28 July 2005

Mmm! Sugary sweet CAFTA!

CAFTA has passed. Seems like it warrants a post.

Frankly, I couldn’t see any reason to be against CAFTA, not from page one. The great sucking sound Ross Perot warned us about from NAFTA never happened, and the six countries involved in CAFTA don’t equal the population or economic might of Mexico all combined together. The continued whining about textile jobs fleeing south for slave labor is absurd given the trade preferences the U.S. offers places like China and Bangladesh, where the average wage is significantly lower than that in any of the six CAFTA nations (which are, incidentally, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica).

From the start this entire debate was about sugar. Anyone who tries to sell it any other way is either genuinely convinced of a lie, or knows better but thinks you don’t. Sugar beet farmers and, of course, Florida's own cane growers have been among the most active agricultural political donors for 50 years, and they give money to anybody they think will probably win. Big Sugar doesn't really care one way or the other about any issue except one: maintaining the absurdly high tariffs presently in effect on foreign sugar. If you can get foreign sugar at world market prices, there wouldn't be any sugar growing going on in this country.

Sugar gets fat subsidies from the federal government and has few threats from foreign products, since the tariffs are so high. They like it that way. They assume you don't really care. And they give lots and lots of money to many politicians every election cycle so that they can keep it that way. The CAFTA nations, God forbid it, grow an awful lot of sugar, and if we sweep away our price countrols and import quotas, why, American sugar producers will have to lower prices to remain competitive, or go out of business.

I'm sure most sugar beet farmers could find other work. And I hope Florida's sugar growers will some day just go out of business and leave the Everglades alone. CAFTA won't cause either of those to happen; actually, import quotas on sugar will only be dropped by about 20% under the trade plan. U.S. sugar growers will be fine. But they're worried about the future.


27 July 2005

Two Exciting Bits of News I Just Learned!

Hey, check it out--a post I didn't write at work!

1. So, like, so far this year I've watched Pirates of the Caribbean on DVD about ten times. So far. I love that movie. And guess what I just learned? There's a sequel on the way! Man, nothing gets the ol' juices flowing like a good sequel! I hate having to learn some new plot and new characters!

Actually, this is one of the few times when I'm actually looking forward to a sequel. Consider: same director; same writers; same composer; Depp, Knightley, Bloom, Davenport, Pryce, and even Rush all return. Let's face facts: this movie wasn't just gorgeous scenery (and people); the actors did a damn fine job. This was the best pirate movie since Errol Flynn, and possibly the best pirate movie ever. And you're telling me they're getting the old crew back together for another go? Hey, Spiderman 2 was better than the original, and the original was damned good. Damned good! So I am perfectly right to have very high hopes for this sequel. The movie is filming now, due out next year. I'm way more excited about this than I was about this year's Star Wars movie. Call me a dork if you like. I'm happy. (And I had a truly shitty day at work so I'm going to gloat.)

2. I have a new favorite underdog country. I wouldn't quite call it third-world; in fact, in my particular rank structure (about which there will be several posts in the coming days), it's what I'd call a "failed state." But you gotta like this line:

"The government eventually suppressed or came to terms with most political-military groups, settled a territorial dispute with Libya on terms favorable to Chad, drafted a democratic constitution, and held multiparty presidential elections in 1996 and 1997."

Think about this. Chad. Chad, one of the poorest, crappiest, least militarily powerful countries on the face of the earth, got into a territorial dispute with Libya, which had numerous chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons programs through much of the last two decades and a steady source of petroleum-related income, and settled the dispute on terms favorable to Chad.

I don't know how in the hell they managed that, but damn. And can I get some. So, go Chad. Of all the Failed States, you're definitely in my top five.

Wal-Mart Not God, After All

It must have come as a surprise to corporate executives.

For almost five weeks now, Wal-Mart stores in Pensacola, Florida, have not sold the local newspaper, the Pensacola News Journal, because of that newspaper’s columnists dared to say something negative about the company. Evidently, world domination is not enough for Wal-Mart. They want our love, too.

I (heart) Huckabees notwithstanding, there are few Wal-Mart adoration societies in the world even among the chain’s dedicated shoppers. It’s easy enough to see why, but because I really, really strongly dislike Wal-Mart (proud to say I’ve been in a Wal-Mart exactly twice since 2001) I’ll go ahead and link to the many Wal-Mart hate sites out there so you can get an idea of why the chain has yet to feel our love.

That’s just a sampling. There are probably more hate pages devoted to Wal-Mart than to any other organization or person who’s not a politician.

Anyway, back to the main story. As you can read in this article that appeared in today’s News Journal, someone in the Wal-Mart organization seems to have realized that the company did not, in fact, win any converts by banning the local newspaper from their stores. No explicit lyrics on CDs, that’s okay (though they do sell DVDs and video games with explicit lyrics, so one has to wonder how serious they are); but no columns in newspapers critical of Wal-Mart? That is a bit over the line. The New York Times and Washington Post have both at one time or another run articles or columns critical of Wal-Mart; a Times article was actually quoted by the News Journal columnist. But Wal-Mart still is willing to sell those papers.

Not surprisingly, it all comes down to one regional manager who thought he was more important than he really was. Here’s to you, Bob Hart. You thought you could get a journalist fired because he said something bad about your company. Turns out, you’re not nearly as important as all that. I hope Hart gets some sunny Wal-Mart discipline, but I doubt it.

Reporters In Jail, Nukes in Iraq

Here’s a must read article in today’s Washington Post about the apparently expanding probe into what the White House staff knew and said about Valerie Plame’s status in 2003.

Matt Cooper may be off the hook and Judith Miller may be in jail, but the special prosecutor who threatened them both has set his sights on the White House. Plame’s husband, Joseph Wilson, was sent by the White House in 2002 to Niger to investigate whether Saddam Hussein had ever tried to by nuclear materials from that country. Wilson said there was no evidence of that; the White House tried to discredit him; and part of that campaign seems to have involved casually leaking Plame’s identity to the press.

If all seems rather pointless and confusing, it is. The interesting thing is that the White House apparently had the time, and thought it was important, to discredit Wilson, and undertook to do so. It seems to me the biggest thing that will come out of this particular investigation is a worry about why the White House was using 2x4s to swat flies, and what they might have been doing instead to, I don’t know, fight the war on terror and revive the economy.

Bigger than this story itself is where it might lead. Why was it so important to discredit Wilson, who had been sent to Niger at the administration’s request? How does this fit in with things like the Downing Street Memo (more info here)? And will we ever get the whole story from this administration, about anything?

Not My Fault

No, really, it’s not. It’s always somebody else’s fault. In this instance, the somebody else is the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority. Why is somebody suing the agency that oversees all county airports? Could it be jet noise? Fumes? An aircraft accident?

Nah. He got drunk.

He got drunk, and belligerent, and airport police officers escorted him away from the airplane he was trying to board at Tampa International. But he fell down an escalator—and since he was being escorted at the time, it is obviously the escorts’ fault, and thus their employer’s fault, that he got hurt. Not his fault. He was only drinking. He did nothing wrong, although he was too drunk and disorderly to board a Delta Airlines jet and at this point they’ll take just about anybody.

He’s asking for at least 15 grand. It happened four months ago; he filed the lawsuit just Monday morning, but apparently was feeling well enough at the time to go on a cruise, where he is right now.

This man’s attorney, Amy G. Cohen, is an example of a bad lawyer. If I ever become a bad lawyer, somebody please kidnap me and beat me up.

You Heard It Here First

It seems unlikely that the Republicans will nominate Condoleeza Rice for president in 2008. Assuming that holds true, I contend that regardless of who is the nominee, Connecticut Governor Jodi Rell will be the Vice Presidential nominee. It’s July 27th, 2005.

The great thing about making guesses like this is, if I’m right, I can go back to this post and prove it and be all smug and stuff. And if I’m wrong, nobody will remember anyway. Ha ha ha ha ha!

