Friday, June 24, 2016

I got nothing

I'm heartbroken for the people in Britain who are about to live in a smaller world, and for the ideas of multi-culturalism and international cooperation.

I'm also worried about the future of the somewhat* United States.

Let's pause a minute to look at a pretty view.  Just don't breathe deeply because of the wildfire smoke.
The view on my bike commute.
Feel any better?

Me, neither.

Wildfire season is starting earlier and lasting longer due to climate change.  Dealing with climate change is expensive, disruptive, and requires global cooperation.

Denying that it is happening is not changing the fundamental truth.  The laws of physics (and chemistry and biology) don't give a damn whether you believe them.  They are inexorable.

I'm fed up with the fact that low information voters get the same vote weight as people who seriously study the issues.  I'm fed up with dismissal of the expert opinions of people who spend year--decades--studying issues.

I'm even more fed up with laws like Proposition 13 in CA and TABOR in CO that allow a no vote on taxes and government spending to count twice as much as a yes vote.

We have to vote on every damn infrastructure project.  The people who vote against them are mostly older and won't be impacted by crumbling infrastructure.  Yet, the younger people paying for their social security and medicare don't get a say in the services and money given to seniors because that's an untouchable "entitlement."

I'm sick of generational warfare and the old eating the young.

Did you notice that a major plank of the leave campaign on #Brexit was the completely fictitious story that they would have a huge amount of extra money to spend on their National Health Service (which is mainly utilized by the old)?  How do you fight against such lies?

What happened in Britain is happening here.  What are you going to do to push back?

* Copied from Sarah Vowell's book title.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

I left my heart in LA

I've written before about my melancholy when I leave LA to return to Boulder. The last trip was extended because of a family crisis. In between care-taking and medical appointments, Bad Dad and I managed to sneak in cultural breaks. 

For us, LA is all about the food, the culture and the beach. (I don't mean to discount rocket science even though that's what brought us to LA initially, but we're talking about the things that we love outside of work.)

It's nice to read that even the NY Times agrees with us:
No city in the country is more exciting than Los Angeles right now. Despite pop culture portrayals of Los Angeles as either comically superficial or darkly dystopian, the nation’s second largest metropolis is a vivid, soulful, eclectic city. It’s home to year-round blooms and captivating street murals, musical innovation and outsider art, deeply rooted communities and world-class food cooked by chefs from around the globe. The greatest challenge for visitors is not what to do, but which version of this vast city to embrace.

We went to LACMA to see Reigning Men and the Robert Mapplethorpe retrospective.
Look at that metallic embroidery.

Those short britches may require a bit of calf enhancement.
Cultural institutions of LA collaborate. For instance, LACMA and the Getty share a huge body of photography. The Getty Center is also showing Robert Mapplethorpe photographs as well as the work of some of his contemporaries and the collection of his first major collector/patron.

Getty Center hallway.
Meanwhile, the Japanese American National Museum is showing Making Waves: Japanese American Photographs 1920-1940. That show is incredible and not to be missed. Although most of the photographs made by these artists were lost or destroyed, what remains shows that, had they not been incarcerated (and racism), they would have been as famous as Ansel Adams and Edward Weston.

LACMA extends the argument further, with their own exhibition of Japanese Prints and Photographs: Paths Through Modernity.

I cannot stress this enough.  When you visit LA, skip the Tourist Traps and theme parks and head to the cultural institutions and the ethnic enclaves.  You will be met with friendly courtesy, fantastic food and insight into how diverse people and cultures live peacefully and cooperatively side by side.
Fried chicken, waffles and collard greens in Inglewood.
Downtown LA (DTLA) is hopping these days.  Stores are open (and busy!) on weekends.
The detailing on the old buildings is amazing.

Clifton's Cafeteria is open after their extensive remodel.  Prices and food quality are up.
The LA food scene uses traditional techniques with new ingredients and ideas.  For instance, dim sum places offer more and more vegetarian options.  Ocean Seafood will serve you seafood that looks back at you.  (Baby octopuses, anyone?)  But, even vegetarians can be challenged with tofu (stuffed with tofu instead of the traditional pork) that dares you to eat it.
Even the tofu dim sum at Ocean Seafood is served with faces intact.
When you come visit, pack for our mild and foggy summers.  You don't need a down jacket (that's San Francisco), but bring a light jacket for cool mornings and evenings.
June gloom extended all the way to the San Gabriel Mountains the day I left.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Bicycling + Fashion

My main sewing goal for this summer is to sew more clothes that facilitate bicycling to work and around town. Reasons/excuses that keep me from biking include darkness, rain and not wanting to hassle with changing clothes.

