Treading water

Not enough good sleep to make a meaningful post. I will some time soon, I hope. Both of the above.

This postcard turned up in a bad place when I reshuffled a shipload of junk so I could get up the stairs (the upstairs door was ajar, a criminal offense when the temperature outside hovers around 10F).

I believe the Standard sign (far left) belongs to my grandfather’s station (ETA: Yes, it is). Harry G. Ahlers, 1904-1984. I wish these old cards had dates on them.

Downtown Sturgeon Bay, ca. 1940

The signs have changed, but most of the buildings haven’t.

Dining out

I don’t, generally. But there’s a new restaurant in town, and I’m involved with it, and with activity related to it. Not in a big way, but enough to spice up my life.
The New Leaf Café
is a quickly growing enterprise in downtown Sturgeon Bay. The theme is organic, raw, whole food. And if you think that’s ucky, you haven’t had lunch there. I have. Among other things, the stuffed tomatoes are to die for.

Word is gradually getting around. An article in the local paper, word of mouth (happy mouth, nom nom nom), and perhaps something in the air.

I’m the webmistress 🙂

Raven Laughs

…at plans. And drum makers who make plans. But this time I think I’ve got it right. It took several weeks to make the frame, from steel hoops, cardboard, and layers of paper and fabric. Tedious waits for glue, paint and protective coatings to dry. Sanding, re-coating, measuring, drilling. Then twice I tried to head it. The first time, I chose a piece of rawhide that was too thin on one side. It tore. Twice. Scratch that one. The second time, I didn’t get the bindings tight enough. The head was disgustingly flobby. Discombobulate again.

The third, and by far the best, attempt to head this drum looks like a — heh-heh — resounding success. It’s hanging in the kitchen drying. Now and then I hear a twing as something adjusts. A bit scary, those sounds, but it’s not threatening to break; merely tight enough to sound off at the slightest stimulus. A proper drum attitude.

I felt very confident as I started. All went well. Previous practice paid off. The binding technique that I’ve worked out through these three phases is solid and effective. I can visualize, a little at a time, any process; building or taking things apart in my mind before getting down on the physical components. Then when I actually lay hands on, small improvements come to mind. It helps that I can always gauge the amount of lacing to prepare. Running out of something that takes a few hours to soak would not be a Good Thing. 🙂

So I’m happy. I’m rubbing my hands together (with home-made lotion, they’re rough and sore) and gloating over my success. I’m planning more drums using built-up frames. Would be nice if I could make or buy nice wood frames, but for now I’ll make do with what I have.

Hoppin’ New Year

A little more interesting start than some. My onlybegottendaughter reappeared (e-mail changes can have a dire effect on communications) on the morning of Dec. 31. Did she just e-mail me? No-o-o-ooo, she sent me a friendy from Facebluck. Hokay, must be some reason I got back in there a coupla moons ago. I had to reset my password to log in this time (I swear I had it right, but Facefook wouldn’t take it yadda yadda) but I was going to do it no matter how many captchas I had to squint through. It takes something to drag me into Facefook.

Then I find out that she has managed to find her father, whom I haven’t seen in nemmine how many years. Danged if she ain’t as bull-headed as me.


Silent Christmas

I blew it again. The binding wasn’t tight enough. Since there was no way to adjust it, I’ve taken it apart again. Yes, again. This was the second time I’ve mis-headed that frame. Maybe the third will be lucky.

Oh well. Dinner was good. Ham, baked potatoes, and squash.

BTW, I have always loathed that hideous pseudo-Christmas carol, The Little Drummer Boy. This was a bad season. I heard it more times than I want to count. Nausea.

The Drums of Christmas Eve

The promised bad weather held off. I went to work with lots of summer sausage, cheese, and crackers and a jar of my favorite wine-substitute: cinnamon hibiscus tea mixed with orange juice. It was my co-worker’s birthday, an extra excuse to party. We had one visitor to help eat the munchies. I know, doesn’t sound like a day’s work, but there are much more…interesting days.

Back at home, I’ve watched the second half of The return of the King while soaking a few yards of rawhide lacing. Now the drumhead is soaking. It’s thin, doesn’t need to soak as long. The drum I promised myself over a month ago will be finished tonight.

Here’s the one said I’d show, a while back. Little Grandmother, she’s called.

