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My Big Pot March 30, 2007

Posted by Mitchell in Art, Home.
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The Big Pot

I hope I get to take a ceramics course again this summer.  I’ve been taking it off and on since 2000.  Sometimes the guy that teaches it takes the summer off.  Click on the picture above for a good shot of a pot I made in that first class.  It’s one of the things I’ve made that I’m the most proud of.  It’s 18 inches tall, and about 14 inches wide at the broadest part of the vase.  It has a pretty uniform thickness ranging from 1/2 inch to 3/8ths.

I used two methods to make it.  The bottom part right up to where it flares out is all coil pot.  And yes, the coils were rolled out by hand.  We had an extruder that would make perfect coil ropes for us, but we weren’t allowed to use it for our first time pots.  The top part was done with slabs.  I built the central cylinder  out of a series of about three inch wide slabs.  One per night.  I couldn’t do it all at once, because the cylinder would be too heavy for the clay underneath to support.  Once that part was on I shaped and scraped it until it was as perfect and seamless as I could get.   I let it dry and harden up a bit for a day or two.

The next part was to put the triangular flare bits on.  I’d never done anything even remotely like this before so it was a bit of a puzzler.  I rolled out a slab, cut some pieces out and played with them for awhile.  I developed a game plan and went to work.  I got all six pieces on in one night and pretty well shaped up.  I let it dry for a day and finalized all the outside shaping.  I let it dry another day and then cut out part of the inner cylinder to open up the top.  The next couple of nights I worked on burnishing the outside and working on the small details. 

Finally, there was nothing else to do but let it dry completely.  This is the first real test of one’s craftsmanship.  If I didn’t maintain a consistent thickness, or changed thickness too quickly, or didn’t join a seem correctly, a crack could appear during this period.  Sometimes these cracks can be fixed, more often they can’t.  It passed – no cracks.  The next is the trial by fire. 

Finished ceramic pieces usually get fired twice.  The first is the bisque firing.  No glazes are applied – the raw piece goes into the kiln and is fired somewhere around 1900 degrees farenheit.  The precise temperature depends on what clay recipe you’re using.  The heat puts great stresses on the structure of your work.  Again, if you crafted the piece very well, no cracks appear.  Some pieces actually shatter during this stage.  Happily, neither of these things occurred, and I was greatly relieved.

Next step – glazing.  HOO-BOY!  This is a biggie.  You can make a beautiful work of art that will turn to crap if you mess up the glaze.  I thought long and hard about the glazing options open to me and consulted with the instructor.  Glazes are a subject you can study your entire life and never be absolutely sure of the results, particularly in a communal kiln.  Check out the glaze link to get an idea of the complexity here.

During my discussions with the instructor he made the point that my piece had a very strong design and didn’t particularly need fancy glaze work.  He also recommended that we go with a low fire glaze.  Low fire means lower temperature, so a great deal less stress.  Pieces that make it through bisque firing can still crack and even shatter at the high fire temperatures.  I agonized over the decision until the last day we could glaze and fire because the class was coming to an end.  I chose a streaky black glaze that showed the terra cotta color of the clay in the thin spots on the bottom portion that ran into a speckly greenish black glaze on top.  Inside I did a clear glaze that makes it water tight.

The above picture shows what awaited my delighted gaze a few days later.  Peacock tail feathers set off and complements the glazes and form beautifully.  My parents gave me some when they moved out of Las Vegas years before, and I just happened to think of them when I got it home.  We had a final night at the class and we all brought our stuff back for a final show and I threw the feathers in.  The instructor saw it and remarked that it looked like it was designed for peacock feathers.  

So there ya go.  The last couple of times I took this class, I’ve focused on learning how to do stuff on the throwing wheel.  The next class is going to be primarily oriented on hand-building larger stuff.

***Update***

 Just googling around on maybe doing this stuff at home:  Home Raku.  Oh, sweet.  Raku can be tha shiznet.  It’s totally do-able, and not that expensive really.  It was the raku process that I used to create the sleestak Skull that I gave to a formerly frequent commenter.

