Final Ceramics Post

Well, Summer term has come to an end, and I'm done with my ceramics class.  I have a few more items to show off though!

Final Ceramics Project

For my final ceramics project, I'm making a dragon climbing a tower ... 

I decided to add a base - they are detachable, and I'll be firing them separately

I based my design on the Dragon climbing the city hall in Munich, Germany:

I'll be raku firing it next week, and I sure hope it stays together!!!

Why Buy Local?

The idea of buying locally has been becoming more popular as groups form, billboards go up, and businesses develop around the idea. Buying local benefits the entire community. Our location determines what we can buy, what we can do, and how much everything costs. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how much money we make or what model of car we drive as much as the kind of community that we live in. Communities are like an intricately woven tapestry, where each component is connected and dependent on all of the other pieces. Buying local items not only benefits the local community’s economy, but strengthens the global economy as well.

Buying locally has quite a number of immediate benefits for the consumer as well as for the community at large. Produce bought straight from a farmer is fresher and riper than foods transported from the other side of the globe. Fresh foods also taste better, and are packed with more vitamins (Rickman). When comparing a handcrafted piece of furniture or clothing with something bearing the label ‘Made in China,’ there is usually no room for argument about which is of a higher quality. That isn’t to criticize the Chinese people as being incapable of high quality manufacturing, but the high output manufacturing they are known for.

Buying locally also helps keep money in a community where it is more likely to be spent at other local businesses. According to Civic Economics, an economic analyst, 68% of income received by a local business is spent in their own community. Non-local businesses, on the other hand, only spend about 43% in the host city (Civic Economics). Keeping money circulating in the originating community is important, especially in cities without a large export income.

Besides these more immediate benefits of fostering a local economy, buying local can also bring long term improvements. Local businesses are owned and operated by other members of the community, and by frequenting their businesses, social ties are strengthened. Local businesses are held to higher standards than businesses located in far away location. It can be easy to ignore rumors of employee mistreatment, or unfair wages when it is occurring on the other side of the world. On the other hand, communities have inside ties to companies operating out of their own towns.

There was a recent paper published by Louis Ferleger, a professor of US economic history at Boston University, that looked at all the cities which have fallen below the national average in employment rates for the last five to twenty years. Ferleger found that each of these communities had relied on a single commodity economy, and when that source of income disappeared, they had nothing else to rely on. The most stable communities, the ones which rode out the recent economic downturn fairly unscathed, were also the communities with the most diversity (Ferleger). Encouraging local businesses also encourages diversity as the varied needs of the community are met by its members.

Although buying local has a positive effect on communities, it would be difficult and unpleasant to insist that a community become totally self-sufficient. Buying local doesn’t mean building a wall around the community and blocking all imports. Each area has strengths and weaknesses, and we all benefit by sharing our strengths with others.

In Roseburg, Oregon, I can easily buy locally picked blueberries, but it would be almost impossible to grow coffee here, let alone enough to supply the entire city. Local products are not always better than what could be imported from elsewhere. But, just because you can not buy everything locally, does not mean you should throw in the towel and not worry about it. A few simple ways to support your own community without giving up certain things we all take for granted are: buying produce from local farms, purchasing household items from local artisans, and choosing locally owned shops or credit unions over national chains.

Humans have always taken advantage of the global economy. Archaeologists have unearthed ancient trade routes that spanned continents. Some even believe that trade between cultures is what sparked the beginning of ancient civilizations (Fagan). It is more efficient for each member of society to specialize in a trade and then divide it up than it is for everyone to work on their own provide everything they need. By specializing, each worker becomes skilled in their trade, and can produce higher quality items in larger quantities (Plato). The modern global economy is merely the next step in the development and expansion of human civilization. Our neighbors just keep getting farther away.

The earth’s population is expanding, and barring a global disaster, we will eventually find ourselves pressed for resources. Our current economic model leaves room for huge amounts of waste and inefficiency. Commercial farms find it uneconomical to harvest every last piece of produce, and it sits in the fields and orchards to rot. At the same time there are starving people, even in our own country, who would jump at the chance to eat some of that wasted food. There are small efforts to distribute this excess, but nothing that comes close to solving the underlying problems (Barlow).

