Arts 046B – Ceramics II Final

The Ceramics II (Arts 046B) final at San Jose City College was this past Saturday. We came to class to find our glazed pieces scattered among the many different shelves, sand or grind the bottom of each piece to smooth off the sharp edges, wash the dust off, and present our pieces for the final critique of our artwork.

My large piece,  Janus, the Roman god of doors and beginnings, has one face representing humanity/past and the other machines/future. The two smaller faces are bookends that served as test pieces for visualizing the faces and the glazes. I brought in a copy of “The Two Faces of Tomorrow” by James P. Hogan, a science fiction novel that I read in the 1980’s about two possible futures for humanity when the computer network becomes sentient. An abstract teapot didn’t get glazed due to the confusion of setting up the annual three-day ceramic sale last week will be ready for pickup on the last day of the semester. Four test pieces of a test glaze I made from a recipe called “land shark blue” was a shade closer to black than blue.

It was quite impressive to see everyone’s work. Although the potluck and critique were the main events, the raku firing was the highlight. Fiery orange pieces from the kiln got put into small trashcans with newspapers to catch on fire for the smoke to enhance the appearance of the glaze.

Ceramics, DVD’s & Books

I was expecting a quiet day at my ceramics class on Saturday with many of us glazing our last pieces for finals next week. Since this week was the annual three-day ceramics sale that funds the ceramics program at San Jose City College, our studio space was overrun by former instructors and students who made the pottery wheels disappear, swept and mopped the floor, and rearranged the tables to display an overflow of ceramics coming out of boxes in newspaper wrappings.

Those of us still glazing our pieces got shoved into the far corner to share limited space among the numerous buckets of glazes. A pain since we our large pieces weren’t that simple to glaze. My large piece, Janus, the Roman god of doors and beginnings, in 25 pounds of recycled clay, took two hours to hand-paint a half-dozen glazes on. After that got put on the shelf for the kiln, I dipped an abstract teapot into two glazes, and made a test glaze from powder for four test pieces. I went home more exhausted than usual, spending the rest of the weekend watching DVDs and reading books.


“Battlestar Galactica: Razor,” a two-hour movie that’s being sandwiched between the end of Season Three and the beginning of Season Four of the popular science fiction TV series, set on the Battlestar Pegasus after Commander Lee “Apollo” Adama (Jamie Bamber) takes command. Newly promoted Executive Officer Kendra Shaw (Stephanie Jacobsen) recalls joining the Pegasus with Rear Admiral Helena Cain (Michelle Forbes) shortly before the Cylons attacked the colonial fleet, and becomes suspicious of Captain Kara “Starbucks” Thrace (Katee Sackoff) during a mission to track down an old Cylon starbase. Meanwhile, Admiral William “Thrusher” Adama (Edward James Olmos) recalls his younger days (played by Nico Cortez) during the first Cylon war, falling out of the sky from an aerial battle that destroyed his ship to parachute on top of a hidden Cylon basestar conducting secret experiments on humans to create the biological-based Cylon. Past, present and future collides in a final battle between the Pegasus and the basestar.

“Flight of the Living Dead” (a.k.a, “Zombies on a Plane”) was a DVD that I wanted to get last month. Horror movies generally follow a set formula (i.e., teenagers involved in sex and/or drugs die a horrible death in the 1980’s slasher films). The formula for this zombie movie is that anyone with an attitude on the airplane gets killed by the zombies. A laugh riot ensues as you got all the crazy stereotypes—scientists “who should know better” transporting a sexy carrier of the zombie in the cargo hold, young lovers cheating on each other in the restrooms, a fast talking criminal handcuffed to a dour cop, an air marshal who looks like a drug rehab dropout, a professional golfer polishing a putter with a whiny wife at his side, and a nun overwhelmed by sinners and zombies alike—on a doomed airplane over the Atlantic Ocean in a severe electrical storm. The funniest zombie was the one who couldn’t undo his seat belt and desperately tries to bite at anyone running past by his aisle seat. The ending was somewhat predictable as the plane crashes somewhere with the usual assortment of humans and zombies surviving the wreckage. If you’re a zombie fan, this is a pure zombie fest.


“Genshiken: The Society for the Study of Modern Visual Culture, Volume 9” by Kio Shimoku just came out. This is the first magna series I ever read, starting with the first volume that came out in 2005 and I’ve pre-ordered every volume since then. There’s no overriding story arc in this slice-of-life series about an odd assortment of Japanese college students who are fans of anime, video games and cosplay, but don’t fit in with any of the other clubs. The story I identify the most with is Ogiue’s decision to submit her work professionally. She asks her boyfriend, Sasahara, who has a part-time job as a manga editor, to critique her work and she reacts badly when he tells her that her 50-page managa lacks focus. When he visits her the next day, he’s surprised that she had revised her work overnight, which isn’t easy considering the amount of drawings and text involved without using a computer, and proclaims that the new version is better. When she pulls out an 80-page story for him to look at, he wonders if their relationship can survive the critique process. I’m disappointed that this was the last volume of the series, as most of the club members from the beginning are now graduates.