Bike Night recap: Why bike fashion matters gives some fashionable ideas for bicycling-compatible fashion.  Click the link to see many more ideas made by students at Otis.

The skirt on this dress ties up for bicycling, and unties for length once you get to your destination.

This bicycle jersey and tutu outfit doesn't transform, but check out her smile and that bike!
I'm not sure about bicycling in a tutu.  Even wide-legged shorts catch on my bicycle saddle.  Perhaps she wears the tutu off the bike and the leggings sans tutu on the bike?

Hmm, wrinkle-resistant wrap skirts to go over my bike shorts that I can stuff in my pannier?

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Lunching with the Time Lord

"When everything is working properly, and I'm doing my job, you don't know anything about it."

"I don't remember who made me the time lord; I think it is unfair to all my colleagues."

When I was in graduate school, I used to pack lunches and eat them in the JILA communal lunchroom.  Most days, I ate at the same time as Judah Levine and received many lessons about precision measurements*.

He's so humble, I didn't realize what a major figure he is.

Yes, he's dubbed our nation's time lord.  But, his influence goes far, far beyond that.
Levine soon discovered that many of the technologies he had developed for geophysics (such as computers and software for real-time data acquisition and control) were quite useful for atomic clocks and time transfer.

In the early 1980s, Levine began a project to distribute digital time signals using telephone lines and the Internet that started out small, but soon was growing rapidly. Today, after more than three decades of looking after the nation’s time, Levine has earned the titles of “Time Lord” and the “Nation’s Timekeeper.” As the nation’s timekeeper, his job is to keep and disseminate civilian time and frequency through a computer system that he developed and has maintained for nearly 20 years.
After I graduated, I worked in Weather and Navigation at LAAFB. When I told Judah my plans after graduation, he said that he used to consult there.

A *major* understatement.

The software techniques that he developed for recording precise times in different locations for measuring earthquakes? They became the basis for the software in Navstar and GPS as well as for delivering time over the internet and phone lines.

GPS satellites made GPS Radio Occultation possible, which allowed us to measure fronts in the stratosphere, which has drastically improved weather prediction.

Do you remember the days when synchronized traffic lights snarled traffic instead of helping it flow more smoothly? The temperature fluctuations experienced by traffic lights were too great for quartz clocks to run accurately.  Today, they run off time standards received from the radio station, WWVB.  "All time, all the time."

Pretty much every day, during some part of the day, I notice something that was touched by Judah and silently thank him.

"When everything is working properly, and I'm doing my job, you don't know anything about it."

My current boss says that our department provides infrastructure.  I recently gave a talk in which I used the phrase, "you don't notice us until something goes wrong."

Our work doesn't impact as many lives** as the Time Lord's, but think about all the things that your government provides for you, that you don't even have to think about.  Remember us on April 15th.

* When I wondered why my bathroom scale said I was lighter and my tape measure disagreed?  He explained how piezoelectric scales worked and broke down over time.

** Only ~15,000 people use our services directly, but their weather and climate predictions based upon data received from us impacts millions of people.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

MMMay16 Wrap-up

What is Me-Made-May'16?

Me-Made-May'16 (#MMMay16 for social media interaction) is a challenge designed to encourage people who sew/knit/crochet/refashion/upcycle garments for themselves to wear and love them more. The me-made and self-stitched challenges have been taking place for six years now and they work on both a personal and community level. The participants decide the specifics of their own challenge, so that the month is appropriate and challenging for them (more on this below). For example, a very common pledge is for a participant to aim to wear one self-stitched or refashioned garment each day for the duration of May 2016. The participants can also choose to document their challenge with daily photos (though this is in no way compulsory for taking part) and share them with other participants (more on this below as well).
I've participated in Me Made May since May 2010.

Since "participants decide the specifics of their own challenge", I set myself the stretch (in 2010) goal of wearing something me-made every day in May. This was a learning experience as I realized that I sewed for a fantasy life instead of my real wardrobe needs.