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Feh. March 30, 2007

Posted by Mitchell in Home.
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Today is not going well.  First, I wake up at the time I’m usually walking out the door to go to work.  I guess I’m just going to be late today.

 Nrrk.  My butt was just dragging all morning – I had to pour several cups of iced coffee down my throat to give me a caffine infusion to keep from conking out entirely.  Then Jonah puts up one of his damnable timewasters on The Corner and any hope of getting anything useful done this morning is entirely shot.

Lunch time – no time to pack anything of course so I glance at some menus of local eateries around here.  Baja Fresh!  It’s a quick-food Mexican place that doesn’t make you Feel Real Bad an hour after eating at it like the Twin Taco Hells of the Del and Bell.  I haven’t been there in a while.  One Burrito Ultimo with carnitas and a side of guac should hit the spot and hopefully improve my day.  A quick call and I’m on my way to pick up and bring back.

So, I saunter in and stand behind a lady picking up a HUGE order – two big bags of stuff.  For the whole office no doubt.  Anyway she staggers off with her load and I’m up.  The gal behind the counter asks for my name and I tell her.  She punches up my order. 

“Burritio somethingorother, Pronto Guac, and medium drink?”  Well, no – I didn’t order a drink, and I ordered a side order of guac, not the “Pronto Guac” which is a side order of guac with chips, but since you get chips with the burrito, that’s just too many chips, but they always push the “Pronto” at you for some reason.  Gotta move those chips, I guess. 

Anyway, I said “Yeah.”  I felt like getting something fizzy to drink after all and I could just deal with the chip surplus.  She has problems with the touch screen register thingy.  Mash.  Mash.  Mashmashmashmaaaasssh!  “Oh, Jesus.”  Maaaaaaash!  She concedes defeat to the unresponsive, overly touched and all touched out touch screen and it seems that the Lord doesn’t do Tech Support.   She makes change out of the other register.

I get my cup filled with ice and Mountainly Dewy fizziness and get some extra goodies from the salsa bar.   A cup of the pico de gallo, a cup of the hot, red salsa, a cup of the mild, green salsa, and a cup of the medium, black salsa.  Yes – black.  I’ve never seen black salsa before going to that place and rarely anywhere else.  It’s good though after I finish monkeying with it.  I pop the cups into my bag and head back to the office. 

The Burrito Experience

 

I get back and plop into my chair at my desk.  I open the bag and start doing the salsa.  Baja Fresh’s hot salsa is a little too hot for my taste, and the medium is a little too mild.  I also like mine chunkier and more tomatoey.  I pull out a small bowl and dump the pico de gallo, then the black salsa and a bit of the red.  Mix it up and voila!  Salsa just the way I like it.  I fire up the interwebberytubes and start checking up on the Usual Suspects. 

 

I unwrap the burrito and slather on some guac.  The first few bites of a burrito are always dominated by the tortilla.  You don’t get into the good stuff until you’re a ways in, typically.  Slather, eat, repeat.  I intersperse with chips and salsa while reading.  After a bit, I notice that Something Is Very Wrong.  The burrito does not taste right.  I peer into its unslathered innards.  Vegetableness as far as the eye can see.  No deliciously seasoned pork present.  They gave me the wrong burrito!  I pull out the receipt – yup it’s the Vegetarian Burrito.  GAH!  There isn’t even any cheese!

 

This sucks, but it’s too late to do anything about it of course.  I take a closer look at the receipt.  The name on it is one that is similar to mine, but a couple letters off.  I got someone else’s order.  Somewhere else some dude is gonna munch into my Burrito Ultimo and get a mouthful of pork when he does not expect it.  If there’s any justice in the world it will be some PETA prick who discovers, to his horror that he’s chewing on the FLESH OF A DEAD ANIMAL!!!!  I hope, too that he further discovers to his self-loathing and disgust that HE LOVES THE TASTE OF MURDER!!!

 

Alas, that will probably not be the case.  I eat the rest of the Burrito Inferiorimo without much enthusiasm and I eventually run out of salsa long before I run out of chips.

