Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Three stinking coasters

So I've been taking this pottery class through Minneapolis Community Ed. It's held at Southwest High School. The class started out seeming like it would be pretty cool, but it quickly devolved to the point that tonight's class (the last session) was an f'ing joke.

First off, it appears at times that our instructor doesn't really know what she's doing. There have been more than a few occasions when someone will ask her a question, and get one answer. Then, realizing she doesn't know for sure, the instructor asks the advice of the High School art teacher (who's been hanging around all night because he's a super territorial weirdo who's extremely protective of his classroom) who gives a different answer. So we never know if she's giving good suggestions or not.

Then, these last 2 class periods, the level of disorganization reached it's absolute peak. Before we can glaze our pieces, they need to be bisque fired. Then we can glaze them, and then they get fired again. Well, we were told that the last 2 class periods would be devoted to glazing only, meaning that all of our pieces needed to be bisque fired before then. Well, only about half of them got fired. Some of us (myself included) didn't have any of our pieces fired for last weeks class, so we had nothing to do last class. So it was a wasted class period, and I left early.

This week, their were still pieces that weren't bisque fired. But thankfully mine had been fired over the weekend, and I had picked them up after work yesterday so I could work on them at home. So I gave them a coat of underglaze at home last night, which should have meant that in today's class all I needed to do was apply a coat of clear glaze and I would be able to leave early again.

Ah, what a great plan. If only it had worked out. I asked the instructor if I could put a coat of clear glaze over my underglaze, and she said "Sure" and recommended that I apply it with a brush rather than dipping them. I applied a few brush strokes of clear glaze to one piece, and the underglaze began to run. Fuck. In retrospect, this shouldn't have been a big surprise, both the underglaze and clear glaze are water-based, but I made the stupid mistake of assuming she was giving me good advice. So I had to wash all the glaze and underglaze off that piece, and apply the underglaze all over again. Which is time consuming, involving multiple coats, etc. Since we only have one firing left, this means they just won't get a clear coat, which totally sucks. The clear coat would make them bright and shiny - without it they will be dull.

Oh, and did I mention that the instructor rarely had decent tools available for us to use? Today was (as I mentioned) one of the two days dedicated to glazing, and as class begins another student asks the instructor if she has brushes for us to use. The response ... "I don't know." What do you mean, you don't know? This is your stinking class!?! So she runs around for 5, 10 minutes scrambling to see where in the school she can get some brushes for us to use, since super-territorial-weirdo high school teacher won't let us use his. Unacceptable, even for a low-budget community ed class, in my humble opinion.

Oh, and while I'm ranting, I might as well bitch about myself and how I accomplished almost nothing in these classes relative to most of the other students. I was slow to decide what I wanted to do for projects, so I spent one class making a crappy bowl using the "coil" method. I just wanted to practice technique, so that's what I did. I had no intention of keeping the bowl, and I didn't. Then, I missed a class when I went up north snowboarding at Lutsen. Then, the instructor failed to tell us that the last 2 entire classes were for glazing only, so I (and several others) were scrambling to complete a project before the glazing sessions started. I decided I wanted to make a set of 4 coasters in the shape of sunflowers. So I did that, but it took longer than expected and I only got 3 done. I started on the 4th, and took it home to finish it. But when I brought it back to class, it fell out my bag onto the floor and got trashed, leaving me with only 3. So in the end, all I'll have to show for this class are 3 stinking sunflower coasters that will look dull and lifeless since they have underglaze but no clear coat. That's assuming our instructor gets her shit together and actually gets all of our stuff fired. Grrr. In the end they'll probably look like crap, and I'll just get pissed and rifle them out my window like some kind of stoneware throwing stars.

But I should say that I've really enjoyed spending time in that art room. There's a chaotic energy brewing amongst the organized clutter in that room. The super territorial weirdo high School art teacher is also a track and field coach, so the room is a mish-mash of creative, half-completed high school art projects and track and field articles, photos, etc. It's an interesting and stimulating blend.