Even though strong local economies are important, the need for a larger scale efficiency is also important. It is sometimes more economical to transport goods and produce from areas that specialize in these goods than it is to try and produce the same items in the community. In the future, creating a globally efficient economy will be vital to our continued prosperity as resources become more scarce.

Despite these concerns for efficiency, communities should be wary of courting large industries to their town, as they can disappear overnight to a location with cheaper labor. Over the years, there has been a noticeable increase in the number of companies which have moved all or part of their labor to other countries. As Gene Sperling, head of the National Economic Council stated, “For much of the last 15 years, it seemed like the attitude was that anytime you could find a lower cost anywhere in the global supply chain, you did it, with no thought of the difficulties or risks that things could go wrong” (qtd in Foroohar). Lower costs mean more profits for the companies, and it is easy to see why they choose to move their operations to these far away locations.

Moving operations across the globe may have resulted in cheaper prices, but money does not account for externalized costs that are hard to quantify. The environment may be harmed by overusing resources, employees may be mistreated such as the Foxconn workers who manufacture technology for Microsoft and Apple (Greenfield), dangerous chemicals may be used in consumer products such as when lead was used in paints. We are not the ones who have to pay the price for our cheaper goods, that debt will be paid by future generations and by those living in places where we do not see.

It might be tempting to point our collective finger at large companies, and blame them for lost jobs and the poor economy, but we need to take our share of the responsibility. If we are constantly looking for the cheapest prices without thought for why it is cheaper, without regard for its hidden costs, then we are just as guilty as the large companies which turn around and do the same thing.

In the end, there needs to be a balance between global and local economies. If a local area is suffering from unemployment, and a lack of diversity, focusing on local businesses is one way individuals can turn their city around. Communities should be grounded locally, even as they take advantage of the global economy and sell their specialties to the world.

Works Cited

Barlow, Genevieve. "Stay Local to the Core." The Melbourne Weekly Times 8 Aug. 2012: 67. Web. EBSCOHOST
Civic Economics. Examining the Impact of Local Business on the West Michigan Economy. Rep. Local First, Sept. 2008. Web. 28 Aug. 2012.
Fagan, Brian M. People of the Earth: An Introduction to World Prehistory. New York, NY: HarperCollins College, 2010. 312-14. Print.
Ferleger, Louis. "America’s Permanent Dead Zones." Salon. N.p., 27 Jan. 2012. Web. 20 Aug. 2012.
Foroohar, Rana; “The Economy’s New Rules: Go Local!” Time, 8/20/2012, Vol. 180 Issue 8, p26-32. EBSCOHOST
Greenfield, Rebecca. "Foxconn Is Still a Hard Place to Work." n.d.: n. pag. The Atlantic Wire. 10 Jan. 2012. Web. 20 Aug. 2012.
Plato. The Republic. N.p.: n.p., n.d. N. pag. Gutenberg. Web. 20 Aug. 2012.
Rickman, Joy C., Christine M. Bruhn, and Diane M. Barrett. "Review Nutritional Comparison of Fresh, Frozen, and Canned Fruits and Vegetables" Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture (2007): DOI: 10.1002/jsfa.2824. Print.

Beyond Liberal Education

Liberal education is the practice of teaching students a little something from each of the major scholastic fields, giving them a solid grounding in all disciplines. This practice dates back at least to the times of ancient Greece where the citizens concerned themselves with philosophy, the arts, and maintaining physical perfection. The manual labor of the period was performed by the slave caste who did not need an education to carry out their tasks. Today, that same tradition has been passed down to the American education system where, throughout their school career, students are expected to master an astonishing array of topics.

As human beings, we need to stimulate all aspects of our being, and our lives should include a full spectrum of knowledge and experiences. Liberal education is not so much about teaching a specific set of topics as about giving each student a way to express themselves, both in school and throughout the rest of their lives. Children should not be expected to know what they want to be when they grow up because they have not had time to explore all of the possibilities that are available to them. Even most college students have not yet found their niche and need more experience before deciding on a career. Liberal education gives students a chance to explore the world around them and discover how they are exceptional.

Liberal education can be a waste of scarce resources, spending time and energy teaching topics which the students will never use once they have graduated. Social workers do not need to know higher math, physicists should not have to learn to paint, and a gymnast has no need to take writing classes. If the goal of education is to produce useful and intelligent citizens, this can be accomplished without spending so much effort on skills that will lay forgotten as soon as they are learned. One of the secrets to the success of our modern society is specialization, which allows each person to focus on a single skill or task. Liberal education takes the opposite tact by encouraging everyone to become a generalist. Our education system would be better off if students picked a vocation and were able to focus on it without distraction.