 

Oh well.  Back to work.

Oh, Please Lord Don’t Let This Come to Pass March 29, 2007

Posted by Mitchell in Science Fiction & Fantasy, Strange & Unusual.
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Micheal Jackson wants to build a 50 foot tall robot version of himself to roam around in the desert around Las Vegas.  Found over at Hot Air.  As a city, we would never live this down.  NEVER.  What the hell is this guy doing in my town anyway?  I thought he left the U.S. for some muslim armpit didn’t he? 

GAH!!

More Coinblogging March 28, 2007

Posted by Mitchell in Art, Home.
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I can’t let Mr. Weasel and Lileks have all the fun today. 

I found my first Montana state quater in my change yesterday.  montana.jpg

So, apparently they got too freaked out how there’s so much sky in Montana that they have to fill it with a giant, floating buffalo skull.  I had a thought that Georgia O’Keefe was born in Montana and this was a sly way to reference that.  Nope, the interwebberytubes sez that the O’Keefeinator was born in Wisconsin, so no arty tie-in there.  Perhaps this is a warning to other states:  “Don’t piss us off, or we’ll crush you with our giant buffalo skull.”  Yah, that’s it.

I like this design though – clean and simple.  It also gives you everything you need to know about Montana:  sworn into the Union in 1889, it’s got mountains, a surplus of sky, and large, dead animals.

Books, Books, & More Books March 24, 2007

Posted by Mitchell in Art, Home.
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Today my Dad is gonna bring over a bookcase for me.  This means I must unload and move a current overloaded bookcase to my room and then distribute the books around.  I was afraid that one of these books might snag me and then I’ll get nothing done this weekend.  Then I came across Huckleberry Finn and said “Oh, Lordy.”  Hucklberry Finn is an old favorited of mine and I read it many times as a kid.  I had to open it and read a few pages, then it stirred up a memory I had to put up here. 

I started smoking when I was a youngster because Huck Finn smoked a corn-cob pipe.  It’s true!  If it was good enough for Huck, it was good enough for me I figured.  I took a copy of this book along with me on some family road-trip when I was 12 or 13 and I picked up a small corn-cob pipe along the way.  Probably from a Cracker Barrel restaurant.  I don’t remember if I ever used it or not, but it was my intention to do so at any rate.

Well, back to unloading books.

Helpful Tips for Job Applicants March 20, 2007

Posted by Mitchell in Politics.
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When you fill out an application for employment, it’s usually a good idea to look it over carefully a time or two before submitting it.  Just by taking a couple minutes more you can avoid making some silly mistakes that just might edge you from the Interview pile to the Don’t Interview pile.

It’s hard to retain credibility that you’re “detail oriented” when your application is riddled with typos.  It’s particularly bad when you misspell the name of the company you started yourself.  Alas, a quick proofreading will not fix all things, such as the all too common sad deficiencies in writing skills courtesy of the gubbermint publick skool edjucayshun sistem.

Also, please don’t KEEP THE CAPS LOCK ON WHEN YOU ARE DESCRIBING YOUR JOB EXPERIENCE.  IT’S REALLY ANNOYING.  Somewhat more disconcerting, however, is all the rest of the application not in all uppercase and written in a distinctly different style.  What’s up with that?  Did one of your other personalities take over, or did you have someone else with better typing skills finish your application?

Complete sentences.  Too much to ask for?  Probably.  Being that it is an abomination any sentence that starts with the word “Being” should be taken out and shot and buried in a shallow, unmarked grave in unhallowed ground.  So, you know how some people like, write how they talk?  They just totally don’t understand how there’s like this other way of writing that’s like more formal and stuff.  Then there’s those people who never got the hang of possessive vs. plural nouns – the use of words ending in ‘s and s’ probably look pretty arbitrary to you don’t they? 

My boss says that I shouldn’t be too hard on some of them – English is obviously their second language, and it’s a notoriously difficult one to learn.  And, no – they’re not from where you think they’re from.  Heck, one of them listed a language I’d never heard of before, so I googled it.  Ah.  Yes, quite a few people are coming here from that general region. 

