Tuesday, December 30, 2008

New Year's Eve

We had unseasonably warm (61 F!) and very windy weather over the weekend. A couple feet of snow are gone. Studio got lots of dirts blown from the wall cracks. I bought a shop vac and wound up cleaning the whole wheel area. We do not want any brick chips contaminating the clay. It was very good timing. I have been feeling tomorrow not being the New Year's eve. Now I got that feeling a little. Japanese cerebrates the New Year more like the Christmas (or Thanksgiving) here, and there are some build-up going to the New Year, major house cleaning, making special New Years meals, decoration, writing and sending new years card,etc. New year's day is a sort of sacred thing than parting away. People
line-up to climb Mt. Fuji to see the first sunrise, or visit to the shrines and temples at the midnight while listening the bells (108 times). It is more quiet experience like being inside the church. (maybe my example is not that good.)
It is sort of strange I have not been in Japan during New Year for nineteen years and have not done anything resembling to Japanese way of New Year, and still feel like this way. I was not particularly into New Year's thing when I was a kid, either.
Anyway, please eat noodles on the New Year's eve for your long and healthy life!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Happy Holidays

We had “Shabu Shabu” tonight. This is my favorite food, and I used to eat this once or twice a year at Zakuro Ginza in Tokyo. (was very expensive for that time for my pocket). Since I started living in US, I had a craving for “Shabu Shabu”, and decided to cook myself. With a knife, I sliced many steak meat and fingers over the years, but enjoyed the food. Ten years later, my uncle told me to buy the meat slicer. I freeze the NY strip steak, and defrost a bit with microwave, then slice. I have not had any accident since. I wish I knew sooner.

Cooking is very simple. You just “swish and swish” the thin sliced meet in boiling water. This hot water becomes the beef broth and cooks with vegetable later. Napa cabbage and Tofu soaks up the beef broth, which is the best part of this dish, I think.

Finished up with my daughter's birthday cake.

Happy Holidays!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Turkey revisited.

A foot of snow came down from 9am to 3pm on Friday.

It is certainly beautiful.

I cooked the turkey dinner tonight. I brined 6lb of the turkey breast overnight in one gallon of water dissolved with a cup of kosher salt and 1/2cup of brown sugar in the refrigerator.

I inserted the instant thermometer in the turkey about one hour in the cooking as someone of my family suggested. It took about 3 hours to reach 163, struggled after 150. I was expecting 2.5 hours or so.

It was a tiny bit dry side, but everyone enjoyed it.

When we were cleaning the kitchen, we noticed something wrong with the thermometer. Its clear cover over the meter was melted, and its needle got stuck. The cover is made of plastic, not glass!, to my surprise. That why it took more than I thought. Now, I am really glad that the turkey was not over-cooked. I guess I have an issue with the thermocouple recently (Oxyprobe is the thermocouple, too.) Do things always come in three's?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Jomon ware

Yard has been busy lately. Two switchers.

It was good firing. Got good reduction all around the kiln. I am really getting close to firing the kiln properly in this studio. About the time.

Here is a new platter out of the kiln. This design is influenced by Japanese Jomon pottery, 10,000 years old. I had privilege to see and touch the real one at the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery of the Smithsonian museum several years ago. My friend arranged to visit the storage area of the museum. We are allowed to pick one piece per person to the table from the storage case. I picked the Jomon piece without hesitation. I still remember the feeling when I touched the pottery. It was amazing; electric went through my body... If I can dig out the picture, I will later. The University Museum, The University of Tokyo has the great web site, Digital museum, featuring the Jomon ware found in Aomori prefecture.

Yes, we had 5 inch of snow after the firing, and are expecting the major snowstorm.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Last firing of 2008

Passing freight train. Not snowing yet.

Yesterday, it was very windy and warm, gusting up 50 mph and 54F during glazing.

Today, it is the great day for firing, calm and very cold, 30F. Our weather is very much influenced by the jet steam and the lake Ontario. I have never seen the weather forecast during the TV news program so much emphasized. It seems half of the news is spent for the weather rather than news stories, and the forecast is not accurate even 3-4 hours ahead. I still watch and believe the weather forecast. The lake Ontario and the direction of the winds over the lake, rule the winter weather here. We get several inches of the snow at one area, and none just outside the range of the wind flow, within 10 -15 miles. Have you driven through the mountains, and getting out of the tunnel and got white out? It is very similar to that. Jet steam is push around by the cold air from the North Pole and the warm and moist air from the gulf coast. And, forecasting 5" of snow by tomorrow morning...

(radar picture taken from http://www.whec.com/)

I spilled a pot of coffee in the Wegmans bag yesterday, and the bottom of my camera got soaked. Yikes. I took out a battery and a memory card, and left the camera over the furnace vent over night. This morning, it turned on but did not want to take pictures. I took out a screwdriver and start disassembling.... Took out four screws and tried to remove the rear case, it moved slightly, but could not remove completely as I could not unscrew one behind the flash. I put back the screws, and just in the case, I tried the camera. Yes, it working now. I may have loosen up sticky sugared coffee stuck around some part of control panel. Maybe I got lucky break.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Back pain

Overlooking the city of Rochester.

Backache seems to come with pottery. Throwing pots at the same position, moving 50lb boxes of clay and heavy shelves, etc.. This is labor intense job.

I visited my chiropractor, Dr. Mack Jr. today. Realigned the hip, back and neck. Feel a lot better. I was with the physical therapy last year and found out the way my wheel was set up was too low, and restraining the back. I replaced the wheel last year from my 20-year-old Shimpo brought from Japan, to Pacifica GT-400 with the leg extension.