In 2016, it is a completely different story. As Clio ably pointed out in her Cheater's guide to MMM, that's a trivially easy accomplishment if you sew your own loungewear/nightclothes.  The internets do not need a daily picture of me wearing a nightgown or bathrobe.

In past years, I joined the legions who spent April and May feverishly sewing to fill wardrobe gaps.  My sixth rendition of Simplicity 2938 did not get done in time, and that's OK.  I'll finish up the binding in June and wear it all summer.

Simplicity 2938
I hate sewing under time pressure.  But, I walked into Elfriede's Fine Fabrics for a spool of thread to match the dyed shirt above, and spied her new shipment from Elliot Berman.  I was shocked that Elfriede, a PhD biochemist, did not recognize the MIT school colors.

Simplicity 2263
I purchased a yard of this rayon challis and stitched it up in time to wear to the recent William Barton Rogers Society lecture at the Petersen Museum in LA.   It was MMM^2 because Bad Dad wore his new fave (snow-dyed) shirt.

MMM by proxy while driving a mock Maserati at the Petersen.

When MMMay was smaller, and I was less jaded, I used to think posting daily outfit of the day #ootd photos were encouraging and fun. Moreover, some people organized weekly themes. Once, everyone swirled while taking their photos. I participated by showing my hometown and my sewing space. I didn't realize it had become a competition in some circles.

I did register that most of the participants were younger and thinner than me. I'm glad that younger people are making their own clothes. That means more business for the stores that serve our mutual past-time. Yay! Nevertheless, it made me feel fat.

Then a young (and thin) participant wrote that she felt bad about showing her dining room table while others had these gorgeous and big sewing studios.

Hmmm.  It was not my intent to make anyone feel bad.  I used to sew on my desk in my dorm room.  The room was so tiny, I had to put the ironing table out in the hallway.

The commercial internet is full of photos of the young, thin and gorgeous and huge, styled homes.  It would be nice if the non-commercial internet put more real images out there.  But, daily selfies are not my thing.

Trust me.  I wore something me-made when I took this photo on the walk home from the library last week.  BTW, mentioning that you can walk from your house to the library and enjoy sunsets like this along the way, that's still bragging.

This photo is still bragging.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain

Why are we spending so much time talking about bathrooms and not talking about clean and safe water?

I'm supposed to attend a work conference this summer in North Carolina.  Rather than prepare for the conference, I'm figuring out if I should go and changing my travel plans because the venue changed from a state (university) to a private conference center.

My bullshit detector wonders why the chatter cycle is so focused on bathrooms for transgendered individuals and not on issues that impact a larger swath of society.

I've written before in It's a girl! Maybe about how male/female gene expression is a tricky business. In short, XY=Boy and XX=Girl is sometimes wrong. If the Y gene is very damaged, the child may appear as a female. If the Y gene is slightly damaged, the child may appear outwardly as a male, but with complications.

Erroneous Gender Identification by the Amelogenin Sex Test reported that a common gender test is commonly wrong.
The amelogenin gene, located on the X and Y chromosomes in humans (1), produces a protein important in the development of the tooth enamel matrix (2). Using specific amelogenin PCR primers, different bp fragments are amplifiable from the X and Y chromosomes, respectively (3). Hence, it has been a central system to differentiate males from females especially in forensic casework and prenatal diagnosis
Under electrophoresis, the amelogenin gene originating from X and Y chromosomes are resolvable due to differing weights/sizes. An XY sample should have two bumps (two types/weights), and an XX sample should have one bump.  A male soldier showed one bump, at the place where female versions of the gene usually fall.
The occurrence of this phenomenon has been reported as an 0.018% observed sex test failure rate in the Austrian National DNA database (9), 1.85% observed sex test failure rate in Indian males (10), 0.6% frequency of sex test failure attributable to deletion from 350 specimens from all around the world (11), and 8% (2 out of 24) samples of unrelated Sri Lankan males (11).

With the finding of our first mistyped amelogenin result on a male out of a total of 96 samples, we can report the failure rate of this test as 1.04% in Israel. Moreover, the failure of two different primer sets, to amplify the Y chromosome DNA, suggests that this sample contains a deletion in the relevant area.