I started reading “In Command of History: Churchill Fighting and Writing The Second World War” by David Reynolds. Most people know that Winston Churchill as the widely quoted leader who led Great Britain during the darkest hours of World War II, but very few know that it was his writings that funded his long political career (which is quite different from today’s politicians panhandling for money). After being tossed out of office following the war, and finding himself short of money, he embarks on writing a six-volume memoir of the war as a follow-up to his five-volume memoir on World War I. If you’re a history buff and/or a writer (I’m both), this book will interest you.

The End of The Road

After attending San Jose City College on a part-time basis for the last five years, I finally got my associate degree in computer programming. Well, almost.  I missed the filing deadline for the graduation petition by one day. My official graduation date isn’t until the end of the summer session, and my diploma won’t arrive in the mail until late August. I’m finished with my second tour through college (2002-2007), although I’m still taking another year of ceramics for my own personal enjoyment.

Computer programming is no longer the hot field that it once was five years ago. I couldn’t get classes five years ago because there were too many students. I couldn’t get classes in recent years because there weren’t enough students. Now that healthcare is the new moneymaking major that everyone is flooding. That’s fine. I’m looking forward to when China and India will stop exporting their workers to the U.S., and the baby boomers start retiring en masse within ten years. I’ll be making serious money from the forthcoming I.T. crunch where jobs will be more numerous than available workers.

Arts 046A – Ceramics I Final

Ceramics I (Arts 046A) has come to an end with a larger-than-life self-portrait head, several small statuettes, a large water jar and a square bowl. The self-portrait head was the biggest piece with ~23 pounds of recycled clay that took six weeks to finish. Revealing how I view myself instead of how I want people to see me, I described the bust as “a modern shaman and philosopher” on the name card introducing my work. My instructor wrote down in her comments that this was the most successful self-portrait in the class.

After having a potluck lunch and brief tour of the student art gallery, we displayed out finished work, wrote down comments on the paper set out for each set, and stood before the class to explain our work. The sad part was packing up our pieces and saying goodbye. The instructor wasn’t kidding that the semester would go by fast. I’m planning to take Ceramics II next semester.

Arts 046A – First Project

The first project in Ceramics I (Arts 46A) was creating six bowls on the kick wheel. It took 20 balls of clay to create eight bowls (one bowl got set aside for the next project). I enjoyed this part of the class even though it was hard work and I came home covered in clay dust as if I spent a day working in masonry block construction. Glazing the bowls was an unpredictable process as I tried different colors and techniques since I wasn’t required to form a set based on similar design and/or color.

The Road To Graduation, Part II

Midterm madness is finally over. My sleeping pattern is returning to normal. The extra weight from eating food at odd hours of the night is burning off at the gym. What brought me back to normalcy was reading “One L: The Turbulent True Story of a First Year at Harvard Law School” by Scott Turow, his semi-autobiographical story of being a first year law student at Harvard Law School, which was more insane than my accumulated ten years of college (1990-1995 / 2002-2007). Admissions & Records accepted my graduation petition after the initial paper chase a few months ago, and, if I successfully pass my programming classes this semester, I can pick up my diploma in late August.

My programming instructor returned a 3.5″ floppy disk that I submitted to him in my first programming class in Spring 2002. Now that’s spooky. None of my computers today have a floppy drive installed. I still have a few floppy drive units in storage and a USB floppy drive for those rare occasions where I need access to a floppy. Five years ago I turned in my source code and executable files on floppies. Today I print out the source and/or email the files in a zipped archive. For a directed study class, I turned in the completed project with source code, executable, sample data, and documentation files on a CD.

The Data Structures (CIS 055) class is getting hard. I’ve always relied on the instructor’s lesson and reading the source code to understand the material without reading the textbook. The assigned textbook for this class dribbles out the source code in bits and pieces, and then buries the completed source code in overwritten comments that makes a bad science fiction novel enjoyable. My superficial understanding of the C++ language doesn’t help either. Cruising through my final semester isn’t an option.

I got my midterm worksheet back in Ceramics I (Arts 46A) with an “A” and a comment from the instructor that I have excellent focus and control of my work. That’s being put to the test with the larger-than-life self-portrait bust that will probably weigh 30 pounds in clay when I get done. Mine is the biggest piece in class as I have the biggest head. This week I’ll be carving in the details, getting back a glazed statuette and the other statuette will be ready for glazing.

Project four is stacking three or four separate pieces into one object. My design is a tall Japanese water vase that I saw in a ceramics book. The bottom bowl, sprout and collar will start on the kick wheel, coil building for the middle to combine all the pieces, and using nylon rope to impress a spiral design on the outside. After working in the studio for six hours straight, I come home to collapse in bed as I’m exhausted from all that focus and control.

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.

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.