Ceramics I Midterm

The midterm for my Ceramics I (Arts 46A) class included a potluck, the firing of the raku pieces, and showing off all the pieces from the last two months. My raku piece was a bowl with legs and handles that I glazed with copper on the top and black on the bottom, fired up to 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit for one hour, placed into a metal trashcan with newspapers that burst in flames and smoldered for 30 minutes, and then cool off in the open air. I had that and seven bowls created on the pottery wheel on display.

A Fine Mess

Maybe it was a good thing that I worked from home last Friday. The changeover for Daylight Savings Time had messed me up that I woke up late and missed my morning commute. Working from home is usually a peaceful time to get housework done and run errands between help desk tickets. Unless the maintenance crew was working in a nearby apartment, which sometimes sounds like a persistent woodpecker pecking away at something or somebody screams bloody murder in a screeching voice.

This past Friday was different.

The predominant sound was a dental drill from upstairs, and later, after I signed off from work on the computer, running water from my kitchen. A fountain of water squirted out of the kitchen sink drain. I had enough time to lay down bath towels to contain the two-inch deep water that flooded my kitchen floor in five minutes. If I had gone into work and came home as I normally do, the carpets in the entryway would be ruined.

I called the office to tell them that my kitchen got flooded. By the time a maintenance guy showed up with a shop vac, the water had drained underneath the cabinets. Half the floor got vacuumed up before the plumber came by to say that she needed the shop vac in upstairs apartment. That’s the last time I saw either of them. I spent a couple of hours cleaning up the sewer sludge that covered my dirty dishes in the sink, the counter top, a dozen kitchen towels in a drawer, and the towels on the floor. I wasn’t too happy that my apartment smelled like an open sewer for the weekend.

With my allergies declaring war on me and the problems with the apartment, I didn’t go into work on Monday. I wrote a detailed letter explaining the situation to the leasing manager and included three pictures. The first picture showed my kitchen floor being flooded, the second showed the boards underneath the kitchen sink warping from the water damage, and the third picture was taken less than six months ago when the painters upstairs spilled a bucket of white paint on my patio chair and balcony. Since I lived on the second floor of a three-story building, most of my problems come up from below or down from above. I got a phone call from the leasing manager that everything will get fixed.

The carpet cleaner came by to inspect the damage before scheduling a cleaning. There wasn’t much damage to the carpets since my bath towels stopped the water. The carpet cleaner did a general cleaning and deodorizing of the entryway the next day.

The maintenance supervisor came over to do the work underneath the kitchen sink.

“So I heard you had a leak,” he said.

“Oh, no,” I replied. “I had a flood.”

He didn’t believe me until he looked underneath the kitchen sink. The waterlogged board was four times the normal thickness and the drywall where the board met was wet. He removed the damaged board and support beam to let the drywall dry out overnight. I came home from work the next day to find the board and support beam replaced and painted. So instead of my apartment smelling ever so slightly like an open sewer, it now smells ever so slightly of drying paint and damp carpets.

Cantor Arts Center Field Trip

My ceramics class took a field trip to the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University in the afternoon. This was my first visit to Stanford even though the university is just 20 minutes down the road from San Jose City College. I didn’t know that the Stanford campus extended so far into the countryside next to the 280. The afternoon was so nice that I wished I had an outdoor kit to do some landscape painting.

As part of our third project to create a larger than life self-portrait bust using the coil building method, we went to the museum to get inspiration from the self-portraits created over the centuries. The base for my self-portrait will be 24-inches wide or so to attain the larger than life aspect. I’ll be using recycled clay at $5 USD per 25-pound bag instead of using the second of two bags of clay included in the class materials fee. I hope to use only one bag for this particular project. I was looking for ideas at the museum on how incorporate a beard into my bust since I’m the only person in the class with a full length beard.

I had no idea that the work of Augeste Rodin was so prominently featured at this museum. The Thinker inside and The Gates of Hell outside are huge bronze sculptures that intrigued me. I did a quick side view sketch of the Gates in pencil while waiting to drive back to school. My instructor thought it was good. Some of the other students who saw the worksheet that I turned in that had a sketch of Rodin’s Victor Hugo, a bronze bust with a nicely sculptured beard, thought that it looked good too.

Ceramics, Code & Macs

Ceramics has been a blast for the last several weeks. Learning how to use the kick wheel and centering a ball of clay was a difficult at first. A different instructor passing through the class showed me how to “shove” the clay to center with one hand instead of “pulling” the clay to center with two hands. Small people use to two hands and big people use one hand to do the same thing. I’ve been shoving clay ever since then.

Our first project is creating six bowls for the midterm that’s a few weeks away. I made eight bowls that impressed my instructor so much that she praised me in front of the class for being quite advance for a beginner. The hollowed egg and pinch bowl that I made from the first week is ready to glaze this week. The next project is creating a sculptured piece for the raku glazing method. I’m thinking of doing a candle holder with a low bowl done on the pottery wheel, dragon or lion heads on two sides, handles on the other sides, and four dragon or lion feet on the bottom.

As for my programming classes, I’ve been enjoying the C++ computer language. Last night’s class was quite interesting in a painful way. Our second assignment was to convert the code for a bag container into a set container. The difference between the two containers is that a set cannot have any duplicated values. A simple code modification became a frustrating exercise in getting the Microsoft Visual Studio editor to run the original code as downloaded from the textbook’s website. The instructor spent an hour implementing a massive kludge to get the code to work correctly before he could demonstrate the modifications that the assignment required. I didn’t have any problem completing the assignment since I used my Mac with the Xcode editor. Everything works on the Mac, as I keep telling my instructor.

I’ve been burnishing my Mac guru credentials at work. I had to install Windows XP and Microsoft Office in a Parallels virtual machine on a MacBook Pro laptop last week. This wasn’t easy since we didn’t have an install disc or even an ISO image file of the install disc on hand. I had to use a BartPE disc to start the network install. This shouldn’t have been a big deal except that the Windows installer couldn’t find the virtual hard disk. It’s been years since I had to use diskpart to manually format a hard disk. After installing Windows XP, applying all the service packs and patches, installing Office 2003, and applying all the service packs and patches for that, the user at work walked away as a happy Mac user. I’m trying to get a Mac at work so I don’t have to use my MacBook to troubleshoot these infrequent help desk tickets.