Thursday, April 17, 2014


Bad Dad and I watched the lunar eclipse from a beachfront bar on Waikiki Beach. What about you?

We were really bad parents and left our sick kid in the hotel room while we walked to the bar at the historic Royal Hawaiian hotel.  He said that we couldn't leave Hawaii without enjoying a drink with an umbrella in it at a beachfront bar.  So we did.

Notice how everyone on the beach is looking at the moon?  It was a sky-gazing party at the beach.

We flew home yesterday PM.  I spent an epic day unpacking, doing laundry, and preparing for my housing search trip to Boulder tomorrow AM.  I should be packing right now, not blogging.  Eek!

Friday, April 04, 2014

The Fabric Store trip report

Ms McCall of Brown Paper Patterns keeps showing wonderful projects that she made with stuff she bought at The Fabric Store. For nearly a year, I wondered, "Which fabric store?"

That's the name of the store.  Recently, the LA Times ran a story about The Fabric Store (TFS). Actually, the article was an embarrassing gush-fest .  But, I have to confess, I love the store, too.

It's in midtown, only 0.6 miles from Mood's new 22,000 sf LA store, ~1 mile from LACMA and in the heart of LA's La Brea Design District.  Visitors to LA should budget an entire day just to enjoy the district and another day to see LACMA.  Or break it up and shop/museum for a half day each for two days.

Allison Vanos, the manager of the Los Angeles outpost of New Zealand-based TFS, and I had corresponded by email.  When we met in person for the first time, we immediately touched each others blouses.  Other sewists will understand.  ;-)

TFS works closely with New Zealand mills and sells amazing-quality merino wools in fashion-forward colors both wholesale and retail.  Unfortunately, the full range is not available to retail customers (but there is still lots to select among).  The fibers are so fine--as little as 18.5 microns--they rival cashmere for softness with no enviroguilt.

They also sell designer closeouts from around the world to retail customers at good prices.

If you are in Los Angeles for work, mid-town is easily reachable by public transport from both downtown and westside offices/hotels.

From downtown, take the subway to the end of the purple line and then transfer to the Metro Rapid 720 express bus.  Get off at Wilshire and La Brea.  TFS is at 135 South La Brea, about half a mile north of Wilshire, on the east side of the street.

From the westside, take the Metro Rapid 720 express bus east to La Brea and then walk.

You can fortify yourself at some of the many fine restaurants in the district and visit Mood at the corner of La Brea and Wilshire, too.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

What took so long?

Bad Dad and I were discussing Michael Lewis' story about the discovery of how high frequency trading is used to rob the pension and mutual funds that hold your retirement savings.

Much of Wall Street is out performing damage control to explain how the situation is very complex and no one can explain how they are robbing the majority.  Actually, it's not that difficult to understand compared to the kind of mysteries that scientists routinely unravel.

The big mystery to me was why it took 18 months for Bradley Katsuyama's team to discover what was going on. It would have taken much less time if they had a physicist on their team.

Consider JILA professor and NIST scientist Judah Levine, aka the nation's "time lord".  Back in the early 1990s, he explained to me (a graduate student at the time), how, when delivering time standards over telephone lines (and, later, over the internet), he had to take into account the time it takes for the signal to get to the other end.  Is the phone line copper or fiber optic? He also helped develop time synchronization via satellite (Navstar and GPS)*.  This is in addition to his geophysics research determining the source of earthquakes and other underground motions.

If they had Judah on the team, he would have solved the mystery over lunch.
* The speed of light is only a constant in a vacuum.  The variation is small through the atmosphere and ionosphere.  But, over long distances, light is slowed just enough that you have to account for the slowing.  In fact, you also have to account for special relativity.

Fun cocktail party tidbit:

Why can you read about military satellite launches before they happen all over the internet?  Because there is no longer any point in trying to hide them.  To find out when a military satellite will be launched, one only has to try to book a hotel room near a launch range and note the price.

Prices spike whenever a launch is about to take place.  If hotel rooms are expensive and scarce, but the open launch manifest of nonmilitary launches shows nothing, then you know what must be happening.

You don't even have to call up the hotels anymore.  Your software robot can just query the hotel websites regularly.

Information leaks happen all the time, with real-world implications.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Go to work/school late tomorrow

and watch the launch of DMSP F-19 from the beach.
From Spaceflight Now:
April 3, Atlas 5, DMSP-F19
Launch window: 1446-1456 GMT (10:46-10:56 a.m. EDT; 7:46-7:56 a.m. PDT)
Launch site: SLC-3E, Vandenberg Air Force Base, California

A United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket, designated AV-044, will launch the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program 19 spacecraft for the U.S. Air Force. Built by Lockheed Martin, this polar-orbiting weather satellite will be used by the military for global weather forecasting. The rocket will fly in the 401 vehicle configuration with a four-meter fairing, no solid rocket boosters and a single-engine Centaur upper stage.
F19 means it will be the 19th Defense Meteorological Satellite launched.  This is the second to last one; only 20 were manufactured.

