Spring Semester 2007

My quest to complete an associate degree in computer programming at San Jose City College wasn’t dead on arrival when I showed up for Data Structures (CIS 55) on Monday night. Just on life support. No sooner than I stepped into the classroom, the instructor asks me about how many more classes I need for graduation. I told him this class and Object Oriented Programming (CIS 59) that haven’t been taught in a while. Since we had six students out of the 20 students minimum needed to run the class, we all wrote letters to the dean that we needed this class for graduation. Depending on what the dean decides, the class could continue with the instructor being paid per-student instead of per-class (which is against union rules), be taught under Directed Study (CIS 98) with a special letter provided by the dean to satisfy graduation requirements, or the class will get canceled.

The instructor gave us a nice overview of the usage of pointers in the C++ programming language when I voiced my confusion over that topic. Java is the default programming language for many college courses, fixing many of the pointer and memory allocation issues found in C++ with automatic garbage collection. The tradeoffs being that Java isn’t fast enough for speed sensitive code such as system drivers. We have a choice of textbooks depending on which programming language we prefer to use in class. I want to learn C++ since Java is the only programming language I have any experience with.

I’m seeing a personal counselor at school to talk about the 2004 death of my mother from breast cancer. The focus has been on helping me to recover my “lost” childhood memories since much of my forgotten childhood was in response to a series of traumatic events that I prefer not to remember. Prior to starting counseling last semester, household objects from my childhood had triggered specific memory responses. I started using Johnson’s Baby Shampoo and Dial Gold soap that I haven’t used since I was a kid immediately after my mother’s death. The smell of Lava hand soap invoked memories of my father washing his hands and arms in a bathroom after coming home from construction work.

One of the reasons I’m taking Ceramics I (ART 46A) is because I had memories of my second grade and seven grade teachers spinning clay pots on a kick wheel during their lunch breaks before a crowd of students. I always wanted to do that as a kid, but never had an opportunity to do so. I could never fit ceramics into my schedule during my first tour through college in the early 1990’s.

Ceramics is taught in the 300 building, one of three rows of metal-sheathed buildings built after World War II. The temperature yesterday morning for the all-day Saturday course hovered at freezing point. Despite running the heat at full blast, the class work area was cold. Since clay retains coldness at a lower temperature point, everyone was freezing their hands off.

Our first project was to roll a lump of clay into a sphere, cut the sphere into two halves, pinch each half into a bowl, and combine the two halves into a hollowed out sphere. My sphere turned into an egg with a flatten bottom to stand on. The instructor asked me if I took ceramics before since I did a very good job with my egg. Besides plastering mud (brown clay and water) on the side of the house when I was three, forming the short version of my first name in blue modeling clay on a small chalkboard in kindergarten, and making mud (cement, sand and water) when I worked with my father in construction for a few years, I haven’t done ceramics before.