Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Clear Scan #2

Very good news! My thyroid scan went very well. I needed two clear scans in a row and that what we got! So now I am finished with thyroid scans and getting radioactive every six months-- I won't miss that at all... well... playing with the giegercounter was fun, and being called 'hot' and we were able to make a lot of jokes about it... But this is a good thing and six months from now will be much more fun than getting ready for another scan!

Also I never crashed off my hormones like I was told to expect. I caught a cold and so I had a sore throat and a cough which was no fun but nothing like the horror stories I've heard. It got to the point that Dennis decided that apparently I do not need a thyroid and that thyroids are surprisingly optional. Which is fun to joke about (I had thoughts of making a "thyroid optional" t-shirt to wear to my scan) but I feel the need to give credit where credit is due.

Since this is a public blog I will keep it brief. At the beginning of all this, before the surgery, I received a priesthood blessing (it's a very awesome Mormon thing... if you have questions about it let me know and we can talk about it). It was a powerful experience in which I was told that I would be alright and that I would have strength. I truly believe this made the difference, why the doctor would look at my blood work numbers and tell me I should be feeling sick.

I am Grateful.

...and radioactive...

Monday, November 15, 2010

... Before the Break... Part 4 More Work on the Fair Displays

These small figures where for another county display at the fair. This display had several windows with different vignettes.

Sleeping old man with snot-nosed kid. (note all the fun outdoors-ie equipment of all the fun things one might do in that county)

A gold miner (because there used to gold in the county and folks would mine for it). Each of these figures are about 12 inches tall.

For the train conductor I channel Stan Laurel/ Dick van Dyke. Makes a fun face to make.

The romantic wine couple are a larger scale. Each head is about six inches tall. If you look closely (or click on the picture) you will notice that the lady had a thyroidectomy scar. After she was sculpted I asked Richard if she could have a scar like me (I may have even mentioned that thyroidectomies are never represented at the fair). He looked at me (perhaps to see if I was serious) then he said okay. I was really surprised at how happy this made me. So when I took the figure to Francine for painting I showed her my scar and she was all for it too. I love the people I work with! It's subtle, just like the real thing.

This one is of a farmer on a tipping ladder. Check out the crazy detail Nina put into the costume-- overall clasps!

This was a quick assignment Richard had me do for another county where we needed two silhouettes inside the tent-- storytime.

The Mark Twain relief and jumbo book were for Calaveras county. I wish I got a good picture of the whole display but none of them turned out. Mark and Dave not only had to design and build a 5' platform that would hold a Jeep (with a pile of props and mechanics) but also design and build a way for the Jeep to get up there. They ended up building a special cradle that would allow a forklift to pick it up but only contact the jack points. That was an exciting day.

It was hard for me to bring myself to replicate the original cover art on the book because... well... it's weird lookin'.

Here is another one of our counties, we do several of them. For me work at the fair goes in several fairly distinct phases. First I carve and sculpt and make things (puppet-type things.. I seem to have a niche for people and animals mostly). When everything for me to make is made (although things to be made can pop up later in the process) I move over to painting. It takes me about a day and a half to change gears and get into the painting groove. Sometimes I paint the things I sculpted sometimes I don't-- we have a very very good crew so I don't feel overly possessive, although when I do have a pretty clear idea of what I would like to see I communicate it (i.e. thyroidectomy scar).

When the painting is winding down the work shifts to placement--setting up the items to be displayed-- often involves pins and hot glue-- sometimes involves artifacts I'm nervous about touching (Richard will often do the really important ones). Placement is like a puzzle. Getting all the items you need to display in a specific space in an aesthetically pleasing way. Sometimes you have too much product with too little space and sometimes you have to make what you have look like more than it is to fill the space you've got. This is also the time when everything starts coming together and starts looking like a fair display. The finishing touches. Then I'm on clean up, dusting and the like, and sometimes some paint touch ups etc.

Those are the main jobs I do. There are many other people doing many other things that get the display ready for judging. It's great to work such a group!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

... Before the Break... Part 3 Work on the Fair Displays

This is the main project I worked on this summer for the California State Fair County Displays. For this display I sculpted all the heads and hands that took about a week of work as I recall. This is the first time I've actually felt fast. I like to think it comes from years of being slow, but paying attentions to what I was doing. I also made the fish, the dog and the instruments (the fiddle took the longest) as well as a tiny little bird that pops up out of the lady's hat and the boat with oar.