26 July 2005

A Bad Day at Clay

...is still better than a good day at work. Not that I've had too many of those lately, so the comparison is rather weak.

I finally got back to the studio tonight, but between my right shoulder bothering me somewhat and trying to use clay that's become far too hard, I was able to make only two things, a jug and a pickle jar. The jug sort of came out of nowhere, not what I'd expected to make with that lump of clay. That's really my favorite bit about working with clay; expectations be damned, sometimes the clay just makes what the clay wants to make. Of course, I'm presently trying to get a large flowerpot and a coffee mug made, and accomplished neither of those tonight. I also need to make more cockroach traps and pickle jars; at least I got a pickle jar. I must go back again this week.

Speaking of pickle jars, I'd like to point out that I've actually used the present pickle jar to make pickles, which are at this moment sitting in my fridge. Well, a few of them are. Actually, there are only two left. Really, most of one and a tiny sliver of another. They're just so good; I can't keep my hands out of the jar.
If you'd care to make your own pickles, here's something on the order of the recipe I used. More or less. The pickles will come out dark and rather tart.

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
2 cups good clear water (none of that stuff that comes out of the tap in Florida)
3-4 tablespoons of pickling spice (mine has equal parts whole mustard, coriander, and dill seed, plus some crushed bay leaves, whole black pepper, and whole allspice)
1-2 tablespoons of pickling or other non-iodized salt (more if you prefer)

Boil all the ingredients together in a ceramic pot, if one is available, or teflon. Not copper; vinegar will leach some of the copper off the pot and the brine will become highly toxic.

Use pickling cucumbers and not the regular kind you get in the grocery. And definitely make sure the cucumbers are in good condition, not all squishy or anything; a nice about inch and a half in diameter, any more and the cuke will make a somewhat squishy pickle. Cut the bud end off the cukes, pack them into a jar (or, better still, a handmade stoneware pickle jar), pour the boiling brine over them, put the jar in the fridge. You'll have pickles in about a day and a half. And you can always change up the recipe; just be sure to keep the vinegar/water ratio at 50:50.

Mmm. Homemade pickles. If you bring a homemade pickle to work, people will be impressed. I can prove this first-hand, and my coworkers are not easily impressed by domesticity.

25 July 2005

Slow day

This will come as a surprise to many, but the fact is I really don't have anything to say today. Normally in this circumstance I can come up with a few little things, but today, nothing. Clearly my brain is tired, but why? It's not like I did anything at work. AT ALL. Seriously, I wasted 8 hours today and accomplished, oh, maybe 10 minutes' worth of work. These slow patches drive me absolutely crazy. At least I went to the gym to finish out the day. I wish I could just take a few days off. Maybe a few afternoons.

In lieu of something meaningful, I'd like to point out that this new movie Stealth looks like the sort of film the dentist scrapes off your teeth. I had to hold back the vomit when I saw the preview in the theaters. I assume they paid Jamie Foxx a lot of money to do this, since for what other reason would a man on the verge of a respectable acting career take two steps back like this?

22 July 2005

On the other blog

Another post is up on the other blog, for those who might be interested.

21 July 2005

All the pretty colors

I grew weary of the greenish tint to this blog, so I've made it something more of a cream color. Let me know if it's awful.

19 July 2005

Who is Judge John Roberts?

A fair question, indeed. Rather than read the one-sided political blogs, the ranting coming from the party organizations, the love and hate from the too-well-monied interest groups on right and left, why not read a little about Judge Roberts from noted lawyers, legal scholars, and from Judge Roberts himself.

Here is Judge Roberts' bio from The Supreme Court Nomination Blog.
Links from this bio include those to two of Judge Roberts' most controversial opinions on the DC Circuit, his official federal judicial biography, and some profiles by noted legal scholars. I would call your attention to Roberts' decision in Hedgepeth v. Washington MTA. Even if you're not keen to read legal opinions, you should at least read the first three or four paragraphs of Judge Roberts' opinion. The key sentence is from the first paragraph:

"The question before us,
however, is not whether these policies were a bad idea, but
whether they violated the Fourth and Fifth Amendments to
the Constitution."

My two cents after the jump.

I won't bother to ask for the two cents. I very much like Judge Roberts' tone in the above cited opinion, and not being very smart in legal matters I put a lot of weight on tone. Roberts' accepts that the case is an unfortunate one. He also notes that emotional considerations must be ignored in the matter. This is sometimes a hard thing to do; you want to reverse the decision and give this little girl some sort of recompense for her treatment. But you can't, not if you take the law seriously. Roberts, it would seem, takes the law seriously.

Judge Roberts is known as a quiet but thoughtful judge. This seems to be a good thing for the Supreme Court. He has a relatively short judicial career, meaning he has little paper trail. Justices Souter and Thomas, among others, came to the court after similarly short appellate careers. Thomas, of course, is a conservative darling; Souter is a conservative whipping boy. Roberts certainly comes across as more conservative than Souter, but his record is thin. Whether this is good or bad remains open for debate.

Speaking as a white male who wouldn't turn down a federal appellate appointment should one ever be offered in some far-distant and probably mythical future, I am a bit disappointed that Bush nominated a white male. He really wants to appoint Alberto Gonzales to the Court. Does he expect to replace Chief Justice Rehnquist with Gonzales at some point? Possibly; it would be political dynamite, and if Roberts is very conservative (like Rehnquist) and Gonzales is moderate (like Justice O'Connor), it would actually keep the court's balance at status quo ante. But his conservative base wouldn't be happy.

And there is something to be said for replacing the first woman ever to serve on the Court with another woman. I think it's a fair argument that O'Connor's seat does not need to be a "female seat," because that cheapens the value of the nomination. But my gut feeling is that a woman would have been very appropriate here.

What I guess is the most surprising thing here is that Bush does not appear to have played politics. There are significant political considerations to naming a woman or a hispanic. The majority of Bush's decisions play to the political dynamic of groups--remember, this is the team that hired a staffer to target "middle class Catholics from Ohio" during the 2004 campaign. Group politics is every bit as important to these guys as they are to the Democrats. I fully expected Bush to play group politics--that is to say, I believed Bush's list of potential nominees would be limited to women and minorities.

That it wasn't is a very pleasant surprise. It says to me that Bush might have given some thought to the idea that the Court should not be a body brought down to the level of street politics; this would be a change from his obvious previous inclination that the courts were a fine place to fight partisan battles (witness the filibuster situation). It would unquestionably be a good change.

It also says to me that Bush very likely considered many people, minorities and women included, and gave everyone the same hearing without giving undue influence to group affiliation. This is very positive. And it says Bush must thus think Roberts is the best guy around to fill this job--at least, the best guy around who both gets along with Bush and shares at least a fair majority of his views. This is the most we can ask of any president in making Court nominations.

As a rule I think when Bush makes a decision it's usually wrong, and when he says something publicly it's usually a politically calculated lie. Roberts' nomination seems to go against both of those.

The question, then, is, whither Alberto Gonzales?
A difficult question. Bush said he wanted to name the first Hispanic Justice. Reagan said during his campaign he would name the first female Justice; he did so at his first opportunity with Justice O'Connor. That Bush did not follow suit is plain evidence that he does not think O'Connor's will be the only retirement during his term. Rehnquist, of course, now seems unlikely to step down unless he becomes physically incapacitated. Conventional wisdom among Court watchers is that Justice Stevens will leave the court only after his breath takes leave of him.

If the conventional wisdom is correct, then, Bush is betting on mortality. That's an interesting position for him to be in.

A Muslim Gandhi?

I get a Google News update every day for my name, just to see who else out there who shares my name is making news; I tend to assume I'm not and thus far I have not been wrong. Today I happened upon a news tidbit from the BBC, and it's on a subject that's of quite intense interest to me. Follow the jump for more.

