back.Season to taste and enjoy.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Thankless Task

Dear Readers,
What follows is a draft of a letter or op ed piece I am working on. I would love to have your comments, thoughts, and additions.

Every organization I have ever belonged to has the same problem. Not enough volunteers to hold club offices, chair events and and do the hands on grunt work that keeps a group running. The same 10 to 20% of the group are always the only people that will commit to doing anything and they are tired and on the verge of burnout. Why is this so pervasive and what do we do about it?

Expectations guide our choices.The basis of behavioral science is that people tend to repeat tasks that are pleasurable and avoid those that are unpleasant. If we hear people talking about how difficult their job is and saying they will never do it again,we choose not to put ourselves in their shoes.If we do something once and don't enjoy it or don't feel needed and included, we don't repeat it. If we hear people talking about how much fun they have, we are inclined to join them.If we know other members are inflexible we may not wish to work with them.

Uncertainty keeps people on the sidelines. What will the duties be and how much time will it take are questions that need to be answered up front. How many meetings and how far from home are they? Are the requirements streamlined and actually necessary or are they just the way things were done last year? How married are we to the way things have been done before? What features of the event are actually written in stone and which ones are flexible?

Will volunteers actually have responsibility or will every decision they make be reviewed and debated ? In most cases a board needs to know if an event is on time, on budget, and if there are unmet needs. They don't need to know what color the tablecloths will be and how that was decided. Meetings should have agendas based on these simple standards that actually delegate decisions and accept that committees can change things to suit their best judgement. This would cut meeting times considerably.

Everyone needs to recognize that events planned and executed by volunteers will never be perfect and that you can't have everything the way you want it. Accept that people are tired and stressed and may act that way. What really makes a  task thankless is people that don't remember to say thanks to the folks who do the work. If what they did was not all you thought it could have been, thank them anyway, they showed up and made the effort.

Finally, we all need to lighten up and relax a little. We generally join with groups of like minded people to have fun, not to pad our resume or prepare to run for office. If things stop being fun we need to make them fun again or stop doing them. Like voting, if you don't volunteer don't complain about those who do.

Saturday, January 21, 2012


In the last week I have seen posts like" Why I Blog" and  "Because I Blog" and numerous insightful comments from readers across the globe. I feel that these topics have been pretty well covered and will try to confine my response to " Why You Should Blog".

You can be anyone you want. In reality, I am 35, slim, rich and irresistible to women. This persona of a 61 year old overweight balding guy is just to keep the groupies away. Those beautiful pottery shots? You can just cut and paste from the web. Who would know? Want some respect? Just talk about the great sales you have at shows . Sympathy and advice? Tell everyone you don't sell anything. Artsy elite? Just say you would never think of selling anything until after your death.Simple simple simple and you know it's true.

Since I have been doing this I have become friends with a couple of potters from the U.K. who seemingly raid museums at night and take pictures of pots to post on the web and claim as their own. There is a potter in North Carolina who posts video and audio clips of her "daughter" singing and playing guitar. I know nobody's kid could sound that good. Must be a download from some star's web site. No other explanation.There is a woman near Asheville who makes hundreds of test tiles, shares the "results" then cooks a gourmet dinner. Would anyone really do that? There is a woman who supposedly came from Australia to go to the same workshop 3 times in the States and take pictures to share for free on her blog. Unbelievable! She's probably from Pittsburgh. These are the kind of realities you can create if you have a blog.

That's one version. Another version is that if you blog you will inevitably meet the most generous amazingly talented people you will ever know. Some you will eventually get to know in person. Some will remain pen pals. All will add to the richness of your life. I have met people from all over the world through our little online community. I love to open up my comments and find one in Portuguese or Spanish. You will become part of a community that openly shares their hopes, dreams, joys and disappointments. You will have help solving what ever problem is on your front burner, be it pottery, kids, or a recipe. Every now and then, you might even vent a little bit about what bugs you or rant about the government. It's ok. If you are not sure you want to dive in head first, you can start joining in the conversation by clicking on the word "comments" at the end of this post and adding your 2 cents. As always, thanks for stopping by.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Rare Sighting

Over the weekend I saw something I had not seen in a long time and many potter's may never see in a lifetime.It was fleeting and I was afraid I would not get back with the camera before it vanished.I made it in the nick of time.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Back to the Studio

I am glad to report that I have a little pottery news to report for a change. Thank goodness. I was about one post away from a web cam and a harmonica. My friend Mike had invited some of us to put a few pots into his gas kiln last week. Well, I've heard you can never have too much Shino so I stuck to Shino with Iron Oxide sprinkled on. I have also begun spritzing the iron with water after sprinkling it on from a big salt shaker. The water seemed to help it stick and run a little. I like the results.

I also have been making a supply of bisque fired bowls. they are a little bigger and a lot rounder than last years design but would still bake an individual casserole or a dessert for two. Ok make that the other way around. I know you like dessert better than casserole.

Finally, I heard that potters in Australia actually clean their wheels. That was just too much to consider but I did clean off a table this week. I don't expect it to last so I took a picture.

Friday, January 13, 2012

What's Bugging You?

I'll tell you what's been bugging me. Stupidity!  No not my own( I've come to grips with that), otherwise normal people who come up with things that defy logic.  I went to Lowe's last week and they were selling camouflage tape measures. REALLY???  I can't find the chrome one or the orange one when I need them. Camo? Whose idea was that?