Looking at these photos I really miss how the fair used to have theatrical lighting for the fair displays-- it look so much nicer-- but I'm amazed with all the budget cuts that they are still doing the county displays at all so i guess I should just be grateful... and take my photos before everything is in place.

This is how this display looked as a whole. My dear puppetry professor Richard Bay designs them and Mark Baker of Fantasy Builders heads up the carpentry/engineering/ animation. They are great to work with... and I'm not just saying that because they hire me... but I'm glad they do!

Monday, November 1, 2010

... Before the Break... Part 2 my birthday


This is the first time I've been home for my birthday for eight years. I must say it was quite nice. Games were played, cake was eaten, fun was had! It really was fun to get to spend some purely fun time with the family. It was even worth the sunburn (my fault for forgetting my hat).

The part I got pictures of (on my camera anyway) was the pinata Jayna made! Really how can I not love this girl!?


She said she chose a spider because she felt responsible for making me afraid of them-- which she totally is! ;P The inside was filled with fun little toys and Reese's peanut butter cups which just so happen to be my favorite... and I'm guessing someone knew that! Thanks everyone for a really fun day that I still look back on and smile!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

I'm interrupting the summer recap posts to wish everyone a happy and festive Halloween!

These are our jack-o-lanterns for this year. We were joined last weekend by our very good friend, Bill. Anyone who knows Bill would agree that he's pretty awesome. I could go on and write a huge post about the great friend he's been but I know he wouldn't really like me to do that so I'll just sum it up with the words: roll-on turf. Needless to say we were pretty happy to have him for the weekend.

We had a great weekend of frisbee golf, cider mills, waffles, donuts, a corn maze, a ham steak, movies and nature walks (sorry no pictures... having too much fun). This has become a mostly-annual tradition starting in Connecticut that I look forward to keeping! My only complaint is that the weekend was too short. Thanks Bill!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

...Before the Break... Part 1 the Viking Puppets


The next few posts will briefly update the happenings of the past several months. To do so I'll start with a pair of puppets that were commissioned, designed, built, and finally sent.

The client needed two viking muppet-style puppets a man and his daughter. These were the designs agreed upon:

Now both puppets had mechanisms inside their heads which adds to size, weight, and complexity. Each puppet has a thermoplastic 'skull' of sorts to support the rigging of the mechanisms.

The daughter had blinking eyes. Isn't she a lovely! If anyone sees a muppet-style puppet lady who is actually "really pretty" please let me know, I would love to see it! I think "pretty" and the across the face mouth are at odds with each other. I figure it is to be embraced.

The Fella had a horn on his helmet that needed to be able to slump forward and back up when needed (to be used as a fib detector, akin to Pinocchio's nose, which I thought was a cute idea of the client).

He also needed eyebrows that went up and down. As you see, apparently the mechanism controls my eyebrows as well. I always knew I made faces while puppeteering, it's still surprising to catch a photo of it in action... especially since in this photo I'm not even performing, we're just posing for pictures. sheesh!

He was a fun puppet to build and movable eyebrows are the most worth while bang for your buck mechanism if a mechanism must be had. ... just so you know... cuz.... well... it's good to know.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Thyroid Scan

Last week I had a thyroid scan and was completely expecting to find that there were still thyroid cells. I had good reason to believe such because I've been feeling exceptionally well while being off of my replacement hormones-- which is exactly what happened last time. I felt tired for about two days but then a felt a wind of energy and decided to go with it. During that time we planted our garden (more on that later) and I got things done.

Much to my surprise the scan came back negative! WooHoo! Below you will find a visual comparison between my first scan and my most recent scan. The scan detects the radioactive iodine I ingested two days prior.

See how in November there is a very very bright bean shape in my neck and how there is absolutely NO bean in my neck in May? It is, you may notice, more concentrated in my stomach and bladder (again, a good thing meaning the radioactive iodine is just on it way through and not getting absorbed anywhere). What a difference 100 millicuries can make!

We are very happy about this! We will do another scan in January or February and if that one comes back negative as well then we will be completely finished with these scans... which will be fantastic-- even though these scans have been entertaining I'd be just fine not having them be a regular part of life!


Friday, April 16, 2010



Of the many many wonderful things about Spring I'd have to say among the top five (up there with sunshine and bar-b-ques) are blossoms! It's such a brief period and will be gone before we know it so it's really worth the time to stop and soak it in a bit.