Grandmother Drum
Grandmother Drum

Sitting proudly next to the dishes I had just washed 😀


Here’s the fabric-covered coffee can ready to have holes punched for the cord loops. The loops are pulled together wih a tighening cord after the rawhide binding is done — a hybrid technique derived from my study of djembe construction. I used hemp cord loops on my first coffeecan drum, but it didn’t need the extra tightening.

My antique icepick lies near it, and the sleek, black frame that I built out of laminated paper and cardboard and two steel hoops. That one will receive its head when I’m done here.

After watching The Lord of the Rings twice in the past week, I’m feeling a bit epicked out. I think I’m ready to get back to writing.

Good? Morning

I h8 waking up too early to be up and too late to get back to sleep. However, having a big bowl of homemade stew to re-induce sleepiness is a nice way to unstart the day.



I’ll show off a cute drum later.

Practice makes…another darn drum

I made one mistake in buying a ready-made drum. It was so shoddy there was no way to tighten it up enough to get a decent sound out of it. So I took it apart. The fourth-rate rawhide heads can be recycled into rattles. The frame, after a little work, was fit to use again. Not high quality, for sure, but solid enough if not abused.

Now the frame is reincarnated with a decent head. Part of this adventure was cutting a length of 1/4-inch rawhide lacing in half. I invested in an obscene quantity of 1/4-inch lacing because it was the best deal I could get. Way too chunky for most of my smaller projects, but when soaked it can be split with a sharp scissors. Slowly. Inching along. But worth doing.

The decorating was done in great haste with acrylic paint while the head was still damp. I did some research on this, to find the best and safest media. My coffee can drum, “First Raven”, has a couple of ambiguous symbols dabbed on in soot and spit with a finger. Any fine particle pigment can be embedded in the damp surface.

So here’s the newest in my growing collection, 12″ in diameter, hanging from a nail in a doorway to dry:


“Raven Dances” … the world into existence.

I still haven’t dug up that adapter for the microphone. Too much snow to shovel.

Morning-after note:
w00t, this baby has a voice! *reminds self to look for adapter*

The Urban Shaman – Drums before Breakfast

The wonderful one-hour drum

I got up a little too early, and a little obsessed. This was the result:


The head is ultrasuede. I have a lot of odd pieces from when sewing machine art was my current obsession. While looking for things to get rid of, I ran across my stash of purple, and its stretchiness made me think… Heh-heh.

So, for my before breakfast chore this morning, I sat down to prove it would work. Within an hour I had a decent sounding drum — for its 6 5/8 inch size — and sore fingers. The stainless steel hoop frame was originally intended to make pancakes perfectly round. It’s still close enough to round after stretching the ultrasuede as tight as was practical. The binding is hemp cord.

It wants a light-weight striker, and likes a quick, light beat. Kind of a happy-dance drum. 🙂

I’ll upload a short sound sample as soon as I dig up an adapter for my good microphone.

Deus ex Machina: Guilty or not guilty?

I tread a patch of thin ice here. My world–our own distant past with a twist of magic–has no strict, uniform magical system; at least not one that is known to its people. My characters have no superpowers. Unusual abilities, perhaps, but they don’t rival the forces of nature. The gods keep their noses out of things. They are seen in a few muddled dreams and visions. A reader might see these as figments of the characters’ imagination.

However, I take out one of the bad guys with an amazingly coincidental bolt of lightning.

No one (in the story) can explain it satisfactorily. On one hand, my MCs are accused of calling down the fire from the sky by sorcery (a delightfully vague concept). On the other hand, some people insist that the Good Spirits were ticked off at the deceased. The fact that one of the good guys all but had to be carried away doesn’t bother either side.

This ambiguous event is entirely in the realm of everyday possibility. Stand out in the open when a violent summer storm is approaching and…POW. There is a high probability of lightning striking just ahead of a storm; you don’t have to be in a downpour already. No need for threads of stray magic to act as a lightning rod, either, but they were there.

What none of the surviving characters knew at the time is that the thunderstruck man posessed–and was possessed by–an ancient talisman that contained the demented soul of the sorcerer who created it. What’s more, it held power stolen from many others, and an uncertain number of trapped souls collected over thousands of years.

Perhaps the talisman was close to some kind of “critical mass”. At any rate, it hungered for yet one more soul–that of my main MC. Its owner, who had hoped to use it to increase his own power, was thwarted and angry. The escaped sacrifice was tantalizingly close again. A thunderstorm blew down from the ice-capped Tatras to bedevil the Krakow uplands. Was it a logical consequence, or was it a DEM?