Tuesday 29 September 2009

Today's Pots

Today's activity was bottle forms, 6-8" most of the time was spent wedging and reclaiming clay. Oh, and making turning tools.
At the weekend, I'll make a heap of glaze test pieces, even though I've got no glazes as yet. Nor a kiln power supply.
And I'll clean the wheel and throw some white stoneware test pieces. I've got a selection of clays to try.
And teapots, I must make more teapots, and... teacups, and saucers.
Ohhhhhhh, I need a huge lottery win or a mystery millionaire benefactor, so I can buy some old farm buildings in an idyllic setting, build a woodfire kiln, and settle down to making pots. I wouldn't bother with selling them, I just like making......
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Season of Mists and Mellow Fruitfulness

Plums in my friend, Ken's neighbour's garden.

John Keats wrote: "To Autumn"-

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For summer has o'er-brimm'd their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap'd furrow sound asleep,
Drows'd with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

Where are the songs of spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too, -
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

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Friday 25 September 2009

A Generous Offer To The World

Our esteemed Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, made a speech to the United Nations this week, in which he outlined Britain's commitment to reducing the world's arsenal of nuclear missiles.
Britain has, hm, so far as the country will admit, about 160 nuclear weapons. Some of those are always at sea, in our nuclear submarine fleet, in the Vanguard class, designed to launch Trident missiles. However, its replacement is in development, how many will we need? Current plans are for a fleet of four submarines, but mister Brown said we might be prepared to get by with just three.
Of course, this largesse would have nothing to do with the fact that these things cost billions, and the country's broke?

And of course, as the nature of world politics changes, nuclear weapons seem less of a deterrent.
So if we Brits buy one less megasub, the world can breathe a sigh of relief.
Whilst trying not to think of the 2,200 nuclear surprises that the U.S. holds, or the 2,800 the russians have, or the israeli ones, the pakistani ones, the indian, the north korean, the chinese..... Or the 300 in France.
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Yerba Mater.

From Poland.
This one is so peaceful.

However, Yerba Mater also play bhangra inspired music, with throatsinging overtones not dissimilar to those of Tuva.

After a week of being attacked by some nasty virus (not the computer kind, the one that makes you cough, sweat, feel as if your head's stuffed with porridge, and so on), I'm promising myself clay time tomorrow.

Thursday 24 September 2009

Going Up in the World

I needed to get up on top of a roof, to fix a leak, but it was a long way up, and having tried it off the big ladder, and discovered there was no way to secure the ladder, so it kept sliding sideways as I tried to step off the top, onto the parapet, I'd almost abandoned the job... But Steve, driver of the big green thing, happened along and said "I can put you where you need to be".

I've worked off various sizes of cherrypickers, and I'm used to a set of controls in the basket, being able to control it from above. This thing's more of a sixty foot reach loader, with a platform on the forks.
Lots of twirly pointy hand-signals are the way to control it. And trust in the driver. Thanks, Steve.

I used to fairly regularly hire 120 foot platforms. Currently the world's biggest platform lifters are built by Bronto Skylift in Finland, and can extent to 104 metres 341ft above the ground..

Tuesday 22 September 2009

"What You Talking About?" Paul Pena, and Kongar-ool Ondar.

Paul Pena, and Kongar-ool Ondar combine the blues, and Tuvan throat-singing, -to hear more and learn a little more, you could go far back in time within this blog, to february 2007....

From Wikipedia: While searching for a Korean language lesson on shortwave radio on December 29, 1984, Pena was intrigued by an example of Tuvan throat-singing he heard on a Radio Moscow broadcast. Seven years later he found a Tuvan record at a local record store called Tuva: Voices From the Center of Asia.
Based on that record and extended experimentation, he was able to teach himself the vocal techniques called Khoomei, Sygyt and Kargyraa: " After playing the CD continuously for several months and driving many of my friends away by making weird noises while experimenting with my voice, I finally learned a few of the basic techniques of this fascinating group of vocal styles by remembering the styles of some of the blues greats of the past — especially Charlie Patton, Tommy McClennan, and Chester "Howlin' Wolf" Burnett. "
Pena also taught himself Tuvan. There were no Tuvan to English translation dictionaries, so Pena used two dictionaries: a Tuvan to Russian and Russian to English. He used a device called an Optacon to scan the pages and convert the printed words into tactile sensations he could read with his finger. Pena attended a performance of Tuvan throat-singing at the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco on February 6, 1993. He performed an impromptu Tuvan song in the kargyraa style, which impressed famous Tuvan throatsinger Kongar-ool Ondar. Ondar invited Pena to sing in the second international Khoomei Symposium in 1995 in Kyzyl, Tuva. Pena travelled to Tuva and was the first westerner to compete in the Symposium. He placed first in the Kargyraa contest and also won the "audience favorite" category. Tuvans affectionately call him "Cher Shimjer" (Earthquake), because of the deepness of his voice. Pena said "My voice is lower than most Tuvans. They have a style that makes your voice lower. When I use that, there's a slow song when I hit a note that's four white keys from the left of the piano."
The 1999 film Genghis Blues documented Pena's journey to Tuva. It won the 1999 Sundance Film Festival Audience Award for a Documentary. "

Paul Pena died on the 1st October, 2005, of pancreatic cancer.
His life was not without difficulty, he was born with congenital glaucoma, and attended a school for the blind. By age twenty he had no sight at all.