All-in-all though, it looks like we have some good, strong candidates this time around, a few with military backgrounds.  I’m looking forward to the interviews, they are always interesting.  Some successful candidates of past interview boards I’ve been on later told me that they thought I was rather intimidating.  Heh.  FEAR ME!

Inheriting Stuff Early (post title fixed) March 19, 2007

Posted by Mitchell in Home.
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The moving truck showed up at my Parent’s place today and unloaded all thier stuff.  They have too much stuff.  They’ve had too much stuff for years, but now they’re downsizing a bit, which means I get stuff.  Some of the stuff is on the order of “Hey do you want this?” and other stuff is “This has been in the family forever and you usually have to wait for us to die before you can get this” variety.   The former is a small refridgerator I put upstairs in my “Aritist’s Studio” room.  A member of the latter is a solid cedar wood chest and custom-built cedar wood stand for it in the same room.  This is the chest where my Mom has stored all her old, precious memory stuff since before I was born.  It’s still there.  I took a cursory look:  Mother’s Day cards, birthday cards, my Dad’s high school diploma, a chocholate box stuffed full with old letters, a Texaco charge card stub from 1973, a plastic cup with a slip of my “art” encased in it from 1976, etc, etc.  A time capsule of family memories that will have to find a new home.  For a while. 

Another of the latter variety I’ll get in a couple weeks is The Organ.  The Organ has been In The Family for at least a hundred years.  It’s a beautiful old-fashioned foot-pump organ my Dad restored some years ago.  I’ll post some pictures of it when it gets here.  Oh, yes – it still plays.

Another item is a large collection of Depression Era amber glassware.  The Parental Units have been buying this stuff from antique stores all across the U.S. for years.  I wouldn’t be surprised to find the collection to be worth a couple thousand dollars at least.

A couple more items of newstuff:  a “lawyer’s bookcase”, a custom built super kitty scratching post, and some wicker patio furniture.   Their patio is over furnished – I’m doing them a favor by taking it off their hands, really.  Oh, and my Dad wants a new computer desk.  His current one is nicer than mine, so we’ll swap that out too.

300 March 18, 2007

Posted by Mitchell in Art.
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I just saw it today.  One word review:  WOW. 

I loved it, just as I thought I would.  I wanted to see it in the IMAX theater at the Palms but it was sold out an hour before the movie started.  The next IMAX showing two hours later sold out while I was standing in line for the next regular screen showing.  Even though it’s been out over a week now, the theater I went to was still almost full.  I may go see it again, if only to get the IMAX experience.

iPod Random 10 March 17, 2007

Posted by Mitchell in Home.
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Mr. Slublog has one of those blog-meme thingies going.  Since I’m a fellow ipoditarian I let mine pop out a random 10 songs too.  Here’s the results:

1. Homer Simpson quote: “Gasp!  Computers can do that?”

2. Max Headroom quote:  “M-m-m-m-m-Max Headroom”

Okay, those aren’t songs.  I have a couple hundred of .wav files of movie and TV lines loaded on this thing.  Any random selection is going to pop off a few of these.

1.2  “She Moved Through the Fair” – Anuna on “The Celtic Circle”.  Over the last few years I’ve become increasingly tired of the “Classic” rock stuff I’ve been listening to since the mid-’70s.  As such, I’ve been exploring some of the different musical avenues I’ve been exposed to, but never really looked into.  Clannad &Enya are the usual starting points for this sort of stuff, and this compilation album of other artists in the genre is a good next step.

2.2  “Moving to the Ghetto October 31, 1940” – The Pianist.  I’ve never heard this song before tonight.  It’s a selection from the movie soundtrack.  I’m a member of one of those cd clubs and I didn’t send the “No I Don’t Want This” card back soon enough before they sent out the featured selection, and then I forgot to send the damn thing back before the trial period was up.  So, I have the soundtrack to a movie I never saw, and probably won’t ever see.  This track was boring, and thankfully only about a minute long.