It seems another Mr. Smith, a South London lorry driver, has a blog of his own called Blogistan, which is one of the all-time great blog names. In a recent post he responded to an article in the London Daily Telegraph entitled "Where is the Gandhi of Islam?" The article asks, well, where is the Gandhi of Islam (as you'd expect). Essentially it's asking why none of the self-proclaimed "moderate" Muslims around the world will step up and "take back Islam from the radicals."

This is an interesting question. Mr. Smith says that one of the notable responses to the July 7th bombings in London was that "Islam does not support this kind of action." He follows up by saying that "The fact that Muslims can do this sort of thing doesn’t change that."

This is a powerful and very intriguing statement. While I would not not endorse everything Mr. Smith says, his post is still very thought-provoking. Christians, after all, are capable of some pretty awful things--Eric Rudolph comes immediately to mind, as does Timothy McVeigh (remember him?). Some people say, "Well, those aren't true Christians. I would never endorse their actions."

Of course not. But when a Muslim says the same thing, they tend to be ignored in the West. Why? As Mr. Smith says, "There is no reason why the fingers should be pointed at 'the Muslim community', given that we have no reason to support actions like this. If we are not forthcoming with information on the 'terrorists in our midst', it's because they don't tell us who they are."

The idea that the Muslims should rise up and "fix" the problem of extremist Islam ignores the fact that we as Christians have yet to rise up and "fix" the problem of extremist Christians. Elohim City still thrives in Oklahoma; it may be a small gathering of people, but so are the terror cells that perpetrated the London bombings. I've heard nothing from maintstream Christians about "fixing" the Christian Identity movement that still thrives in this country.

True, these nitwit radicals have done nothing--well, aside from that whole Oklahoma City thing--on the scale of Al Qaeda style Muslim radicals. But is that still an excuse? Does that make it okay for us to blame all Muslims for the actions of a few Muslims? We don't blame ourselves for Tim McVeigh and Eric Rudolph.


The Big Announcement

So today comes news that the Prez will announce his Supreme Court nominee at 9 this evening. I'll be tuned in. It's actually sooner than I expected.

For those who are interested in this issue (and if you aren't you're wrong), allow me to suggest that you watch the announcement on C-SPAN and then tune the web browser to The Supreme Court Nomination Blog.

As you are no doubt aware, various interest and pressure groups on both the right and left have stockpiled hundreds of millions of dollars to either praise or fight this nominee, whoever she or he (she) may be. You can bet that all the cable news channels will have "analysis" following the announcement consisting of two people from absolute opposite ends of the spectrum screaming at each other for no good reason and hurling half-truths about the nominee. It'll be just like Crossfire, only more pointless! (If that's even possible.)

Your best bet is to get your news and information about the nominee from the aforementioned nomination blog. It's run by partners of the law firm Goldstein & Howe, who make their business as Supreme Court lawyers; though they've admitted that it's impossible to be truly neutral, they also know that they will very likely be presenting cases before this nominee next term, and thus have a vested personal interest in reporting only the nominee's personal and legal history and providing links to the various biassed coverage. That's the type of source you want.

For the record, my money has been on Judge Edith "Joy" Clement of the 5th Circuit since Laura Bush let slip last weekend that she wanted hubby to nominate a woman. Prior to that I was betting on Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. The Nomination Blog are saying that they do not believe it will be Clement, and have a few reasons for this. I don't know enough of the "dark horse" candidates to change my bet, but I'd be deeply surprised if Judges Edith Jones or Priscilla Owen were the nominees. This leaves us with a handful of Republican women Senators (Snowe or Collins of Maine, Hutchison of Texas; I wouldn't expect any other), or someone from deep left field. Honestly? Deep left field may be the most likely of all.

17 July 2005

Turners and Burners

I've finally finished reading a book! It's been, what, about three, four weeks? I've been trying to whittle down a backlog of Economist magazines and it's cut into my regular reading time. Oh well.

So the book I finished was Turners & Burners, by Charles Zug. I had to finish it because it was due back to the library today. Yes! I actually have a library card, and I use it! Amazing, no?

But anyway, this book is about the folk pottery tradition in North Carolina. Sort of an esoteric subject. I'd write an honest review of it, but I think the odds of anyone reading this blog, at any time in the future, really needing this book, are pretty slim. It is, at least, a wealth of knowledge, and has a lot of good pictures in it. Zug has written the definitive book on the subject, such that he is referenced in almost every significant American pottery book that has been written since. And, I learned a lot of good techniques in this book--capping pots, ways to do lids and handles, that sort of thing.

This is the sort of book I'll have to check out again in the future. It has everything you'd need to be a North Carolina folk potter--glaze recipes, notes on where the clay came from, how to build a treadle wheel and a kiln, how to fire. Turners and Burners may not be a book for everyone, but if it's a great resource if you want to know anything about the life of the folk potter.

Turners and Burners

I've finally finished reading a book! It's been, what, about three, four weeks? I've been trying to whittle down a backlog of Economist magazines and it's cut into my regular reading time. Oh well.

So the book I finished was Turners & Burners, by Charles Zug. I had to finish it because it was due back to the library today. Yes! I actually have a library card, and I use it! Amazing, no?

But anyway, this book is about the folk pottery tradition in North Carolina. Sort of an esoteric subject. I'd write an honest review of it, but I think the odds of anyone reading this blog, at any time in the future, really needing this book, are pretty slim. It is, at least, a wealth of knowledge, and has a lot of good pictures in it. Zug has written the definitive book on the subject, such that he is referenced in almost every significant American pottery book that has been written since. And, I learned a lot of good techniques in this book--capping pots, ways to do lids and handles, that sort of thing.

This is the sort of book I'll have to check out again in the future. It has everything you'd need to be a North Carolina folk potter--glaze recipes, notes on where the clay came from, how to build a treadle wheel and a kiln, how to fire. Turners and Burners may not be a book for everyone, but if it's a great resource if you want to know anything about the life of the folk potter.

A Variety of Minor Updates

1. Regular readers may have been somewhat surprised by my reticence following Chief Justice Rehnquist's statement Thursday night that he is not, in fact, planning to retire any time soon.

Partly this was because I already expected it. Partly, it's because I didn't even learn of it until about 24 hours after it actually happened. Though I did have an exceedingly bizarre dream Thursday night, in which I met and chatted with the Chief Justice for quite some time. At some point I simply ran off to follow somebody else, and the dream drifted off in other, work-related directions for a while, until I happened to bump into the Chief again later to continue our discussion.

What annoys me is I'm sure the Chief had some important words of wisdom for me about a legal career, but I can't remember what they were. He seemed to be in remarkably good health, though--and was rather put off that I ran off in the midst of our conversation (he forgave me, though).

Five more brief and vitally important updates after the jump.

2. The pottery sale went well, at least on Saturday. I didn't go in on Sunday; had other things to do (which, remarkably, I've done all but one of). I sold eight pieces Saturday, among them the red bowl, the folded bowl, and both cockroach traps (which sold in the first hour). Clearly I could have sold a dozen roach traps, if not more. I shall be making a goodly number of those in the near future. I am also now taking commissions if anybody wants anything in particular.

3. I learned something interesting this weekend. I would like to buy a Floyd Red Crow Westerman album; but apparently such purchases send up a red flag during U.S. Government background security clearance checks. Hmm.

4. As I've noted in comments earlier, I've narrowed my law school search. I expect to definitely apply to Stetson, Cal-Berkeley, Georgetown, and Virginia. I'm going to visit George Washington and Washington & Lee to see about them. I'm also going to apply to one of Tennessee, FSU, Georgia State, and UNC. And I'm keeping Texas and Hawai'i in my back pocket if I get a wild notion at some point. I mean, seriously. Hawai'i. Who wouldn't want to go to school there? Aside from Texas, Hawai'i, and Berkeley, I plan to visit all those schools, so if you live near one tell me so I can crash with you.

5. Finally, a brief update on everybody's favorite heel, Scott Maddox. Seems Scottie is engaging in some murky fundraising practices that, while technically legal by Florida law, are nonetheless banned by the state Democratic Party. That's right. The former head of the state party is openly and unabashedly violating the bylaws of the party. Yeehaw. He's also still running the Leon County Democratic Party like its his own personal fiefdom and money machine. I can't wait to see what ideas he has for our state's budget problems...