Monday 21 September 2009

A Re-Post, for Gary, "Love Will Tear us Apart, Again",

A Joy Division number, as covered by Outer Mongolia's Tuvan punk-rock throat singing star, Albert Kuvezin, and his band, Yat-Kha. From the album Re-Covers.

Listen to the other albums... If you ever get accused of having only mundane music tastes, Yat-Kha is the antidote!


Thursday 17 September 2009

More Music,

A quiet girl like this....

became, in a few years, a loud one like this.

Having just posted Suzi Pinns, from 1978's "Jubilee", (yes, I know... Queen Elizabeth II's silver jubilee was in 1977, the film arrived a little late).... it brought me to thinking of other women in the punk era. And to Nina Hagen. Nina was born in the same year as Ms.Pinns, 1955, but in East Germany.
By the time she was nine she was considered an opera prodigy, she was expelled from the Free German Youth group at the age of twelve, left school and joined a band at sixteen, went to stage school, formed a band... 'allowed' to leave East Germany in 1976, she was listening to punk music in Hamburg, travelled to London, mixed with the Sex Pistols, The Slits, and othercentral figures of the punk movement. (I got all that from Wikipedia)... I first heard her when Icelandic punk friends played her records to me.
(disclaimer: I was NEVER a punk.)
I did, however, have a couple of her albums, on tape, which I'd listen to whilst working.

I'm sure she's absolutely deranged, but hey! she makes me laugh.

Quote: "I can't sing gospel, I'm a white chick"

Ha! makes Debbie Harry look like Goody Twoshoes!. Mind you, this is her being the very model of genteel restraint.
Here she is being a bit more herself.....

Jerusalem, Rule Britannia, Suzi Pinns.

From the 1978 film, 'Jubilee', dir Derek Jarman.


William Blake (1757-1827)

And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England's mountains green?
And was the holy Lamb of God
On England's pleasant pastures seen?

And did the Countenance Divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among these dark Satanic Mills?

Bring me my bow of burning gold!
Bring me my arrows of desire!
Bring me my spear!
O clouds, unfold!
Bring me my chariot of fire!

I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand,
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England's green and pleasant land.

Suzi Pinns was the character Amyl Nitrate in the film, she was not really called Suzi Pinns, she was called Jordan, well, that was her assumed punk-name, when she worked in Vivienne Westwood's King's Road boutique, of course, Jordan wasn't really her name either.
Her real name was Pamela Rooke.
She sang with Adam and the Ants (who were also in Jubilee) and managed them for a while. Was stripped on stage by the Sex Pistols....
The Interweb tells me she now works as a veterinary nurse and breeds Burmese cats.

Saturday 12 September 2009

Digital Tyre Inflator.

The picture to go with this is one I have not yet taken.
Today's thoughts are about signs. Those with an unintended duality.
I've been suffering from a lack of wind. In my tyre. It keeps, unpredictably, deflating. A week or so ago, I had it fixed. Or so the man said when he took my money. Days can go by when it's perfectly okay, then another day, I'll come out of work and find the tyre almost flat.
So I keep pumping it back up. (I'm going to buy a new one, and fixing man was twenty miles away, so going back and arguing involves a forty mile round trip and fuel etc.)
So. I stop off, buy some diesel, head over to the air pump "Digital Tyre Inflator" it says.
Damn. How will I know if my tyres are digital ones? can you fill analogue tyres with digital air? I mean, analogue air is obviously all fluffy-shaped and nebulous. digital air is bound to be pixellated, all square cornered, little blocks of it. It's the corners on those discrete units of air that worry me, because they could cause damage to the inside of a tyre designed for analogue air.
Hm. The tyre has a note telling you how many square inches of pressure it can take. Digital air would be cubes, but.....
I think digital tyres probably have a kevlar liner.

This week, I've been travelling to a different work site than my normal one. I pass a discount climbing/hiking goods store which has a sign proclaiming "free undercover customer parking"....
I look around. Spy vs spy. I'm looking for those furtive folk, collars turned up, hats pulled down, dark glasses, skulking from shadow to shadow, the undercover customers.
When I see a sign that says "wet paint" I wonder whether I should pee on it or go find a bucket of water.

And then there are those cringeing doors you see all over the place, those doors who quiver, and let out panic stricken shrieks. We've all seen them, they have a sign.
"This Door is Alarmed"

Sunday 6 September 2009

Carbon-Free Sugar

TYWIKIWDBI brings to our attention "Carbon Free Sugar".