What causes this gene deletion? Could it be that different populations evolved differently over time? Or could environmental factors be at play? Do you also notice a correlation between countries with high pollution and high sex-test failures?

What about sperm counts? Industrial chemicals and heavy metals can depress sperm counts.   Sperm counts are holding steady in some countries, and dropping in others. 

It is well-known that Chemicals in Water Alter Gender of Fish and the Pesticide atrazine can turn male frogs into females. Pesticides are a large contributor to the collapse of frog and fish populations around the world. What are their effects in mammals, including humans?  There is a lot that we don't know.  But we won't learn more unless we focus attention to those problems.

Isn't it funny how the North Carolina bathroom controversy has pushed the Flint water crisis (and other stories about aging water infrastructure) and industrial/agricultural water pollution out of the news?

We're allowing ourselves to be distracted by a side show about bathrooms instead of examining the prevalence of poisons in water supplies world-wide and what that is doing to the genetically vulnerable among us.


I'm deeply offended and disappointed by the NIH gender dysphoria web page.
The cause of gender dysphoria is unknown. Hormones in the womb, genes, social and environmental factors (such as parenting) may be involved.
Let's blame the parenting, usually mothers, instead of the hormone disrupting chemicals in our water.

A transgender 9-year-old tells her story in the LA Times.

Last weekend, I saw The Edge Theater Company's production of Casa Valentina. It is a good production of a good play. I highly recommend seeing it this weekend (the closing weekend of the show.)

Sunday, May 15, 2016

The river that binds us

I'm swamped with both family work and market work that demand much of my time and attention.  The story about how I named my blog explains why.

As I sat on an airplane, leaving the family that needs me, to the job that also needs me, I pondered the irony that a woman so concerned with climate change is sitting on an airplane, spewing CO2 into the stratosphere.

A window seat in an airplane between LAX and DEN is also a good time to reflect about the water cycle.

Our familial home is down there, as is DD's school and DH's lab.
Remember when our elementary school teachers told us that, if we could pour a cup of water on top of the Continental Divide, half could end up in the Atlantic Ocean and half would end up in the Pacific Ocean?

It turns out, that it is not quite so simple.

The Colorado River, originating west of the Continental Divide, used to drain into the Pacific Ocean. But it hasn't for decades, because all of the water was used and reused until it peters out in the inland deserts of California (to grow alfalfa to grow cows to feed people.)

Colorado Snowpack
The water evaporates off the ocean and eventually falls down as condensed water or ice in the mountains.  Imagine the amount of energy it takes to lift up that large a mass and move it that great a distance!

Somewhere over the Four Corners area.  Not sure if this is the Colorado River or a tributary.  
The melted snow seeps into the soil and seeps into rivulets, creeks, small tributary rivers and then eventually into the mighty* Colorado River.  More than half of Colorado River water flow begins as groundwater.

Beginning in 1957, with the opening of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project, trans-basin water diversions were moving water from the western side of the Continental Divide to the eastern side. Without this water, the massive population growth of the Colorado Front Range wouldn't have been possible.

Trans-basin water diversion map.
Want to learn more about Northern (Colorado) Water, the public agency that brings this water to millions?  Of course you do!

Visit the Northern Water Annual open house and conservation gardens fair next Saturday, May 21, 2016.   Walk this scale model of the Colorado-Big Thompson and Windy Gap projects that deliver *half* of the water used by the Northern Colorado member communities (including Boulder.)  It's awe-inspiring to think about the amount of work that it takes to bring this volume and mass of water across the harsh alpine environment.

My favorite part is this landscape sculpture, which allows me to walk the journey of my Colorado tap water from mountain-top through tunnels, pipelines, and reservoirs.  It makes the monumental intimate.

Landscape art that makes this huge engineering and social project intimate.
Read Your Colorado Water Blog write-up about this event for more details.  I went last year with some gardening enthusiast friends.  I geeked out over the water engineering while they geeked out over the gardening booths.

Many, many Front Range nurseries set up booths at the fair to sell Colorado native plants that are rarely sold at commercial nurseries.  It's one-stop shopping for people who grow native and low-water gardens.  Plants, education, ideas and support from Colorado Extension master gardeners.

Whether I am in Boulder, Colorado, or in Los Angeles, the two parts of my life depend on the mighty* Colorado River.