Maddox is proof of Carl Hiaasen's axiom that shit always runs downhill, and Florida is as low as you can get.

6. Surprising even the most idealistic of pundits, I actually went to church this weekend. I'm not normally a fan of contemporary services, though it's been so long since I attended church regularly I'm not sure how much that matters. This morning, however, the church had a West Indian praise band playing called Mo' Than Conquerers. Now this, this I could handle every Sunday. Yeah, I'd miss hymns, eventually... but I think a little reggae-inspired praise music is just what I needed. If you're not keen on typical contemporary worship music, you would very much enjoy these folks.

They're a Tampa-based band, though all members are from the Virgin Islands (you know, one of those accents you could listen to forever?). The church had CDs available in their bookstore after the service, and at ten bucks I couldn't resist. But alas, I was too late. I think everybody at the service tried to buy one. One of the ministers said she thought they'd be able to sell a few hundred if the band pressed some more discs. Rest assured I'll be checking the bookstore after church every week. If you happen to hear that these folks are coming to play a church near you, you really must go see them.

15 July 2005

More pottery pictures!

We got a bunch of great stuff out of the kilns today. Here's a picture of my little sales corner. The shelves are pretty much all packed full. The sale starts tomorrow--we'll see how it all goes.

The rest of the pictures are after the jump.

Here's the plate, all glazed up and everything. Four glazes, white, rutile, celadon, and temmoku. I had to put wax on top of the white and rutile glazes in the corners there to make it all come out the way I wanted it to. I've been thinking about doing more plates in a really art deco style, but I'm not sure how to do the glaze; this was an experiment.

A bowl, in temmoku.

A different bowl, in temmoku. Size and glaze quality have made this my most expensive bowl. One of the other potters already said she wants it if it doesn't sell this weekend.

Here are two more bowls. The folded bowl on the right there is white and... something, I think maybe off-white. It's pretty nice. The other bowl there is done with the same glaze combination as the purple vase from the earlier series of photos. Really thin rim on that, but I suspect it'll sell anyway.

How's for this little red bowl? I didn't like it before. Much like the purple vase, when I don't really like something I take risks with it. This is done entirely in our house barium red glaze. Barium reds can be very runny and drippy, but on this bowl it turned out great. (Side note: though technically this is a "barium red," the recipe we use actually replaces the barium with strontium, so it's safe to eat out of.)

Here's that pitcher I hate. I tried to do the purple glaze thing on it. It sort of worked, in places. I still hate it. I priced it at eight bucks, but another potter said it was nice and I could get 20 for it. I priced it at eight bucks. Some things, you just hate.

Here's a selection of items. The pitcher on the left got sort of messed up in the kiln, and the glaze on the interior--apple blossom again--never fully vitrified. I tested it today and the pitcher still holds water, so all is well. The pattern in the glaze is nice. In the middle is a smaller bowl of no particular distinction. On the right is a little wee jug, which sat on the floor of the kiln, and when we threw the salt in, a clump of it stuck to the bowl. You can see the damage there on the bottom, but it's still sort of a cute little thing so we'll see if it sells.

Here's a beautiful little jar that should have been even more beautiful had I not added too much water to the glaze. It's glazed with Apple Blossom, but darn it I just couldn't get the glaze thick enough on the pot. The manganese in the glaze spotted up real nice, though. Still, I can't but be a little disappointed.

Just so you have the right idea, this is what Apple Blossom is supposed to look like. I love this glaze, if I could just get it to work.

In the same vein, here's a closeup of one of the little cups I have, with the Nickel Blue glaze on the inside. This is gas fired. I do like this glaze but it needs tweaking.

And here's an example of the nickel blue glaze as it fired in the salt kiln. I actually like it better here, on the jar to the right. The jar to the left is that smooth lidded jar. It really looks nice; this is the most expensive piece on my shelves.

And here is another look at that lidded jar. The glaze inside is a nice plain clear glaze, but the outside's what I like about it. In reality, a folk potter wouldn't have bothered to make glaze and then glaze the insides of his jars and jugs; he'd just let the salt do all the work. Of course, he'd also fire the lid separate from the jar itself, so, we all make compromises.

Here's a selection of jugs right after they came out of the kiln. Check out that cool jug on the top left. It's amazingly dark, and the little white X's came out pretty cool.

A couple of those nicely glazed jugs. These are two different clay bodies, Orange Stone on the left and Toast on the right. Note that I gave them little corks. That's value added for you the consumer...

Two more jugs. I just love jugs. Check out the fat jug on the left, also made of Toast. (Well, it's made of clay, but the clay is called Toast.) The jug on the right is, again, glazed (top half only) with Apple Blossom, which once again is much too thin. But doesn't that thing look cool? I love it. It sat on the bottom shelf in the kiln, too, but nothing got stuck to it. Instead, the big spots there are where large grains of salt attached to the jug and melted, amongst the general salt air in the kiln (which is what makes the brown glaze). This didn't turn out at all like I expected, but I very much like it.

And here it is, the best dadgum thing to come out of this kiln. (Along with that cool dark jug in the background). That's high praise; I'm really happy with most of these pieces, even (especially?) the ones that surprised me. But this piece... well, I loved this piece to begin with. It came out of the kiln beautifully. But you know... well, it's really a shame, but a tiny little bit of wadding fell into the jar during the firing and fused with the glaze. It's just a tiny little bit, but... well, it's a blemish. I just can't sell a blemished jar, can I? No, absolutely not. And I have some great pickling cucumbers just waiting for a nice salt and vinegar bath...

So that's that. I repeat my offer that family can request any piece for free, and friends can request any piece at marked price. I'll remind folks that if you'd like to request one of these pieces you need to call me, oh, tomorrow morning.

13 July 2005

The Sopranos ARE from New Jersey...

Here's a fun little story from PolitcsNJ.com. Now, I had always assumed, like I think most Americans, that mobsters were as a rule Democrats, because Republicans are tougher on crime. But as the GOP makes gains across the country, I guess some young hooligans have taken to riding the elephant.

The New Jersey College Republicans have thrown out their statewide president. And with good cause, as far as I'm concerned. Here you can read a highly amusing email chain wherein the erstwhile young president/bagman attempts to shake down the Doug Forrester for Governor campaign, and then gets his panties in a wad when he gets called on it. Oh, and note the unfortunate name of the Treasurer of the state organization, down in the third email. This poor guy has no future in politics.

This is presented for your amusement only, not as a political comment. I know, earlier this year I covered the exploits of yet another college republican accused of embezzlement, but really, it's nothing against the CRs. I was a Republican when I was in college. If anybody knows about any college democrats embezzling money, please tell me. But I doubt you'll find any such stories, since, after all, no college democrats club has any money to embezzle anyway. They spent it all getting wasted after the last election.

Pathetic Personals

I found this linked on another blog. This might be the funniest page I have ever seen on the web.

Pathetic Personals

Lord, I hope I never end up here.

Sort of a blog-tag thing, I guess

I got one of those "a bunch of random questions to send to your friends" today from a friend. I sent it to a fairly select group of friends since the email list my college friends (hereinafter "Elm Street") use has already seen its share of such things. But numerous Elm Streeters have blogs.

And, this turned out to be one of the funnier things I've written in at least the past year, so I figured it deserved to go here. You can read the whole silly thing after the jump--and James, Joel, Kelly, Dexter, and Heather, you are hereby tagged. Or something. I really don't know the etiquette on these things.

Ahem. Some adult themes, mild language. The MPAA gave it a PG-13, but they're getting pretty loose these days, since they'd rather sue small-time rippers and burners than worry about the slow decline in content and quality of the movies they're supposed to be rating.

So here it goes.