I've previously pulled my kid out of school for the entire day to drive her to Vandenburg AFB for a prior DMSP satellite launch.  This time, I think we will just watch the satellite fly by from the Manhattan Beach Pier.

Spaceflight Now 101 has a page about the launch with links to the launch webcast and the ascent ground track.  As I explained before, polar-orbiting weather satellites fly nearly due south from Vandenburg AFB.  Tomorrow morning's sky is forecast to be clear so the entire Santa Monica bay should get a good view of the satellite as it flies by.

In case you missed it, you can watch the video.

Watch live streaming video from spaceflightnow at

Friday, March 28, 2014

Belated World Water Day

I was on the road March 22, 2014, so I didn't post about World Water Day, as I have done in previous years.

Fortunately, Aquafornia has posted everything that I want to say (and then some!) about California and water.  So go read that great site and then we can discuss the Pacific Decadal Oscillation later this weekend.

Meanwhile enjoy these links:
Please leave more links in the comments.  Thanks!

PS, March 22, 2014 was also International Cut Into That Fabric Day.  I want to celebrate that, too.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Boomerang Trends

Before I rushed off to run errands and volunteer at Iris' school last week, I snapped this picture.  It proves that, if you wait long enough, you will be instantaneously trendy for some non-zero length of time.

Check it out. I'm rocking Black and White, Floral and Lace all at the same time!

No, I'm not a fashion victim. I made the white eyelet skirt ~1997 with a remnant I found at SAS Fabrics. I cut out and interfaced the black and white rayon crepe blouse around the same time. Last year, Little Hunting Creek inspired me to pull out some UFOs and finish them. It took less than 2 hours to sew this blouse up.  Why did I wait so long?

This skirt and photo makes my hips look really wide.  Are they really this wide?  Depends on the angle and what I am wearing.

Sociological Images asked why we dress to minimize our body differences.  Why are magazines always showing tall people how to look shorter?  Short people how to look taller?  Fat people how to look thinner?  Busty women how to look less so?  The list goes on and on.

They asked, what if we dressed to .emphasize. our body differences instead of diminish them?

Don't we teach our kids to stand out, especially in their college application personal statements?  Tell us what makes them especially them?

Then what do we teach them when we dress to conform to an ideal body image that has nothing to do with health and function?

These hips bore a healthy ~8.5 pound baby and carried me up many a mountain pass (by foot, by bike and on telemark skis).  They don't need de-emphasizing.

After snapping the picture above, I saw this Chimayo weaving I purchased last year in New Mexico.   It makes me happy.

Welcome Home AcaDecathletes*

We welcomed home our little competitor from the state championships in Sacramento.

A Los Angeles Daily News story about the tournament includes a picture of the three "honors" students of Iris' school.  Iris is the one with the long, wavy hair on the left.
They came in 9th in California and 3rd in Los Angeles County excluding LAUSD. That's the first top-ten finish for her high school.   Although only the top two teams in California advance to Nationals, their team had a phenomenal season.  Because Southern California is the most competitive part of the nation, many of the teams whose seasons ended today actually scored twice as many total points as qualifying teams from less competitive states.

She's home.  She's exhausted.  She came down with a cold and an excruciating ear ache coming over "the Grapevine" aka Tejon Pass, elevation 4144'.  I'll be busy babying her tomorrow.

While she was competing, Bad Dad and I drove up to the SF Bay Area to help my mom with a move and her taxes.  Finding a "moderate" rent apartment for a senior on a small fixed income in Silicon Valley is an experience.  If you have a lot of time, I can tell you more about that journey.

Although our trip was mostly family work, we did take some time to hang out in Berkeley.  I bought a linen shirt at the Bryn Walker boutique (made in Berkeley!) and a book of poetry at Black Oak Books.

Life will be extremely busy chez BMGM as I prepare our LA home to function without me, pack,  and move 1000 miles away for a full-time job that is just too good to pass up.  Life just gets more and more complicated.

I am glad I had time out of the paid labor force to help my mom and my daughter through challenging times and our local school district through severe budget cuts, to facilitate my husband's career as a field scientist, and to pursue self-study in statistics and modern programming languages (Perl, Python, R).  But, I am also very grateful to have found a fantastic (and paying!) job that uses my very unique (odd?) skill set and past work experience.