* Anything that can carve the Grand Canyon and all the minor canyons you see here deserves the adjective mighty.  Anything that can bind my torn heart also deserves the adjective mighty.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

In defense of home ec 4: beauty edition

In my preteens, I discovered that I have extremely sensitive skin.  In an effort to understand what was happening and to regain control of my skin and my life*, I scoured the library bookshelves for anything that could help me.

In the era before the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep database of cosmetics ingredients, there was Paula Begoun's Don't go to the Cosmetics Counter Without Me.

Begoun explained that some of the most irritating ingredients in cosmetics are the preservatives necessary to reduce bacterial and fungal growth in the moist and damp bathroom environment.  If we want to reduce the amount of preservatives in our cosmetics, we have several options:
  • package them in smaller jars so they get used up before bacteria can grow
  • package them in pump containers to reduce contamination (from fingers or the air)
  • ensure that the cosmetics are stored outside of the bathroom (manufacturers have no control over this so that is a nonstarter)
  • universal bathroom refrigerators to store cosmetics
She further explained that expensive products are often less irritating because they are packaged in smaller quantities.  Thus, their formulas can contain less preservatives.

Think about this next time you buy Costco-sized containers of cosmetics that lie around in your bathroom for a year before you finish them.

Last week, I opened up a bathroom drawer to reach for my face moisturizer and found black signs of fungal growth.  (Read In defense of home ec 2 for another example.)

This is not a big deal because I use a clean knife to transfer skin cream (wield like a spatula) from the container I keep in the refrigerator to smaller containers that I keep in each bathroom.  Because we go through moisturizer more slowly with me in Boulder part of the time, I opted to use a smaller container (bottom).

When the containers are empty, I wash them out with soap and water AND run them through the dishwasher to sterilize them.  I also use a knife directly out of the dishwasher to minimize germ transfer.

* Try to perform a complex task while your skin is on fire.  Tell me how long you can concentrate.

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

A few details from Reigning Men

Does the Reigning Men exhibit at LACMA make you think of the song, It's Raining Men by The Weather Girls?  Methinks the curators at LACMA have a sense of humor.  After all, they placed the Reigning Men exhibit next to the Robert Mapplethorpe show.

I'm just going to show you a few pictures to whet your appetite.

This is one of the many, many gorgeous ensembles on view.
But check out the hand-embroidered buttons that tie all the colors and patterns of the ensemble together.
Check out the way the line continues from one shoe to the next.
The poster for the exhibit, with a close-up of this coat, may have come home with me.
If you are new to this blog, you might want to read 25 years, which I originally posted in June 2006.

Monday, May 02, 2016

Kwik Sew 2452

Or what we wore during Me Made May 2016 Day 1.

I gave a glimpse of a new dress in the ensemble picture (and also on IG).

When I pulled out that black/ecru printed cotton/lycra jersey, I recalled that I purchased it at the time to make a t-shirt dress.  Which pattern should I use?  I have tons of t-shirt patterns to select from.

Associations are funny.

I was making the top and skirt for a petite friend.  In 1995 or 1996, I made a mint green cotton interlock dress from Kwik Sew 2452.  I got the pattern and fabric from Denver Fabrics, which is now called Colorado Fabrics.  (The online Denver Fabrics retailer is actually in St Louis and has nothing to do with the original Denver Fabrics except that they bought the name.)

I made the longer version of the dress.  When my petite friend went on a trip to Saudi Arabia, she borrowed the mint dress, which was a maxi on her.

I bought he black/ecru dress fabric at Colorado Fabrics.  Thinking of the store and the friend, I searched for the dress pattern and found it in my most excellent pattern drawers, designed for me by the son of the manager of Simplicity's pattern printing plant.

Can you think of a more perfect dress to wear for the first day of Me Made May 2016?
DH got many compliments on his snow-dyed shirt at the TCM Classic Movies Festival 2016 today.  Because he feels a little guilty about the cost of his festival pass, he asked me to buy myself something.  OK, twist my arm.
I stopped by The Fabric Store on my way home from viewing the Robert Mapplethorpe and Reigning Men exhibits at LACMA.  Reigning Men was sensory overload for a textile geek, especially after I had spent so much time at the Mapplethorpe show.

We have until August 21, 2016 to examine the details on Reigning Men.  I'll be back.