Also, just to make this post a little more even-handed, I should add that not all Community Ed classes suck. The Intro Spanish course I took through Comm Ed a year ago was actually pretty good (even though I really didn't retain anything I learned...) The instructor was very organized, and covered pretty much all that he could in the 8 or so class periods he had to work with.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

First brick of the year

I have a strange relationship with weekends at times. Lazy weekends leave me feeling rested, rejuvenated, and generally recharged and ready to start the week. Busy weekends (like this one) leave me wishing that I had another day to just rest. But lazy weekends are boring, busy weekends are active and fun. Can't have it both ways. Thus, the strange relationship.

This weekend was indeed busy, and a little different - it's a bizarre when the weather allows for snowboarding one day, and a long (warm!) bike ride the next. But that's exactly what I did this weekend.

Headed out to Afton on Sat morning with PW and GH. Hit the slopes around 10:30, knowing that we'd be best served getting some boarding in before it really warmed up in the afternoon. Conditions were actually pretty good for late season - didn't have to contend with any patches of ice, and the snow seemed relatively fast - much faster than 2 weeks ago when we got about 6 inches of fresh snow and conditions were so slow that I went home after only 3 hours. Later in the afternoon, the clouds cleared, shadows appeared and it really started to warm up - then my board started to feel a little slow but still pretty decent. PW commented how the hills at Afton have started to feel shorter now that our abilities have improved since last year, and he's totally right. Last year the hills in the Highland area seemed long, and perfectly suited to our abilities. This year, they're still lots of fun but they start to feel a little less challenging. Come next year, I envision more trips up to Spirit Mountain for variety - the main run there is longer so you can build up more speed (for better carving) and they have a great run that meanders through the woods with a little terrain which kicks ass.

Today, I had planned on getting the road bike out and doing a long ride. I just getting ready to get ready to ride when Darkling Child called asking if I wanted to ride out St Paul direction, and I said "sure". Had planned on riding alone, but Darkling was mentioned the hills out past the High Bridge, so I thought it sounded like a good plan - I need hill work in a major way if I'm going to put in personal best at Wildflower this year. The last time we rode together, she rode her Trek road bike, while I road my mtn bike with slicks as an "equalizer". My mtn bike is currently set up with knobby tires (which I put on a few ago to race in the "Snowball's Chance in Hell Formula Ice Race and Snowy Dash For Cold Hard Cash". Hadn't bothered to take the knobbies off, so I figured I just leave 'em on for even more of an equilizer effect. It worked. They equilized the crap out of me today.

Rode east on 42nd St, up West River Rd, across the Franklin St bridge, Darkling almost hit another pedestrian turning onto East River Rd, down to Summit Ave, Summit into St Paul (down the switchback hill), across the High Bridge, and out another maybe five(?) miles on Hwy 13, rested at some big scenic overlook for some snacks, then headed back. For me I think this was 47-48 miles round trip, a little less for Darkling since I had to ride to her place to start the ride. This was my first time riding on the far side of the Mississippi out by St Paul, and there are some decent hills out that way. The High Bridge alone kicked my ass - but maybe because it was the first real hill of the ride, and my legs didn't know what I planned on throwing at them - who knows. Anyway, it was a fun ride. A little messy though - the melt is on big-time and I have a fender but Darkling's bike was kicking up a monster rooster tail of spray on the downhills.

People came out of the woodwork to bask in the warm weather today (according to my thermometer at home, it hit 60 degrees!) I swear everyone with a kid or a dog was out walking around at some point. Saw the first shirtless (unfortunately male) joggers of the year out today - there were a whole pack of 'em running in the bike lane on Summit. Lots of roadies out too.

Got back to my place and threw on my running shoes for a quick jog around Calhoun - Calhoun was an absolute madhouse - the jogging path is still iced up in places, meaning walkers, runners, baby strollers, bikes and rollerbladers are all crowded onto one path, making for a lot of dodging and weaving. Still a good run though. So that's my first brick (combined bike/run workout, for you non-triathletes) of the season. More than enough to justify a giant dinner. And a big root beer float.