3.2  “Homeward Bound” – Simon & Garfunkle on a “Greatest Hits” album.  One of their old favorites of course, recorded live here.  I’ve listened to S & G songs ever since I was a kid.  I’ve listened to these albums too many times though.  I need a 15 – 20 year break from some of these songs before I can really like them again.

4.2  “The Sounds of Silence” – ditto above.  Wow – out of all the songs the iPod could have “randomly” selected it picked anotherS & G song from the same album.  I have doubts about the true randomness of the iPod “Shuffle” feature.

5.2  “Sunday Girl” – Blondie on “The Platinum Collection”.  It’s a nice song, remenescent of The Seeker’s “Georgie Girl”.  I remember my first introduction to Blondie – Heart of Glass was big on the radio during a road trip to Florida from Maryland for vacation in when I was a kid.  That song came out in ’79, but I remember hearing Juice Newton’s Queen of Hearts being played by the pool at the hotel we were staying at so the year was probably 1981.

6.2  “Linger” – The Cranberries.  One of their two hits from the ’90s.  I haven’t really followed this band, actually.  I borrowed “To the Faithful Departed” album from a guy at work and didn’t really care for it.  This song and “Dreams” I got from iTunes.

7.2  “Elephantoplasty” – Monty Python, “The Instant Record Collection”.  Several classic Monty Python skits in audio form.  Here, an overly opportunistic plastic surgeon describes the results of how he put an elephant’s nose and feet on an ususpecting passer-by, etc.  Some of you purists might object that this isn’t a song either.

7.3  “Hocus Pocus” – by Focus on “Moving Waves”.  Hard rockin’ and yodelling.  You don’t know “Hocus Pocus”?   Of course you do.  I iTunesed the whole album on the off chance that there was something else amazing here.  There wasn’t.

8.3  “Los Peces En El Rio” – Manheim Steamroller on “Christmas Live”.  It’s a good song.  I borrowed a bunch of cd’s from my parents and ported them into my iPod – they like Manheim Steamroller and their christmas songs particularly.  I like them too.

9.3  “Waiting For You” – Seal on “Best 1991 – 2004”.  I borrowed this album from the same guy at work who had the Cranberries album.  I like this one better. 

10.1  “I’ll do you for that!” – Monty Python, “Quest for the Holy Grail”  Movie quote, not actually a song.

10.3  “Nocturnes – Nuages”  Leonard Bernstein conducting – “Leonard Berstein – A Total Embrace”.  A double album of L.B.’s conducting of several famous classical pieces.  Most of the album is pretty good – this particular passage is rather boring.

There ya go. 

Home, Home Again March 16, 2007

Posted by Mitchell in Home.
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We hit town early this afternoon and I got dropped off at my home.  It’s still here! 

I have a vivid imagination and it never fails to offer up all sorts of awful scenarios of domestic devastation while I’m gone.  Happily, I’ve never encountered the still-smoking fire ravaged pit, or burgler-plundered disaster I half-expect everytime I come back from a trip.  No, everything is exactly where it was when I left. 

I took a deep smell when I came in.  You know how everybody’s home has it’s own distinctive smell to it, but you’re mostly blind to your own?  You know how sometimes those other homes’ smell = stink?  Do you ever wonder if your own home’s smell = stink? for other people?  Since everyone is generally scent-blind to their own homes I took the opportunity to “new-sniff” my own place on arrival.  It’s been over a week sinced I’ve been here – what kind of bouquet would I get?  I was very interested in the result of the experience – is this similar to what other visitors to Casa Yorl experience?  Is this bad or good?  I didn’t know.

Sniiiiiiiiiffffff!!

Hm.  Eu de Elderly Glade du Plug In.  That is to say, fading room scenters – nothing more or less than that really.  No strong cooking, or pet smells at any rate.  It’s actually about where you want you house to be day-to-day, really.  No heavy new perfumes covering offensive stuff, just the lingering scent of old ones + ordinary.  

Well, other things ensue – updates later.

Have a great weekend!