* Addendum
The LA Times story adds:
The only other LAUSD school to place in the top 10 was Franklin High, which finished eighth. Beverly Hills, South Pasadena and Redondo Union, all representing Los Angeles County, also finished in the top 10.

California has won the last 11 national titles and 15 of the last 18. In the 32 years of national competition, the state has placed first or second every year but one.
Academic Decathlon has its roots in Southern California and the region dominates. The competition is stiffer at the California championship than the National one.

The complete CA results

Monday, March 17, 2014

Wake Up Call

6:25 AM wake-up call this morning.

The shaking went on for a very long time for an earthquake. The shaking was mild at our house and we wondered if it was a very big earthquake far away, or a moderate one closer to home.  The SCEC map shows we live about 50 km from the epicenter.

Check out the waveforms.  Notice how, the further from the source, the longer (and weaker) the shaking?

I guesstimated, in my half asleep state, that the shaking went on for 15 seconds.  The waveform plots show 120 seconds, so each major tick represents 12 seconds.  The shaking at the stations ~50 km from the epicenter showed pronounced shaking for ~15 seconds.

The earthquake was widely felt.  Notice that ground motion does not go down monotonically with distance.  Factors like bedrock versus alluvial soils also determine how much shaking an area experiences.


Saturday, March 15, 2014

Jalie 3243

Remember the shorts worn with Simplicity 2339 shirt?

I wore them with my slightly tweaked version of Jalie 3243.

I put the patch pocket underneath, instead of on top of the front pant piece.

To reduce bulk, I used a cotton shirting for the pocket and waistband facings.  Although the pattern envelope says that you can use a non-stretch woven, I'd recommend using a stretch fabric or going up a size.  My stretch twill feels tight at first, but stretches out after a short time.

This is a favorite knockabout pair of shorts.  Next time, I'd use a stretch waistband facing, put in back patch pockets and add a bit of room for cyclist thighs.  This is a pull-on short that looks sleek, not sloppy.

No zipper insertion means that you can cut this out and sew it up in less than two hours. Narrow seam allowances save you fabric and trimming time.  I especially like that Jalie gives you all sizes--from little girls up to women's plus sizes--in one envelope. They are a really good value.

 My only caveat is to switch up the sewing order. They have you sew up one leg and then down the other like in Figure 1 of Fashion Incubator's Dominant Seams post.  I much prefer the method in Figure 2, where you stitch the crotch seam last in one continuous seam.  Try both and you will see Kathleen's wisdom.

BTW, I do purchase RTW on occasion.  I was so happy to find a nicely-made Oxford shirt without a no-iron resin finish at the Torrance Sears Lands End boutique, I ordered one in my size.  It's perfect for a walk to the beach and lunch with Bad Dad.  Can you believe this picture was taken in the middle of February?  Winter (and rain) skipped us this year.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Happy pi day 2014

But, I want to point out, Pi is (still) Wrong!

Vi Hart explains:

When sewing neckbands on t-shirts, I recommend using your preferred circle constant, the minimum circumference necessary to pull over your head, the stretchiness of your fabric, and the width of the neck band to determine the optimal circumference.

For thicker neck bands and smaller openings, the 90% of neckline rule will result in a neckband that is too loose.  Do you need a drawing or an you visualize it?

Suppose you want a neckband that is 1 cm (about 5/8") wide and your neck opening is about 43 cm/17" (7 cm radius).  Using the 90% rule, you'd cut the band to finish at 39 cm circumference.

But, wait!  The radius of your opening is not at the sewn edge; it's at the inside edge, which has a radius of 6 cm and a circumference of 38 cm.

Your 39 cm tube will be too wide and floppy!

On a larger, scooped neckline, say 55 cm circumference and 8.75 cm radius, the inside edge would be 48.7 cm or 7.75 cm.  That's awfully close to 8.75*0.9 = 7.875.

Anyway, the 90% rule does come from geometry, but it only works for a range of neck opening circumferences.

Other sewing gurus say 85% of opening.  They mean smaller openings.

When in doubt, it's best to go back to first principles and calculate what you need based upon:
  • the minimum circumference necessary to pull over your head
  • the stretchiness of your fabric
  • your neck opening measurement at seam line
  • your neck opening at the folded inside edge
Your neck band should be a tube with a circumference a bit smaller than the inside, folded edge. Yet, it should not be so small as to distort (gather in) the shirt neck opening. If you have trouble with distortion, then change to a lighter neckband fabric, or reduce the difference between the two circumferences by either cutting a larger neck opening or using a neckband that is less tall.

Read past pi-day entries.