If you look at two pictures, left is normal height of Shimpo wheel, and right is the wheel sitting on blocks (8-10 inch high), you can see how I bent my back at the lower wheel position. I understand that throwing on a wheel while standing up is really the best way to go. I just could not go that far. It took me while to adjust to new position. I still like the Shimpo wheel's mechanical pedal better, other than that the Pacifica is quiet and handle the clay the same.

With the stretching, the inversion table and the new wheel, my visit to the Dr. Mack has become less frequent, but he is still my lifesaver.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Firing done, barely...Good result.

Turned out Saturday was windy . I always check the red flag on the yard when firing. Wind blowing from south is not good sign. Cold air blows into the studio, and gust wind tends to mess up the reduction.

Just before the body reduction, my 18 years old oxyprobe meter quit working. I do not put the pyrometric cone for the bisque right now as I am trying to find out the right temperature. Ever since moving into this studio, I have been struggling to get the reduction properly due to strong draft. I relay on the oxyprobe for the temperature. Fortunately Richard Aerni in the same building was having the huge open studio sale, and I was able to barrow his meter. It is by the different manufacture, but works similarly. It is very nice to have another potter in the building.

I have two more pottery studios in the building.
I picked up Carolyn Dilcher-Stutz's wolf at the sale.

Oxyproble measures the temperature and the atmosphere; oxidation and reduction. It is very handy tool especially like today, windy day. Whenever I hear the gust of wind blowing in, I check the atmosphere reading, which is going all over the place, and adjust the kiln, mostly closing the damper. I really do not know how important to adjust the kin in these instance. Maybe not the gust wind situation is not long enough to affect the result. I just do not want to try not and risk losing kiln load of pottery. I had 84 pieces in this kiln.

Opened the kiln today. Result was, to my surprise, very good.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Back to work

Autoracks parking in the yard. Excess of the empty autoracks are needed to park somewhere, I guess.

I store my glazes in 30 gallon buckets. Glaze thickness is alway very tricky. I weight 10cc of glaze to meet the target weight of each glaze, 14g to 15.5g depending of glaze (10cc of water weights 10g) as well as use the hydrometer. During the winter, my studio gets very toasty hot and dry with the steam heater. If I forget to seal the top of the bucket, 1-2" high of the water is easily evaporated. You can see the result almost instantly when painting. Pottery, you really do not know until it is fired. (2-3 days later)

I pour glazes over the bisque ware. Sequence of overlapping glaze gives the different results. I have been using the same glazes for while, and am getting to know how each glaze reacts to each other with different thickness and so on.

My application is always evolving, and that is a fun of it, and this makes the ware fresh look.

The weather looks good for glaze firing.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Aruba Part Three

Turquoise color. Shallow water, coral, another shallow water, off shore water, horizon and sky. Four to five shades of turquoise blues. Is this reminding you something?

Native people speak 3-4 languages, English, Dutch, Spanish and Papiamento. They seem very happy people. On store clerk told me that they put the Aloe at the doorway to make people happy. I think the sun. People in Rochester tend depress during gloomy winter.

North side of island has rough surf.

We saw large population of Cactus. Felt like wandering into the different planet.

Food. We ate lots of great fresh fish. Wahoo, Barracuda, Sea Bass....
Cooking is very simple. Pan fried with some seasonings. Just bring out the taste and texture of the fish. I am amazed to taste the sweetness in the Barracuda meat.

Flight back was rather painful. The immigration of Aruba stopped processing for one hour without any explanation. Turned out, they tried to upgrade the computer system and failed while processing most busy time of the day. Sound like a joke...but true story.

And there were two chat box sitting behind us. We learned their entire life story which rather painful to hear, from wife being professor, son's graduating in Tampa in two weeks to recent break up with engagement because finding real sexual preference. Airplane is like in the movie theater, and please speak quietly. Otherwise your story can be someone's blog....

Aruba - part two

Arriving to Aruba from Atlanta. About 4 hours flight. First impression from the airport to the hotel was not that good. Scenery was rather dull and dusty and void spaces, reminded me of India or Philippine. About 30 minutes ride, road sign reads "high raise hotel". Felt like arriving Disneyland or something.

Palm beach. Long stretch of white sand. Water is calm, warm and clean turquoise, but not transparent. Lots of boats come and go for parasailing, tubing, etc. Huts on the beach by the hotel is first come first serve basis. People line up to grab the better spot from 7 in the morning.

Sun is very strong. We used the sun lotion SPF50. It blocks very well as long as you do not miss the spot. I am looks-like a giant panda. Some part is burnt-red, and most part is normal. 30 minutes is enough to really get burned.

Got a beach float and sunbathing on the water was the best. My daughter actually read a book.

Snorkeling tour. I am not good at swimming, and was close to be drown couple times in the past. I am scared of the ocean. Japanese beaches near Tokyo are facing the Pacific Ocean, and have lots of waves. Water is not that warm, either. Anyway, we joined the snorkeling tour, visiting two spots, Catalina Bay and the Antilla Wreck, a 400 ft. German freighter that sank in 1940.

Catalina Bay is shallow bay and very calm water. We saw many different kinds of fish, yellow tail, snapper, blow fish, Grouper. We used the DiCAPac waterproof case with Canon SD-1000.

The Antilla Wreck is rather spectacular, choppy ocean, deeper colored. Lots of larger fish. I got panic looking the sunken ship, realizing how deep the water is.