1. First Name:

2. Were you named after anyone?
No, unless you count St. Matthew, but I don't think that's who my folks had in mind. It's too common, but I can't complain: the other names they were considering included Stacey (Stacey! Good God! Mom and Dad say this isn't true, but I've seen the baby names book and they circled it), and Benjamin (so I'd be BS. Actually, I think that's why they decided not to go with Benjamin).

3. Do you wish on stars?
I live in downtown. I gotta get hit on the head before I can even SEE stars.

4. When did you last cry?
Probably the last time I watched Shawshank Redemption.

5. Do you like your handwriting?
Yeah, I think it's pretty groovy. It's perfectly legible. Well, not perfectly. Okay, so it's marginally legible. Most of the time.

6. What is your favorite lunch meat?
Corned beef. Oy vey, what a question.

7. What is your birth date?
7 April 1977

8. What is your most embarrassing CD?
Hmm. This is a toughie, since I pretty much still like all of my CDs. I am sort of embarrassed to admit I bought the Oasis CD (Morning Glory), but I've since sold it (thank you eBay!)

9. If you were another person, would YOU be friends with you?
Yes, and if I was a female other person I'd definitely sleep with me.

10. Are you a daredevil?
Not since I started the medication.

11. Who is your favorite cartoon character?
I think it's probably Professor Hubert Farnsworth, from Futurama, though all the characters in that show are strong, and I dig Hermes' voice.

12. Do looks matter?
I'm male, so I'd be a liar if I said no, even if I gave some very good reason. Which I don't happen to have. But I agree with Kim's comment that someone who's interesting gets better looking, too.

13. How do you release anger?
I drink.

14. Where is your second home?
Well, my folks and sister live in Orange Park, so that's sort of like my second home--or maybe my first since I grew up there. Visiting Elm Street in Atlanta or Clemson always feels like home to me.

15. Do you trust others easily?
Yes, to a fault. The cynicism is just a front, really, anyone who's even remotely charming can totally disarm me, at least in person. Until they cross me. And then I'll pretty much never trust them again for seven years (at which point you're supposed to give up grudges and debts, but Lord it's hard).

16. What was your favorite toy as a child?
All of my many stuffed animals, particularly my stuffed shark, Molasses.

17. What class in high school do you think was totally useless?
Nearly all of them. I enjoyed Chemistry, Statistics, Art, Weightlifting, Band, and American Government, and some parts of English. The rest was crap.

18. Do you have a journal?
I have a blog. I have kept a journal in the past but I'm so damned long-winded it just takes up too much time.

19. Do you use sarcasm a lot?
No, I'm never sarcastic. Who would say such a thing?

20. What are your nicknames?
Smitty. Matt. One of my coworkers calls me Matty, but that has not spread, thankfully. In pilot training I was Rain Man. I usually sign off my emails at work as The Mob, because Mob is my office symbol (for Mobility). No one's ever called me The Mob, but I do get emails addressed to The Mob.
Undoubtedly the FBI is investigating. Karl Rove will probably leak my identity to the press shortly.

21. Would you bungee jump?
Sure, as long as I watched a fat guy jump with the same rope first.

22. Do you untie your shoes when you take them off?
Only my Docs. Well, and my boots.

23. Do you think that you are strong?
In what way? Not especially.

24. What is your favorite ice cream flavor?
Mint Chocolate Chip

25. Shoe Size?

26. Red or pink?
Red or pink, what kind of question is this? When did you stop beating your wife?

27. What is your least favorite thing about yourself?
I'm lazy.

28. Who do you miss most?
Rick Osborne was like kin.

30. What color pants and shoes are you wearing?
Right now? I'm wearing black Umbros. I'm at my house, so I'm not wearing shoes because wearing shoes in your own home is an affront to God. Or something.

31. What are you listening to right now?
A mix CD I made from two Philip Glass CDs that were only half good (together they make a whole CD!). This particular track is from Hydrogen Jukebox, a choral piece Glass wrote using Allen Ginsberg poems as the libretto. One of the tracks later on is actually read by Ginsberg. NAMBLA and all that stuff aside, Ginsberg was a pretty cool poet.

32. Last thing you ate?
Dinner: Basa, broiled with white wine, mushrooms and herbes de provence, on a bed of sushi rice cooked with chicken broth and herbes de provence, and broccoli and cauliflower with cheese sauce. And a glass of Val Verde Winery chardonnay (all the way from Del Rio, Texas).

33. If you were a color what would you be?
That color in the sky during twilight, near the horizon, that blue that's so clear it looks like you're seeing all the way to the center of the universe.

34. What is the weather like right now?
It's actually quite nice out for July in Florida. Mostly cloudy, about 88, humid.

35. Last person you talked to on the phone?
Unfortunately it was a jerk from AMC TACC up in New Jersey asking me why I hadn't filled a tasking for an O-5 and an O-3 that the wing has had since April. Hello, asshole, I don't work for the wing. My squadron isn't responsible for that tasking.

36. The first thing you notice about the opposite sex?
Eyes and breasts (I'm not going to lie). It may not be politically correct but it's hardwired in the male brain. And I don't want to hear any namby-pamby men out there saying they notice personality first, because you don't "notice" a personality from across the room. Buncha liars.

37. Do you like the person who sent this to you?
But of course I do! If only Kim wasn't so mean to me...

38. Favorite Drink?
Hmm. Well, after the 4th, I think I'm going with the white cranberry juice and vodka.

39. Favorite Sport?
Probably college football, though I'm starting to get into soccer. And who doesn't love baseball in September and October? Commies, that's who. Are you a commie?

40. Hair Color?
Brown of some sort. When I say light brown someone always says it's dark, and if I say dark brown someone will always say it's light. I should just peroxide it.

41. Eye Color?

42.Do you wear contacts?
There's no way in hell I could ever stick things in my eye every day. I am always amazed by the people who manage to do so.

43. Favorite Food?
There's absolutely no way I could pick. But for Melinda's benefit I'll say edamame.

44. Last Movie You Watched?
O Brother, Where Art Thou?

45. Favorite Day of the Year?
Thanksgiving, closely followed by all the ones in October.

46. Scary Movies or Happy Endings?
Happy endings, up to a point. The ending of War of the Worlds made me gag.

47. Summer or Winter?
Autumn autumn autumn autumn autumn

48. Hugs or Kisses?
Hugs, since it's been so long since I had a real kiss.

49. What Is Your Favorite Dessert?
Tartlets! Tartlets! Tartlets! No, seriously, I do like a nice fruit tart, but I think my favorite is Boston Cream Pie.

52. Living Arrangements?
My own condo, which I happen to own at least 11% of now. With a cat. And numerous and sundry plants.

53. What Books Are You Reading?
Ahem, it's right there on the blog, but right now I'm reading Neuromancer, by William Gibson; Turners and Burners, by George Zug; and I'm nearly finished with A History of Postcolonial Lusophone Africa, by Patrick Chabal.

54. What's On Your Mouse Pad?
No mouse pad; laptop.

55. What Did You Watch Last night on TV?
I watched Simpson's repeats in syndication during dinner and then put on the movie.

56. Favorite Smells?
Rain, fresh air out west, garam masala

57. Favorite Flower?
I quite like daffodils.

58. Rolling Stones or Beatles?
No contest; Beatles.

59. Do you believe in Evolution or Creation?
Who put this question on here? It's people like you what cause unrest.

60. What's the furthest you've been from home?
I'm not sure, but it's probably Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. Aomori Prefecture, Japan, is pretty far away, but I think Bishkek is further. If I had a globe I could check.

Strange cameos

So, how many people have seen that new Chrysler commercial (how could you miss it?) with Jason Alexander (George Costanza) and Lee Iacocca?

How many of you knew it was Lee Iacocca? It's been, what, 15 years at least since he was in the public eye, hasn't it? What a bizarre cameo. I bet at least two-thirds of the audience won't get it.

11 July 2005

Yet More about Reporters, Jail, and Free Press

Well well well. Every Presidential administration, it seems, has its scandal. Perhaps this will be the Bush administration’s.