Public education is designed to give each student a chance to grow into their greatest potential. Providing a liberal education to students in their younger years gives children options that their personal life experiences may not have prepared them for. When I was in kindergarten, my view of the world was fairly limited, and it was my dream to grow up and become a mail lady, driving around in that sweet little car and delivering letters. As I grew older, I was exposed to the rest of the wide, wide world out there and left my dreams of being a postal worker far behind. Once a student has reached a certain point in their education, they have a fair idea of what they are good at, and in what scholastic direction they want to pursue. Once this decision is reached, the student should be allowed to skip out on the advanced topics that are of no interest or relevancy to their future careers. The current public education system keeps a focus on liberal education far beyond the point where it is useful and necessary.

Both sides of this argument are concerned with giving students the best education possible. This can be achieved by moving beyond liberal education, and allowing students to steer their own futures.


For summer term I've been taking it easy with a ceramics class!  Below are pictures of a few of my pieces:

The Book was Better

Every year dozens of books are made into successful movies. As popular as these movies are, there are always fans of the book who proclaim that, ‘the book was better.’ Is the book really better, or is this claim merely the opinion of enthusiastic fans who would rally behind their book under any circumstance?

What is it that makes novels better than their movie adaptations? Books are longer, which allows the plot to be more intricate and the characters to have greater depth. Novels do not have a special effects budget, and so the story can develop without the constraints of a movie production. Reading is also a form of active entertainment, and the reader must engage in the story in order to gain anything from the experience.

Movie adaptations are notorious for cutting and merging characters or storylines to keep things less confusing for movie audiences. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was approximately 198 thousand words long, which should take an average reader about 13 hours to read. Even after splitting the book into two movies, the adaptation only hits 4 and a half hours of screen time. The book would have to be made into five or six movies in order to match the same complexity of the novel.

Movies very rarely allow audiences to hear the thoughts of the characters for fear they will appear insane to the audience. This is a primary tactic in novels for creating character development as well as giving the reader a glimpse into what makes the character tick, what makes them more than a hired thug or vanquishing hero. Character development becomes flatter and one dimensional when adapted to the screen. Instead of looking at the world from the eyes of another person, movies are limited to watching the characters and stories unfold as a mere spectator.

A popular trick in movies and television is to keep a character off-screen in order to let the viewers use their imagination, which can create something more grotesque or beautiful than any CG or makeup artist can replicate. Novels do the same, but with every character and in every scene. For example, in The Family Tree by Sheri Tepper, the true natures of the main characters are not revealed until halfway through the book. In a movie version, this would be impossible! Scene one, and the surprise would be spoiled.

The written word can control story exposition with precision, telling only exactly what is needed and when it should be told. Movies are severely limited in this regard. In a book, each reader creates an experience that is unique to themselves and their personal experiences. In a movie viewers are limited to one version of the story, that of the producers and directors. Even the most faithful adaptation falls short because it can only reproduce one interpretation of the words on the page.

George R. R. Martin began writing his popular fantasy series, A Song of Ice and Fire after becoming discouraged by the limitations placed on his stories in order to show them on screen. ‘I’m sorry, we don’t have the budget to do something that cool,’ isn’t a recipe for an amazing entertainment experience. When writing, special effects are free. Dragons, massive armies, exploding planets, all are free of charge for the author. The same cannot be said of movies, and it shows. The Neverending Story, by Michael Ende features a stunning array of fantasy worlds which is hardly even touched on by the movie version.

There are some exceptions, notably short stories where the movie can match the length of the original; children’s picture books on which the movie can expand and the visual interpretations are already in place; and finally, books that were less than stellar. It’s entirely possible to make a movie out of a terrible book and have it turn out better than the original. Of course, what makes a book or movie terrible is subjective and depends on personal taste.

It all comes down to the fact that novels have greater potential than movies to spin a mesmerizing story. All the special effects and good acting of even a great movie can’t compete with what is possible through the written word and the human imagination. If you read the original novel that one of your favorite movies was adapted from, chances are you’ll agree, the book is better.