Thursday, April 24, 2014

Rana one year out

A year ago, the Rana Plaza building collapsed, trapping thousands of workers inside. I'm using a picture from the Guardian, but click through to their photoessay with heart-breaking close-ups.
There are many news articles about the event on the one year anniversary, but I am particularly shaken by Jason Burke's reporting.  He details how the factory owners used female supervisors, who are trusted more by the workers, to convince antsy workers to go inside a building that they feared was unsafe.  That's the same way armies used NCOs to convince infantry to charge enemy lines when they refused to follow commissioned officers.  Both resulted in large-scale slaughter.

  • If you have a strong stomach, view The shirt on your back.
  • The clean clothes campaign is urging people to use social media to shame businesses into paying up to the Rana Plaza victims fund.
  • Carolyn showed pictures of herself wearing her clothes inside out for Fashion Revolution Day.  We started a Q&A conversation about the ethics of clothes a few months ago, before life got into the way.  But, we will be posting a series soon.
  • I'd like to make a plug for Home Ec.  Just as taking auto shop for a semester doesn't make you qualified to fix your own car, it does educate you as a consumer about how difficult a task is and how much it should cost to pay a skilled person to do it.  If more people learned rudimentary sewing in Home Ec, they would be more wary of $10 blouses with lots of detailing or $10 jeans.

I'm going to wear my favorite t-shirt inside out today.  Luckily, I put a pocket on the inside.  However, I can't wear my shorts inside out because I need the pockets, particularly because I'm hobbling badly.  If they were inside out, you'd see the label that says they were made in Mexico, a medium wage country.  The factories in northern MX are closer to my LA home than SF so I consider them locally-made.

What are you wearing today?  Who made it?  Under what kind of working conditions?  How much were they paid?  How do they feel about their lives?  Are you making their lives better or worse?

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The move is happening

The view from the balcony:
the logical place to put the couch:
and the logical place to put the bed:
Boulder is expensive.  I had hoped to get a little bigger apartment for the money or pay a little less rent on such a small space.  But, the location is ideal for car-free living, and the entire property is well-maintained and smoke-free.  Dealing with the leasing and ever-changing rent structures (what is the deal with dynamic pricing and these mega-REITs?) was a PITA, but I am going to let that anger go in preparation for dealing with the utility and telecom companies.

The housing search visit was a little bit too eventful. I would love to say that I sprained both (!?!) ankles in a base-jumping accident, but the prosaic truth is that I rolled one ankle out on a staircase, then rolled out the other one when I shifted my weight in compensation.

I move solo mid-May and start the new job in late May. At first, I'll be working 100% in Boulder. Once I settle in and learn enough to be productive on my own, there will be distance telecommuting opportunities.

The view westward from my new office building:
Yes, work meetings are sometimes held on the trails.  My office faces east, toward the great plains.

I had a hilarious interview with a young dot commer in which he asked me why I had always worked in the government sector.  I quipped, "Who else hires PhDs in theoretical physics?"  He informed me that he had entered college expecting to go into theoretical physics but found it too difficult and moved into computer science instead.  (In case you are wondering, I never heard back from them.)

Instead, I will be joining this team of professionals, who perform another interdisciplinary and hard to describe task in another FFRDC.  This time, our specialty will be a core function instead of a "nice to have if we have the budget".

I want to thank my friends in Boulder who took great care of me--and even loaned me crutches--as I hobbled around last weekend.

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.