We’ve been following the story of Matt Cooper and Judith Miller now for quite some time. Mr. Cooper, of course, was saved at the last moment by his mysterious source, who allowed Mr. Cooper to divulge the source’s identity to a grand jury. Mr. Cooper did so on Wednesday last week.

Well, since that time Mr. Cooper’s testimony has leaked into the open press. I’m not sure why or how this happened—I was under the impression testimony was to be sealed (this is why we’ve never heard what Bob Novak said to the jury when he squealed his guts out). Evidently that’s either not the case or this particular grand jury has a problem with preventing leaks (a problem the White House was heretofore assumed not to have).

And it turns out Mr. Cooper’s source was none other than (as I said earlier) Karl Rove, the President’s political advisor and patron saint (or patron demon, I suppose). Technically, of course, divulging the identity of a clandestine operative is a federal offense. This makes Karl Rove guilty of said federal offense.

Presumably, Rove said something along the lines of, “You know, Wilson doesn’t even wear the pants in his family. Guess what his wife does?” But he said it to a reporter, and he said it at all. In a White House notorious for keeping a tight lid on information, Karl Rove seems to have been quite cavalier with the identity of CIA operatives who’s husbands happen to be opponents of the administration. Hmm. Think Rove will be indicted? I’m opening the betting with odds at 1:50.

But like any good scandal, this one does involve the prez. Here you’ll find a transcript of a WH press briefing on 29 September, 2003, which is very very long. The first portion of it, though, is all about Valerie Plame, and includes WH press secretary Scott McClellan saying, in response to a question about how the President knew that Karl Rove was not involved, “And I said it is simply not true. So, I mean, it's public knowledge, I've said that it's not true. And I have spoken with Karl Rove.”

So was McClellan lying? Did the President know? If he didn’t, what is Karl Rove doing wandering about chatting up reporters about confidential information in the supposedly leak-proof Bush White House. And is this Bush’s idea of loyalty—or does his idea of loyalty extend only to peoples’ loyalty himself and not to American spies or to the country itself? And if Bush did know, why didn’t he immediately fire Rove, or turn him in to the Department of Justice, as Scott McClellan says should be done?

Interesting. Very interesting. Of course, Judith Miller’s the only one who’s in jail here, and the only thing she did was refuse to subjugate the rights of the free press to a political investigation. As it turns out, if Rove had just turned himself in as McClellan suggested Miller’s involvement wouldn’t have mattered.

Speaking of Judith Miller and the fallout (see yesterday’s post about the Cleveland Plain Dealer of all this, here’s a link to a petition you can sign (if you’re in journalism) in support of a reporter’s shield bill currently making it’s way through Congress. Also, if you support the concept of a free press, write your Congressman and Senators regarding the shield bills. In the House, the bill in question is H.R. 581, the Free Flow of Information Act, sponsored by Reps. Mike Pence and Rick Boucher. In the Senate, there are two bills, S. 340, also the FFIA, sponsored by Sen. Dick Lugar, and S. 369, Free Speech Protection Act, sponsored by Sen. Chris Dodd.

Law Schools

Okay, so today at work using an exhaustive list of numerous criteria, I narrowed down my law school search. Now, you may ask how the following list of 22 schools constitutes “narrowing down,” but considering that I started with about 100, I think I did pretty good. And several of these will drop off the list very quickly. Plus there’s the little matter of, er, strategery, when it comes to applying. Since the AF gets to pick where I go, I have to choose wisely when applying. I’d enjoy going to FSU. I’m sure it would be a good school. But I also strongly suspect that if I applied to FSU, the AF would tell me to go to FSU because it’s very inexpensive. So my safety school, as it were, may well be not very safe at all. We’ll see.

Here’s the list. Please make comments, make fun of a school, or suggest one.
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Washington & Lee, Lexington VA
University of Texas, Austin
Boalt Hall, University of California, Berkeley
The George Washington University, DC
University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa

University of Virginia, Charlottesville
Emory University, Atlanta
Florida State University, Tallahassee
Georgia State University, Atlanta
Georgetown University, DC

Stanford University, Stanford CA
American University Washington School of Law, DC
University of Wyoming, Laramie
George Mason University, Arlington VA
University of Hawai’i at Manoa Richardson School of Law, Oahu
Lewis & Clark School of Law, Portland
Stetson University, Tampa & St. Petersburg
University of William & Mary, Williamsburg VA
University of Mississippi, Oxford
University of South Carolina, Columbia

Stuff into kilns

Last night I went out to the studio to do some glazing, and it turned out the folks were loading up the salt kiln. I asked if I could help, and they gave me the task of mixing up fresh kiln wadding. Wadding is a 50/50 mix of clay and alumina hydroxide, mixes up like a gritty bread dough—well, not a bread dough you’d want to eat, but you get the idea. Maybe it’s like Play-doh. Anyway, the alumina in the mix means that it won’t vitrify (get melty and hard like clay) until about 3000 degrees, way hotter than the kiln will get. That way it won’t stick to the pots or the clay kiln shelves, and the salt won’t stick to the wadding, either. So you put wadding on the bottoms of your pots and set the pots on the shelves and off you go.

Nobody likes mixing up wadding, but it’s just the type of mindless repetitive task that my ADD-addled brain likes to do while relaxing, so I was more than willing. I’m almost positive that as a result of doing the unpleasant task, I got more pots into the salt kiln than I might have otherwise. I had 21 pots on the shelf for firing. I took four of them off and put them on the wood-fire shelf, and there are five left for the next salt firing. So that’s 13 pots I have in the kiln, which is pretty good. Oughtta work all right for the big sale next weekend.

I also got nine other pots into a gas fire kiln, so there will be more pictures on Friday. Yaay! Sadly, the grotesque is not one of the pots that will get fired, but that just means I have some time to do a little painting on him. Eyebrows, maybe teeth…

09 July 2005

More Reporters in Jail Fallout

There's a very important article today in the New York Times about the results of the Matt Cooper/Judy Miller affair (which is what it is now, rather than the Valerie Plame affair). It seems that the widely respected Cleveland Plain Dealer has decided not to publish two stories that were written after a reporter was given two memos that should never have been given to the reporter. The publisher of the paper says that his reporter was willing to go to jail over it, he himself was willing to go to jail over it, but the paper itself wasn't willing to take the risk (the risk that they might have to pay a fine).

With the rise of the semi-journalistic blog (all hard news all the time, as we saw Thursday and Friday with the net-wide insistence that Rehnquist was going to retire from the Court as soon as Bush's plane landed Friday afternoon at 4'15; nobody retracted their statements, but when it didn't happen, they just stopped talking about it), and the creeping restriction of the freedoms of the legitimate (print) press, I fear we're now seeing the last days of even remotely trustworthy journalism.

In any event this is a very, very important article, and you very much need to read it, and then send it to all your friends and relatives, too.

06 July 2005

Pottery Pictures

Who wants to see pictures of pots? Everybody, that’s who! Especially if you were even remotely intrigued by the idea of the grotesque I mentioned in an earlier post. Angela in particular should take a look at the pictures and choose one she particularly likes. The pics and info are posted after the jump.

So here they are. Any family members (including Elm Street) have the right to request a piece should they like one (not one of the particularly extravagant ones, of course), or to commission a piece instead. Any non-family members have the right to request to purchase one.

This first is a temmoku glazed bowl about 10 inches across. It was a nice piece before I glazed it; now it’s the most expensive thing on my shelves. Shiny things sell for more. I used this glaze on my tea mug and have received several compliments today at work.

Next we have a selection of items that are already for sale. Two vases in back, two cockroach traps in the middle. The bowl in the back is very attractive but the glaze on the left did not seal so it isn’t usable for food. The cockroach trap on the left is sized for Florida cockroaches, though the clay body on the smaller one is much nicer. These cockroach traps were made in the Mid-Atlantic area from the 1840s on to about the 1880s or so, when they were replaced by cheaper metal devices and chemicals. The way they worked was, you cork the hole in the bottom there, then fill the trap part way with a mixture of molasses and water. The roaches are attracted by the bait, climb up the rough unglazed exterior, and slip down the glazed downward slope into the trap. The inside is glazed smooth and the cockroach is unable to escape. Every week or so you pull the cork out and empty the trap.