Even worse, tire balancing. Everyone who has bought a tire has had to pay extra to have it balanced. Even if the dealer said it was "included" you paid for it they just didn't give you a chance to refuse it. Now I'm not saying that tires do not need to be in balance, I'm saying we should not have to pay for it. With a new tire, there are only two possibilities. either the auto manufacturer cannot make a wheel that is balanced or the tire manufacturer can't make a tire that is balanced. No other options but every time you buy a tire, you pay extra to fix someones manufacturing defect. How does that make you feel?

Then there is Rachael from cardholder services who keeps calling about my current credit card. Do enough people fall for that crap to keep the robocalls coming or do they just do it to piss me off. If so it's working.

With the advent of winter let's not forget those people who drive their Cadillacs 40 MPH on the interstate then stop at the green light at the end of the off ramp. Ok, some drive Buicks but you know who I'm talking about.We might as well include those hardworking folks who report the winter weather on TV. They feel that they have to turn every snowflake into an impending disaster to justify all that money they spent on Doppler radar. I like to know if it's going to snow as much as the next guy but it's news, not drama. Just ease up a little.

Just to add a little balance, there is one group of guys who never let me down. I would like to thank the Cincinnati Bengals for once again making sure that my Sunday afternoons are free during January. It looked like they might advance in the playoffs but they came to their senses at halftime and became their old selves in the second half. Thanks guys you saved me many wasted hours this month.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Update and Quick Tip

I am throwing out (better than up) a couple of short things here because I have been at a loss for anything clever or interesting to say. It has been over a week since I posted about the land situation in East Tennessee so I'll start there. First a big thanks to Roger Jones, Mapping Supervisor for the State of Tennessee. I had spent a lot of time on the phone with him right after Christmas discussing our property's location. Roger sent me a huge set of aerial photos with parcel maps drawn on them for most of Scott county.He also included copies of the private acts of the State Legislature from 1850 to 1900. These acts essentially are modifications to county lines to include all of a landowners property in one county instead of two or three. I had asked for these because I had seen somewhere that my great grandfather Calvin  had received a private act but I could not find the details. Well, these documents show that in 1898 he had a modification done that moved the county line  from the big rock by the dogwood tree 1/2 mile due west to a stake and then  3/4 mile south west to rejoin the county line. There is still work to do but this may be the Rosetta Stone to figuring out how all 4 deeds fit together. The current maps don't show this deviation but it does explain how our Campbell County deeds look like they are in Scott County . Also that big rock in the county line shows up on 3 of our deeds and one of the neighbors deeds. The mystery starts to unravel.

OK here is a quick simple money saver. We all own bats to throw our pots on. Most of us own at least some black Plastibats. Like all bats, eventually the holes wear and the bat wobbles on the wheel.When this happens, clamp a newer plastibat to the worn one and use the holes in the new bat as a template to drill new holes in the old bat. Mark the new holes with some white paint or scratch a big X over the old ones. I know this is really simple but had anyone else thought of it? ( I specialize in simple.) Hopefully I will have some new work to post in a few days. Thanks for stopping by and a special thanks to Meridith at WHYNOT POTTERY in Seagrove for adding me to her blogroll.

Monday, January 2, 2012

New Year

Here is a review of where my head has been the last few weeks.It is a bit of a jumble but that is the way my brain has been working.(or not)

Last year, I decided to be more selective about which shows I did. Besides the expense, there is a tremendous amount of physical labor that goes into a show so it needs to be worthwhile. Things worked out well. There were a couple of shows that flopped but in general, my average sales were much higher by being more selective. This year will be the same. If it doesn't say ART or POTTERY in the show title, I'm not going. No sweet corn festivals.

This year's new resolution is to break more pots. I once went to a workshop with a BIG name potter who said he fired and tried to sell anything that came off his wheel. He did not impress me. I plan on upping my game and setting a higher standard by breaking marginal pots and the ones I can't quite break I'm giving to EMPTY BOWLS.

Mostly, I've been on holiday.since Christmas. Our son came in for a couple of days and brought me a cold from New York. It hasn't put me on my butt, but it has sapped a lot of my energy and kept me out of the studio. That's ok I've had other concerns.

The biggest thing that has kept me busy and away from pottery is a question has come up about the boundaries of the ancestral property in Tennessee.( see sidebar for a brief history). Unlike the Northwest Territories that were laid out by surveyors marking square sections, quarter sections etc, Tennessee was laid out by people making hatchet marks on trees. This has taken trips and phone calls to Scott County.The land has never actually been platted by survey. We have the old metes and bounds survey points(calls) that start at the big rock and go 35 degrees west of south for 80 poles  etc.....This is fine if you can find the right rock to start on but it's not easy. We have four deeds that total 140 acres in two counties that can't even agree on where the county line lies.The owner of a neighboring property wants us to agree to his property map. We can't tell if his is right until we have an accurate plat of our boundaries. It appears that some of the land in the area has been "parcel mapped" for tax purposes and some owners are using the parcel maps to define the property lines. Parcel maps are not a legal description of the boundaries. For example, one of our deeds describes a quadrangle with 4 sides and 4 corners. The parcel map on file with the county shows 11 sides to the same parcel. I have spent a lot of time talking to the Mapping supervisor in Nashville who feels that our parcel map is actually something made up 50 years ago that is based on the claims of neighboring landowners, not our deed calls. In reality all a parcel map seems to mean is that someone has a deed to some property in the general area. I'm waiting on more maps to be sent from Nashville to continue my research, Wish me luck. I'm certainly getting an education.