He obviously scrutineers the supermarket for bizarrities much as I do, top marks for observation, Sir.

This stuff obviously belongs on the inorganic aisle. For those of you who remember little or no chemistry or food-science, the sugar we use on our tables is mostly sucrose, C12H22O11
The C stands for Carbon, H for Hydrogen, O for Oxygen, so, a molecule of twelve parts Carbon, 22 parts Hydrogen, and 11 parts Oxygen is table sugar.

(Image stolen from TYWIKIWDBI)

Take away the Carbon, and you have 22Hydrogen, and 11 oxygen, which, if they combined together without Carbon, would give you eleven molecules of H2O.
Rather better known as water.

Glucose is C6H12O6.
Sugars are CARBO-hydrates.
Sugar minus carbon is water. Not Sugar.

Oh, for sure, I know that they don't really mean that the product does not CONTAIN carbon. But their marketing and display people obviously have not thought this through.
Furthermore, the debate it is really aimed at, global warming, is about carbon DIOXIDE emissions, not carbon per se.
According to my recall, uncertain though it may be, the total amount of carbon, the number of atoms of the element carbon, on this planet can neither be increased or reduced. They can combine together in different ways, and exist in different states and allotropes, but all the carbon there ever was or ever will be, remains the same. Where it endangers us is when it is combined with oxygen, and increases the amount of carbon dioxide in our planet's atmosphere, it causes more solar energy to be trapped, causing our planet to become slightly warmer.
And just a few degrees can have dramatic damaging long-term impact.

The company's rationale for the carbon free claim is that they're burning no fossil fuels, i.e. oil or coal, to power their processes, they burn recycled wood and sugar cane, which merely releases the same amount of CO2 that was absorbed in those materials as they grew. Not a zero-carbon process, as for instance hydro-electric, solar, or windpower might be, but carbon-neutral.
I notice on the company's website, tractors are shown. I trust they and the truckfleet that the plant requires to distribute and grow the product, as well as the trucks bringing in urban waste wood to feed the power plant are running on bioethanol, made from sugar, and not diesel.

In all fairness, the plant looks a model of green efficiency, and far better than most other north american industries in clean energy use.
But it's still stupid to stick a "Carbon free" label on a product that by definition is 25% carbon.

note: whilst checking my facts, rather than trusting to the rather spongy mass I call my memory, I discovered that sugar in the U.S. is significantly more expensive than in the rest of the world, due to trade and import restrictions intended to support the home-grown industry, with a result being that sugar substitutes such as sacharrine and aspartame are far more widely used, as also are corn syrup and other inferior substitutes.
I'd assumed the artificial sweetener industry was strong because of the dietary concerns, but it seems not.

Wednesday 2 September 2009

Yearning For the Void.

"Wanted- Vacuum.
desperatly needing a vacuum just had carpets fitted and my vac has broken thank you"

Thus ran the ad in freecycle.. Freecycle, if you've never met it, is like a sort of Craigslist for people who want to give things away and recycle by re-using rather than dumping them. (Oh. Yes, just as in Craigslist, spelling and grammatical correctness are optional on freecycle.)
I signed up for it, but so far things I've put on there have failed to go. Nobody, NOBODY, wanted five steel landrover discovery wheels with part-worn, road-legal tyres on them. Except my pal Ken, who said "why didn't you tell me you'd got a spare set, just what I've been needing". Ken's not on Freecycle.
Those things I've seen, and thought OOOOH! I want that!" like the complete sauna cubicle, or the sony vaio laptop which needs a new battery, oh no. Even if I put in my request seconds after the alert pops up, I never get it.
After you've given a certain number of items away, and proved your green credentials, you're allowed to post a few wanted ads. Very few. This one caught my eye. I've often mused about vacuums.
So this person wants a vacuum. They're hard to come by. I had a thermos flask, with a vacuum in it once, but I dropped it, and when I unscrewed the bottom, I found a lot of bits of silvery glass, but the vacuum had fled. (like an elusive genie).
I had a pugmill, with a vacuum pump, but, the moment you turned the pump off, there'd be a faint sucking hiss, and the needle on the gauge would return to 1 atmosphere. plus or minus a few millibars. Damn that vacuum. The problem is, nature abhors a vacuum. You can buy a fresh thermos, but you have to take it on trust that it does really have a vacuum in it, because, if you try and open it to take a look.... pffft! gone.
So my experience with the elusiveness of vacuums leaves me bewildered by the number of vacuum cleaners out there, if nature abhors a vacuum, then ten thousand times more abhorred is a DIRTY vacuum.

Stop Press... updated. Our freecycler received a "Dyson Vacumn" in response to her plea.
Next request "A dictionary"?
Stop Press again: -
"Hi everyone, I am in desparate need of a vacum cleaner any type will do as long as it is powerful, so it can pick up all my cat's hairs he is malting ."

Malting, huh?