Here we have three cups. They all turned out pretty nice. The one in the foreground is priced at $18, which I thought seemed really steep but the owner of the studio said it was exactly right. In the middle is a cup that was extremely plain, so plain as to be quite boring and I figured what better to do with it than apply a very boring glaze. I really rather like the outcome; the glaze in question has become one of my favorites. In the back is a smaller cup with a very unique foot that was, sadly, more or less hidden by the amber celadon glaze.

Now on the lower shelf we have some bowls. The one in back is big and heavy and not that nice. The one in front is glazed with Apple Blossom, my own glaze, and has a really terrific foot that the other potters are jealous of. It’s also more expensive than I think it should be, but what the hell. If it sells, it sells. The one in the middle, on the other hand, has a horrible carbon trap shino glaze on the outside and looks like a tomato that sat out in the sun too long. I'll be happy when it finally sells.

The blue bowl here is one I made for myself, but I’m not as big on the glaze so it’s for sale. It has a terrific foot, cut like a diamond. The two little cups in front are glazed with a nickel blue celadon I invented. I like this glaze, but the nickel in the glaze has the unfortunate effect of floating to the surface of the glaze, so it always looks somewhat dusty.

A chicken. This is unglazed; it’s going to go into a Japanese Anagama kiln, which should give it a nice multi-colored effect. I find chickens inherently funny. This one came from a bowl I had thrown whose sides folded in because I made them too thin. Just in looking at the fallen bowl, I realized it was clearly a chicken. There will be more chickens. There must be.

A bowl, unglazed. This one has a foot similar to the blue bowl you saw earlier, and I intend to glaze it with the temmoku glaze I used on the first bowl. And then I’m going to take it home.

An unglazed 11-inch platter. I’ve never made a plate before, and for a first attempt, I’m quite happy with how this turned out. It has no foot and doesn’t sit entirely flat, but it’s nice all the same. Now I just have to try for one about twice that size.

A bowl and a hideous ugly pitcher, both unglazed. I might raku fire the pitcher, or wood fire or something. Anything to make it even half attractive. To be honest I'm not sure why I kept the thing, but it's bisqued now and needs to be finished. Eventually. The bowl, on the other hand, is quite nice.

Two more bowls. The one in back is much larger than the one in front, appearances to the contrary. Also unglazed. The one in back could have become a chicken if I'd been able to make the other side of it curl in like that. As it is it's more of a display or conversation piece than a useful piece of pottery, and as such is not the sort of thing I generally like to produce. The one in front has a nice shape but is somewhat heavy. I think I may raku fire it, as despite its size it at least has a very nice tea bowl sort of shape and should lend itself well to a raku firing. The one in back will probably get a celadon blue or something exotic to add interest and make it more saleable.

A milk crock, a toy jar, and an urn; these are raw clay, haven’t even been bisqued yet. The crock is about 14 inches tall including the lid. The urn has a lid with a tiny little jug on it, just about an inch tall. I think it’s the smallest jug ever made and was very time consuming; the urn will as a result be very expensive. You can see my groovy stamp there on the bottom of the larger items--or at any rate you could if these pictures were larger. Rest assured it is quite groovy.

A simple unglazed jar of some sort, with no handles. About 10 inches. It's a very nice shape, but would have benefitted from two basic lugs, or perhaps a lid. As it is I think it will probably be relegated to the category "vase," a wide and disparate category containing any number of things you'd never use as vases. Vases are the tall versions of ashtrays. I don't know what you'd do with them. I'd say that if it doesn't sell I'd bring it home and use it to store old wine corks in, but it's very pretty and I suspect will sell right away. As is so frequently the case, the pieces I like the least are considered by my fellow studio artists to be the best or, at any rate, the ones most likely to sell. I think I put this one in to salt fire, but given the purple vase you'll see down below I wonder whether perhaps this one would be better with a similar glaze.

An extremely large jug after the Virginia style. I usually stay in the North and South Carolina regions for most of my inspiration (see the book Turners and Burners on my book list), but this jug more or less turned itself and I had very little say in the final outcome. It's about 1.5 gallons. I’m exceedingly proud of this piece and can’t wait for it to fire; I think it might be my very favorite of all the ones shown here.
The jug here is as I said Virginian. The jug pictured below is a North Carolina jug; note the differences between overall shape and especially the placement of the handles. These regional variations are very important to figuring out where an old piece of pottery comes from, should you ever wish to do such a thing. Of course I'd suggest you just buy new pottery from me...

A jar and a jug, glazed and awaiting firing. The jar is about a gallon, the jug should be ¾. This is a North Carolina jug shape. This jug, and most all of the rest of my jugs, are shapes from about 1850 to 1880. After 1880 sides became straighter and the tops flatter, until by the 1920s you see the standard brown-on-top-white-on-bottom straight sided jug with a stacking flare. I see these types of things on sale on eBay from time to time as “Over 100 years old!” despite the fact that the form didn’t arise until mass storage and shipping requirements came about after the turn of the century.

More jugs, some rather small, glazed and awaiting firing. The fat little belly jug on the left there is a New England form (sorry about the handle not facing the camera and all). Jugs were not as common for storage in the northeast as they were south of the Mason Dixon line, though this actually has more to do with the ability of the jug form to keep things cool on hot days than with the Southern taste for whisky. Jugs were good for keeping far more than just whisky, not to disparage that fine libation.

Two jars awaiting firing. All these things will be salt fired so as to look appropriately authentic. The drip glaze on the near jar is the nickel blue, which should look great under salt. The little curlicue on the back jar is a piece of clay I trimmed off the bottom of the jar. It looked cool, so I stuck it on; it may not survive the firing. These jars are not more than a gallon, probably slightly less. Jars from a half up to five gallons were standard production pieces; some potters turned 10 or 15 gallon jugs, though these were too heavy when full to be useful and were mostly used as advertising items.

The first large jug I ever made; 1 gallon. More nickel blue glaze. This jug is extremely heavy because I initially intended to trim some amount of clay off the bottom. However, I also didn't really intend to turn a jug this size; I figured I'd make two or three things out of the lump of clay I started with, so I left plenty at the bottom. I figure, though (I'm so naughty), that most people won't know the difference, especially if that nickel blue looks good.

Some smaller items awaiting firing. The pitcher there is about the second successful piece I made after getting back in the studio this spring following a six-year absence. It's not a terrific item, but lots of people seem to like it and I've grown rather more fond of it. The little jug there in the extreme foreground to the left has some white X's carved into it with white glaze painted in. People want jugs to have X's on them, though in reality a jug was far more likely to have a number on it indicating its gallon capacity. These jugs are all one quart or less, though, so X's will have to suffice.

A pickle jar. I absolutely adore this form and plan to make lots more. I’ve been making pickles at home lately, and I look forward to using a jar like this for the intended purpose. I find balsamic vinegar (which recipe books say you must never, ever use) makes really awesome pickles without any refrigeration at all. Simply put the cucumbers, cauliflower, or what-have-you (watermelon rind, maybe?) into the jar with straight balsamic vinegar, a bit of olive oil, and pickling spice. Leave it on the counter for two, maybe three days, then pour out the mixture through a sieve. Put the pickles in the jar, and fill with water and about a tablespoon or so of vinegar; float the pickling spice from the sieve in the mixture, and the pickles will keep in the fridge for months. Mmm. They're sweet and salty at the same time; very different from any pickle you're used to.