When else to otherwise ordinary trees look so fancy? But I must say the most exciting single blossom belongs to one of our adolescent pepper plants!

Yay! This is the first blossom to open (April 15th) we have a few other plants that are almost there all of which are from a variety called Healthy. Some of the Burans have some fairly developed buds. Lets hope this translates to early peppers. We'll see. You know you'll hear about it; what else do I have to blog about? There's the tomatoes of course which we have re-potted to yogurt cup sized containers. Now everything we started in two black plastic seed flats is currently held in 9 flats.

They spend their days outside and on chilly nights (which is still most nights) they come inside. Last night was their first night out... camping for seedlings.

getting so grown up!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Another garden update


Gee these kids are growing fast. I had photos saved from the 23rd that I was going to post documenting the progress. Well, I didn't get to blogging last week (or two?) and I was astonished by just how out of date those pictures were. So, I took new pictures this morning so I could give a side by side comparison so you can see the growth over two weeks and two days.

first, the table set up:

on the 23rd


So not only was another shoplight added but since then the lights have had to get adjusted upward. *Pinky* Bouncey Balls were placed at the ends of the bar clamps to try to avoid potential unhappy happenings that would involve any part of one's head and the thin metal end of a bar clamp.

second, the plants:

pepper seedlings late last month

and tomatoes at the same time-- see how little?

The peppers continue to grow and see that pile of greenery towering behind them? Those are the tomatoes-- not so much like babies.

You can see that the peppers have been re-potted to give them more room-- they were starting to crowd each other out of light-- and that's bad.

I took pictures of the pepper potting process.

This is Dennis re-potting a pepper. First he carefully removed the plant form the seed starting compartment. With the use of a plastic knife he separated the soil from the container being careful to minimize damage to the roots.

He then transferred the seedling to a prepared pot (in this case a yogurt cup with holes drilled in the bottom and with some soil already inside) and added more potting soil where there was room.

Afterward we give them a good drink of water. We left them under the lights inside the next day or two help them recover.

I also wanted to show you my seedling nanny. I use them when leaving very small plants outside for the day. I made them last year after the starlings living in the eave of the house decided it would be great to snip the tips of some of our pepper seedlings. That was something I would like to not repeat. I figure if something really wants in it will succeed but it helps with the lazy opportunists. Our seedlings are too big to use the nannies now.

The latest picture of my favorite gardener. He likes vegetables. I like him.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Katy Spors


I didn't know Katy as well as I would have liked. I truly regret not making the time to get to know her and her husband Paul better. You always think you have more time. That is not always the case as I was abruptly reminded last week when I heard of her sudden passing. This has affected me more than I might have guessed. She was so nice and so fun and she really did have a light about her-- really, she did, and not just in retrospect either. One of those glowing smiles for sure. The world is a little less bright without her and her smile.

It was a long ride down to her funeral in Indiana and I know that there were many people that would have liked to go but couldn't so I'm glad that since we could we went to support her husband and family as well as to be supported by the others who attended. It was clear that the effect she had on me was shared by so many others. I was told by someone who counted that there were 42 or 43 cars in the caravan between the church and the cemetery-- she was loved by very many I believe because it really didn't take long to love her and feel her friendship. We will also attend her Lansing memorial on Saturday.

I miss her and would like to better follow her example of faith and enthusiasm.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Back Yard Visitor

For a few days last week I could look out my kitchen window and see this bunny. teehee! He seemed to be standing sentinel by the compost pile (just around the corner of the shed) between 5:30 and 6 :00 in the evening. I began to think it was a bunny style religious service since this is a spot where in the dead of winter pieces of mostly fresh veggies and such would magically appear-- not unlike manna. That's my theory.

It's nice to have the backyard visitors coming back.

Saturday, March 13, 2010


I was lucky and these icicles decided to be photographed well. These were hanging over our back porch. That is before I knocked them down-- icicles can be dangerous. This year I had one fall and hit my hand. The tip embedded into my mitten. It didn't hurt very much but it helped me gain a healthy respect.

This shot shows how the sky gets here at night sometimes. A weird dusty rosey sometimes kind of purpley color. It's pretty striking actually. I guess this is what they mean by light pollution.

As a California kid I still geek out about how neat they are. Amazing. You'd think I'd get over it by now... I hope I never do.