A nice pitcher that will salt fire. I really like this one but I’m afraid leaving it unglazed during the salt firing will make it a uniform brown. I couldn’t think what else to do with it, though; I'd considered dipping part of it in white or blue glaze, but it didn't seem right. This pitcher should be good for about a half gallon; the handle is nice and sturdy, and though things change during firing as of right now the spout pours very nicely. I may wood fire this piece, rather than salt fire it, since wood might tend to put more color on the surface.

A milk crock, freakishly smooth. Curious to see how well the salt sticks to it. I threw this one using two ribs instead of a sponge, and the result is... well, it looks almost machined. Maybe poured into a mould or something. Anyway, the lid there is one of the first I'd made in many years and I think turned out very nice all things considered.

Two jugs awaiting glaze. These are two different clay bodies, but I’m not at all sure what clay bodies they are. These are about half to three-quarter gallon jugs. They're both Carolina-inspired, but note the difference in handle placement and body shape between the jug on the left (Piedmont) and the one of the right (South Carolina). As a rule I prefer the Piedmont style handle but the South Carolina shape.

A nice slender jug. It’s got a strong copper glaze on the top of it now, should look real nice when it comes out of the kiln. I hope. Note to the fair AMS, if you don’t like another piece better, this is the one I had in mind for you.

A two gallon jar with very unfortunate handles. I've since learned to make much nicer lug handles, which you can see on the crock above (the one pictured with the toy jar and the urn).

The grotesque! It’s a two gallon jar. His facial features and handles are a different clay body than the jar itself, which, at the time, I did not realize I had done. We’ll see how it looks coming out of the kiln. While numerous other potters have expressed dismay at how, well, ugly this piece is, most of them concede that this will probably sell first and at a ridiculous price. Grotesques (or “face jugs”) are very popular among collectors of old pottery but made up a very small percentage of the potter’s usual production. Mostly they would be made on special order, but sometimes, as in the case here, an off-center or otherwise imperfect jug or jar could be “saved” (that hardly seems the right word) by making it into a grotesque.

A selection of pieces for size comparison. The grotesque is 15 inches tall.

A large vase I just pulled out of the kiln with very intriguing glaze. I like these triple-dip things, where I can see what different glazes do in reaction with others.

A smaller, partially-destroyed vase I just got out of the kiln. I’ve never made a purple glaze before, though I have tried several times. This was a very nice little piece (about eight inches tall) when I threw it, but I trimmed it upside down (which seemed like a good idea at the time) in an effort to give it a foot, and ended up warping it. Some quick handbuilding saved the piece, but it’s no longer as pretty or regular as it was. The purple glaze, which was not my intention and which I have no idea how I produced, makes this a much nicer piece than I ever would have hoped.

So there you have it. I’ll have more pictures as these items come out of the kilns and as I make new stuff.

Supreme Court must-reads

Today brought a couple of must-read items about the choosing of a replacement for Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. First among these is this a Gallup poll asking Americans how much the choice for the next Justice matters to them. Somewhat surprisingly, nearly half of all adults say it matters a “great deal,” which is far higher a number than I would have suspected—and certainly, I would argue, a far higher percentage than the actual percentage of people who will follow the developments with anything like a critical eye.

Fully half of both Democrats and Republicans said the nomination matters a great deal. 55 percent of self-described conservatives, and 56 percent of liberals, said the same. What’s troubling is that among independents, only 45 percent gave the “great deal” response, and only 40 percent of self-described moderates.

Moderates, listen up. This court, right now, is moderate. You may not think it matters, but if you like centrism you need to watch this thing very closely, since it will be a simple matter to dramatically shift the balance of this court following Justice O’Connor’s replacement. Unfortunately, we can’t count on anyone involved in this process, except perhaps the nominee him- or herself, to put ideology aside. It’s going to get ugly.

There’s more after the jump!

The other interesting point in this poll is that 65 percent of Americans said they would like to see a new Justice who would uphold Roe v. Wade, compared to only 29 percent would like to see it overturned. This will be extremely significant for the President, since he would be very likely to appoint a justice who might overturn Roe (litmus test or not, the type of judge Bush wants to appoint is generally the type of judge who would overturn Roe, Gonzalez excepted), but may be more keen on solidifying the conservative tilt in American politics. Overturning Roe would drive a wedge through the conservative polity and possibly stop the march of the Evangelicals in their tracks. That said, while I think stopping the EVs is good I’m not sure this particular means of doing so is the right way to go about it.

On to the next topic: a must-read entry on the Supreme Court Nomination Blog about how the media will be covering this process. I’d be curious to know whether this is referring to a variety of media outfits, or primarily (as I suspect) to cable television. Cable television really only seems to have three actual news outfits—missing persons, celebrities, and politics—so something that transcends those categories would of course be better covered by another news organization anyway, like the New York Times or some such (but not Time). Anyway, it’s still a must-read post; if nothing else it’s appropriate warning to find a rock to cower under until the storm blows over.

If I was a betting man, I’d have my money on Alberto Gonzalez for win, Priscilla Owen for place, and Edith Jones for show. But I don’t really know anything. Supreme Court nominations often come out of left field, as Justice O’Connor’s did. About half the current members of the Court took pundits by surprise when they were nominated. Conventional wisdom says Bush will very likely nominate a woman for this seat—replacing O’Connor with a male Justice would seem a tad misogynistic. But we know Bush really wants to nominate a Hispanic justice, and we know he’d really like that person to be Alberto Gonzalez. But Gonzalez is considered by the far right to be too centrist in his viewpoint (too much like O’Connor, in other words), and they see this nomination as a chance to move the Court to the right. This improves the odds on someone like Judge Jones. But, replacing Rehnquist with a more moderate person like Gonzalez would then return the court to status quo ante, so you have to wonder whether the righties have really thought this through. This could be why they’re bringing up folks like Mel Martinez and Raoul Cantero. We shall see.

NY Times Reporter In Clink

A brief post on this developing and disheartening story. Judith Miller, the New York Times reporter who, along with Time's Matt Cooper has been threatened with jail time for failing to reveal a confidential source who gave her information about who (Karl Rove) leaked Valerie Plame's name to Bob Novak, is going to the hoosegow. A federal judge today said that Miller should be jailed "immediately" for failing to reveal her source to a grand jury.

Matt Cooper, meanwhile, got off easy today when his confidential source contacted him and gave him express permission to testify before the grand jury. Cooper's testimony will be heard later this week; provided he answers all the questions they ask him the contempt of court charge against him will be dropped.

Here, straight from the horse's mouth, is a Times article about Miller's imprisonment.

Those who believe that the government bears close scrutiny by a free and independent press are invited to a wake at my house this weekend.

05 July 2005

Totally bragging my ass off


I would like to go ahead and present the following email which I received today from Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland, Oregon. Being that it's in Portland it's not really a place I'd considered. In fact, I'm not entirely sure I've ever heard of it, since I've only actually even thought about maybe three schools west of the Mississippi (I like the West, but I was born an Easterner and I reckon I'll die one, too, unless I'm on vacation or something when I die, which really still wouldn't make me a Westerner).

Now then, here's the email.

"Dear Matthew ,

I have no doubt that you will be hearing from several law schools over the
next few months. While you are considering where to apply, I'd like to tell
you a little bit about Lewis & Clark Law School (http://law.lclark.edu) to
help you decide whether or not we might have something in common."

Nice. Then they go on to mention that they are located in "the gorgeous Northwest," and that the campus is "nestled in the midst of an idyllic, 645-acre state park," which is definitely a good selling point as far as I'm concerned.

Then we go on to the following:
"Finally, I realize that most people who took the June LSAT are planning to
enter law school next fall (2006) or even later. However, if you prefer to
start law school this fall, please consider Lewis & Clark. We have a very
small number of spots available in the 2005 entering class and encourage
you to apply if attending would be doable and desirable for you. We would
be happy to waive the application fee (just attach a copy of this email to
your application as verification of our offer)."

I am planning to take this in and forward it to my functional over at AFPC this week, so that he gets the hint that merely saying "I can't authorize release," and then refusing to elaborate further, isn't going to cut it. Eat my shorts, Maj. Armstrong.